Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The one where I 'come out' (Part Three)

*This is the third in a series of posts explaining how and why I decided to 'come out' as an Egalitarian.  This post will make a lot more sense in light of the first post and second post*

When I became a Christian at fifteen I knew it would be a lifetime commitment.  It wasn't a fickle or half-hearted decision; it had been well considered, weighed up, and thought out.  When I sought forgiveness from God and asked him into my life as Lord and Saviour, I meant it.  From then on I would live my life for him.  At least, that has always been my aim.  It isn't always easy, but it is something I continue to strive for.  And always will.

I have never been particularly good at doing things by halves, so threw myself into absorbing everything 'Christian' in order to live the life as best I could.  I recognised the need to change, to put my old way of living and thinking behind me, and I took this seriously.  I socialised in the Christian community, observed the life of more established Christians, and listened to their interpretation of the Scriptures.  I also watched the way they related to each other, and let this permeate into my being. 
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Life was good.  I loved being a daughter of God and I loved the church.

I even loved the challenge of living biblically, and the set of rules that came with it.  Actually, I thrived on them, appreciating the boundaries they created.  Abiding by them meant that I fit the 'good Christian girl' mould and belonged.  This was important to me; I needed to belong.

I threw myself into church life and served wherever I could.  Several years later I found myself running a youth group with my boyfriend (now husband).  We ran a group for the youth from the estate, and I loved being able to share Jesus' love with them in a practical way.  For a number of reasons this group had to close, but my involvement with young people continued when we were asked to lead the Christian youth group (at that time they were split!).  I knew that God had given me a passion for young people, and I felt privileged to have the opportunity to impact on their lives.

I felt in the right place.  I was able to love, motivate, challenge, teach, inspire.  It was what God had called me to do, I was sure of it.  But how did this fit with the instructions of Timothy?  I considered this verse amongst others, and concluded that in this context it was okay.  I led the group under the authority of my husband (a man), and I only taught young people (no 'men').  I could fulfill what it was I believed God had called me to without breaking any of the 'rules'.  Life continued to go well ...

Until a quiet voice began to say... 'I have called you into ministry to pastor my people'.

Surely I misheard.  This must be for my husband?  But he hadn't heard it, and still hasn't to this day.

It didn't go away.  In fact, it grew louder and stronger.  God, you can't mean me, have you overlooked something - I am not a man!  Confused and ashamed, I kept quiet.  Asking God for forgiveness, I prayed that I would have a clearer understanding of his will for my life.  A life that reflected my belief that men lead and women follow.  A life that clearly didn't involve a call into ministry.  And yet, it didn't go away. 

'Some of you here this morning are called to be Pastors' - my heartbeat doubled in speed and I knew God was speaking to me.  But how could this be?  I still kept quiet.

I spoke nothing of it for ten years.  During this time God continued to confirm his call. Visiting ministers prophesied over me in line with what I had already heard. I still kept quiet.   I learnt how to deflect God's call towards my work with the youth.  It was acceptable then.  I still fit the 'good Christian girl mould' and obeyed the rules.  But in my heart I knew I had heard from God, and despite all efforts, I couldn't completely ignore it.

And then the volume and intensity increased.  Every direction I turned, I heard it.  I could no longer find a haven from his voice.  I knew I had to respond.  But how?  What was I allowed to do?   I considered my work with young people, and decided to apply for a course in Christian counseling.  A safe avenue to go down.  But I didn't feel God's peace,  and knew I was still running.  

I am aware that in divulging the above it may well be concluded that my thoughts and actions demonstrate a fear of man, and lack of trust in God.  And I can understand this.  However, as my opening paragraph declares, I really do strive to live my life according to his will.  The difficulty was that his will seemed to be going against what I read in the bible.  This was the tension I had to live with.  I feared that questioning might label me a trouble maker at best, and heretical at worst. 

The interview date for the counseling course arrived and I began to prepare for it.  It still didn't feel absolutely right for me, but what harm would it do?  It would still benefit my work with young people; at least I was doing something.

A week before my interview, God stepped in.  It blew me away.

It was a Friday afternoon and I had Youth Alpha to set up for at church.  I had a lot of chairs to move but I didn't mind at all.  It provided an ideal opportunity to pray for the young people attending.  It excited me and I loved that I could be a part of it.  The Senior Pastor turned up to sort through paperwork in the office.  We had a quick tea break together before carrying on with our work.  Twenty minutes later he reappeared and stopped me.  And then he said it.  Words that I will NEVER forget ... 

