Fields For Harvest

Green corn field growing up on blue skyThere is a corn field I pass on my way to work each morning. Last spring as the ground was being prepared for planting I thought of the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-8). The ground was tilled and soon I saw rows where the seeds had been scattered. Each week there would be changes and I began to considered how the corn field was like the fields we tend for the Lord.

The crop began to grow and I noticed the corn in the center was tall and green. The plants on the edge of the field were green, but shorter and not as bright in color. As the season progressed, some of the stalks on the edge began to turn brown and others struggled hard to grow. My attention was drawn to the lush, thick, green stalks in the center and the sweet corn I knew they would soon produce. I sometimes wondered why the farmer didn’t water the edges more so all the stalks would yield a good harvest.

Summer arrived and we experienced record breaking heat. The field began to dry out. The stalks at the edge died quickly and even the thick, green stalks in the center showed signs of the rough weather. The farmer must not have cared for his field because after only a few weeks I looked at what was once lush and green to see it had become of sea of brown. The stalks were dead or dying. The corn had not been gathered. The work this farmer had done in the spring was now wasted and no good had come from it.

A few weeks later I noticed the field had been cut and the dead stalks were gone. It had become a barren, uninviting place to see. However, the empty field was soon covered in bales of dried corn plants. I smiled as I realized that the plants would serve a purpose, though not the original one intended, and the work had not all been in vain. The farmer is now preparing the field for winter and I anticipate a new crop will be planted in the spring with the hope of a great harvest next fall.

When someone is asked for a philosophy of ministry they often say the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (Matthew 22:37-40; Matthew 28:19—20) guide their path. Likewise, if they have been in church life, they might say the goal of ministry is to reach, teach, and minister to the people. Both of these descriptions are correct, but they do not reflect the nuisance of Christian ministry as seen in the growing corn field.

The process begins with the farmer getting up early to prepare to go to his field. Ministers of the faith must also prepare themselves through regular time in study of God’s Word and prayer. The fields must be plowed so the seeds can take a firm hold in the soil.

For the ministry to grow deep roots, relationships must be built with the people we hope to reach. The field needs to be watered, weeded, and watched for consistent growth. Likewise, we must consistently care for all the people and not only those that are most receptive or willing to serve. The people on the edge of the church may require extra attention, but it will help them grow to be fully devoted followers of Christ.

If everything goes well then the corn will grow large and the harvest will be full. There will be seasons, however, when the fields do not grow and we watch our labors fall to the ground. In ministry these may be the times of greatest personal growth and spiritual renewal as we call upon the Lord for His leading and help. If we remain faithful (1 Corinthians 9:24) we will be given new direction and the ministry will continue to grow. Ministers must remain open to change.

The final stage of the corn field is preparing for the future. Just as the farmer prepares the field for next year’s harvest so must we prepare for the future. Leadership development and mentoring in a Paul and Timothy manner is essential for the continuity of ministry within the church. Every minister should have someone they are mentoring and someone that mentors them.

For me if comes down to loving God and loving others. If I love above all else then the fields will be white for harvest.

New Year – New Opportunity

fresh-beginning-scripture

The new year has arrived and social media is filled with predictions for change. Why do people make promises that starting on January 1 they will make some change? If we wanted to change something couldn’t we have done it just as easily on any other day?

There is something special about the beginning of the new year. There is an anticipation of things to come, opportunities unknown, and building on the foundation of work we previously began. The new year brings new hope.

Take time over the next few weeks to evaluate where your women’s ministry is and where you would like it to grow over the next year. Do your women understand and participate in worship, evangelism, missions, discipleship, and fellowship? Is there more emphasis on one area leaving another ignored?

There are many things to consider when reviewing a ministry’s effectiveness. Here are a few items to help get you thinking about what 2017 might bring:

Leadership: Is your leadership strategy and style inline with the mission of the church?

Innovation: Can you identify opportunities for new or enhanced ways to reach women?

Negotiation: Can different generations serve together through effective negotiation?

Change: How will you lead organizational change while inspiring others to serve?

Values: Do you implement biblical decision-making strategies across the ministry?

As you begin 2017 consider Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Use this time to listen for the Holy Spirit to give you direction and then boldly step out to make positive changes in your women’s ministry.

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. Isaiah 9:2

For Christians, Christmas is about the Incarnation of God. John described Christ as light coming into the darkness and he said that the darkness could not extinguish it. The Greek literally means: “The darkness could not take it down.” God’s light has come into the world to overcome the darkness, and the darkness is helpless against it. This Christmas season embrace the light of God’s truth and Jesus Himself, who is the Light of the World.

