Women’s ministry leaders asked to muster courage to evangelize
June 2nd, 2017 / By: Tammi Reed Ledbetter | Special Assignments Editor / comments
FRISCO—Women need to own their piece of the pie in order to advance the gospel, Kathy Litton and Lori McDaniel told women’s ministry leaders during a breakout session at the SEND Conference in Frisco, May 20. The two women took a tag team approach to their session, asking leaders of women’s ministries to move beyond gathering to actively going out to reach those in need of a Savior.
Litton, director of church planter spouse care at the North American Mission Board, and McDaniel, church initiatives leader at the International Mission Board, pulled no punches in asking the packed room of women whether they shared their faith with others.
Using the three parables in Luke 15 as a springboard to describe God’s heart and mission, Litton recounted Jesus’ stated purpose: “‘I came to seek and to save that which was lost.’”
In contrast, the Pharisees “who were standing around making critical statements of Jesus” preferred a strategy that avoided the culture they disdained.
“They said, ‘You come to us. You be like us,’” Litton taught, describing the Pharisees as insular moralists comparable to many churches in America.
In the parable of the lost coin, Jesus conveys “a high view of women to the hearer then and now,” she said. “This woman diligently searched for it ... actively, conscientiously and industriously. She’s a woman on a mission. She had spent her precious resources, ... got down on her hands and her knees, and she swept the floor, searching seriously and vigorously.”
Finding the coin was great cause for celebration, she added, recalling how “weak-kneed and grateful” she once felt after locating her children who had strayed away from her at a crowded mall.
Just as the first parable of the lost sheep conveys the emotion “when one child is rescued back to the heavenly father,” Litton said the woman who found her coin becomes a model of a woman on mission.
Unlike the Pharisees who preferred to remain cloistered in their own culture, Litton said, Jesus went to where the people were, searching high and low, crossing racial and gender lines “from the woman at the well to Zacchaeus to the disabled.”
“We are players in the gospel ministry,” she reminded. “We are called to the Great Commission.”
McDaniel reiterated, “We passionately pursue people, not expecting them to come, but actually going out. That creates for us needs and opportunities that already exist in our culture.”
While women “naturally gather together,” no matter the culture or place in the world, McDaniel said Christian women can be distracted from the goal of discipleship.
“We gather to study the Bible, but the Bible was not given to us just to study and carry around.”
Putting it even more bluntly, McDaniel admitted, “I fear, because I’ve done it myself, that I’ve taught women how to decorate tables for an event more than I’ve actually taught them how to declare the glory of God.” Instead, she said, women’s ministries ought to leverage a culture of women who naturally gather to advance the gospel, recalling the prayer in Acts 4:29 that believers would continue to speak the Word even after leaving their discipleship gathering.
“Women will gather, but we have to move them from gathering to going, from comfort to mission, from self-centeredness to thinking of other people,” Litton said in calling for bold leadership that moves women to share the gospel.
For nearly a decade baptisms have declined among Southern Baptist churches, while women’s ministry has exploded with more conferences, books and materials, as well as events, she observed. “As leaders we need to own our piece of the pie. What have we really created in our women’s ministry if we’re not seeing women come to Christ?”
Litton conceded that “evangelism has become complicated in a pluralistic, multicultural truth-rejecting world,” and yet women’s ministry leaders can take responsibility for turning the attention of women outward. “Stop the cycle of selfishness and self-centeredness of what they want from the church.”
She warned, “We have a lack of conviction and practice in gospel sharing and creating gospel conversations.”
Litton quoted author Robert Coleman whose book The Master Plan of Evangelism was cited as one of the most influential books in shaping evangelicalism. “‘Evangelism is not an option. It is the heartbeat of all we’re called to be and do. It is the commission of the church that gives meaning to all that is undertaken in the name of Christ.’”
McDaniel asked women to “reject passivity and accept responsibility,” recognizing they were saved and sent with the same gospel message in order that others might also be converted. “That’s where it becomes personal to us,” she said, recalling a time when she realized the Great Commission was not something in which she participated.
“God began to show me that missions is not two verses in the New Testament that we pick out for the back of our t-shirts for a short term mission trip,” McDaniel said.
By seeing people as “broken and in need of a Savior,” Litton said, “We want to offer them the hope of the gospel that will free from their sin and give them purpose.”
Moving beyond having “cultural intelligence,” the speakers defined “gospel intelligence” as the ability to identify and harness an opportunity to effectively share the gospel in daily situations characterized by spiritual diversity. Once those opportunities are recognized, Litton asked women to muster the courage to share the gospel.
“It just takes three seconds of courage to launch into that,” she explained, asking them to beg God for empowered bravery. “You know you should speak and you’re going to ask a heart question” to create gospel conversations, Litton explained.
McDaniel added, “We’ve got to be okay and comfortable with the messy, the spiritual diversity conversations that we will have with people,” recognizing the many barriers to sharing the gospel. “Ladies, risk something. The frontier of the kingdom of God is never advanced by men and women of caution.”
Having just turned 60, Litton commended a new generation that is calling women to be brave, bold, involved and engaged. “I support all of that use of language and that kind of thought to encourage women, but there’s some acknowledgement that I think we’re missing in this conversation,” she advised. “There is a life-altering thing that is missing and this thing would put more women in the front lines of missions than any other thing. It is the most inescapable call on every woman in this room.”
Describing Jesus’ expectation that his disciples deny themselves, take up his cross daily and follow him as the most quoted phrase by Jesus, she said, “It literally means to say no to your self.”
Litton asked leaders to look around at women in the Christian culture and what is going on in Southern Baptist churches. “Do you see many people choosing to deny themselves? It is not happening. We have a very narcissistic church culture in our country. We love ourselves.”
Matt. 13:44 offers the secret to evangelism, she said, referring to the depth to which a disciple treasures the gospel. “When the gospel is so white hot, so pressing to us, so vibrant in our lives, we are willing to spend our money and our time, not to run around with our best friends all the time.”
Comfort is a primary obstacle, she said. “Our families and our identities are getting in the way” of “the heartbeat that we would follow Jesus and sacrifice.”
Thanking God that women get to participate in the Great Commission, McDonald said, “Ladies, you have opportunities—first of all with yourselves, living it so you can begin leading other women in your church to gather for a purpose.” She closed by asking women to leverage opportunities in each season of life to advance the gospel here and around the world.