NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “Why are we here in 2019 — when it’s not exactly the coolest thing in the world to be a Christian … when it seems like there’s a generation growing up that in no way really wants to follow the purposes of God?” asked Bible teacher Christine Caine to the 1,600 women gathered for the opening session of the 2019 LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum.
Teaching the leaders gathered Nov. 7-9 from 30 states and Canada, Caine spoke from Deuteronomy 6. She underscored that God took those people into Canaan, a place where they could flourish and live victorious lives, and His plan is to do the same for this generation of believers.
“As leaders the greatest thing we can offer to our people is that we ourselves are flourishing, and we can model to our people what it is to live a victorious, overcoming, flourishing Christian life,” she said.
The theme for the 2019 LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum was “Flourish” with Acts 12:24, “But the word of God flourished and multiplied,” as the focus Scripture passage.
“We know that for women to flourish where God has planted us, we need God’s Word and the community of like-minded believers to challenge and encourage us in our callings,” said Kelly King, women’s ministry specialist for LifeWay.
“An essential piece of that community is investing in the lives of other women and helping them activate their unique gifts to play an important role in another woman’s spiritual journey.”
Women representing more than a dozen denominations convened at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., to hear from respected ministry experts, including Shelley Giglio, Jada Edwards, Robby Gallaty and Whitney Capps.
Bible teacher and author Kelly Minter shared about a time in her life when her dreams of becoming a successful singer/songwriter weren’t being realized. She said once God began to mold her ministry according to His plan, she began to flourish in her calling.
“He began to deconstruct idol after idol in my life,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing what I’m doing today having not gone through that season. It was preparatory for me.”
With mentoring and pouring into the next generation being a critical element of flourishing, Minter was among many of the speakers at the forum who stressed the importance of flourishing for the sake of those who will lead later. And in her case, flourishing meant being free from idols, such as the world’s definition of success, platform and money.
“When God’s people carve out idolatrous spaces, there’s no telling what future generations will fill them with,” she said.
Robby Gallaty, lead pastor of Long Hollow Church and author of recently-released “Recovered: How an Accident, Alcohol, and Addiction Led Me to God,” challenged the audience to examine the modern-day hindrances that keep them from flourishing — namely, social media and technology.
“We find solace in our phones,” he said. “But we need to disconnect in order to connect. Doing this can save your ministry, your marriage and even your life.”
Gallaty told the audience of a season in his life when he had health problems that were ultimately traced back to stress-induced panic attacks.
“One of the traps we fall into when it comes to ministry is we fall in love with the ministry of Jesus and not the Jesus of ministry,” he warned. “Your value is not in your work. It’s in the finished work of Christ.”
Bible teacher Jada Edwards understands the trappings of ministry. One of those trappings, she explained during the final forum keynote address on Saturday, is the temptation to make the fruit of our walk with the Lord look better than it actually is.
“For us, as leaders — as women who are trying to live for God — that can be a challenge for us,” she said.
“Because sometimes the more entrenched you get in church, you are more equipped to look like you have good fruit than you are equipped to be good fruit. We mean well, but most of the time we’re trying to modify and help people fix behavior, and we’re not really challenging them to realign core beliefs.”
Speaking from Galatians on the relationship between blood-bought freedom in Christ and exercising healthy spiritual fruit, she said, “If we’re going to flourish in that freedom — if we’re going to thrive in it — then we have to know how to walk in it.”
In addition to keynote sessions, main stage events included several panel discussions on mentoring: Passion Ministry’s Shelley Giglio with LifeWay’s Faith Whatley on the pathway to training college students; Jonathan and Alena Pitts on the legacy left behind by wife and mother Wynter Pitts; human flourishing through human dignity with Pat Layton, Emily Chapman Richards and Daniel Darling; and current and previous LifeWay women’s ministry trainers on the long-standing impact of mentoring.
During the three-day conference, women also attended various breakout sessions. Topics included engaging a complex world with the Gospel, professionalism in ministry and the marketplace, leading anxious women in anxious times, radically redemptive hermeneutics, and ministering to people in addiction.
Breakout leaders included LifeWay leaders Connia Nelson, senior vice president of Organizational Development; Mary Wiley of B&H Publishing; Darilynn Keith, LifeWay digital event coordinator; and Sarah Doss, team leader for adult ministry short-term studies; as well LifeWay authors Kandi Gallaty, Lisa Harper and Marshelle Wilburn.
There will be two LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forums in 2020. The first will be held Feb. 20-21 at Mariner’s Church in Irvine, Calif., and the second will take place Nov. 12-14 at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn.