My daughter Madison was home for the holidays. I’ve noticed at some point college kids become very smart; and their parents…well, not so much.
Young 20’s has not been my favorite parenting season. That’s why it’s humorous that I preached to 1000 college students the day after the New Year. What a way to ring in 2016!
Campus Crusade, now called Cru, invited me to speak on intimacy with the Holy Spirit and to teach a break out session on sexuality to female students. In my initial conversations with the leadership, I realized I might be too edgy for their organization. They asked that I not bring my new book Lime Green or discuss the “women’s issue.” As I engaged in those conversations I prayed as to whether I should let them breathe easier by recusing myself, but the Spirit said, “Go and speak freedom.”
I did. It was evident by the reaction of the students, “truth set them free.” (John 8:32)
At 10:00am I spoke on sexuality. The room was jammed packed with about 500 young women from Oklahoma and Texas universities. Afterwards, the women flocked around. One gal said, “I’ve grown up in the church, went to Christians schools and I’ve never heard what you said.” Another gal said in sixth grade she was told she was a broken “teacup” unable to give her future husband a good cup of tea because of her inappropriate sexual activity. A broken teacup! That’s what she heard from preachers who represent Jesus! My heart broke.
On January 2nd freedom was preached.
At lunch, I ate with the Cru leaders who peppered me with questions like, “Do you really think men and women in leadership can work side by side?” One gal said, “I’ve just never seen it done.” I could hear the longing in their voices. What could their ministry potential be if it were true?
At 1:15pm I preached on intimacy with the Holy Spirit – then again at 3:00, back to back with a fifteen-minute break. The first session was packed - standing room only. Men, women, Hispanics, African Americans and Asians. It was a true picture of the church. Once again, students flocked, sharing and asking personal, private, and raw things. I hated having cut it short because I had to speak again.
The second time around was the same as the first, except this time my daughter Madison and husband Steve stood against the back wall. Later, Steve told me he had checked out the other rooms and my room was way packed compared to others. Now, that doesn’t mean much, except that these kids were thirsty for something they didn’t get in their regular spiritual diet. After speaking, I was rushed out of the room by the Cru leaders. It seemed women had texted them questions they wanted answered from my previous talk on sexuality. It wasn’t in the schedule but “would I be willing to answer them via video?”
As I was being escorted, literally, students followed, asking their questions and sharing deep concerns.
One young man, a physics student at Rice, wanted to know more about my journey as a female preacher. He had been studying the issue of women in the Church and wanted to hear my take. Another young woman from Puerto Rico (who studies in San Antonio) asked my view of women in leadership. “[She had] been told women couldn’t lead but [she] knew that wasn’t right. What was [my] position?” I pointed her to The Marcella Project website for resources. Recently, she signed up for our Tuesday night bible study in Austin. There, she will learn another way to view women.
At 5:30 PM I finally finished and plopped myself in the car as Steve drove home. I was exhausted but also exhilarated.
I’m not always free to share the specifics of how The Marcella Project is influencing the reshaping of our view of women in the Church. Sharing specifics, even as much as I’ve said here, can move us backwards. The woman’s issue is truly that sensitive of an issue. People get marginalized or fired for asking questions or challenging the status quo. It happens.
We tread with humility and wisdom as we walk this path of reshaping the view of women. Speaking at Cru is one of the ways we accomplish our work. Young women heard a female preacher bring a skilled message of freedom. That shapes them. It means there are possibilities. Young men saw a woman preach and the Spirit spoke through her - that shapes them. In the future (some of these men will be our pastors) they won’t be surprised or as resistant to women in leadership. Minds were challenged by spoken and unspoken words.
The Marcella Project is a think changer. It’s not as easy to explain or promote as giving a child water or helping a girl out of sex trafficking (all of which I support in the name of Jesus) but it is as crucial. In fact, we won’t change how we treat women until we change what we think about women (and men).
As theologian Walter Brueggemann said, “Every revolutionary movement needs people who think and study and write and analyze. A revolution is not sustainable if there are only people on the street. You have to have what the great Italian sociologist called ‘organic intellectuals’. You have to have intellectuals doing the homework and background work that will sustain the movement.”
Thank you for being a Marcella 100. You are a part of the background work that will sustain the movement of reshaping our view of women in the Church.