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Exhortations to ‘fly,’ ‘honk’ voiced at women’s consultation

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Women need to fly like bees and honk like geese to minister effectively in the 21st century, said speakers at the Women’s Leadership Consultation, Feb. 10-12 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

They also need to be hard workers, obedient to God, compassionate and willing to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel, the speakers said.

More than 400 leaders and future leaders in women’s ministry gathered for the event, which drew women from as far away as Singapore. Themed “Come Celebrate a New Day,” WLC encouraged women to look to the Lord during the rapid cultural changes coming in the new millennium, said WLC coordinator Paula Hemphill.

The conference also explored opportunities for women in ministry, introduced resources available to women and offered workshops on practical aspects of women’s ministry.

“Today is the best day of my life,” said Mamie McCullough, a popular motivational speaker from Dallas who designed the “I Can” curriculum used in thousands of schools and has written several books.

“Have you been dirt poor, abused as a child, felt like nobody from nowhere, rejected, divorced, widowed, a single parent, seriously ill, sincerely lonely and severely depressed?” she asked.

“I have,” McCullough said. But instead of a chip, she wears a bee pin on her shoulder.

“Aerodynamically speaking, a bee should not be able to fly,” she said, adding that the bee doesn’t know its “limits” and flies anyway.

“You can have a new day too. Say `yes’ to life and the good things in it,” she said.

Hemphill examined the “good things” Deborah’s life produced in Judges 4 and 5.

“Deborah was raised to stand in the gap and restore honor to God,” she said, comparing modern society with Israel’s cycle of disobedience, judgment, repentance and deliverance.

Encouraging women to lead as Deborah did amid cultural mayhem, Hemphill said women need to consistently worship God publicly, as Deborah did at the palm tree, and privately, as she did on the mountain.

Hemphill also noted that Deborah’s authority “was given by God, and she didn’t demand but earned the people’s respect,” pointing out that more of Israel’s tribes cooperated under Deborah’s leadership than anywhere else in the Old Testament.

Warning the women about Miriam’s mistake in Numbers when her gossip session with Aaron about Moses brought God’s judgment, Hemphill told the women to “be careful of falling to the temptation of jealousy or of speaking from self-inspiration (Ezekiel 3:17). Instead minister out of your diversity in unity.”

Cheryl Reccord, wife of the president of the North American Mission Board, encouraged women to learn hard lessons from Roman Christians. In Romans 16:6, Mary is remembered as a hard worker.

“This speaks of working to the point of soreness or fatigue,” Reccord said.

It also is a willingness to work behind the scenes without caring who gets the credit, she said.

Noting the habits of geese who regularly change leaders in flight and honk loudly for encouragement, Reccord implored women to “Honk!”

Like Roman Christians, women leaders must count the cost, evaluate ministry in light of giftedness and take inventory of spiritual resources, she said.

Reccord encouraged Christians to live with reckless abandonment, which might mean physical danger, opening homes for churches or patiently explaining God’s ways to young Christian leaders.

“Perhaps if I haven’t been persecuted, I have to wonder how godly I am,” said Reccord, imploring women to choose obedience regardless of cost. “Obedience is a sign of our salvation (1 John 2:3-4). It is a shield for our sheep (1 John 1:7).”

Several women testified to the new day obedience provides. At age 55, Willenne Pierce was jobless with a newly purchased home and heart problems.

“Christian friends from previous chapters of my life came through for me even when they could not know the reasons for my troubles,” she said.

Their help encouraged her to rekindle a flame lit in childhood while on a mission trip to Oklahoma with her grandmother. Today LINK, the ministry Pierce began, helps Oklahoman Native American women “carry out their own ideas,” she said.

“They tell me, `We almost feel like we’ve just been discovered,’ How many more women are waiting for that?” Pierce asked.

Margaret Chacha, Southwestern student from Nairobi, Kenya, announced that the African woman is waiting.

“She fends for her family, provides for all their needs, respects her husband and teaches the African ways,” said Chacha. “Could you imagine the impact she would have if given the Word of God?”

This summer she and her husband will lead seminary students to her home village to teach the basics of Christianity.

Bobbye Rankin, wife of the president of the International Mission Board, said Lydia, Paul’s first convert in Europe, affected the marketplace as a seller of the cloth purple, offered her house as a meeting place and remained faithful even as she watched her spiritual leaders publicly disgraced.

Lydia lived in what is now Turkey, where recent earthquakes have opened a door for Christians to show love for thousands in need. Rankin reported that this past Christmas Turkey’s president gave official greetings to Christians for the first time in history.

The WLC informed women of the interwoven structure of women’s ministry in Southern Baptist life. A joint panel featured Chris Adams, women’s enrichment ministry specialist of LifeWay Christian Resources; Laura Savage, ministry consultant through national WMU; and Jaye Martin, family evangelism associate at NAMB.

“Lots of women are involved in purposeless stuff, and a few women are doing missions and evangelism,” said Martin. “We must get those two together — purpose plus people!”

Workshops examined how to regain such purpose. Sallie Clingman, involved with Campus Crusade for Christ for more than 30 years, taught how to turn a conversation from the mundane to the eternal by asking questions such as, “Do you ever think about spiritual things?” and “Can I share the thing that has been the most important to me?”

The WLC, started in 1990 by Monte Clendinning, is held annually to train key women, primarily from the churches in the geographic region of the host seminary.

Workshop audiotapes may be purchased for $5 each, and videotapes of plenary sessions may be purchased for $10 each. Contact the audiovisual learning center of Robert’s Library on the Southwestern campus for more information at (817) 923-1921, ext. 2920.

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  • Cindy Kerr