I’m going to start this post by putting myself into a few boxes. Not because I necessarily like putting people into categories, but in this case I think it will help. I’m currently single, I’m a woman, and I’m a missionary serving in France, a country with only small evangelical churches, a country where most towns don’t have any protestant church. I’m also a little bit complementarian. (There’s a little more info in the footnotes, but this post is not about the complementarian/egalitarian debate, so please don’t focus on that). And I have a heart for church-planting.
I read an article recently on the final church barrier for women being church planting, and I don’t think its wrong. On the contrary I think it’s absolutely accurate. But I feel it necessary to add in a few extra factors and explain a few of the challenges. And I think one of the biggest challenges has something to do with our model of church-planting. For some reason, we still seem very attached to the idea that church planting must begin with a pastor or a missionary pastor. This has already ruled out the majority of believers, but especially single women who don’t want to be pastors. It means that those who are not aspiring pastors or missionary pastors must hope and pray that the Lord calls a pastor where God is calling them. They cannot do what the Lord is calling them to do unless a pastor is also called. Does that sound right to you?
Second problem with our model of church planting is that most of our modern-day church planting efforts come from the developed church. Yes there are problems with the developed church. Yes, we need new, fresh and revolutionary churches in suburbs where the churches are dying of the tradition and comfort diseases. Church-planting in these contexts is about calling people out from the neighbouring suburb to gather with a different group of people and turn to have a more (dare I use the term) “missional” focus. There is a true and real value in this type of church planting and it is necessary. In its context.
But let me paint another context. You’re called to a city where this no church. There hasn’t been a church there for over 30 years, when the last church died out. Your heart breaks for this city, and it seems at times that you may be the only one whose heart breaks for this particular city. But you’re not a pastor and you do not feel called to become one, partially because you’re a little bit complementarian and you’re a woman. And, you’re single, without any prospects of become a pastor’s wife anytime soon(!!!!!). To add to that, you’re a foreigner, so putting the call out to big modern day church-planting movements is almost impossible, because you need to be a) a man and b) a local.
I don’t think that any title should stop anyone for going wherever the Lord leads. Complementarian, single & woman are the 3 titles that in the context of church-planting seem to hinder the most. I don’t have the answers to how it should be/could be done, but if and when God calls, I don’t want to be the one questioning Him. Seeking confirmation, guidance and wisdom? Absolutely. Questioning? No. I think God needs more than just pastors and missionary pastors to pioneer church-planting, especially outside of the context of the developed church.
This is not meant to be a political or feminist rant. On the contrary, I’m working through this stuff myself. I am that woman who feels called to that city without a church. I’m constantly asking the Lord: “Should I pray or should I go?” knowing that right now, while I have a lot of people behind me, I don’t have anyone beside or ahead of me.
I say a “little bit” complementarian because I’m not one to oppose women reading the Bible up front, leading worship or other forms of leading. I love, respect and trust all my sisters in Christ who believe and practice differently and am happily to sit under their leadership, trusting that they have themselves studied the Scriptures and reached a different interpretation. It’s not a salvation issue. I don’t even think in most cases its even a sin issue. It only becomes a sin issue if you read Scripture conclude one thing and do another. I’m not militant on this issue and I don’t choose to enter into a debate on this topic because I pick my battles.