At a very young age, I can remember saying yes to Jesus. In about the fifth grade, I would go to sleep at night singing a song with lyrics that said, “I am willing Lord, I am willing Lord, I am willing to be just exactly who you want me to be.” I didn’t know what that would look like as I grew up, but my heart was for Jesus.
Later, in my early 20’s, I knew that I was being called to ministry. My husband and I knew that one day we would be pastoring a church. Fifteen years later, the opportunity to lead a church plant in Arizona presented itself. We knew that it was God’s plan and the vision he had given us was now coming into being. I was stepping into the destiny and the call God had for me.
My heart was to serve and partner in the assignment I had been given. Many people said our church was their first experience in a relationship with God. It was exciting to see the church reaching so many! Because of the growth of the church and my capacity to assume responsibility, I functioned in lots of different capacities from childcare worker to maintenance supervisor to executive pastor to preaching on Sunday mornings.
As years went by circumstances began to brew and leaders began to ask questions about my role and if I, as a woman, should even be a pastor. I was removed from all leadership. At the eight-year anniversary of the church, my husband and I resigned. I had never realized that there was so much animosity against women in pastoral leadership roles until that experience.
When we resigned, I felt I had experienced the death of a vision. I felt I had lost my identity as a pastor and was emotionally and spiritually battered. I remember crying for 9 months over the loss of the church and the people who had been entrusted to me to love and to care for. I asked the Lord, “Will I ever be whole enough to serve you again? Was it all a waste?” I felt like I was walking aimlessly looking for a new path which would feel like home.
One day during that time, I remember reading Psalm 23, and the Lord said, “I am leading you beside the quiet waters now and into the green pastures to restore your soul.” Even though I felt very lost, I experienced a time of hearing God’s assurance as he kept saying, “Trust me.”
Since then, God has had me on a fast track for healing and restoration. It has been a journey of reminding myself to trust him. It has not been easy, but I have been determined that God will have the victory in this.
Through my experience, I have learned how to minister in environments that are not receptive to women in leadership. I learned to recognize voices that can be damaging to the call God has for us as women. I learned the importance of placing God’s voice above all others in our personal identity as well as in our leadership identity. I learned how to minister in partnership with my husband and how to lead a church from inception through infancy into maturity.
I feel honored and privileged today to be assisting Multiply Vineyard in helping to create pathways for women to lead and co-pastor churches! I would never have dreamed that God would have me here but here I am. My prayer is that God would continue to guide us as we encourage and support women who are called to lead in the Vineyard. We pray they would be able to operate in the freedom of who God has made them to be, and in doing so, that many people would be brought into His kingdom. I pray that God will use my story and help other women discover and experience an invitation into healthy leadership.
Lissa is a church planter at heart and is passionate about helping individuals fulfill their calling. She is from Elkhart, Indiana, but has lived in Phoenix, Arizona since moving west with a church planting team 23 years ago. She is a graduate of Taylor and Regent University. Currently, she serves as a pastor on staff at Vineyard Gilbert and is a champion for women in leadership for the Vineyard Southwest Region and Multiply Vineyard. She has also worked as a hospice chaplain for nearly five years. Lissa has been married to David for 28 years and has three children, Jordan, Joelle, Joy, and a son-in-law, Matthew and one grandson, Truett.