The Role of Women in a Growing Church

 

For Women in a Growing Church Blog

Every year, Forbes Magazine releases their list of, “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.” After all, secular society heartily embraces and harnesses the contribution that women make to organizations. Yet many churches are unsure if women should hold positions of authority, speak in the pulpit, or possess any kind of power.

In explanation, today’s females are employed as: congresswomen, senators, bank presidents, physicians, school superintendents, attorneys, and business owners, among other influential occupations. They have worked diligently to utilize their God-given gifts to become leaders in the community, but often we allow them little freedom to exercise these same gifts in our churches.

Despite this oversight, most congregations desire to grow. Or else, there would not be so many church growth experts writing books, surveying mega-churches, and espousing theories about how it’s done. Spiritual folks can harbor negative feelings about these studies thinking that it’s God’s job to increase the number of worshippers.

These skeptical believers tend to view words like “seeker friendly” and “church growth” as no better than aggressive marketing tools; forgetting that the goal of church growth is simply to reach the lost and hurting with the life-changing news of the Gospel, not to sell them a useless product.

Women are a vital part of this spiritual expansion. The Bible itself is filled with dynamic women of faith who did great exploits for their God. For example, the prophetess Deborah was a great leader who judged Israel (Judges). Phoebe was also a church leader (Romans 16). The Greek word describing Phoebe as a servant refers to her being a deaconess. Lydia was a business entrepreneur who was also a worshipper of God, (Acts 16) and Priscilla was a Bible teacher. (Acts 18: 24-26)

Like these Biblical heroines, my Christian journey has included countless ministry opportunities provided by supportive men and women of God. Yet not all my Christian sisters have been so fortunate. Since many churches still erroneously reject or greatly limit the contribution of women, citing a couple of out-of-context poorly exegeted Bible verses. In explanation, the Biblical history of the women who were told to remain silent within the church (I Cor.14:34) comprises unbridled, untaught women who lacked submission to their own husbands. Also, the church in Corinth was already struggling with disorderly worship.

As for not allowing a “woman” to teach, the Greek in I Timothy 2:11-15 refers not simply to the word, “woman,” but more specifically to the word, “wife.” Of course, women are never to domineer or exercise authority over their husbands, but this has little to do with teaching God’s Word, being a pastor, serving on a board, serving as a deaconess or elder, or fulfilling their ministry calling. True Biblical submission in a marital relationship is when a husband loves his wife so much that he will lead, enabling her to fulfill God’s destiny in her life. Whether that destiny entails being a housewife, pastor, or the president. Besides, the Bible tells us, “There is [now no distinction] neither Jew nor Greek, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal. 3:28 Amp.

In his book, “Women: God’s Secret Weapon,” Ed Silvoso, founder and president of Harvest Evangelism asks, “Why are the spiritual gifts that are entrusted to women so often openly disqualified as coming from the flesh or the devil?” Silvoso believes that denying women their rightful place in the church is spiritually abusive, contrasting their plight to that of a sexual abuse victim. Silvoso asserts that women who are victimized by sexual abuse receive compassionate support, while “women victimized by spiritual abuse are seen as rebellious, ambitious and non-feminine.” This area of abuse greatly concerns me because I fear it will not only wound women, but it will impede church growth.

Many females have worked diligently to gain both academic and Biblical education. Successful women in numerous occupations could provide incredible role models to fuel the vision of the younger women within the church. Clinging to patriarchal tradition by refusing to allow trained and gifted women to hold positions of leadership or to operate in their God-given gifts might result in a church losing them to another congregation. Even worse, frustration and discouragement could cause these valuable ladies to stop attending church altogether, which would be a momentous loss to the kingdom. After all, a growing church is not an institutional organization, but rather a living organism relying on each member to fulfill his or her God-given purpose.

Christina Ryan Claypool has appeared on national TV on Joyce Meyer Ministries and been featured on CBN’s 700 Club. Part of this column was excerpted from her book, “Seeds of Hope for Survivors.” Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com   

 

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Acquaintance Rape: The Crime No One Talks About

Can we talk candidly about acquaintance rape today? For years, I have written to media outlets all over this nation begging them to do more stories on this topic. You see, this crime is a real danger for women on college campuses, or those looking for love on an Internet dating site. Few folks want to talk about it, but it is so easy to avoid.

