I try to show up at new events (conferences, churches, etc.) with a blank slate. Rarely do I research the people, place, organizations or speakers. I do this in hopes of not imposing my agenda on Jesus but rather give Him the freedom to show me what He wants me to know, hear and see. So I showed up in Washington D.C. with very little understanding about the National Prayer Breakfast.
A few days later I flew back to Dallas. I confess I’m still not sure why I was there. It will take a few days of quiet to hear from Jesus. In the meantime here’s one take a way: the focus is Jesus. Let me explain what I mean.
A personal mission statement is a way to synthesize one’s purpose as well as have a reference point for staying on track toward that purpose. In my early years of faith I put a mission statement together. Basically it was, “Teach women God’s Word so that they can become healed, whole and free.” Freedom has always been a big driver for me. Not like the freedom we speak of as Americans but the freedom that Christ brings to our hearts, minds and souls. He did that for me and I wanted that for others too. I spent the past twenty some years doing just that. Sometimes when I look back I can’t believe the platform, education, people and passion Jesus has afforded me. Perhaps I should be more like quarterback Russell Wilson “Why not me” but truth is I still ask, “Why me?”
The expression of my mission statement has changed over the years. I spent many years teaching, pastoring, writing and advocating for women within a church setting now I do those things outside a church setting. When I worked in the church I was asked, “How did you know you wanted to be in women’s ministry?” I responded, “I never wanted to be in women’s ministry. I’m a preacher of women and it just so happens that it’s taken on this form right now.” I knew then what I know now: setting is not the purpose it’s where purpose is expressed. After a decade of work at a church I left to start The Marcella Project, a ministry to ennoble women through God’s Word. Same purpose different venue. But, as most middle-aged people, I’m spending time asking: Is what I gave myself to in the first 25 what I want to give myself to in the next 25? Not form but purpose. In some ways my answer is yes. That’s what the Marcella Project is about, although the words and forum have changed the theme is still there, preaching, women, wholeness, freedom.
But I sense a shift, I’m not even sure what it is or looks like – yet- but it’s coming. I suspect it will continue to include, preaching, women, wholeness and freedom. I have been working on a statement that expresses the shift I’m sensing. Initially, I wrote, “How does the Gospel aid social change in areas where gender injustice exists?”
Gender injustice is important to me not because I’m a feminist or a cause fighter but because I have experienced it in the Church and I have seen the severity of it around the globe. Sometimes it’s covert sometimes it’s overt; either way it’s less than God’s dreams for humanity. I confess I’ve been thinking of this statement more in the context of the overt gender injustice such as child brides, domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, etc. – rather than the covert gender injustice which exists within our American churches. In a way I thought I was done with the issue of gender in the church. Being at the National Prayer Breakfast reminded me I’m not. There is an offense to the Gospel any time and anywhere gender injustice exists, and it exists in the American church as well as around the globe.
Back to the emphasis on Jesus. I’m at the National Prayer Breakfast where the main focus is Jesus. There are over 140 nations represented and all walks of faith, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Atheist etc. Religion is dropped and the focus is on Jesus only, at least as best of one’s best ability and purest intentions. This has bothered some Christians but I found myself needing the reminder. Remember I went with a blank slate so I could know, hear and see whatever it was Jesus wanted me to know, hear and see. What He wanted me to know, hear and see was it’s about Him. That may include the Gospel (of course) but He, His Name needs to be the focus, there’s power in His Name. So I re-crafted my statement to say, “How does Jesus bring change social change to areas where gender injustice (covert and overt) exists?” I’m still playing with the wording but I think putting His Name back in it was a step in the right direction.