DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

On breaking ice and chinese water torture…

Written by: on March 7, 2019

I’m just so tired.

So, so tired.

I’m not tired of my work as a church planter or leadership mentor or missionary equipper; these things energize me. No, I’m tired of having to constantly break down barriers so that women are empowered to plant churches and do the mission work to which they have been called. I’ve been called an “ice-breaker” by more than one person, but it isn’t a role that I enjoy. Ice is hard, and cold, and it hurts. And I’m weary of having to break it.

And when one is weary, then everything feels like a battle.

Take this week’s reading, Divine Sex, by Jonathan Grant. It’s a brilliant book, really—well researched, theologically rich, and intellectually stimulating. Grant’s vision of human sexuality as eschatological, metaphysical, formational, and missional is inspired.[1] But then there are phrases woven throughout the book that feel like subtle jabs, and when the jabs keep coming, even subtly and softly, they become tiresome. Here’s just one example. The sentence begins hopefully, and I find myself nodding along, right up until the word, “paranoia.” That’s when my eyebrows went up. That’s the word that jabbed me.

“Only when we are attentive to these differences of sexual complementarity, free from hierarchical paranoia, can we build a strong foundation for intimate relationships.”[2]

When one sex has been systematically oppressed and excluded by the other for centuries, and that sex begins to assert itself and question the hierarchies, I take issue with that assertion being equated to “paranoia.”

And yes, I understand that this is small. But the accumulation of such small insinuations coming from various media through the course of weeks, months, and years, begins to feel like Chinese water torture. And it’s very tiring.

I’m not the only one who picks up on this undertone. In his review of the book, Brad Lau states, “when Grant discusses how women and men spend their time, pursue careers, or rear children, he runs a fine line between making a good and valid point and becoming overly prescriptive in suggesting what contemporary family life should look like (220).”[3]

I wasn’t imagining the bias of the book. And while I won’t throw the baby out with the bath water—again, I see great value in the book—I’m disappointed that so many worthy babies have such dirty bath water. And I’m tired of it.

I’m not bitter, nor am I looking for a fight. Indeed, I’m tired of fighting. I’d really like to just get on with the work of God, announcing the Kingdom and living for the King. But what kind of kingdom are we announcing?

Women can go out into the world and start a business or run for office or launch a non-profit, but then we tell them that when they come into the church they must not be too assertive or expect to be in charge? For many women that’s not exactly Good News. In fact it’s bad news. And it isn’t even what the Gospel teaches.

Just as Grant points to the eschatological vision for sex, I believe that we need to have an eschatological vision for the Church as the foretaste of the future and coming kingdom of God. There is not a single indication from any passage in all of scripture that men have any authority over women in eternity. Rather, the Bride of Christ is made up of a body of mutually submissive worshiping servants of the radiant Prince of Peace. When Paul wrote “there is neither male nor female” he didn’t mean that all Christians were gender neutral, he meant that gender was no longer to be a factor in determining who was IN and who was OUT, including who was in and out of leadership roles in the church.

Do I sound angry? Shrill? “Paranoid”? Please forgive me. I’m really just tired.

The fact is, I’m the mother of two boys—two young men. I love men. I appreciate men. I don’t want to criticize men or belittle men or chase men out of leadership positions. I just don’t want women deprived of the same simply because they are women. I believe we are better together. We need each other.

And while we’re on the subject, have you ever noticed how it’s often the women that are willing to adapt to more masculine ways who get invited to join the teams at the top? I’m always terrified that I’m going to start crying when I get passionate about something because I know that many men believe that is impossible to be emotional AND logical—one teardrop in the wrong room, and all my credibility as a church planter goes down the drain. But when all have to act according to male standards in order to be accepted in leadership roles, the very strength of our complementary natures and the riches of our diversity are lost.

I was recently at a leadership meeting for a Europe-wide saturation church-planting conference, and they were discussing whether we were simply going to count the number of churches planted as part of our research, or whether we were going to consider the societal impact of those churches as well. During the same meeting we were also going to discuss the value of recruiting more female church planters. Ironically, the research show that “women have qualities that suit designing churches which connect with this culture;”[4] that is to say, churches that are planted by women tend to be more naturally focused on justice and mercy and therefore have a stronger societal impact. The natural answer to growing our capacity to plant churches that have an impact is to recruit and train women who have an apostolic gifting to engage in church planting alongside their brothers. Instead, the church tends to marginalize such women, which is why they are business entrepreneurs and senators and community change leaders instead of church planters.

And which is why I am so, so tired.

[1] Jonathan Grant, Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2015), 143ff.

[2] Grant, 97.

[3] Lau, Brad A. “Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age.” Christian Scholar’s Review 46, no. 2 (2017): 190-192. https://georgefox.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.georgefox.idm.oclc.org/docview/1873850621?accountid=11085.

[4] Karina formation, “Why Women Make Excellent Church Planters,” The Junia Project (blog), August 5, 2016, https://juniaproject.com/why-women-make-excellent-church-planters/.

About the Author

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Jennifer Williamson

Jenn Williamson is a wife and mother of two adult sons. Before moving to France in 2010, she was the women's pastor at Life Center Foursquare Church in Spokane, WA. As a missionary with Greater Europe Mission, she is involved in church planting and mentoring emerging leaders. Jenn benefitted from French mentors during her transition to the field, and recognizes that cross-cultural ministry success depends on being well integrated into the host culture. Academic research into missionary sustainability and cultural adaptation confirmed her own experience and gave her the vision to create Elan, an organization aimed at helping missionaries transition to the field in France through the participation of French partners.