Christian Women – Getting !*$& Done For Jesus

Erna Kim Hackett —  March 13, 2013 — 29 Comments
A girl in a wheat field

Hey, I found our standard women’s retreat graphic!!

By Erna Kim Hackett

In college I never felt any insecurity about the “women in leadership” debate because the Jesus that I was encountering in the Bible was so amazing and countercultural in his interactions with women.

When He let a woman sit at his feet to learn, just like his male students, he wasn’t making a statement about busy people and meditative people. He was making an incredibly countercultural statement about women learning from Him and being trained by Him. When Jesus went to Samaria and revealed that He was the Christ, to a women, before anyone else, he was making a statement. When the Samaritan woman became one of the first evangelists in Scripture- leading both men and women, she stepped out of a traditional role. Jesus stayed and partnered with her in reaching her village.

Jesus’ interactions with women were all the more striking because all this was happening in the Middle East 2,000 years ago. As an outspoken young Christian women- I found Jesus invigorating and inspiring. I knew that following such a counter cultural leader would be an adventure worthy of my life.

Church: Limiting the Scope of Women

Now, 20 years into this journey, it is a mystery to me how my radically counter cultural, gender role breaking, empowering Jesus has a church that is so comfortable limiting the scope of women’s influence and leadership; that paints women into such antiquated and irrelevant roles. A church that relegates women’s leadership to children, snacks, and prayer groups. A church that communicates that when we gather, our bibles must be pink, our topic must be grace, and our graphics must look like feminine hygiene commercials.

The reason this topic is important for a forum like APE is because, if we really want to see the Kingdom go forward in a radical way, we should make sure that the whole body of Christ is activated, empowered, trained, engaged, and sent in the name of Jesus.

I’m not interested in doing a discussion of egalitarian and complementarian. Far smarter people have done very insightful writing on the topic. I want to use my little corner of this blog to explore the place of women in the apostolic. I want to share the stories of women that have successfully planted ministries and explore the tensions of being a woman in an apostolic role.

Are APE roles just for men?

Personally, I have an incredible felt need to be poured into and developed as a woman leader. But particularly when it comes to being apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic. These roles are associated with a traditionally white male archetype.  I think that women in the church are hungry for development in this area. But I think that they can be overlooked because they don’t fit the traditional mold, overlooked by leaders, but also overlooking themselves.

Anecdotally I posted this is my FB status today.

erna fb

The response was immediate. Comments from Christian women streamed in. Christian women are hungry for a role that is less docile and more front lines.

If we are truly hungry to see the kingdom expanded we have to address the reality that the Christian culture and community is often the greatest hindrance to women.

Where do you see the tensions of women in the apostolic role? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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Erna Kim Hackett

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Erna works with Black Campus Ministers with Intervarsity in Los Angeles and is the interim Director of the Los Angeles Urban Project.

29 responses to Christian Women – Getting !*$& Done For Jesus

  1. It looks like your Facebook post has struck a chord with a whole lot of people who would love to see such a conference take place.

    I say run with it!

    If you do, let us know if some of us men could attend, just to listen and cheer.

    • Thanks for your comment. I have to admit that I was surprised at the level of response to the FB post. Over 130 likes. My average FB post gets about 5. That’s what inspired this blog post. I feel like there is still a lot to learn about why this resonated so deeply with women.

  2. Releasing the ape = busting out the mold. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that we would have good manners. Anne Lamott is a champion for this vision of the kingdom you first encountered in college.

    • I have only read one of Anne Lamott’s books, but I agree that she brings a fresh perspective to a lot of issues. Across both genders I think that we (Christians) have substituted niceness and manners for radical love, radical compassion, and radical discipleship. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Great Prophetic Post! I love this call out and we need to keep empowering women to the max! You should write a post for us about women in history and how they led the way in many mission movements!

  4. Great post! Women in the bible are huge examples of getting shizz done for God- may the church wake up to this!!!

    • Thanks Jessica. I think the church needs to wake up to everyone getting activated more fully in their gifts and using them to serve the mission. We leave too much to the pastors and “professional” Christians. And we are really missing out when women are relegated to a valuable, but extremely narrow sphere of influence. I hear you!

