Back again. After another weekend internet-off-line but family-on-line. i found a wifi spot this morning near Sainsbury's in Wathamstow and sucked in my email. Thanks to all of you for your comments and your commitment to me. I am honored. I knew something was up when I had a number of emails apologizing for harsh comments (and some that reinforced them). Well, I just read them all - please know that i am honored you feel the freedom to be honest and say what you like.
The issue at hand: Woman/Girls. I have been weighed and found wanting. My use of the word "girl" was taken my many as a negative connotation. Rehab is suggested. I am very open to learning. Please continue to teach me.
Firstly, my apology. My use of the word "girl" was to highlight the fact that God chooses and uses really YOUNG females. I was addressing age-discrimination, (something I know a lot about firsthand) rather than tackling gender-discrimination (something i not experienced). God choose young boys (David, Samuel) and girls (little orphan Esther) to change the course of history. He has done this and is continuing to do so.
No offence intended, nor any desire to stimulate discussion. In fact the opposite is true - I have been trying to write my on-line book and dont actually want any action on my blog right now.
If such a large number of you dont like the word "girl", then i will stop using it in a general sense and instead say "teenager" or "young woman" for those in their twenties. What about younger than teens? (I have four daughters that fit this category) Could I still call my daughters and their peers "girls", or would that still create offense? You tell me and I can change my language, but this is my fear: that I will downgrade the works of God by suggesting a level of age and maturity that is not yet there. I have seen the spiritual abuse of churches who make young people wait too long before they act on God's call. They would rather have them turn up and sign up instead of go out and change the world. This is my story. I left at 21 to be a "missionary" overseas. My church felt bad that they had never asked me to do anything substantial. The week I left was when they asked me to lead the prayer for communion bread (or was it the wine?). I was too young and immature to do more on a Sunday morning for them. I went from that to immediately preaching in churches at at youth rallies all over Asia, Europe and Latin America. I found that i was older than many of the pastors who were still in their teens. I found out quickly that God's players outside are mainly young.
My message: Don't let people tell you that you are too young. Don't wait for age before you obey God's call on your life.
But another important issue has been raised. Gender oppression. I dont know a lot about this but would like to learn. Neither do I have anything really profound to say at teh moment. You could teach me. I would love to hear your stories, in particular
1) What has God called you to do?
2) Have you been hindered from doing this simply because you are female?
3) Have you passed through these roadblocks and how?
4) How can others like you also remove these obstacles
5) What would you say to me as a man and a ministry leader?
Forgive me also for not speaking out for those oppressed in ministry circles because of their gender. I know God has given my a voice at this moment in history, and I pray that i will be like Jesus and use that voice to bring justice.
Maybe i need your help. Gender discrimination does not seem to be a significant element in the emerging missional church networks that I am currently involved in. Yes, I come across it when I speak at more traditional events and at conferences set up by modern institutions, and on occasion I speak out. But my experience in the global emerging church movement and the new apostolic thrust is that women are at the forefront of what God is doing and are not held back because of their gender.
Am i right? I don't know.
Am I blind or skewed because i am a male? Probably.
Am I missing something? Quite possibly.
Let me explain my situation and then, if you like, you can suggest ways for me to learn and grow.
I work overseas in what many would call a "missionary" or "missiologist" role. My gifting is apostolic and i seek out others with the same gifting, people who God is raising up to spearhead church planting movements in new cultures and new worlds where there is a crying need. Those people are both men and women, boys and . . . younger women.
1. Women are traditionally a majority in my field. I read once that a hundred years ago, the only two disciplines/careers where women could go as far as they wanted were nursing and missions. Many mission societies have operated on a 7:1 ratio - 7 women to every one man. While I am thankful that the ration is more balanced in my experience, I still see more women than men hearing God's voice to leave their homes and join this pilgrimage/quest. I have asked the question before and ask it again? Where are the men?
(Not that I necessarily prefer to work with men.)
Last year a team of 16 (including my family) walked part of the Santiago de Competella pilgrimage trail in Spain. There were 4 males in that team, including myself and my son. I wish more men would come.
2. Ask me about the new generation of apostles and I will end up talking about the huge number of women that I work alongside.
Not just China (where 80% of the one million church starting evangelists are female) but all over the West as well.
When i think of Berlin, I think of Kerstin Hack.
Italy? Talk to Annilee and her daughter.
San Francisco? Behind the emerging church scene you will find Linda Bergquist.
Bela Rus? A women comes to mind, not a man.
Texas? Talk to Shannon Hopkins who was also the leader behind the Wabi Sabi event last year. With Jessica's help, of course. And Wabi Sabi England had Bea Marshall take the lead with her husband.
So, here is my problem. My vision is skewed, partly because I am a man, and partly because I look around me at the players in God's new global church-space and I SEE FEMALES. I will soon be calling for summer pilgrims to come and serve overseas this summer - and I expect the past trend of more females than males to continue.
Where are the men?
Maybe this is part of God's plan. Women have giftings in the apostolic area that men do not. I celebrate the fact that God is placing women in the most strategic places and I pray that God will give us all eyes to see what He is doing. And in places where women are held back or dishonored, I pray that God will allow men to be less male and more like Jesus.
[back-blog feb 25.2004]The last sentence is wrong. Jesus was full male and men should fully embrace their masculinity in a godly way.
Your comments are valuable. They represent stories. Please keep teaching us. Keep teaching me.