'This might not be for now, but I feel God prompting me to ask you, do you feel called into ministry?'  Boom!

I had kept silent for ten years; no one except my husband knew.  And now, God had told someone else: the Senior Pastor, who had taught and modeled male only leadership.  The relief.  The emotion.  The presence and peace of God that filled my heart.

But, there remained a lot to work through - in theory and in practice.  The battle wasn't over.  In fact, with hindsight, it had only just begun ...

You may also like:
Part One in this series
Part Two in this series
Part Four in this series
Part Five in this series


  1. How many parts are there going to be in this series by the way? Loving it and hanging on every word.

    As always Jo, your candid honesty, rooted in love for our wonderful God, is compelling and beautiful. Thank you for daring to speak out...for all of us called to lead.

    May the Lord continue to bless you and guide you and use you as a vessel for the GOOD NEWS of Jesus.

  2. Wow! Thanks for your 3rd blog so amazing to hear how God called you! Your story shows just how much education and information we need to provide to young people about God's view of men and women! Have you seen this: http://www.dayprogramme.org/daychristianversion.htm ? Blessings to you and such thanks for your willingness to share your story!

  3. Well done! This series is excellent, thank you so much for sharing your journey and what god has been doing with and through you. For my part I have struggled to reconcile women pastors with 1Tim 2:12 and the associated verses. The two seem in conflict but are they? My God is such a big God! My understanding is so small! I KNOW my God can reconcile such a verse with calling women to lead a church, my God can do anything. But I need to understand. I have researched the context of course and have discussed this before several times over the years but still I hold the matter unresolved. I keep hearing people profer the view that those verses 'were for then and not for today' but I'm uncomfortable with that. There has to be more to it. People can get really emotive on both sides! I don't care who's right, I just want to know what the right answer is and how to interpret that gnarly scripture. Looking forward to reading more!

  4. Thank you for beautiful sharing your story. I am loving reading along and learning as I go. You are a blessing. x

  5. @whitneyadshead - I am not sure how many posts there will be in the series yet - will see where it goes and whether they are still of interest to people. At least another two planned though. It's a long story!! :)

  6. Come on Jo, spit it out. We want to know how it ends :-)

  7. sounds like a great story ... love it :)

  8. What a powerful story full of hope in how God calls and takes us on our journey.

  9. hey jo!

    my grandmother was one of the first ordained women
    methodist ministers. i was always very proud of her
    and never heard a "feminist" word from her. she just
    did what the Lord told her to do.

    and so are you! well done.

  10. Jon Zens published a book on the topic 'What's with Paul and women?'. Some of his thoughts are also available free in an earlier essay written as a response to John Piper's book 'What’s the Difference? Manhood & Womanhood Defined According to the Bible'.

    Jon's thought are very helpful and well worth a read.

  11. @Chris - Thanks for those links. The essay link led to another - http://www.searchingtogether.org/free-to-function.htm
    which I for one found helpful. The summary (esp points 2-4) pull it all together. We may just have it...

  12. Thanks guys :) I will check the links out later this morning. Appreciate you taking the time to comment and further the discussion. Jo

  13. What a wonderful story, I was very moved by your evident faith and honesty. It also introduced me to an idea which I was unaware existed outside of the Catholic/Orthodox churches; that women cannot be pastors. I love the way you have integrated Scripture into your life & thoughts as well!

  14. I have just looked at your blog, and this series of posts for the first time, after you followed me on Twitter.

    It was a timely reminder for me that not all Christian women have had the encouragement to think through these issues of Biblical leadership, or been offered examples of the leadership of Christian women who have contributed much to my life - including one Anglican priest in your home town!

    I am almost ashamed that I can't really empathise with your journey because it seems alien to mine - and yet as I write, women in the Anglican church are still struggling to be 'allowed' to be ordained Bishop's, which Biblically is a related extension of the work of both the deacon and presbyter.

    For me the great example of how Paul's teachings do in fact encourage women into leadership within the church is Phoebe in Romans 16, as mentioned in the links provided by Chris above.

    From an Anglican perspective, I would encourage you to read Stephen Crofts 'Ministry in Three Dimensions' which draws out some of these points whilst developing the idea of Christian leadership as a Biblical threefold pattern of ministry, to which women and men are called.

    What I do understand is the difficulty in keeping one's true calling, when finally understood, hidden from public view. There are times when this is necessary, and I live with that tension at present myself.

    I look forward to your further posts, and pray that you are supported and encouraged as you journey further into Christian leadership.


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