Someone was kind enough to send me this picture today, and this accompanying story.
If you don’t recognize the men, they are Louie Giglio and Andy Stanley, megachurch pastors and Passion-Movement-starters extrordinaire. The Passion Conference, which took place this week, had 60,000 college students and raised over $3,000,000 to end human trafficking. I know, right? $3,000,000. Wow.
The woman they are standing with is their youth worker from when they were kids. They brought her up on that stage, in front of 60,000 college students, to show the impact that one person can make in the lives of, well, 2 + 60,000 + …??… people.
It’s difficult to imagine the effect of something like the Passion Conference because it is so far-reaching. Think about it. 60,000 students in the formative decision-making and path-choosing years of their lives, going to an event like this. Countless others watching online. One can hardly fathom the things that God could whisper in this week. The dreams that He could ignite. The strongholds that He could break. The destinies that He could shape.
And the two men “in charge” brought up a woman—A WOMAN—and told everyone how deeply impactful she had been on them. Not because she was their mother or their sister or their aunt or their grandmother. But because her ministry as an adult leader in their lives was important.
It made my heart so happy.
Not because I want to stand on my soapbox and declare the fact that God can use women in the lives of women and men (though He can!!). Not because I myself am a woman in ministry and found it encouraging and affirming (though I did!!). It made my heart happy because in that moment, who knows how many young women in the audience had their God-imaginations expanded? Who knows how many young women felt the freedom, for the first time, to think that God might use them? Who knows whether the Called saw as never before that others before them who are like them have also said yes, and that God blessed their willingness to serve?
You see, I have started to understand something, these last few months, about my own God-imagination, and how maybe it is just waking up.
It started when I went to a conference for youth pastors several months ago, and not one woman stepped foot on the stage. Not to speak, not to worship, not to give announcements or introductions or even to tell us where the exits were in case of an emergency.
Not one. The whole time.
Of course, I was “welcome” there. They allowed me, a woman in ministry, to come, which was lovely of them. But the fact that only the men appeared up front said something, intentionally or not.
It said: You shouldn’t be here. You aren’t right. What you are doing is not pleasing to God. Leave this to the men.
Luckily, I had enough sense to recognize the feelings that stirred and reject them. To stare them in the face and say: No. I am Called, too.
Because I believe that I am.
But in the weeks and months that have followed, a strange realization has been coming, a little here and a little there as I reflect on this calling of mine. Being “in ministry” was never the plan. If you ask me what I am, I will not tell you that I’m a youth pastor. I’ll tell you I’m a teacher. Because that’s how I see myself. And this whole youth pastor gig was something that, quite honestly, I never expected. It just fell into my lap through strange circumstance and the twists of Fate. And I thought that maybe I was just in the right place at the right time—that I was convenient. And that I was willing.
But, no. I’m starting to understand that that’s not the case. I’m starting to realize that maybe I have missed something this whole time. That maybe, this is what God has made me for—and that this was no accident. When I look back now, it almost seems strikingly obvious—that God would call me into ministry. But I just never thought of it as a “real” possibility for myself.
I studied theology in college. And I led ministries as a volunteer. In my spare time I read books about faith and talked to people about God. It’s what I did. And then as I grew into full-fledged adulthood, I was a teacher, but I was also a Bible study leader. And a volunteer ministry leader—sometimes of several different ministries at one time. And in my spare time I read books about faith and talked to people about God. It’s what I did.
It’s what I have always, always loved to do. Always. And no matter my life situation or job, I have found a way to be in ministry.
Actually, I was even in seminary for a time. But I left. You want to know why? I didn’t see a future for myself in the church. I saw that I could get the degree, just like the men, but I knew that for them, the degree meant a job and a future. But for me, it just meant lots of questions.
And I left.
My imagination was SO SMALL. And, perhaps, my faith was lacking. But I had so, so few examples of women “like me” having a real place in the church.
That’s why this matters.
Not because I want an agenda pushed. Not because I want to be right. Not for any other reason than the fact that 30,000 young women just had their imaginations expanded a bit.
And because you know God was whispering to a few people in that moment.
“I can use you. You just need to say yes.”
Thanks, Louie and Andy. You made my day.
- jennadewitt said: Ironic for a conference with Piper onstage, no? Haha ;) Great post. :D
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