Let’s back up. It’s been three years, since convicted rapist Jeffrey Marsalis made headlines when he was sentenced to life in prison on June 30, 2009. “He’s the poster boy for date rape…,” said Idaho’s Blaine County prosecuting attorney Jim Thomas when I spoke with him by phone back then.

Authorities will probably never know how many victims the unemployed paramedic drugged and then assaulted. According to media reports in January 2006, Marsalis was originally found not guilty in a Philadelphia courtroom in cases involving three of his accusers.

During a second Philadelphia trial in June 2007, seven more females accused him of rape. Six of the victims reported meeting Marsalis through an online dating service. This boy-next-door-looking predator posed as a doctor, an astronaut and even a CIA agent to have an opportunity to meet his unsuspecting victims.

Prosecuting attorney Jim Thomas advises women to “be wary of people making claims  online of who they are and their background.” He cautions that predators like Marsalis can much more readily assume false histories with the advent of the Internet.

Like the success of the Internet, women have also come a long way professionally. Among the ten female plaintiffs in the Philadelphia trials, there was a pharmacist, an accountant, and even a lawyer. Yet the second verdict failed to convict Marsalis of even one rape, but did find him guilty of the lesser charge of sexual assault in two of the cases, and of one count of unlawful restraint.

Maybe that’s why, “fewer than 5 percent of college women who are victims of rape or attempted rape report it to police,” fearing they will not be believed.  This is particularly tragic, since it’s estimated that “90 percent of…victims know their assailant.” These statistics can be found in the article, “Acquaintance Rape of College Students,” authored by Rana Simpson.

Not long ago, this type of crime was identified solely as date rape, but that terminology is too specific, because the perpetrator is not necessarily a dating partner. Therefore, the term acquaintance rape is often used to define this sexual violation which seems rampant on college campuses.

Some universities are now aggressively addressing this issue through preventive education. Often though, this knowledge comes too late, since female students are most vulnerable to violation during the first few days of their freshman year.

For example, another study of 119 colleges reported that “one in twenty college women reported being raped during the school year…” This study also indicated that “… [almost] 75 percent of the victims [in campus cases] said they were intoxicated when the assault occurred.”

Through my years as a journalist, I have listened to the traumatic accounts of females who have been victimized. I have heard the heart cry of sympathetic men who feel helpless in confronting the predators in their own gender; and researched facilitated- rape drugs like Ecstasy, Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine.

Information from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/date-rape-drugs.cfm explains the danger of these predatory drugs. Alcohol can also be used as a predatory drug since it can “affect judgment and behavior,” according to this government Web site which states that, “even if the victim of sexual assault drank alcohol, she is not at fault for being assaulted.”

IF YOU NEED HELP VISIT THE NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT ONLINE HOTLINE

Perhaps, the lack of a rape conviction in the Marsalis trials in Philadelphia was partially due to the fact that most of the women testified that they willingly met him for a date and had a couple of drinks. Despite the lack of a rape conviction, in October 2007, Judge Steven R. Geroff refused to minimize Marsalis’ crime, sentencing him to a total of up to 21 years in prison. “I was very impressed by the girls [female plaintiffs]….even though there were acquittals,” said Judge Geroff. “He [Marsalis] ruined so many lives, and he didn’t care,” added the Philadelphia judge explaining his rationale for handing down the maximum sentence on the two sexual assault charges.

“By the time he had been sentenced the [Philadelphia] victims felt some justice had been done,” commented special prosecutor Joseph Khan. Then more justice occurred when Marsalis was sentenced to life in prison being eligible for parole in 15 years for the 2005 rape of a former 21-year-old co-worker near Sun Valley,Idaho.

Prosecuting attorney Jim Thomas, who successfully won the Idaho rape conviction against Marsalis, admits that date/acquaintance rape cases “are one of the most difficult” to prosecute especially when alcohol is a factor. Yet in both Pennsylvania and Idaho, prosecutors refused to give up until Marsalis was behind bars leaving the world a safer place.

For too long, society has forced victims to embrace the shame induced code of silence, which perpetuates this crime. Yet following the example of the courageous Marsalis’ accusers and the dedicated prosecutors, it’s time to unite our voices to warn women everywhere.

