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Can Women Be Church Planters?

By July 13, 2008No Comments

I will never forget the first time I saw a documentary on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In case you are unfamiliar with this great defender of the faith, he lived in Germany during Hitler’s rule, and he was one of the only Christians in the entire country to resist the Nazis. In fact, he and a small band of Christians devised an assassination plot against Hitler. They were almost successful in their attempt, but the plan failed and they were all discovered. Bonhoeffer was subsequently executed.

The reason I loved the documentary so much is that it got me excited about my own faith. Bonhoeffer seemed like the equivalent of a Christian super hero–he stood firm against all odds in the face of clear evil. He fought valiantly, in the name of Christ, and he died for a noble cause.

I want to be a part of such a fight, in which the stakes are high and much is to be lost, but I lay down my life because I am a Christian, and that is my calling. I want to be remembered for standing unflinchingly against the powers of evil. I wanna be like Wonderwoman! Except the Christian version (which would probably have sleeves and knee-length shorts).

And I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Many women read about the lives of Jim Eliot, Martin Luther King, or women like Perpetua (who I wrote about last month), Christians who all fought and died for the sake of the Gospel. We read about these individuals, and it stirs something deep within us.

It stirs our inner warrior, that part of us that knows we were created to fight mighty battles on behalf of Christ. We are reminded of what our soul has known all along–that our calling is high and the struggle is great, but we will not have lived if we did not wage this war. We want to rise up and be women of valor, to live and die for something bigger than ourselves.

This desire, this calling, is written on the very foundation of my heart. And I know it is written on yours as well.

But what has become of this call to arms? Are we content to experience the fleeting exhilaration of a good sermon or an inspiring story, and then go back to our mediocre lives, never truly tasting greatness?

I think we are. We have become content to settle, and I see this in the way women talk about church leadership. When we discuss our future roles in the church, we do not use that kind of inspiring language. We do not refer to the imagery of epic battles and spiritual warfare. We leave that to the boys.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women say “I feel called to marry a pastor” or “I want to marry a church planter.” Heck, I’ve said it myself! But it’s not often that you hear women talk about their own calling to ministry, their own desire to start a church where no church has gone before, their own sweeping visions for the Kingdom of God.

But regardless of where you stand on the topic of women in ministry, there is a degree to which women are unequivocally called to plant churches and lead within the church. Why? Because no person can plant a church alone. No person can lead a congregation alone. It takes a team of visionaries, a group of hard workers with varying gifts to pull off such an undertaking.

So even if you feel that only men should be senior pastors, a minister is nothing without fellow church planters, both male and female. You never hear about a solitary pastor starting a church in his apartment by preaching to his living room furniture and his dog. Instead, you hear about a team of individuals, couples, families and singles who begin meeting and worshiping together, all with one shared goal for their community–the spread of the Gospel.

That said, women are definitely called to be church planters. While there are certainly instances in which a woman must work or stay at home so that her husband is freed up to focus solely on starting a church, that is not the only role that women can fill. If your husband is called to plant a church, then you are not merely “the wife of a church planter”–YOU are a church planter! The two of you are likely called to the same purpose, so you’re not simply tagging along for the ride. Your husband needs a co-laborer who will build him up, spur him on, fill in the ministry gaps that he is not gifted to fill. He needs a fellow soldier who will wield a sword alongside of him.

And if you are single and feel called to church planting, don’t just wait around for a husband who feels the same way. Perhaps God wants you to take action now, to jump on board with a team of people who are praying towards the same end. You can lend your time, experience, training, education, and leadership wherever you are. The church certainly needs it.

Regardless of your circumstances, take ownership of the desire that God has written onto your female heart. Men are not the only ones who God calls to be warriors–the moment you committed to follow Christ, you became a part of a cosmic battle in which you are expected to fight. We are all soldiers together, so take hold of the call to which God is compelling you, and take up your sword. The forces of evil will quake with fear and dread if you will only rise up and respond to God’s battle cry. It’s time to fight like a girl.

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