Posts Tagged ‘pastor’

How I Became An Egalitarian: Called to Be a Pastor

This is Part 13, and the last, of a series that began here.

Over the next several years, Sam and I settled into our lives as egalitarians.  We began to take classes together at seminary, still believing that God had called us to be missionaries overseas.   We found a church that empowered women in ministry.  We became foster parents.  We got involved in our church.  We became biological parents.  We got really involved in our church.

Through it all, there was something that was hanging over our heads.  It bothered us a little lot.  Was God still calling us to be missionaries?  Somewhere along the way, Sam put a halt on his seminary studies, because we got the sense that maybe God was not.  And, while we sensed that God still wanted me to continue at seminary, we also did not feel like there was any clear direction or strong impetus for us to go overseas.  So what had it been all about then?  Had Sam and I misread and  misheard God?

As I reflected on my years in ministry and all the conversations I had ever had with God about the surrendered life, I realized this one thing — all along, he had gifted me with being a shepherd and a teacher.  That was where all the fruitfulness had been.  So, like the dawning of a new day, everything became clear to me.  All along, I had known but had been afraid to admit — God had been calling me to be a pastor.  Because I had mistakenly thought that women could not be pastors, it had not occurred to me that it was an option for me.  Missions had been the logical option.  No doubt, God had wanted to cultivate in me a heart for the nations, but, as I looked back, I could see that his calling on my life has always been evident.  God has called me, first of all, to be a pastor.

And this is how we ended up here.  Sam and me, in a marriage of equals.  Me, called to be a pastor.  Sam, unequivocally supportive of my calling.  And the two of us, hopeful, that others could experience the life-giving power of believing in a God who loves and values his children equally — both male and female — with the same kind of fierce love that cost him his Son.

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How I Became an Egalitarian: Discovering My Calling

This is Part 3 in a series that started here.

With the troublesome verse resolved in my mind, I threw myself into knowing God more.

For me, learning about Jesus was like discovering a long lost treasure after an epic journey.  I had spent my whole life looking for him, and now that I had found the one who gave me meaning and purpose, hope and fulfillment, and love beyond comprehension; I wanted everyone else to see what I saw and feel what I felt!

So it was natural for me to start encouraging the other students in the youth group that I had joined.  They had had the privilege and opportunity to learn about Jesus their whole lives, but I noticed that many of them didn’t seem very eager and excited about learning from the Bible.  I wondered why they were so uninterested.  Perhaps it was because they hadn’t yet really tasted and seen God!  I wanted to show them.  And this is how my journey in ministry began.

Before long, Pastor Gee asked me to become a part of a group which had the purpose of encouraging spiritual growth in others in the youth group.  I made visitations to other students and encouraged and prayed for their relationships with God.  As a culmination of our goal, two of of the team members (Sam and Pam) and I envisioned and planned a retreat that we called “All or Nothing”.  The main thrust of the retreat is that you must either be “all” for God or “nothing” at all.  There is no halfway in between.  No sitting on the fence.

My greatest contribution to this retreat was a covenant that I wrote for everyone to sign, as God led and as they chose.  To sign it meant to surrender all of ourselves completely to God.  The “all” was defined in detail:  your thought life, your love life, your friendships, your family life, your school work, your future career, etc.  I signed and gave it all to Jesus, knowing that he had already signed and given everything to me.

Shortly after this retreat, I entered my first year of college and was asked to be a youth advisor for the youth group.  I was eager to keep encouraging others to keep giving their all to God.  The elder youth advisors (Auntie Jan and Uncle Iewen) encouraged me to take an equal role in leading the high school group at Friday Night Fellowships.  They didn’t hesitate to ask me to speak to the group or even to leave me in charge of the fellowship when they couldn’t make it.

In the spring of my freshman year of college, after several months of serving as youth advisor, I heard God’s call.  It happened rather unexpectedly.  I was driving Mary, one of  the girls from the youth group, home from church one evening.  As we were talking, I just felt this sense of destiny inside of me — that sense of knowing that this is what my life is meant to be all about — so much so that I bursted out,

“I want to do this for the rest of my life!”

