NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Women in ministry who pour themselves out in prayer, personal testimony and in the investment of relationships will be richly rewarded, said speakers at this year’s Women’s Leadership Consultation, Feb. 8-10 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
With the theme, “Share Life: the life of a woman … poured out into others,” signifying the Titus 2 concept of equipping women to reach women, New Orleans area women and women as far away as Utah and New Hampshire learned about the significant roles women play in ministering to each other.
“God is using women today to influence other women to him,” said WLC coordinator Rhonda Kelley, wife of New Orleans’ Seminary President Chuck Kelley and NOBTS adjunct professor of women’s ministry. “As examples of Christ, we can touch the lives of women personally and biblically.”
Hosted annually by one of the six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention, WLC’s purpose is to bring together women leaders in the local church involved in women’s ministries and missions. Women from SBC ministries were present to network, lead workshops and introduce new materials.
Conference keynote speaker Fern Nichols, founder and president of Moms in Touch, International (MITI), a national ministry uniting moms to meet for weekly prayer for their children and schools, shared that prayer is essential for women to know what Jesus wants to do with their lives. Noting that God instructs his children in the way they should go, Nichols reminded WLC participants to keep their eyes focused on him.
Otherwise, women will begin comparing themselves to other women in ministry, Nichols said. “Stay in the lane that God has for each of us,” she said. “We need to be rooting for each other and not putting each other down.
“Never, never, never put each other down,” she emphasized. “Instead, pray. God will change your heart for that person.”
She continued, “When you start praying for her, there will be a change in you, not in her. Leave her for Jesus to handle.”
Prayer is important for every ministry to survive, Nichols noted. “Bathe everything you do in prayer,” she said, sharing that the entire ministry of MITI is based on this necessary discipline, as evidenced by their ministry goal of praying over every school in the nation — all 120,000 of them — by the end of 2003.
“As a ministry leader, you will be the [prayer] catalyst for your team,” Nichols said, urging women to invite God to be a part of everything they do. In addition to spending personal daily times and occasional extended times of prayer, Nichols suggested that women gather together to pray corporately at least once a week. She also encouraged women to have spontaneous times of prayer and to have personal intercession teams.
“Prayer is the establishment of a vital contact between the soul and God himself through the person of Jesus Christ,” Nichols said. “Why not pray?”
Vicki Courtney, founder and editor-in-chief of Virtuous Reality, an Internet-based ministry to college women, shared the testimony of how God led her from being a self-described feminist in college, once aspiring to be like Gloria Steinhem, to being a nationally recognized Christian women’s ministry speaker.
Explaining that she became a Christian during her junior year at the University of Texas in Austin, Courtney shared how she observed the “crossroads” many college women face and how the Lord eventually led her to start a conference-based mentoring ministry and an online magazine to expose women to the Christian worldview.
Sharing her testimony has helped countless other women also to be encouraged to pursue the vision that God has placed on their hearts, Courtney said. She has found 1 Thessalonians 2:8 to be true: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
In a similar way, women can make a difference in others’ lives when they not only share the gospel but pour out their very lives to other women, Courtney said.
Janet Thompson, director of the “Woman to Woman” mentoring ministry of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., taught on the importance of investing in one another’s lives through mentoring.
“Mentoring is simply teaching what somebody already has taught you so you can help train the next generation,” said Thompson, whose book, “Woman to Woman: How to Start, Grow and Maintain a Mentoring Ministry,” was recently published by LifeWay Christian Resources.
Referencing Titus 2, instructing the older women to train the younger women, Thompson asked participants if someone had taught them not to slander or be a gossip or how to live a reverent life.
To those who raised their hands, she said, “Congratulations. You are now all the older women. What are you to do?” she asked. “Go and teach ‘what is good.’
“The younger generation wants us to be involved in their lives,” Thompson said. “What they are asking is for us [spiritually more mature women] to walk alongside of them and to gently guide them and to gently lead them.”
Thompson stressed the importance of passing on the love of Jesus Christ to the next generation by citing how the church of Ephesus, whom Paul prayed to be “rooted and grounded in the love of Christ” (Eph. 3:17), ended up “losing their first love” (Rev. 2:4). Like women in ministry today, the church of Ephesus was so busy doing the work of the church, Thompson pointed out, they forgot the reason for the church — to love Jesus Christ.
If women who are more spiritually mature do not teach the younger women how to love Jesus, then they also will forget, she said.
Jesus didn’t save people so they would grow more mature, she continued. “He saved us so that we would reach out and touch somebody else and they would learn to touch somebody else so the kingdom would grow.”
In addition to the larger inspirational plenary sessions in which women worshiped together, the consultation provided a choice of at least 24 workshops ranging from “Distinctives in Feminine Leadership” to “Reaching Across Generations” as well as a panel discussion featuring LifeWay’s women’s enrichment specialist Chris Adams, the North American Mission Board’s women’s evangelism associate Jaye Martin and Women’s Missionary Union President Janet Hoffman.
The WLC began in 1990 to provide a forum for leaders of women’s work in local SBC churches and other kingdom ministries. Key women primarily from churches in the geographical area of the host seminary are invited to attend in order to receive information and training from leadership within the SBC. These women who are on the cutting edge in women’s work lead in inspirational plenary sessions and practical workshops tailored to equip women for ministries in churches of all sizes. SBC seminaries sponsor the annual meetings on a rotating basis.
The next WLC, with the theme “Holiness: Making the Faith in Your Heart the Faith of Your Life,” will be at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2002. Persons interested in receiving information can contact Jan Gold at Southeastern Seminary at (919) 556-3101, ext. 344, or e-mail [email protected].