  5. freaking love this post! yes! agreed! amen! snaps!

  6. “Jesus’ interactions with women were all the more striking because all this was happening in the Middle East 2,000 years ago. As an outspoken young Christian women- I found Jesus invigorating and inspiring. I knew that following such a counter cultural leader would be an adventure worthy of my life.” This quote makes you sound awfully self-centered rather than Jesus-centered, like he’s in your back-pocket b/c he fits in with your own personal agenda. I don’t think Jesus cared one bit about elevating the position of women in his male-dominant culture b/c he never once talked about the oppresion of women but rather the kingdom of God. If someone that wanted to listen to him was a woman, great! If Jesus wanted women to be elevated in society, then he never would have chosen Paul as the apostle to the Gentile world and the writer of the majority of the New Testament. God’s plan is to use the church to reach the world that He would be worshiped. You need to get over yourself and simply submit to His plan and stop grasping for some sort of “position” in the church.

    • Hi Kellie,

      First off, thanks for your thoughts and opinions…we love all kinds of people commenting on this space. We do not all have to agree.

      But I really don’t like the way you are talking to Erna. It comes across really mean and condescending. You do not even know her and you assume “grasping for position”. That is really uncalled for. I am so thankful for Erna and her service and what she stands for. Please feel free to disagree on this blog but lets not get personal and project motives onto people. That is really immature and not in step with the Spirit.

      That being said, I totally disagree with you. You are not reading Paul very well in my opinion and not taking background and culture into mind if you are going to say that Paul was not empowering to women. The Fact that He invites women to learn in Timothy and encourages “prophetesses” shows that he is inclusive and breaking many standard norms with women in a culture that kept them silent.

      Here is a great article you should read

      http://www.intervarsity.org/mx/item/4175/download/

  7. Thank you for your post Erna! Looking forward to seeing more strong female APE leaders on this blog and in the church. I would also attend that conference and even help you run it.

    • I may have to take you up on that! I feel a grassroots women’s conference coming together. I’ve been surprised by how many women seem to have a deep felt need for this type of gathering. Stay in touch- this may become a reality!

      • I feel like you should host some kind of contest for talented graphic designers and prophetic women to put together potential retreat brochures and then actually host whichever conference wins.

        On a deeper level, thanks for this post. I want to scream what you wrote on facebook all the time. 3 of my friends shared your article after I posted it. One got a reply that church leadership is for men. I was so frustrated. Even if a person views church leadership as for men based on their Biblical study, why can’t they get stuff done for Jesus? It just feels so devaluing to women to think that all they care about is crafts and fashion. Even if I believed God called us not to preach or lead in church, I hope I would still believe he calls us to be a voice for justice in this world. Why can’t we have women’s meetings about that? After all, the majority of the injustices in this world happen to women and their children.

  8. I’m a women’s ministry leader and, while this resonates with me, I blame women. We’ve branded ourselves with tampon ad posters and Precious Moments figurines. That’s not necessarily the worst thing, it’s when it becomes the only thing (or what we’re known for) other than the diversity of a group of women from different backgrounds and of different generations.
    As a leader, I need to accept the demographic and its paraphernelia, but not become trapped in it. My role is to present the truth and love of the gospel and facilitate opportunities for others to put it in practice, embracing their diversity as they do.

  9. Wow! Thanks for writing this. I am posting it in our local IVCF FB page. Cant wait to hear responses to this!

  10. Not only did Jesus use a woman to report the resurrection first, but he also used a woman to break our all time blog viewing record! :)

    Way to go erna!

  11. I’m so glad and grateful for the apostolic and prophetic women leaders in my life. I certainly wouldn’t be who I am without their influence and leadership. (I’m looking at you, Jenny Hall, Tracey Gee, Jen Ball, Chante Griffin, Jen Blue, Erna Hackett! If any of you are reading this blog, a big public thank you!) We fully run the risk of sidelining and alienating 50% of the APE leadership and impact in the church by relegating women to the socially- (and church-ly?) acceptable roles we often see them in today. I wish it weren’t the case that more courage is necessary for women to stand up and lead out than for men, but it is the case. And I’m thankful for those that have — we need their leadership and prophetic voice.

