women of wonder

Freedom in the Spirit

Freedom in the Spirit

Ministry is an extroverted business. It requires prolonged periods of energy exertion. Whether you are the leader or the participant, the church is a community that thrives off of social interactions and connections. So if you’re an introverted person, church involvement can drain you, and quick. At such times, activities that are meant to be life giving and geared towards encouragement can become suffocating and cause social anxiety.

Introversion doesn’t mean shy or unfriendly or a person that doesn’t like people. In fact, many introverts are very social and can appear on the outside to be extroverts, because they enjoy people a lot. Introverts are people that draw energy from their inner lives, and so even though they have a good time socializing, they also need to withdraw and be alone for large spaces of time to refill the well. Such retreating from the world isn’t often understood or appreciated by church communities that like to sign on their members to every activity.

Being a pastor’s wife and having been a church planter’s wife, I understand deeply the concern for both numbers and wishing that church members would commit more time and energy to help grow and cultivate the church. My job description was to welcome strangers and make conversation. As much as I often ended up enjoying those conversations fter getting over a deep struggle with many levels of anxiety, I would return home and plop down on the couch exhausted. I felt like a wet towel that had been squeezed out and left to dry.

Because my efforts never seemed good enough, and I never felt smart enough or accomplished enough to play my role, I decided to meditate on and memorize 2 Corinthians 3. It was a great comfort to me that Christ is my confidence and that my competence comes from being a minister of “a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit.” Being an introvert in an extroverted sphere often felt like losing my “self,” but it was a great encouragement to know that it was the Spirit creating and recreating and building and accomplishing the goal of the church and its community. "ruly, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Not by my righteousness or righteous acts or trying to be the “right” person for the job, but through Christ’s righteousnes, I could rest in my identity in Him. What freedom and comfort there is when “we, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, and are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Women of the Bible: Are They Relevant To The 21st Century Church?

When I told a Christian brother that I had just attended a seminar led by Women of Wonder (WOW), focusing on women of the Bible, his first question was, “Are they feminists?”

Rev. Grace may teaching on The Samaritan Woman

Rev. Grace may teaching on The Samaritan Woman

Surprised by the question, it took me a moment to consider it, after which I replied, “Well, no, they’re Christians.”

The question started me thinking. Would we ever think to categorize a male-led bible study focusing on men of the Bible? Do we even have labels for such a group, similar to “feminists”? Is there a separate “ism” for a theology that looks at male biblical figures from a male perspective?

No, I think that’s just called Christianity.

Reflecting on this question made me realize how important it was that a group of women and men met on Saturday June 4 to discuss the relevance of two particular women – Mary Magdalene and “the Samaritan Woman” of John 4 – to the 21st Century church. In separate sessions that included lecture, group discussion, and even a dramatic presentation by Mary Magdalene herself (as portrayed by Tracey Woods-Dunnom), the attendees sorted through the facts, myths, and historical assumptions about these two amazing women.

May Lee facilitating Theological Reflection Group discussion.

May Lee facilitating Theological Reflection Group discussion.

Did you know that nothing in the Bible says that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute? Yet the church has been teaching this as fact for centuries. How does such an unfounded reputation affect our image of this person who clearly was valued and cherished by Jesus?

Was the Samaritan Woman (a.k.a. the woman at the well) really a “loose woman” of low moral character, as many Christians believe, or was she a deeply spiritual person longing for the Messiah to arrive and heal her broken world?

How does seeing these women as strong and courageous, rather than weak and pitiful, affect our understanding not only of these two people but of women in general and their role in the church?

Becoming aware of how women of the Bible are perceived and understood, is a first step toward recognizing how to improve the perception and role of women in the church generally. The Bible tells us that Jesus healed Mary Magdalene of seven demons, and appeared to her after He rose from the tomb, calling her by name. We also see Jesus sitting by Jacob’s well, calmly talking to a Samaritan woman – a scandalous act by a Jewish Rabbi – and telling her everything she had ever done. Jesus loved these women unconditionally and non-judgmentally. How about the church today?

Participants from various churches.

Participants from various churches.

By the end of the conference it was apparent to all that the church needs work in the area of how it perceives and supports women. That transformation, it was agreed, begins first in our hearts, then our homes, among people we know, in the workplace, on the street, and in the church itself. We prayed that by the Holy Spirit each one of us can begin to take steps to make this change a reality.

After all, it’s not an “ism” or an ideology, it’s Christianity!

Bruce Feffer  is a lawyer and Jewish Christian whose work with various churches includes leading bible study groups, discipleship training, preaching and teaching classes on topics such as public speaking and finance from a biblical perspective. He is the author of several short plays on Christian themes that have been performed before thousands of church congregants.

Bruce Feffer is a lawyer and Jewish Christian whose work with various churches includes leading bible study groups, discipleship training, preaching and teaching classes on topics such as public speaking and finance from a biblical perspective. He is the author of several short plays on Christian themes that have been performed before thousands of church congregants.