NASHVILLE (BP) — Facing breast cancer and the breakdown of her marriage, Proverbs 31 Ministries founder Lysa TerKeurst stood before 1,800 women Nov. 9 and urged them to remain steadfast in Christ.
There was a collective gasp from the audience at LifeWay’s annual Women’s Leadership Forum as TerKeurst shared she would undergo a double mastectomy the following day.
TerKeurst’s breast cancer diagnosis in October came on the heels of her June announcement that she and her husband of 25 years were separating due to his substance abuse and infidelity. She told the gathered leaders that having a cancer diagnosis and a marriage crisis happen so closely together was difficult, but that the Word of God was anchoring her — and it could anchor them, too.
“So many things are happening to us as individuals,” she said. “I see people staggering, wandering and searching. They are hungering and thirsting for the Word of the Lord. There is a famine in our time for the Word of the Lord.
“We must expose the enemy of our soul so we can lead ourselves and lead others,” TerKeurst continued. “And to do that, we must be steadfast in the Lord and in His Word.”
“Steadfast” was the theme this year for the Women’s Leadership Forum, which drew women from 43 states to Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn.
“The theme for this year is important because it’s easy for leaders — regardless of role or season — to want to give up when things get hard,” said Kelly King, women’s ministry specialist for LifeWay. The theme was based on the exhortation from 1 Corinthians 15:58 to “be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
TerKeurst delivered the first keynote of the forum, cautioning leaders to be faithful in their study of Scripture before attempting to lead others effectively.
“You can do all kinds of great seminars about how to lead, motivate people, and make numbers work,” she said. “You can take personality tests or do Strengths Finder … but the one thing we must do as a steadfast leader is stay in the Word of God. You can read business books all day long, but it will not change your heart.”
Bible teacher, speaker and author Beth Moore outlined attributes Jesus possesses that live in those who believe in Him — and that equip leaders to be steadfast in ministry.
“We are not called to merely ‘get by,'” Moore said. “We’re called to be effective and productive…. Everything we need to live profoundly effective lives, He has done.”
Eric Geiger, LifeWay’s senior vice president, encouraged the women to stay steadfast in leadership and ministry through character development.
“If your gifting outpaces your character — if your position weighs more than your integrity — you will fall,” Geiger said. “This takes place with very gifted leaders.”
Breakout sessions were led by key LifeWay leaders, including Connia Nelson, vice president of human resources; Trevin Wax, Bible and reference publisher; Faith Whatley, director of adult ministry; and Jennifer Lyell, director of book ministry area.
LifeWay authors who served as keynote speakers and breakout session leaders included Lisa-Jo Baker, Rachel Lovingood, Kelly Minter, and Angela Thomas-Pharr.
The 2018 Women’s Leadership Forum is scheduled for Nov. 8-10 in Hendersonville, Tenn.