  12. God’s purpose for women in the church and specifically in mission is incredible and indispensable. And, no, it is not limited to volunteering with nursery or preparing snacks! (Although we shouldn’t look down on these gifts to the church — they are indispensable as well!)

    I would like to caution that Jesus himself saw a distinction between men and women in the church. Mary, Martha, the Samaritan woman, and countless other women played a huge role in the early church. Yet we also know that all the apostles were men, and the qualifications for elders given in the New Testament assume they will be men. Men and women are to contribute equally to the mission in the church, but that doesn’t mean that they are always to fulfill identical roles.

    Peace in Christ.

    • DM – I definitely agree that nursery and snacks are a wonderful ministry, especially when done in service to the little ones that Jesus loves. One consequence of this conflict around God’s mission is that some roles in our churches begin to look shabby and second-class, even if they shouldn’t.

      I would like to push you, respectfully, on some of the implications in your comment. If I’ve misunderstood you, just let me know.

      I feel like I heard you say “since the apostles were men, there can be no women apostles.” I notice that the apostles – the Eleven plus Matthias, James and Paul – were all men, but they were also all Jewish (and are also all dead). So, that line of logic leads you to either an all-Jewish apostolate or to apostolic gifts being dead gifts (or both). There’s a similar flaw in the elder logic (have to be married with children to be an elder). Have I understood your idea correctly? Does this change the way we think about it?

      I agree with you that the Bible doesn’t treat men and women as if they are interchangeable. But in the New Testament, you see Paul and Junia, Agabus and Philip’s daughters, the Samaritan woman and Philip … apostles, prophets, evangelists … men and women both.

      I wonder if God distributes these gifts to both men and women, but we express them in different ways. What do you think?

      • Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

        Personally I do believe that the office of apostle ended with Paul. I only mentioned the example of the apostles to suggest that there may be a distinction in roles between men and women in church offices. I do agree that it doesn’t prove conclusively that there is to be distinction in roles in the Christ’s church. I also agree with you that the qualifications regarding the offices of elder and deacon do not prove conclusively that women cannot hold those offices. On the other hand, I do think they should give us pause before we erase distinctions in roles.

        Regarding examples such as Junia, Philip’s daughters, and the Samartian woman, I heartily agree that God distributes great gifts of ministry to women. I think it’s awesome that God honors both men and women with these gifts.

        At the same time, I question the view that Junia was an apostle. The passage as I understand it says that Junia was highly regarded by the apostles, not that she was an apostle herself. I have not studied the role of Philip’s daughters, but certainly would agree that there are prophetesses in Scripture. And I do agree that the Samaritan woman was an evangelist, like we all should be.

        I hope I am clear that I do believe women can and should be active in evangelism and mission. We shouldn’t place un-Scriptural barriers that prevent them from engaging in these activities. I believe that Scripture teaches that God in his wisdom has given men and women distinct and equal roles (rather than identical roles) in the family and the church. These are not simple or easy issues, and I try to keep an open mind to change and correction.

        Peace in Christ.

  13. Hi Beau, You’re right. I’m sorry for coming across as mean and condescending. All I know is that this blog comes across to me as bitter and angry when she says, “Now, 20 years into this journey, it is a mystery to me how my radically counter cultural, gender role breaking, empowering Jesus has a church that is so comfortable limiting the scope of women’s influence and leadership; that paints women into such antiquated and irrelevant roles. A church that relegates women’s leadership to children, snacks, and prayer groups. A church that communicates that when we gather, our bibles must be pink, our topic must be grace, and our graphics must look like feminine hygiene commercials.” What’s wrong with children’s ministry and providing snacks? And, prayer? Well, I can’t think of a more important ministry to lead. Whoever said women’s Bibles have to be pink, and whoever said that grace is the only topic to be discussed among women, as if grace is an unimportant, condescending topic? And, personally, a picture of a women in a field has never been associated with a tampon in my mind. I guess I just don’t get where she’s coming from. I know of so many strong, faithful, gifted women who are having a huge impact on the church today without ranting and raving about the church limiting the scope of women’s influence and leadership. My husband used to be a United Methodist pastor, and I know of a lot of women who are also spreading a lot of unsound doctrine because of their tyrannical feminist views, too. I don’t know Erna, and I don’t attempt to judge her, but I hope that she doesn’t waste her God-given gifts and abilities trying to solve a problem that Satan created in order to distract from the church’s real mission, which is to proclaim the gospel and make disciples. Also, thanks for the article; it is very interesting, good food for thought. God bless!

