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ChurchWomen's Ministry

Learning from the Masters

By June 4, 20094 Comments

Advance 09

This weekend, my very own Durham, NC is hosting a Christian conference of EPIC proportions.

As the Durham News and Observer reported, the Advance Conference is in town featuring a wide array of “celebrity pastors,” a list that includes controversial Mark Driscoll, fiery preacher John Piper, the influential writer and Lifeway research guru Ed Stetzer, Village Church’s Matt Chandler, and my friendly, neighborhood multi-site pastor, J.D. Greear. As the article described, it is a time for “young pastors to learn from the masters about how to start a successful church.”

While I’m sure the article made every single speaker blush (and then secretly feel good), the article is not that far off. As I stood in the lobby this afternoon, I stared out at a sea of eager young men and women, all looking uber trendy in graphic tees, skinny jeans, funky haircuts and Converse tennis shoes. I think I saw maybe one middle-aged guy in a polo shirt, but he was the exception to the rule. (You know who you are……Rick Langston) This was a crowd of young people all hoping to make their mark on the world and learning from those who already have.

When you’re surrounded by so many great pastors, it’s hard not to get swept up in a kind of hero worship. And I think that’s the great temptation at conferences like these. We look up to these trail blazers, and we all secretly fantasize about the day we’ll be up on stage instructing the younger generations how to lead and preach and grow the Church. It’s funny how a gathering intended to exalt Christ can end up doing quite the opposite. God becomes small in the face of our own aspirations.

But the reality is that, in spite of my ungodly motives, these men do have a lot of experience and wisdom to share and it’s an excellent opportunity to learn. And while the conference itself is about the resurgence of the local church, I’m going to be coming at it from a very different angle:

How do we stage a resurgence of women’s ministry?

In the next several posts I am going to examine the reasons that women’s ministry is declining, why you should care, and what we should do about it. I will not only be writing from my own experience, but from the discussions and correspondences I’ve had with influential Christian leaders as well. From these conversations it has become clear that I am not alone in feeling a burden to initiate change in this particular branch of the Church–the Holy Spirit is on the move.

The theme of Advance 09 is that of an advancing army. We may have experienced some defeats in the past, but now it’s time to mount a resurgence. And ladies, we constitute one half of that army. If this “resurgence” is going to happen then we need to carry our own weight, so it’s time we start thinking about what it means to be a soldier in the Kingdom ranks, fighting not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities. You are not just a precious daughter of the King–you are a mighty warrior.


  • Ed Stetzer says:

    I like my polo shirt and don’t have any skinny jeans.


    But, it was good to see you and I will be reading your posts on women’s ministry!


  • sherri says:


    (Want to comment but not sure how to be truthful without being contraversial or sound like I’m trying to take a shot at someone.)

    If people look to other people on how to build their church, it’s going to be built on sand. (Leadership skills, charisma, youth strategies, speaking skills, good music, professional deconing, funky outreach programs, prosperity teaching, etc.)

    The problem ultimatly centreing around the fact that it will be ‘their’ church. Simply because ‘they’ will have built it. Really.

    Not good for discipling and the ultimate spiritual maturity of the congregation.

    If you want the church to be as successful as it’s always been, then do the things it’s always done.

    If you want a church that’s going to change the world. Then people are going to have to put God first. Period.

    And some people can always say. Oh but it’s God who builds his church? But then why is the church at large in the state it’s in? Why statistically are there more unemployed charismatic pastors then ones with churchs? Why do so many churchs fail, and so many churchs grow around a charismatic figurehead?

    People can come up with a hundred reasons for all of the above, but if God is behind something he’ll make it succeed. Even if that ‘success’ is only ten people. And those ten people get properly discipled and then go off into their callings, etc.

    The church spreads when God shepherds his people and calls the shots. The church shrinks, when people own Gods people under the name of ‘success’ because people end up boxed in. And to have a ‘successful’ polished church you need to own people. Not sheperd them the way God wants them shepherded. aka empowered and supported to achieve all that they can as individuals in his kingdom. Then cheered on and helped as they do it. Encourging them to do it from the platform doesn’t cut it. Discipling is hands on.
    In todays standard model, the congregation is basically left to disciple and pastor itself with some friendly oversight.

    How is the church ever going to change the world under that model?

    Uber cool youth leaders (or 50 something ex-hippies who stay forever young and funky) – I’ve been watching it for the last 11 years in the charismatic church since I got spirit-filled. The ‘successful’ churchs seem to still largely grow around ‘successful’ people. That means good speakers with good leadership skills. The stronger their charisma (and if everything goes smoothly) the larger the church grows. Then if they’re less ethical, they’ll start using other leaders to support their (I mean Gods) vision (and success.)

    It’s ugly.

    And if they look good and dress well while they’re doing it, even better.

    Gods kingdom is only going to advance through sacrafice and selflessness. With God calling the shots. People trying to advance it any other way are just fooling themselves, and teaching other christians to approach christianity the same way which will eventually put stumbling blocks in the spread of the gospel.

    The more man is in the picture, the less God is. He works through us, but the more of ‘us’ that’s in the way the less effective the channeling.

    Anyone who trys to stand before Gods throne one day and show him how ‘successful’ their church was is going to be in for a rude shock in my opinion. If leadership isn’t service, and supporting people in their spiritual growth first and foremost, then it isn’t leadership.

    So the idea of conferences like the one you just described grieve me. Not because of the heart of the people. But because to me it sounds like the same old model repeating itself (although I’m sure there would have been some fantastic stuff preached there too and the holy spirit would have been present.)

    But yeah.

    Do what you’ve always done, and you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

    (And I’m totally over ‘coolness’ and ‘spiritual professionalism’ to advance Gods kingdom – can you tell : )

    Maybe it was the mention of all the funky haircuts and skinny jeans. I was once sucked into that but then I found myself at the bottom of the jar and it was pretty empty.

    My bad. But still.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • sherri says:

    PS. If you want to disagree or point out things that you think I’ve missed on this topic, please feel free. I wasn’t trying to make damning absolutes or anything, just point out things I’ve noticed over the years.

    Thanks for a great topic!

  • Rick says:

    Well Sherri, the speakers all did a really, really, really good job of pointing to Jesus and encouraging us all to preach the cross at all times. Sometimes we pastors just need to here that. And that made it all worthwhile. And the fashions, or the attempts of us middle-agers to be fashionable just made things a little more entertaining on the side. Personally, I don’t wear any polo shirts and want to find the person who started that rumor.

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