True Power

True Power

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Christian Woman Heritage

To understand the role women play in ministry today, we must acquaint ourselves with the role women played in ministry in the past. Education is Power!

Jesus selected and sent out the first missionary woman he met at the well. The book of Acts records the account of Priscilla, a woman specifically used of God to touch people in at least three different nations: Rome, Greece, and Asia Minor (Acts 18:26).

Many women were martyred for their love for Jesus in the first three centuries of Christianity. Lucia of Sicily, who lived about 300 A.D, was involved in Christian charitable work there. She married a wealthy nobleman. She was ordered to stop giving to the poor and when she refused she was jailed, persecuted and condemned to death.

Melania came from a wealthy family in Rome with estates all around the Mediterranean. She used her wealth to give to the poor and to build monasteries and churches for men and women in Africa and Jerusalem.

Clare lived and worked in the early thirtennth century. She was a reformer where Christianity had forgotten the poor. She founded the Franciscan order of the barefoot nuns in Italy.

The Protestant Reformation in the Sixteenth Century brought about changes in the role of women in Christianity. Reformers reemphasized that the role of women was in the home to be supportive of men. Arthur Glasser wrote that with the dissolution of the convents, women lost their last chance of churchly service outside the narrow circle of husband, home and children. In the early days of the Protestant mission most women who went to the field were wives of missionaries. Discerning men recognized that contact with women in most non-Western societies was impossible for them, so women had to undertake the responsibility. They received little recognition for their work. Leaders such as D.L. Moody, A.B. Simpson, and A.j. Gordon believed in encouraging women's gifts for public ministry.

The Civil war in the United States became a catalyst for change in the way women were sent. After the Civil War, so many men died that women were either widowed or unlikely to marry forcing women into an unusual range of responsibilities which extended into the church. Since missionary boards still refused to send women directly to work, women organized their own boards. One of the first such boards was the Women's Union Missionary Society. By 1900, over 40 denominational women's societies existed. By the eary decades of the 20th century, the women's missionary movement had become the largest women's movement in the United States. Sadly, boards were persuaded to combine with the denominational boards in the 1920's and 30's and women gradually lost their opportunity to direct the work.

Overall, probably two-thirds of the missionary force has been and currently is, female. Many mission executives agree that the more difficult and dangerous the work, the more likely women are to volunteer to do it.

David Yonggi Cho concludes from his experience; men are good for building up the work, but women are best for persevering when men get discouraged.

Women have been permitted great latitude in Christian ministry, with their work ranging from evangelism and church planting to translating Scripture and teaching seminaries. Christian women today need to know and celebrate their heritage.

How aware are you of the great works women have already done in Christian history? Should churches teach about the contributions of women to Christianity. Do you have your own great woman of Christianity that you would like people to become familiar with? If so, take a moment to tell us about her and her work.

from the book "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (Women In Ministry) by Marguerite Kraft and Meg Crossman, Pasadena: Paternoter Publishing, 1999, 269-273.


adammiddleton79 said...

I haven`t read anything in the Bible stating that women should not! preach, if that was the case then Priscilla the female messenger known as a minister of God`s word wouldn`t gotten the authority from God to proclaim.

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