  14. If we are truly hungry to see the kingdom expanded we have to address the reality that the Christian culture and community is often the greatest hindrance to women.

    This statement, which seems to be the summary line of the post, is of questionable veracity. Is it really true that women are hindered by the culture and community of Christianity? That seems a remarkable statement to make in view of overwhelming dominance of things within the Christian culture (how I hate that term) that are geared towards women, that are designed to reflect the preferences of women, and that fail to address the sins of women. In fact one would think that the chief sin afflicting contemporary middle class evangelical women is some variation of low self-esteem, something intimated even in the phrase that women are overlooking themselves.

    I think we can agree that Jesus and the first followers were counter-cultural in a lot of ways, and particularly in his relations to women. His discourse with them was elevating and the teachings of his apostles concerning women were affirming and validating. Yet there were also clearly things neither he nor his immediate disciples affirmed in terms of what and how women should act. The scope of that is a discussion for another day, but what I raise here is the question of what it means to be counter-cultural NOW.

    To say that women should lead everywhere, be fully empowered in every venue, etc., etc., is not a radical stance. In fact it is a repetition of the same dull and unrelenting feminism that we’ve heard for 50+ years translated into Christianese language and dressed up as to seem more innocuous than it is. In an era when women readily and regularly participate in the hook-up culture, assert their rights, and charge into high paying careers, a cross cultural stance would be for them to maintain chastity, give up their rights, marry young, bear children and submit to her husband. This is is powerful, if not more powerful prophetic stance in a culture that values nothing more than the kind of self-assertion the writer speaks of here.

    I will stop here, lest this become a sermon. I’m interested in the dialogue.

    • tbc, the power you are promoting relegates women to a cookie-cutter, same-size-fits-all type of life. The power you are promoting is a subtle kind of oppression for someone like me, who would have enjoyed getting married young and having children. However, my lot was to marry late and beyond child-bearing years. For years, I put up with comments from Christians about how this (my not being married) was my fault because of my seemingly silly notion (to some) to use the gifts God has given me. To me, your post supports my opinion that there is a type of idolatry about marriage among Christians.

      I’m not on board with your view of what would be powerful or counter-cultural. I don’t believe it’s inherently Christian, either. While this may appear anecdotal to you and thus lack veracity, I can attest to being limited in the Church/Christian community because of my gender.

      What I understand about this blog is that it is geared toward people with apostolic, prophetic and evangelistic gifts. At Pentecost, gifts were released to men and women. The whole church suffers – not just the women – when anyone is limited in their scope and ability to exercise their gifts.

      • Una,
        I would agree with you that marriage can and often is idolized. Biblically speaking, there is no ‘ideal’ state it seems in which one can glorify God or use one’s gifts for the kingdom. Instead there is a recognition that most people will marry and that the unmarried have a special opportunity in service to the Lord that married people do not. I know of many women (and not a few men) who would rather not have that special opportunity, but for whatever reason married late or not at all. As I am certain you know, marriage is not the end all or be all of relationships anyway, and the idolization of marriage does grave harm to the body of Christ.In either case, married or not, men and women should be good stewards of their gifts and use them to good effect for the kingdom. I think we would be in agreement on this point.

        I would also agree (how could I not since it is scripture) that the prophecy of Joel was, and continues to be fulfilled– sons and daughters prophesying and so forth. You’ll get no argument from me on that point. Though we might disagree on what it means for those gifts to be exercised, we both agree that they should, by men and women alike. And I don’t doubt that you’ve experienced particular limitations because of your sex.

        What I meant to challenge specifically is the notion of a counter-cultural stance. The cultural context in which we operate is not one in which women are particularly dis-empowered. What Erna said in the original post was not especially counter-cultural given our context. The broader culture gives exactly the same message to young women as does Erna’s post minus the ‘Jesus’ part. And what I said is definitely counter-cultural — Biblical even. The Bible certainly enjoins young wives to be pure, to love their children, to be obedient to their husbands — and enjoins men and women both to give up their rights.