Mary looked at me surprised.  After I explained to her what I meant, she asked me, “So what does this mean?”

I didn’t know.  I had never thought of it up to that moment.

The next morning, I asked God that very same question, “So what does this mean, Lord?  Was that really you prompting me?”  I had a lot of questions for God that morning, and he had a lot of answers.  One of which was the reminder that I had given my all to Jesus — including career.  Had I really meant it?  My answer of course was yes.

But what about my parents (who were not believers)?  What about money?  What about –?  I thought of many different obstacles, and the future just seemed full of hardships.  In the midst of all my questions and doubts, a Bible reference appeared in my mind, “James 1:12”.  I didn’t know what James 1:12 was or whether or not to believe that it was God or the figment of my imagination, but I decided to look it up.  What I read took my breath away —

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

It was no coincidence that the verse addressed my questions directly.  And I knew in my heart that God was saying to me that the road ahead was not going to be easy, but it was going to be worth it.

So that day in March of 1998, I said yes to God to serve him in full time ministry.

But what did full time ministry mean for me?  As I looked back on my short history in ministry, I could see clearly that God had given and affirmed me (through others) in shepherding and pastoral gifts, but surely God was not calling me, a woman, to be a pastor?  I did not believe he was calling me to be a pastor, even though in my heart of hearts, I knew that was exactly what I was created to do.  I thought maybe I could pursue biblical counseling — or somehow become a pastor’s wife.

My two best friends, Sam and Pam, had felt God calling them to become missionaries.  I loved that we all felt called to ministry, but I was secretly glad he was not calling me to be a missionary!  Or was he?  God would make me come back to this later.

Click here for the next part in the series.

Will there be a place for me?

The last year and half or so, I’ve been on another maternity break from seminary.  During the haze of a newborn baby, my brain went to mush, I felt drained and anti-social, and this led, of course, to doubting and wondering about my calling as a pastor.  When I got out of the haze, I had to face the financial reality of the cost of seminary, and this precipitated questions of whether I should return at all.  The fact is, I really can’t afford seminary.  And for all the money I will pour into my seminary education, will there even be a place for me in the end?  Will there be a church that will hire me?  How will I repay the debt I will owe if I take out loans?  Looking at the handful of churches in my city that are egalitarian, I can’t help but feel discouraged.  And I wonder… do men ever wonder this?  Over the years (and I have been at seminary for six years), I have watched my fellow male seminarians graduate and find positions in churches with ease, and (the truth is) I have felt the pangs of jealousy that finding a position came so easily for them.   And while I know that the road is never easy for anyone in ministry, I know also that my male colleagues will never have doors closed to them based on their gender.  There will always be a place for them.  They don’t have to worry about opportunities because they have so many churches to choose from.  When will it be the same for women who are equally trained, called and gifted?

So what are my options for after I graduate with a Master of Divinity? 

1.  Start my own church

2.  Take a position at a church without the proper pastor title

3.  Search/wait for a pastor position at a church

At this point, not sure I’m ready to do #1, though I know that is something God has planned for me eventually.  #2 is not my ideal, though my chances of finding a position would be higher.  #3 is what I really desire at this point in my ministry journey, but the opportunities are so few and far in between.  But — and this is a big but! — I live and breathe and keep taking steps forward because I trust that the God who has guided me to this will be the one who will provide for me — the exact kind of position for me to fulfill my calling.

I love seminary.  I love studying and delving into the Scriptures and being reminded of the great and mighty God who loves me and has done everything he can to demonstrate his love for all people for all of time.  I love counseling others to know who they are in God and how they can live out who they have been called to be in him.  I love showing others God’s deep and unfathomable love for them and how they can love him back in the same kind of unhindered and unencumbered kind of way — and find that, in this pursuit, they have found who they were created to be and what they were created to do for all their lives and all of eternity.  We were made to worship the one true, loving, living God, and our hearts and souls are not whole until we are engaged in this every moment of every day.  And this is my calling — to help others be inspired, encouraged, enabled and empowered to do this very thing.  And this is why I am back at seminary, and this is why I am trusting God to provide for my financial needs — because there is nothing else worth pouring my time and finances and life into than this.