Ministry Identity

 

If I had a dollar for everyone who ever told me they feel called to be Christine Caine, I’m pretty sure I’d at least be able to buy a pair of high-end Fall boots.  Have you ever yearned for a ministry mentor?  Tried to figure out who you are supposed to be like? We try to see into our future through the gloom of uncertainty to discern what we will be and do.

Historically, and for some still today, what’s possible for women in church ministry has been pretty limited.  We’ve designed ourselves around the ministry opportunities in front of us more than who God has designed us to be.  We feel torn between what we believe is needed from us and what we feel passionate about.  Women frequently spend so much time giving others what they need that they lose track of their sense of self.

Identity is a complex thing.  So many things contribute to what we see in ourselves, including relationships, culture, vocation, family, hobbies, race, sexuality, and experiences. As a young minister, I felt torn about my ministry identity.  Was I supposed to be a worship leader? A youth pastor? A senior pastor? A missionary?  I thought I had to put a label on my future and run after that ministry leadership identity.

We feel pressure to be more and do more in our Western culture of progress, and so we look ahead, trying to discern what we should be shaping ourselves into.  Most of the time we are looking to what women are doing in ministry today as our models for shaping our leadership.  I think it’s time to break the mold, especially if you don’t seem to fit inside the lines.  Maybe no woman has yet done what God has in mind for you.

The ancient Celtic fathers chose to describe the Holy Spirit using the metaphor of the Wild Goose. The wild goose was powerful, mysterious, untamed, free, and cried out with a loud voice.  We are imago Dei, made in God’s image.  If you want to know who you should become, don’t look at Instagram, look to the Wild Goose.  You are made to be like God, powerful and free.  When you look ahead to who you will become in ministry, look to Jesus.  You are designed to look like him.

“You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside, and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.  I thank you God, for making me so mysteriously complex!  You saw who you created me to be before I became me! Before I’d ever seen the light of day, the number of days you planned for me were already recorded in your book.  Every single moment you are thinking of me” (Psalm 139:14,16-17 TPT).

When we aren’t sure what God wants us to do, we can focus on who God wants us to be first.  Finding my primary place of identity in being a daughter of God focuses what I will do.  Whether we are called to preach, bring the light of God’s love into our corporate workplace, serve the poor and bringing healing to injustice—it all flows from who we are as daughters of the King.

“Look with wonder at the depth of the Father’s marvelous love that he has lavished on us! He has called us and made us his very own beloved children… Beloved we are God’s children right now; however, it is not yet apparent what we will become. But we do know that when it is finally made visible, we will be just like him, for we will see him as he truly is” (1 John 3:1-2 TPT).

Those inner places are where God is working first: managing our emotions, our attitudes, desires and priorities.  The Holy Spirit is shaping us.  He’s not in a hurry, and he’s going to make sure we are ready.  He’s shaping us in his image, with divine DNA.  Calling is not something you can discover through the right personality test or spiritual gift test.  It’s something that is developed over a lifetime of shaping.

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Ezer Women

For any of you who read “Church Girls Who Don’t Bake Cupcakes,” welcome to the reboot!  I’ll be blogging here again for church girls in leadership as “She is Imago Dei.”  Imago Dei is a Latin term that helped early theologians describe what it means for mankind to be created in God’s image.

While Jesus is male, God the eternal Spirit is genderless.  We generally usually use masculine pronouns and metaphors to help us understand God’s nature, which are powerful and appropriate.  However, Genesis 1:26-27 is clear: both male and female are created together in God’s image.  That means that God made women in his image just as surely as men are (pronouns for God fall short here).  We may forget this, overlooking many of the feminine metaphors for God throughout the Bible that describe God as mother bird, or bear, woman looking for a lost coin (Hosea 13:8; Deuteronomy 32:11-12; Isaiah 66:13; Psalm 131:2; Luke 15:8-10 to name just a few).

What this means for us is pretty remarkable.  Since women also bear God’s image, we have the same mandate that men do—to carry God’s mission into the future, seeing all of Creation reconciled to God and healed (Matt. 28:19).  We carry God’s creative nature, and the same responsibility as men to be fruitful and rule (Gen. 1:28).

We are not just a weaker, lesser helper to men.  In fact, ezer, translated “helper” in Genesis 2:20, is used most of the time to describe God!  God is certainly not less powerful than a man, but a rescuer of the weak.  Ezer is a powerful woman-warrior, designed for interdependent partnership. Women need men, and men need women to accomplish God’s purposes.

Men and women are corporately called to carry this mission forward, both in word and in deed.  We steward our God-designed unique callings (Ephesians 2:10) for the purpose of accomplishing our corporate calling.  God has specially designed us to fit together in an ordered and necessary way (1 Cor. 12). That means, girlfriend, that there is a you-shaped hole in the body of Christ!  You are needed, and your gifts are essential to what God want to do in your church.  Both testaments of the Bible paint pictures of women exercising every kind of gift that men do, including leadership, prophecy and teaching.

Women in church leadership face some unique challenges in their development.  We are different from men; we think different and we have different weaknesses.  I’m writing here about stewarding this feminine church leadership calling and wrestling with the issues we face in culture, character, and development.  My leadership development journey has been a bumpy road, and it’s not over yet.  I can’t wait to share with you some of the things I’ve been learning on the journey.