Christina Ryan Claypool is the author of the book, “Seeds of Hope for Survivors.” She is a former two-term board member for the Ohio Coalition against Sexual Assault.

 

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Scandalous Grace Transforms Broken Lives like Mine

What does a cup of coffee have to do with grace? Well, the Bible mentions numerous occasions when Jesus was found engaging with some rather questionable characters. For example, he recruited Matthew, a greedy tax collector to be a disciple, and the hot-tempered and outspoken Peter to lead His rather motley crew. Then at a public supper, the Messiah allowed a woman referred to as an “especially wicked sinner” to wash his feet with her tears. You can bet that this caused quite a stir.

Also intriguing are the messy circumstances when we find Jesus assisting in the midst of some crisis like sparing the life of an adulterous woman from an angry mob, or healing blind Bartimaeus as he cried out for mercy. So, why should it be of any surprise that Jesus took time out for a heart-to-heart chat with a woman of Samaria? The rather infamous “Woman at the Well” can be found in the fourth chapter of St. John’s  Gospel. This narrative paints a vivid portrait of a socially outcast Samaritan female who was from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks.

Besides, Jesus was born Jewish, and the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. Yet, Jesus asked the woman of ill-repute to draw him a drink from Jacob’s well where he had come to rest. Then He prophetically told her that she had had five husbands and the man she was living with was not her husband, while explaining that the living water that only He could provide would satisfy the thirst in her soul.

Some speculate that the Samaritan woman’s infamous reputation probably forced her to visit the well in the noon day heat when no other women were there in order to avoid their scornful stares. This lost lady’s encounter with Jesus changed her so profoundly that she became the first female Evangelist by proclaiming the Good News of the savior to all who would listen. As a Christian speaker, I have shared her story on many occasions to portray the shockingly scandalous nature of God’s grace that often touches the most unlikely of candidates.

For example, it is the same grace that reached out to the woman of Samaria who found acclaimed author, Brennan Manning in a gutter struggling with alcoholism. The former Catholic priest found his own sobriety, and then went on to become a sought-after interdenominational speaker who penned countless books. The Jesuit scholar’s testimony and writings are particularly healing to those wounded by life’s circumstances. In his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, he writes, “When you have made a slobbering mess of your life, as many of us recovering alcoholics have, compassion becomes a tad easier…”

I think it was reading Manning’s works that made me realize about the scandalous nature of God’s grace in a personal way. After all, like the famous scholar, I, too, am a Ragamuffin since Christ’s grace came to me in 1986 while I was a young patient on a psychiatric ward battling substance abuse and depression. In those days, I had a college friend that I will refer to as “Jennifer” who tried to rescue me by faithfully taking me to her church, because she had also struggled with addiction. More than two decades ago, it was Jennifer’s pastor who stood at my hospital bedside on the psychiatric floor praying that God would heal my broken life.

A couple of summers ago, my path crossed with Jennifer again after years of separation. I saw her when I was passing through the small town where we both once lived while stopping in the local coffeehouse. Through the shop’s window, I spotted a woman who looked vaguely familiar. Although her heavily lined face, thinning hair, and emaciated body had little resemblance to the vibrant Jennifer I once knew. But through the transparent glass when I looked deeply into the eyes of the female passing by, I saw my old friend Jennifer trapped inside that decaying body. It wasn’t just age that had taken its toll. Rather it was addiction that had ravaged her so greatly.

Recognizing me, Jennifer ran inside the shop and we hugged each other tightly. Then for the next few hours over coffee, I listened as Jennifer’s tragic tale of relapsing into addiction tumbled out of her like smoldering lava creeping down a volcano’s surface. That night, the woman who had once helped me was in desperate need of God’s grace herself. She said that seeing my transformed life was a reminder to her that His grace is still available.

