Who doesn’t like a solid backup plan? I’m a self-proclaimed A-type and have great appreciation for a well thought out plan of a plan; I usually have, not one but three or four backup plans to the backup plan. The whole thought of a backup plan though is that you will only see its carefully crafted abilities and process if and when the first plan fails.
I don’t remember the context of where I was or even who said it to me, but when speaking about women in leadership and ministry and trying to figure out my place, I somehow grabbed hold of the idea that I was only supposed to be the backup plan. The conversation was specifically around Deborah, the judge. “Deborah was only allowed to be a judge because there weren’t any godly men who were stepping up.” Even then as I heard those words, I thought about how I was to faithfully wait on the sidelines until it was my turn, waiting for the first plan to fail and to take the course as runner-up.
As I have since studied the book of Judges, as well as the entirety of Scripture, I’m thankful that God intentionally interwove the stories of women in their brokenness and strengths and in places of leadership with their God-given spiritual gifts to be a picture for us of what it looks like to follow God. I’ve learned that I’m not just waiting on the sidelines for my ‘turn’ but am an active participant in the Church, God’s mission, and bringing about His Kingdom.
Recently, there has been a change in the conversation that I am so excited about; a conversation that is shifting from women as the “backup plan” to “part of the plan.” As the narrative has begun to change, we are finding our churches incredibly malnourished of women who know how to teach, lead, and dig deep into the Gospel. We need more Deborah’s who are seeking the heart of God and charging people with His Word.
I would have discussions with women of all different ages and life stages and I kept hearing the words “fluffy and shallow” when talking about women and ministry. We had event speakers, not Bible teachers; there is a distinction. With the best of intentions, they tried to encourage and lift-up with what they knew which usually happened to be more personal experience rather than exposition. It was a stroke of the ego or a pep talk if you will, a reminder that you are God’s princess, and there was always opportunity to eat lots of good food (thankfully we haven’t gotten away from this). Even still today as I sit across the table from other women’s ministers, I hear of retreats and conferences where women are not even opening their Bibles. They get helps and practical advice on how to schedule better and how important self-care is in a busy world, and although it’s good information, it’s leaving them longing and unsettled.
There has been a shift within our churches where women have become more and more hungry for substance and Truth that collide with the hard places and darkness of their worlds, and maybe for the first time in a while the opportunities for women to bring their gifts to the table are more open than ever. Our women are more hungry than ever to dive into the Word and eager to serve the Bride, but will we leave them yearning with no clear path of discipleship or a place to serve?
Who Are Our Modern Day Deborahs?
We need women within the SBC that we can look to for wisdom, example, and courage. For the longest time the only platform that women had to look to was Beth Moore, and because of her hard work, humility, and flat grit we have benefited from her labor, but one woman can’t be our only example.
Where in the SBC do we have other women being encouraged, given a voice, or given a platform to follow? We need to have women who are running the race ahead of us that we can look to both for faithfulness and example.
I’m thankful for women like Jen Wilkin, Kathy Ferguson, and Trillia Newbell who have begun to influence and spread their gifts, but surely there are more. Are we finding women who are charging the World with the Gospel in their homes and communities and allowing them a voice for those coming behind? We can do better.
How Are We Training Future Deborah’s?
We can’t be dependent on DVD teaching and virtual discipleship. We have missed an opportunity to cheer on, support, build-up and develop our own women teachers – teachers that know the very struggles of the women in their rooms and who can hold broken hearts when they are grieving and rejoice with them when they see faith in action.
We need women who are willing to do the hard work of learning systematic theology and the hermeneutic of Scripture. We need women who geek out over Greek lexicons and genre, who present the difficult Truths of the Bible that cuts to the marrow of our bones and leaves us desiring more of God. Deep theology makes us better moms, coworkers, bosses, and friends, and it’s time we do the hard work.
What is A Deborah To Do?
If you are a woman struggling with the tension of where you belong and where you fit, I can’t cheer you on enough to take that leap. I know you may feel that you are alone and there is no place for you, or you won’t get to actually do what you love, but all of that is so far from the Truth. God honors obedience and hearts that are fixed on His Word. Don’t worry so much about the logistics; just take your faithful steps forward one step at a time.
1) Look into your local seminaries and Bible Colleges. There are so many options out there now both on campus and online. There are certificate programs which are affordable and less hours. You can even find classes offered online for free.
2) Order yourself a copy of Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know just to get your toes wet, and then dive in to some other authors like Sproul & Tozer. Ask your pastor if he has any books he would recommend, and become an avid reader.
3) Find other women with your same gifting and calling. As much as you feel like you are stepping into uncharted waters, there are women who are swimming right alongside you. They will be a huge source of encouragement to you.
Finally, I really want to encourage you to start small. Everyone is trying to gain a huge platform and ministry of speaking to hundreds, maybe even thousands. As I look back on taking my first steps into ministry and teaching, God blessed and grew me in huge ways with a handful of teenage girls in my parents living room. You may be in the weeds of trying to figure out what your next steps might be and what to do with this God-given passion, and let me tell you that’s a great place to be!
Humbly ask Him to open doors, have the courage to walk through those doors, and chase Jesus with everything that you have……and you might just find that you’ve got others following and chasing Him right along with you.
Jacki King is a Jesus follower, Bible teacher, and Coffee Addict. She has a passion for seeing women fall in love with Jesus and His Word while challenging them to be on mission in their homes, work places, and communities. Jacki lives in Sachse, TX with her Husband Josh, who is the Lead Pastor/Elder of Sachse’s Church, along with their 3 boys Haddon (9) Leland (7) and their youngest Amos (4) who was adopted from Ethiopia. To connect with Jacki follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @JackiCKing