On Thursdays, I have opened my space to feature short essays by women about what they want from the Church. The guidelines are wide, purposefully, inviting either an answer to the question itself or to argue for a better question altogether. These essays have been curated for quality, not for content, and not all views expressed are necessarily my own. It is my hope that these posts are beginning places, that you will be sent on to spend time with the words of these women in their own spaces and houses of expression, and they have been asked to interact with you in the comments. (I'll be less active there, accordingly.) If you would like to submit to the series, please note that it has moved on submissions to my good friend Elora. You can still submit by seeing this post.
What Women Want: The Jesus of the Gospels
I find it ironic that in the heat of the debate about the undervalued and misunderstood role of women in the church, the church is still characterized by preaching a message which is packaged in a more "female" way, and thus undervalues and misunderstands the call of both men and women to discipleship.
Our evangelism is characterized by a presentation of our felt needs: we are sinners in need of a Savior, guilty ones in need of pardon, lost ones in need of a Shepherd. The gospel is marketed towards our emotions. Our worship songs sometimes sing declarations of God's majesty, but also often tend towards the "Jesus is my boyfriend" lyrics, calling for us to declare "I'm so in love with you" "in this intimate place" - right in the middle of our corporate worship services. These refrains are uncomfortable for me, but all the more awkward for my 6'2" husband who won't even whisper "I love you" on the phone when he's at work. Our ministries appeal for service help in the more "feminine" categories: welcoming, working in the nursery, teaching children's church, providing snacks. Hospitality, children and food are not traditionally the areas where men sign up in their droves.
Church may be a place where there is a "masculine feel" in leadership, but I find the message and ministry of the church to often have a distinctly feminine feel. If you ain't the preacher or an elder, the opportunities for men are limited. Of course, my husband can change a diaper with the best of them, but in some nurseries men are not permitted to serve, and the bevy of faithful bible teachers who serve in children's ministry remain predominantly female.
I wonder, though, if the feminine "feel" of our ministries doesn't take its cue from the felt-needs-based way in which we pitch our message. Jesus is a comforter, a healer, a Savior. "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild", the suffering Servant, the loving rescuer. That Jesus rightfully and perfectly holds all these titles is proof that those nurturing qualities do not belong exclusively to the female domain. Jesus IS the epitome of love, of care, of welcome.
However, as a woman who is a disciple myself, as a woman with a husband who wants to serve with the particular gifts God has given him, and as a woman who is raising sons and daughters: what I want from church is this - a robust preaching of the Jesus of the Gospels.
I want to hear about the Jesus who demanded loyalty, who commanded authority from storms, sinners and satanic forces, who said vexing and frustrating and wild things. I want to hear preaching which is not just faithful to His words but to His TONE: of comfort but also of rebuke, of welcome but also of warning. I want to hear His dares, His call to come and die, His challenge to make hard choices. I want the Jesus of the gospels who does not just meet our needs, but who calls us to bold and courageous adventure, to self-sacrifice, to taking risks. I want the Jesus who promises huge rewards for huge sacrifices, who embraces fiesty Peter and wayward Mary and touchy-feely John.
I want the Jesus who welcomed the little children, but also the Jesus with eyes like a flame of fire, with feet of burnished bronze and a sharp two-edged sword coming out of his mouth. Whatever that wild imagery means, I want to grapple with it. I want the Jesus who inspires my awe and calls forth my worship: a gospel from The Gospels. That's the Jesus I want. That's the Jesus I need: the one who is worthy of the honor, adoration and allegiance of men and women alike.