I'm plagued with a burden that I've played it too safe. And what's even more dangerous, I fear I may have led others to play it safe as well.
The heaviness was fueled as I sat on a dirt floor listening to 15 Asian women -- one by one -- tell how they had shared the Gospel. Each said something like, "I shared the Gospel with 15 people in my village, eight of them followed Christ and one was healed of demon possession."
As I listened, I calculated that the women in the room had shared the Gospel with 224 people in just one month!
These were ordinary women with messy lives who were tenacious enough to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit at work within them to go and make disciples.
I confess that, as I listened, I tried to appear as if their words were normal. However, I felt spiritually embarrassed knowing that this kind of obedient Gospel boldness and discipleship accountability was certainly not my norm, nor was it typical in American cultural Christianity.
But what if it could be the norm? How do we lead women to advance the Gospel? Here are some ideas:
1. Leverage women's gatherings to mobilize and send out.
Women's gatherings are not just casual; it seems we are wired that way. Whether together under a mango tree pounding grain for a meal or sitting around a table with Pinterest-perfect snacks and hand-lettered coffee mugs, women gather. In American culture where thousands of women gather for Bible study and women's ministry events, we have an opportunity to mobilize an army. Let's not lead women to be nice girls caught in a whirlpool of an American version of Christianity, well-marketed journals and cute T-shirts. Gatherings are opportunities to equip and send out women to participate in a Kingdom movement.
As we read in 1 Corinthians 4:20, "For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power."
Let us not be passive about the Great Commission but lead women to participate boldly in God's mission.
2. Keep the end goal in mind.
Every great leader understands the "why" behind what they do. Understanding the "why" fuels the vision and purpose and should be the filter for everything that is planned. Resist the temptation to focus on the "how" of pulling off an event and marketing the "what" to get everyone excited. As disciples of Jesus Christ, let us lead by keeping the end in mind that "this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). This is the "why" that should define what we do, what we teach and how we reproduce disciples.
3. Lead women beyond calendared good causes.
Advancing the Gospel isn't a one-time planned event. Opportunities to share the Gospel are beautifully unscheduled. After teaching at a women's event, I listened to one of the women's leaders tell me how she feared reaching out to a Muslim woman she knew. We discussed some simple ways. In the end, she just needed encouragement to move forward. The next morning, I had a text that said, "I reached out to my Muslim friend and we are getting together for tea this week." Participating in God's mission isn't compartmentalized to a calendared opportunity. We need to equip believers to leverage everyday opportunities as Kingdom of God opportunities.
4. Equip women to not only study the Bible but share it.
The Gospel wasn't given to us to be bound up, studied and carried around but to be carried out and unleashed into the world. The depth of biblical illiteracy saddens my heart; so does the reality that knowledgeable people hoard the Gospel, keeping it to themselves. Let us lead others beyond individual, spiritual consumption to contagious, tenacious outliving of the Gospel.
"Until God is using you to change the lives of others," seminary president Danny Akin has said, "you really haven't comprehended His truth."
5. Teach women that God redeems their messes for His message.
I realize that women are plagued with fears, insecurities, struggles and anxieties. Who isn't? Let us teach women that the God who redeemed us from the pit also puts a "new song in our mouth" so that "many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord" (Psalm 40:3).
We need an uprising of believers courageous enough to lead others to advance the Gospel. Let us daringly use our women's gatherings within church walls to equip women to live out the Gospel beyond the church walls. It will require ordinary women with messy lives who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit at work within them to go and make disciples.
Lori McDaniel (lorimcdaniel.org) serves as a global mission catalyst with the International Mission Board, mobilizing churches and leading women to participate in God's global mission. She and her husband Mike and three children were missionaries in Africa before returning to plant Grace Point Church in Bentonville, Ark., where Mike is the lead pastor.