CM2000 28 December, 2000
Plenary: Encouraging Women's Mobilization in World Evangelism


The Emerging Role of Women as Leaders:
Pathway to Purpose

Kathrine Giske
USA

The Way of the Eagle

Since the beginning of civilization, man has recognized the eagle as master of the sky, a symbol of freedom, power and leadership. Ancient dynasties of China, Assyria and Mesopotamia were inspired by this magnificent bird as a symbol of courage, might and majesty. In ancient Egypt eagles were mummified while ancient Greeks believed the eagle was a symbol of their god, Zeus. Indigenous Indian civilizations of North and South America as well as Australian aborigines passionately embraced the eagle as a symbol of strength. In recent history, nations such as China, Japan, Germany, France, Great Britain and the United States use the eagle as a symbol in their banners, coat of arms and their currency.

The eagle is the only bird that will fly into the eye of a storm while all other birds flee. Its spectacular vision and depth perception enable it to see its prey from a mile away in great detail. It's the only creature that can gaze directly into the sun unharmed by its brightness. When it catches the thermal it soars with great strength high into the heavens.

But while the eagle continues to capture our imagination it is the eagle's attitude towards its mate that holds the greatest fascination. The female eagle will rise up to meet the male at incredible heights. The male recognizes the strength of its mate. Together they navigate the skies for hours in total coordination and balance. This imagery of the male and female eagle provides a compelling metaphor about cooperation, trust and mutual respect between the sexes. There is much wisdom to be gained from the ways of the eagle!

Jesus' Ministry of Reconciliation

Many ancient traditions placed women's worth just a little higher than that of servants. But when Jesus came, He turned this political system upside down. He took a radical approach. Not only did he treat women as fully human and fully equal to men in every respect - he talked with women publicly (John 4:10), allowed them to support his ministry (John 12:3-8), included them as members of his team of disciples (Luke 10:41,42) and commissioned them as evangelists (John 4:29). Jesus came to reconcile all peoples to Himself and to bring unity across social, racial and gender lines. He demonstrated that God's intent is for men and women to be equal partners in life and in the Gospel. Together we are called to be ambassadors of reconciliation to an unsaved world.

The Legacy of Obedient, Godly Women

Down through the ages the Church has wrestled over the interpretation of scripture regarding the role of women in the church. Yet again God continues to intervene by raising up godly women dedicated to serving the church and their communities with courage and faithfulness. In Korea, the gospel first came to women who were willing to read the new simplified Korean script. At the turn of the 20th Century in the United States, over 3 million women from 40 different denominations fueled the flame for missions by mobilizing thousands of mission workers. In China, the house church movement has grown primarily through the ministry of women evangelists. In Africa, many communities speak of their missionaries as their mother in the faith. In Muslim nations women are quietly bringing the gospel to women in those cultures. In Japan the missionary wives are often the initial church planters, after which the men move into traditional leadership roles. These are just a few examples of women taking initiative and leadership in mission.

Understanding the Times

In September 1995, the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women took place in Beijing, China drawing several thousand delegates from dozens of nations to adopt initiatives that would empower women everywhere. This year they met again to evaluate their progress. The Way of the Future

As we enter this new millennium, the 21st Century, the challenge of taking the gospel to the final mission frontiers - the unreached peoples of the world is still before us. Two thousand years of church history have given us valuable spiritual and missiological insights and breakthroughs. Completing the Great Commission is now within reach of our generation. Yet we would be remiss to assume we could accomplish this without first embracing the rich gifts resident in all of God's family. We must learn to stand united across social, racial and gender lines. We must recognize that part of the new creation in Christ is the restoration of equality and mutual interdependence between men and women in Christ. We must be willing to study scripture, and as Dr. Kenneth Bailey suggests, "have some old barnacles scraped from its surface so that the original intent can once again shine forth with all its grace and power." Finally, we must discern and resist the evil one's attempts to divide the Church of Jesus Christ in an effort to diminish her effectiveness.

Conclusion

Remember the majestic eagle? This master of the sky finds its greatest joy in the strength of partnership. The reason the female is able to rise with such confidence is because she knows the male believes in her strength and is waiting for her to join him. Can we learn from this bird a powerful leadership principle - the ability to recognize and release the rich gifts in one another? Can we learn to fly with wings like eagles in symphony with the Holy Spirit and with each other? (Isaiah 40:31)

The world awaits to hear the Good News! Jesus beckons His church, "Arise and shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1) The question before us now is, "How high do we want to fly?"

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