Ten years ago, I said yes to preaching my first sermon. I said yes mostly because I had already said no more than a few times and the tenacious leaders of Elm City Vineyard (ECV) were not showing any sign that they would stop asking.
While I had only been following Jesus for a short time, I had picked up pretty quickly that things like preaching or even pastoring might be off limits to me because I’m a woman. Thankfully, I had joined a Christian community who saw and encouraged me in preaching and church planting as part of my vocation long before I was able to recognize it in myself.
I had joined a Christian community who saw and encouraged me in preaching and church planting as part of my vocation long before I was able to recognize it in myself.
After my first sermon at ECV, I met with the teaching pastor to get some notes. He asked me if I wanted to join the preaching team. I told him no because I wasn’t sure I thought women should preach. Though I had only been a Christian a short while, I could see that not everyone supported women leading in ministry. I hadn’t seen many women preach or lead churches, so my assumption was that maybe I should just keep out of it and figure out other ways to do ministry.
He listened to my concerns and thoughtfully replied, “Not only do I think you should preach again, because you have a gift for it, but I think that women might have something that the church needs to hear about Jesus right now. We need to hear from you.” This was the first I had heard explicitly that my gender might be an asset, not a liability, for my ministry in the kingdom of God. I was shocked at how quickly I had internalized the limitations that others had placed on women and ministry, benching myself instead of realizing that our saying of “everyone gets to play” included me. I needed someone to tell me that while there were people who might have trouble with women preaching and pastoring, God wasn’t one of them.
This was the first I had heard explicitly that my gender might be an asset, not a liability, for my ministry in the kingdom of God.
My call to church plant came out of those early days at Elm City Vineyard, as I was nurtured by people who wanted me to grow into the person God made me to be. They were willing to teach me not only how to follow Jesus, but also willing to let me try (and fail) at using the gifts God has given me.
At ECV, I got to see how courageous and faithful people can partner with God to build a community where people are known and loved, where the gifts of God are seen and used. There I heard God’s invitation to plant a church in Princeton, NJ. I was able to say yes because of the community who had encouraged my gifts along the way.
As I start to plant in Princeton, I’ve thought often of my pastor’s words to me. I no longer think who I am is a liability to ministry, but rather, I believe that this is part of the way that God is reaching the people of Princeton and building this church. Though I haven’t seen many women plant churches, I hope to see more of you. To borrow some words from a friend: I think that women church planters might have something that the church needs to learn about Jesus right now. We need your leadership.
Are you discerning a call to church plant?
Join us January 14-16 in California for the next Multiply Vineyard Summit.
Liz Moore is a Vineyard church planter in process. She is envisioning a vibrant, hospitable, intergenerational church community in Princeton, New Jersey, which she will begin to plant in late 2018. Having recently served for eight years as New England Boarding Schools Field Staff for FOCUS, Liz has just completed her M.Div at Duke Divinity School.