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Defining Women’s Ministry

WM leading series

I read a post tonight that said women’s ministry is almost nonexistent in large evangelical churches!  Since when?  I think the author was meaning that traditional, event driven women’s programs are becoming extinct, but I can assure you that women doing ministry is alive and well!

There is nothing in Scripture that indicates the local church must have a specific, formal program called women’s ministry; however that is what most people think of when they hear the term women’s ministry. Ministry among women can and should occur in a variety of ways (Nielson, 2015, para.4). When placing the word women in front of ministry, it describes any action performed by women in service for God. Therefore, women’s ministry is not to be defined only as ministry performed by women for other women. 

Elizabeth Elliot (1976) best described this idea when she stated,

We are called to be women. The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman. For I have accepted God’s idea of me, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am and all that He wants me to be (p. 43).

CULTURAL CHALLENGES AND CHANGES

I think we would all agree that women’s ministry is reacting to the pressures resulting from cultural shifts in gender relations, generation preferences, economics, politics, and religion.  As early as 2009, women’s ministry leaders were acknowledging changes were happening and women’s ministry would no longer function as it had during modern times (Taylor, 2009, pp. 2-4).

During the past decade a clearer picture of what those changes would be has emerged. Research has shown that teenagers are leaving the church during early adulthood or may not affiliate with a church at all or until later than previous generations (Kinnaman & Lyons, 2007, p. 22). One in four members of the millennial generation are unaffiliated with any particular faith (Lugo, 2010, para.1). People no longer attend church as a cultural expectation, which presents challenges to those leading women’s ministry (Burke, 2015, para.1-2).

One result of the trend of remaining spiritual, but unaffiliated with the local church, has been the proliferation of independent ministries. Women are being drawn to national speakers as role models and for spiritual training, at a great loss to the local church. “National women leaders should be a reference point, but not a replacement for female leadership at the local church level” (Shellnutt, 2016, para. 25). 

So what are we going to do?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Pray for the women in your church. Pray for young  leaders to rise up and serve.
  2. Pray for the men in your church. Pray for a collaborative ministry between all members of the body of Christ for Kingdom growth.
  3. Build relationships with women of various ages. Mentor those spiritually younger than you and seek godly wisdom from those more mature than you.
  4. Be flexible. Women’s ministry is changing and we must be willing to adapt.
  5. Remain grounded in Scripture. Hold fast to the truths of Scripture so that the culture does not drive the ministry.

Do you have other ideas on how to define women’s ministry in the 21st Century? I’d love to hear your comments and ideas. 

Burke, D. (2015). Millennials leaving the church in droves, study finds. Pew Research. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/12/living/pew-religion-study/

Elliot, E. (1976). Let me be a woman. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Kinnaman, D., & Lyons, G. (2007). Unchristian. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Nielson, K. (2015). Why women’s ministry: Questions you’re asking. The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-womens-ministry

Shellnutt, K. (2016). The bigger story behind Jen Hatmaker. Christianity Today. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/november-web-only/bigger-story-behind-jen-hatmaker.html?visit_source=twitter&start=4

Taylor, M. (2009). Brave new women: The transformation of women’s ministry in 21st century culture. Retrieved from http://leadnet.org/brave_new_ women_transformation_of_womens_ministry_21st_century_culture/

The World Has Come To Us

multicultural-women

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

I recently finished reading Cultural Intelligence: Improving Your CQ to Engage Our Multicultural World by David Livermore. The author walks you through information to help you understand what you do when you encounter someone who isn’t like you, how do you feel, and what goes on inside you.

There’s something secure and stabilizing about being with people who view the world like us. Laughing together about things we find funny, ranting together about things that anger us, and sharing an appreciation for some of the same food, art, and perspectives on the world can be the ingredients for building wonderful memories together. But quite honestly, there’s nothing very remarkable about enjoying time with people like us. If you want to see remarkable then love and appreciate someone who despises the very things we value and vice versa. Yet the real mystery of the gospel lies in how we deal with those relationships of difference.

A multicultural focus was once limited to missionaries going abroad, but the question of how ministry leaders and their organizations can effectively minister in culturally diverse situations is a critical and challenging problem for everyone in our globalized world. Developing cultural intelligence is becoming an increasingly important skill for ministry leaders serving at home. We need to understand, go deep, and express God-given love for people of different generations, faiths, ethnicity, and even politics.

Have you experienced ministry in a multicultural context? How did you handle the situation and equip your women to serve in that situation? Do you have any suggestions that might help others? We would love to hear your ideas.