        The fact is though that most would look askance at a gifted Christian woman who opted to do just those things as a prophetic witness against the culture. She might be admired, but only in the way people admire the poor — everyone envies their seemingly joy-filled life but no one wants to trade places with them. What if such a woman strategically organized play dates so as to have time with non-Christian woman and evangelize them? Of course, as you’ve said, not all women and men will marry nor should they, but for those who do, there is tremendous counter-cultural possibilities for apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic ministry that operates the opposite direction from the spirit of the age.

        No, there is no single script for living out the faith and exercising our gifts for the kingdom — I’m not suggesting that. But I don’t believe what has been suggested in the original post is particularly counter-cultural. It simply isn’t radical enough to be.

        • I commented earlier in the thread, and my comments were hasty, uneloquent, and unrefined. I am so fascinated by this discussion and everyone’s comments are pushing and prodding m to refine my thinking and views on this topic. These are the thoughts that keep coming to my mind: Jesus and the kingdom of God transcend culture, gender, age, race, and ability. If God has annointed a person to be prophetic, then NOTHING will be able to hinder that person from fulfilling that call, except their own pride and disobedience, rather if that person seeks earnestly to pursue that calling in humility and faithfulness, then God will take care of the opposition, and the person’s responsibility is to put all opposition under God’s authority and walk in holiness and obedience. Knowing that Satan is our enemy, but obeying the call of Jesus to lay down our rights, we do not need to strive in the flesh or fight for the right to minister. I read an article by a pastor in Africa that is working to evangelize an unreached people group, and he made a simple but powerful statement, “Making disciples is something that anyone can do, regardless of age or gender.” Also, this past Sunday I heard a sermon on Hannah and Peninnah. Here is a woman who seriously lived in a messed up culture, of polygamy and female value based soley on the ability to have children. But what was it that brought her out of her despair? Was it the assurance of her husband’s love for her? No. Was it a change in society’s values? No. Was it even the birth of Samuel or her subsequent children after him? No. The first time we see in the text that she is lifted out of her despair is when she cries out to God at the temple and Eli blesses her and speaks peace to her. It is clear that it is in her ENCOUNTER with the LORD God that her face was no longer downcast, and when she is blessed with Samuel, she gives him up! Then at that point when she lays down her right to raise her own son, her firstborn son, what follows but her PROPHETIC prayer!! If a woman in her day and age can pray a prophetic prayer that is now in SCRIPTURE, what can a hinder a woman today? Look at what humility she had, look at the pain she endured, look at the ultimate sacrifice she made and look at how she praised the LORD God almighty and look at how he blessed her and lifted her up! I see no bitterness in her, no rebelliousness, no striving. The LORD God was enough for her. There will always be “Peninnahs” in our lives and there will always be problems in our culture, but if we persevere and do not lose heart, the LORD God will be sufficient for us, too. Ultimately, how he uses us in his grand plan of redemption is not up to us.

          Peace in Christ,
          Kellie

          • Okay, one more thing I want to say. Erna, I want to encourage you, for you know that God loves you and is sovereign over this issue and all your concerns. Whatever calling God has placed on women’s lives, he will be faithful to fulfill it. But, I’m afraid that your blog could be misunderstood as a call for women to take a rebellious, disobedient stance toward the church. (I’m not saying you intended that but that it could be misinterpreted.) The attitude could be mistakenly taken as, “Arise women, for you are God’s gift to the church.” When perhaps a more edifying attitude is, “Arise beloved daughters of the King, fear God (Prov.1:7) not man, walk in holiness (Heb.12:14) and a manner worthy of your calling (Col.1:10) and in obedience to the good works prepared in advance for you to do (Eph.2:10), for the church is God’s gift to you.”

            Blessings to you in Christ,
            Kellie

  15. Came back to read this again today. I was so blessed by the tone of encouragement to female apostolic leaders back then – and it encouraged me today. Waiting for that conference… I may or may not have quoted the title of this post a few times over this past weekend ;-)
    Blessings!

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