Why I Wrote a Book for Women Discerning a Call to Ministry (Part II)

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If you haven't read Part I, you can read it here.

I graduated from seminary at the end of 2008, the year that many said was the worse financial crisis since the Great Depression. Despite this, I was confident in God and his call on my life, trusting that he would provide me a ministerial context in which to serve. With my MDiv in tow from a reputable seminary, I knocked (figuratively) on doors at churches and parachurch organizations, only to find that most entities had placed hiring freezes and/or were cutting back on staff. During that time of job searching, I had one interview for a position at a church, which I didn't get.

I also tried to enter the world of publishing, particularly to write Bible studies. Yet, I kept finding that you had to know somoneone, already be established, or, in one case, complete a long and arduous application (for which I never heard back from the publisher).

Up to that point in my life, the next step had always seemed to be somewhat clear. Go to college. Check. Get into preferred college. Check. Go to seminary. Check. Get into preferred seminary. Check. Now that I was out of seminary, ready to serve the Lord in whatever way he saw fit, I heard nothing. It was a so-silent-you-could-hear-crickets moment. Where was God? Did I misunderstand God's call on my life?

By the way, these are questions that we find God-called people in Scripture wrestling with from time to time. I think of David, who wrote, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" which was repeated by the Son of God on the cross. Or, again, I think of David, who wrote in Psalm 42:3, "My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'” Perhaps you can relate.

After several months of searching for ministerial work, I took the only job I could find (and the only one that I was offered!), but at least it would allow me to use some of my gifts. The job was an internship position at a state Baptist newspaper. The internship was usually reserved for college students, but the managing editor--out of mercy--offered it to me. At the time it was humbling. Here I was with an MDiv degree that took me 3.5 years to earn. I was a Dean's scholarship recipient and in May 2009 would receive the bibical languages award, and yet I was working a part-time, low paying position reserved for college students. Lord, what was going on?

I found comfort in the Psalms even more palpably during this time, especially those Psalms that talked about waiting.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us. (Ps. 62:5-8)

When we find ourselves in periods of silence, we can proceed without God or we can wait for him in hope. From 2008-2015, I would be in what felt like for the most part a waiting period. Waiting didn't mean I did nothing during that time: I married, became a mother, began a blog, wrote a few Bible studies, and moved to England for 6 months. After having our son Philip, I resigned from my job at the newspaper, which had turned into a full-time news writer position, and eventually I took non-ministry, part-time jobs in order to help bring in money to our household. But I yearned for something more. I yearned to fulfill my calling: for full-time gospel ministry, communicating God's Word. For this, I continued to wait for him and his timing in hope.

During this seven-year period of largely waiting and silence, there was one area in which I continued to hear God speak to me. I didn't hear anything from God when I prayed about a ministry position. When I prayed for more opportunities to speak, teach, and write about his Word, I continued to hear, "Wait," and "Not yet." But when I prayed with open hands and open heart, "Lord, show me what you want me to do. Why have you called me?," God continued to speak to my heart a call to help women (especially young women) called to gospel ministry. During this time, the one area that grew in intensity was a God-given desire to help and serve women whom God had called to ministry. I was beginning to see that perhaps a large part of my calling was to help train and raise up women for gospel ministry. At the same time, I continued to wrestle with the question, How can I help other women when I am not serving full-time in a church ministry position?

In 2012, I approached the youth minister at our church and asked if he knew of any females in the youth ministry who were feeling called to ministry and who would want to be mentored. He responded, Yes. They had several females express a call to ministry, and their search for a book to help these women process that call came up empty. The timing was God-ordained.

After a year of mentoring these four women, a mentoring relationship with two of them continued for several years. Eventually, I was invited to lead a retreat at Ouachita Baptist University for women called to ministry. I continued to meet women called to ministry who were asking for direction or whose calling stories were very similar to mine (alone and uncertain). I realized the felt need was great to encourage these women.

Concurrently, I noticed that a large majority of women in charge of Christian discipleship (those teaching Scripture, writing books, speaking, leading discipleship ministries and soul care, etc) were untrained. I noticed that in many cases false teaching was entering the church through the door of women's ministry. It was as if pastors and male leaders allowed that door to go unchecked because women were teaching other women. Nonverbally what was being communicated was that as long as women were not teaching men, it didn't really matter what was going on in women's ministry. (Of course this isn't true for every church and every situation, but generally speaking, I found it to be true.)

During these years, I poured myself into studying Scripture, reading books and commentaries that addressed the topic of women in ministry, and thinking critically and theologically about this issue. By 2014, I knew it was time to write a book proposal.

Why did I write this book? The simple (yet truest) answer is because I believe God called me to it and has seen it through from its beginning and middle, and will, I believe, its end. Additionally, this book is born out of two beliefs.

First, I believe God calls women to vocational gospel ministry. Second, I believe the church needs God-called, theologically-trained women serving in vocational gospel ministry. 

While writing the book, I continued to feel inadequate. From a worldly perspective, it felt like I had failed to secure a traditional, vocational role in church ministry. How then could I instruct others in a call to ministry? But as I wrote about the calling stories of Moses and David and Peter and Paul, I realized that I was no different than them. Like them, I am unqualified for the call and task that God has given me, but the call doesn't depend on my strengths or lack thereof but on God's. I'm qualified because God has called me to the task. Also, this book is written to help women process their calling within the context of Scripture; it is not a how-to-book when it coms to ministry. Because I have spent years processing a call to ministry, I began to see how God had actually prepared and qualified me for the task at hand.

Surprisingly, but not, while writing the book I felt a second call or a rebirth of my first call to ministry during a Sunday service at my church. After coming back from England, my husband and I changed denominations and were now in a church that allowed greater vocational space for women. It's a wonderful church whose motto is: "a heart for the gospel." In the middle of writing a book about calling, I began a discernment process with the ministers to discern what formal gospel ministry could look like in my ecclesial context. I actually found this such an act of God's grace, because I wasn't writing the book from a place of arrival but as one who is journeying with my readers.

I tell you my story and how God brought about the book as a testimony to God's grace and work in my life and as an encouragement to those of you who are in periods of waiting and silence. As I tell my readers, calling and ministry is a journey. As Americans, we want our callings to materialize as quickly as everything else in our life materializes. When it doesn't, we assume that we have failed or misunderstood. Not willing to wait for God's timing, we give up and move on to something else that will be more quickly satisfying. However, the callings of people in Scripture teach us about to walk faithfully with God even if our callings take years to materialize. 

After years of waiting, it is so exciting to be in this place of seeing a call and desire God gave me in seminary begin to come to fruition. My prayer is that God will use this book to aid and encourage women whom he is calling to gospel ministry. Maybe that woman is you. Maybe that woman is a sister, daughter, or friend. 

Will you join me in praying that God will use this book to raise up women for vocational ministry for his glory? The book's success will not depend on how many copies are sold or whether or not it receives awesome reviews; its success will only be counted by the lives of women for whom it encourages to follow God's call in faithfulness and obedience. 

You may have noticed that I did not include in this long post how my book ended up at Zondervan Academic. That, my friends, is a cool story! Stay tuned for Part III.