I remember the General Conference vote in San Antonio, Texas—the 1,381 No votes to the 977 Yes votes. I remember my friends and I prayerfully awaiting the church’s reaction to the Women’s Ordination decision—especially considering how much emotion had been invested in it. We had friends and family who fell on both sides of the debate, and much prayer was offered over this issue and their reactions.
It didn’t take long for social media to bluntly reveal the current state of our church. My Facebook feed flooded with posts expressing a spectrum of emotions—from anger, resentment, and bitterness, to comfort, happiness, and gratefulness. Posts reading “#977” were promoted like a flag, and the words “the shaking is happening” were used almost as a weapon. Sadly, only a minority of responses reflected a loving, Christian reaction to how God had led the General Conference delegates. The division in the church was so evident, so palpable, that at the time, many, myself included, thought that the church would possibly break apart then and there. I praise God that it didn’t; I was so happy to be wrong—so humbled to have been reminded of the passage below:
God is at the head of the work, and He will set everything in order. If matters need adjusting at the head of the work, God will attend to that, and work to right every wrong. Let us have faith that God is going to carry the noble ship which bears the people of God safely into port. (Selected Messages pg. 390)
What a promise to rest on! God will take care of His church—come what may. This promise comforted many of us, yet there was no peace for the church at large, as unrest settled like a gray cloud about to burst with rain. That gray cloud still looms today—an ever-present reminder that unity and healing need to take place, and that God’s church has many strides to take until we perfectly reflect the harmony of God’s heavenly government.
That said, one issue that was brought up during this time has not been satisfactorily addressed: If women are not called to the work of the ordained minister, what other forms of work in ministry can they do? How can women be a part of the Gospel work?
Many women, young and young at heart, are seeking for opportunities to do something for the cause of the Gospel; however, they lack awareness of what they can do.
Let’s talk about this, because, sisters, there is so much that you can do, and that God desires for you to do. You are being called!
- Like Sarah throughout Genesis, you can travel and witness at the same time. As Sarah and her husband traveled, they served others and aimed to show the love of God to those around them. You too can be a missionary—following where God leads, and catering to those who may be less fortunate along the journey. Just like Sarah and Abraham, you too are headed for a promised land. Take as many as you can with you. Missionaries, you are being called.
- Like Esther in the Bible, you can represent a cohort that needs aid, and advocate on their behalf. We need more ministries that accommodate single parents, that provide awareness and solutions to sex trafficking and its many victims, that give support to orphans and foster kids, that serve the homeless—to name just a few causes. With so much to do, we need modern-day Esthers to take a stand for those who struggle to stand for themselves. Advocates, you are being called.
- Like Ruth and Naomi in the Bible, you can be a part of a home ministry that serves those in your sphere of influence in need of love. This can take the form of home visitations, baking for the potlucks or for neighborhoods in need, and seeking to counsel, by God’s grace, those who have fallen away from the church and need to be shown love. Spiritual Sisters and Mothers, you are being called.
- Like Hannah in 1 Samuel, you can be a woman of prayer. Hannah was barren, and she prayed and surrendered all to God—including her yet existing child. We need faith like that—faith to take God at His word, and we need women in the church willing to pray and lean on the strong arm of Christ. Begin a prayer ministry, start a small prayer group/chain, or meet after the church service for a session of prayer. Do you recall what the disciples were doing when Pentecost happened in Acts 2? They were praying in one accord. Prayer Warriors, you are being called.
- Like the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, you can be an evangelist of the gospel. Do you feel like people will laugh or ridicule you? Believe me, the Samaritan woman had given her city more than enough ammunition to discredit her, yet that did not stop her from sharing what Christ had shown her. Show the world Jesus, His love, and His sacrifice. Like the Samaritan woman, who became one of the greatest evangelists recorded in Scripture, you can bring hope to fallen humanity in the name of Jesus. Evangelists, you are being called.
- Like Phoebe in Romans 16, you can be a deaconess in the church—part of your church’s leadership—which includes (but is not limited to) catering to those younger than you that have questions about the Bible. Adolescents and young adults are living in such a dangerous and difficult time in Earth’s history. Let us give them women of faith they can turn to for support instead of turning to worldly media and entertainment. Deaconesses, you are being called.
- Like Priscilla in Acts 18, you can do Bible work. Did you know that Priscilla and her husband Aquila were the ones who gave Bible studies to Apollos who then became one of the leading voices of the Christian church in the New Testament? Talk about a power couple! So many Apolloses today are waiting for someone to work alongside the Holy Spirit and break down the Bible in a way they have never before experienced. Bible Workers, you are being called.
There is so much that women can do in the church. Do you like singing? So did Miriam (Exodus 15:20). Go sing for the Lord! Start a choir or singing ministry at a local retirement home. Do you like business? So did Lydia (Acts 16:12-15), and the church can always use more business-savvy women. This brief list doesn’t even cover all the available opportunities. Friends—sisters—never forget that God has work for you to do. Listen to the counsel God has given us through Ellen White:
Women who are willing to consecrate some of their time to the service of the Lord should be appointed to visit the sick, look after the young, and minister to the necessities of the poor. They should be set apart to this work by prayer and laying on of hands. In some cases they will need to counsel with the church officers or the minister; but if they are devoted women, maintaining a vital connection with God, they will be a power for good in the church. This is another means of strengthening and building up the church. We need to branch out more in our methods of labor. Not a hand should be bound, not a soul discouraged, not a voice should be hushed; let every individual labor, privately or publicly, to help forward this grand work. Place the burdens upon men and women of the church, that they may grow by reason of the exercise, and thus become effective agents in the hand of the Lord for the enlightenment of those who sit in darkness. (Review and Herald, July 9, 1895 par. 8, emphasis added)
Perhaps you don’t know where God wants you to serve? That’s not a problem. Pray, and make yourself available. God promises that He will guide. If He has called you, which He has, He will also show you where to go.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
God promises to direct you, and to not leave you without a path to walk on. Many times, God will take you in a direction you didn’t think was possible. But believe me, God is about to place you where you will not only be a blessing, but also be blessed.
When I became a practicing Christian as a summer colporteur, I wanted to be involved with the church in some way after the summer, though I didn’t know how or to what capacity. Couldn’t I just walk into a church and they would magically plug me in wherever I was needed? Well, sometimes participation requires a more proactive approach, and I soon found myself volunteering as a PR and event coordinator for a small up-and-coming vespers because they happened to be asking for volunteers the first night I visited. How God works!
This opportunity would turn out to be the beginning of an incredible road of evangelism where God led me to participate in activities including Bible work, student leadership, literature ministries leadership, Sabbath school leadership, medical missionary work, as well as serving as a researcher, preacher, writer, and logistics director (I really didn’t see that last one coming).
I say this not to say “look at me, look at me”—truthfully, I never asked for any of these roles; they just happened as God opened the doors. Rather, I hope my experience demonstrates that there is no limit to what God can do through us when we are willing to follow Him.
Women have such a vital role in the church, and so much God-given ability to meet the needs of the church and the world, that it is unfortunate to think that the work of the gospel begins and ends with the ordained minister. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. My advice is to sincerely pray, and to…
…lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Women, you are being called. Won’t you answer the call?