“The gospel of grace continues to scandalize,” writes Brennan Manning in The Ragamuffin Gospel. After all, Jesus can always be found by hurting people; whether it is at a deserted well, a street gutter, on a psychiatric ward, or in a coffee shop. If you are in need of the healing power that only God’s grace can provide, remember all you have to do is ask. Like Blind Bartimaeus let your heart cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” I know firsthand that Jesus always answers our heartfelt prayers requesting His help to transform our broken lives.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning freelance journalist and Christian speaker, who has been featured on CBN’s 700 Club and Joyce Meyer Ministries. Contact her though her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com 

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How not to Help a Thief

Would you like to help someone rip you view detailsoff? If not, you might want to keep reading. To explain, about a decade ago, I was employed as a TV producer/reporter for a daily magazine show in west central Ohio. One of my jobs was to create, “How To,” segments for the program. I have to admit these vignettes weren’t worthy of much professional acclaim, but I hope they helped folks with their daily dilemmas.

You know, “tough” questions like, “How do you get spaghetti sauce out of a favorite blouse?” Or, “How to avoid burning up your kitchen pans when you cook dinner.” Admittedly, most of the features I produced concerned areas where I had my own practical problems. Therefore, I went in search of experts who could answer my questions.

If I were still producing these TV packages, I think a few local individuals could provide material for a, “How to help a thief,” feature. For example, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen some potentially dangerous scenarios that could invite the attention of an unscrupulous crook. But then have you ever met a robber with any scruples?

First, while driving in my neighborhood the other day, I saw a huge cardboard box that had contained a new TV at the curb, fully assembled and waiting for trash collection. Then while parking in a public lot, I spied an empty automobile with a tempting purse and cell phone in visible sight.

That’s when I decided to ask Sheriff John Lenhart for some advice on how to keep ourselves and our possessions safe. The Ohio Shelby County sheriff says that robberies statistically increase with warmer weather simply because it’s “easier [for criminals] to move around.”

According to the law enforcement official who is currently serving his sixth term, there are, “Three parts to a crime including: 1) the intent of the individual, 2) the opportunity which you give those persons, and 3) the skill level” [of the perpetrator.]

When it comes to opportunity, “We allow ourselves to be vulnerable,” he said. Referring to my above examples, Sheriff Lenhart cautioned that it is not wise to leave “valuable items in eyesight,” in a car. In addition, when discarding an electronics box, you should “turn it inside out.” If not, he says, “That’s almost like a billboard, advertising that you’ve got something new.”

He also encouraged residents to alert neighbors or law enforcement agencies if they are going on vacation and leaving their homes vacant. “If the newspapers pile up, the trash sits out and nobody picks it up, [it becomes] pretty obvious nobody’s home,” said the seasoned sheriff.

Warning folks that today’s crime also involves stealing personal information is important to Sheriff Lenhart. “We live in a pretty technical world…check your credit accounts, keep track of receipts, and watch your debit card transfers,” he urged. “Keep a mindful eye that there are a lot of people out there…trying to take advantage of us.”

When it comes to a scam, the sheriff reminds people of the famous saying, “If it is too good to be true, it’s probably not true” Like the phone caller who reports, “Gee, you’ve won the Mexican lottery.” Some unsuspecting victims have fallen for the scam, even though they’ve never played the lottery.

Sheriff Lenhart has a special concern for the vulnerability of senior citizens who can be taken advantage of by unprincipled business people. “Do not do business with people you don’t know,” he said emphatically.

“We just had two persons pay substantial money…who had pavement put down on their driveways…. [the pavers] had put shoddy work down and [used] lousy material,” said the county officer. Sadly, the residents wrote checks for the work, making financial recovery difficult. The sheriff advises seniors to call the Better Business Bureau, a neighbor, or an adult child to ask advice about utilizing specific businesses for services. Scam artists rely on individuals agreeing to their terms without getting input from outside sources.

It would be wonderful if the world were filled with only trustworthy individuals. But Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, and there are real life criminals. As responsible consumers, we have to take our rose-tinted glasses off, and protect ourselves from loss. In closing, the Sheriff advises, “A lot of time, [with] these scams everything has to be done in a real hurry…slow the whole process down, so you can check them out…”

Parting advice from the road less traveled, just like the sheriff said, “slow the whole process down,” by turning the stove’s heat down to make your pans last longer to avoid burning them, also. As for the spaghetti sauce, treating the stain with a little Dawn or Palmolive dishwashing detergent prior to washing should do the trick. Sorry, I couldn’t resist sharing my hard-earned knowledge. Until next time….stay safe.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award winning journalist and Christian speaker. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. This column was originally published in the Sidney Daily News on June 6, 2012. 

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