A couple of days ago, I was speaking to an older gentleman about my call to ministry. I told him about voicing a call to ministry and pursuing and obtaining a seminary degree. I told him about some of the challenges I had met along the way as a woman from a Southern Baptist background who voiced a call to preach. At the end of our conversation, he said, “You have dissuaded me from believing that women can’t be pastors. I’m still working on it, I’m old school I know, but your story helps.”
I was surprised because I hadn’t been trying to dissuade him or convince him of anything. Instead I had just been sharing my story. His words have followed me and helped me understand that part of my ministry will always be being a baptist woman in ministry. Because of this part of my identity, I will often find myself in conversations with people who disagree that women should be pastors or agree.
If I know the conversation about whether women can be ministers is going to be part of my journey and part of my story, then I can make my call to ministry about convincing people I am called and I am a minister, filling my time with defenses and debate tactics, and being on guard ready to give an answer about why I am truly called or I can concentrate on living into my call, doing the work God has called me to do, and being the hands and feet of Jesus. I’ve giving up on trying to convince anyone to support women in ministry. There’s too much ministry to be done to those who have been outcast and ignored. There’s too much hurt in need of healing. There’s too many chances to offer hope in the midst of so many hopeless situations.
We spend much too much time as ministers, as churches, and as members of society trying to convince and convert each other to our way of thinking. If instead we concentrated on being ourselves and listening and respecting the people we encounter giving each person a space and place to tell their stories, then perhaps we would end up dissuading and transforming people without even meaning to.
Wouldn’t this make our calls and our ministry and our churches radically different than the dissent and hatred we hear every day?