People will no doubt go round and round for the rest of all time about guilt or innocence of Bill Heybels, lead pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. We have been extremely close to the leadership of Willow Creek church over the past 25yrs. We love them deeply. We hurt with them and for them.
I have thought long and hard, as you probably know, about the #metoo movement within the context of church culture.
Sexual impropriety is a part of human nature. Just because someone is in church leadership doesn’t exempt them from being a part of what the rest of the world is drawing attention to.
I absolutely have been treated in the most respectful manor by 90% of men I have known in church leadership over the years.
Working and living close to the center of the circle of church staff leadership for 30yrs, I can say without shame or doubt that absolutely sexual harassment has happened in just about every church I’ve ever been a part of.
Nothing turns my stomach more than when I hear about a pastors or church leaders messing up. It’s just awful and sad. I’ve seen time & again what happens to the accused, their spouse, their & children—So incredibly devastating for everyone involved.
With that said, know how firmly I believe that PASTORS ARE PEOPLE TOO! They are imperfect just like you and I. They make mistakes. Give grace, give hope to them and their families. Give them privacy and space to heal.
Because they are not super human as many might think, please, please, hold them accountable just as anyone else you might care or worry about.
Love people who mess up. Don’t gossip. Don’t gossip about people that write or talk about their #metoo experiences within the walls of the church or out. Nothing is more hurtful to a victim than to be shamed for sharing their experience.
If you struggle with dark, uncontrollable thoughts, feelings & moods, it probably seems the most difficult thing you can do is reach out for help. You’ll feel exposed and vulnerable when someone shines a light into your darkness—But there will be light. Just about then, you will understand how very brave you are.
If you don’t get help, Shame will hold you in that dark place. It will surround you, seemingly protect you, and hold you away from any one else’s light.
It’s pretty lonely in that dark place, isn’t it? Know you are not alone. I’ve been there, living with a perma-cloud in my head, covering everything good with dismalness.
Text a trusted friend for help, call your church, or find a good therapist. There are so many resources and so many warm, caring and loving people who will hold you tight until you heal.
Please, please don’t give up when no one else gets you. Jesus is there, your Heavenly God that made you is over and under that darkness. He knows it too. Pray, ask for God’s help. A step toward God will never be a misstep.
A step toward light will give you enough hope to take another step.
Your God is a good, good God. He sees, he cares, he knows.
Peace to you friend. You are never alone, ever. There is love, there is light, I promise. ❤️
This is me and my dear friend Christa when we were floor mates at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Christa is in the middle, I’m to her right.
And this is Christa and I 22 years later.
We were able to spend a few days together in 2015. Being with this lifelong friend was a deep breath of fresh air to me. Telling the stories of where we’ve been, how we’ve grown, deaths, births, joys, disappointments, etc…there was a lot to catch up on.
When Christa and I were college freshmen, we both knew we were at Moody to get equipped to serve God in some type of ministry the rest of our lives. I was a writing major, her, Bible Theology. I remember one time watching her study her Greek flashcards while I was literally practicing headstands in our hallway. (Maybe that’s why she ended up the smart one 😉)
The Roles for women in Ministry were pretty cut and dry back then. Women could be missionaries, play piano, or marry a pastor. Ha! I’m Exaggerating a little. But truly, in 1991 the options were few.
My own path to where I am lead me to Kansas, still writing, but also certified through Fuller seminary as a Spiritual Director. Christa in Indonesia raising her family. She has so much to say, so much up in her head and in her heart that others need to hear.
Here’s her beginning. More to come soon.
I wasn’t the kind of child who dreamt about what wanted to be when I grew up. By the time I was in Jr High all I knew for sure is that I wanted to do whatever God wanted me to do. By the time I was a senior in high school in the early part of 1991, I briefly thought about joining the Air Force just as Operation Desert Storm was going on. About a month before graduation my pastor and parents suggested I apply to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL. Since I had nothing else I was interested in doing, I applied. I didn’t have high hopes of getting accepted for the fall semester because the application deadline had passed 2 months before. When I got accepted 3 weeks later, I took it as an indication that I was supposed to go.
I enrolled as a music major because I had played the piano ever since I was 8. Not the best reason to choose a major and was it ever the wrong decision for me. I was miserable. Thankfully, I got a severe pinched nerve in my neck and I had to give up the piano. Now what was I going to do? Moody had 5 main majors back then: Music, International Missions, Communications, Education, and Bible Theology. One of my friends at the time was a junior and a pastoral major. For whatever reason he kept encouraging me to switch to the Bible Theology major and take Greek. So that’s what I did. I figured that if I didn’t know what else I wanted to do, majoring in Bible Theology would at least get me a good solid Bible education.
I remember sitting in a large auditorium my second semester looking at all the other people enrolled in Bible Theology. Out of maybe +200 people, 50 of those being my fellow freshman, there were just a handful of women.
Starting my sophomore year, I began 2 years of studying Greek and I loved it right from the start. It was a little intimidating being the only female in a class of 25-30 other students. Many of my fellow students were pastoral majors. In fact, with my degree, I ended up taking 90-95% of the same classes as the pastoral majors. [Back then, women couldn’t major in pastoral studies. It wasn’t a big deal since that wasn’t what I wanted anyway.] The men in all my theology classes were accepting of me and so were my professors. In all 4 years, I don’t remember ever feeling like I wasn’t wanted or I couldn’t speak up in class when I chose to. I never felt like I had to prove myself to them to be accepted. I look back now and wonder why that was especially when it was far from the norm at that time in the evangelical world to have women pastors or women in leadership positions other than women’s ministries.
I think maybe it was because I wasn’t trying to break the mold. I wasn’t outspoken or trying to prove that I was just as good as or better than the men. I was just quietly following the path God placed before me. I remember one or 2 instances where I received more push back from other women who thought I should break the mold and become a pastor and they were offended that I didn’t want to.
Here I am almost 23 years later. I continued to follow the path God set before me and have spent the last 15 years serving in Indonesia my husband who is a missionary pilot. My role the whole time has been as a stay-at-home mom. While I am extremely thankful for my education I have often wondered what the purpose of it was. It’s been a struggle to know how to use it other than for just my own personal enrichment. Now that my kids are older I am looking for something more. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens when I am all grown up.
The Sunset Tree, in all its brilliance, has held so many rainbows high on the horizon, so many sunsets in the forever stretching western Kansas sky.
The weight of that glory from a million sunsets and a few hundred rainbows was too heavy, as the trees arms grew tired with wind whistling at her back storms blowing her branches for centuries. She lifted her arms to the most brilliant sunset her tree eyes had ever seen, then beheld a cloud full of lightning and wind coming her way. She smiled as the wind blew her branches. The leaves clapped for joy and danced in the wind and rain. She sighed, breathed out, her core broken, and gave her spirit up to God and her body to the wind.
There was a loud thud heard for a mile, earthy dust billowing from beneath her windswept body. The dust held a magic though—it knew the secrets of the tree, the glory it held had seeped into the earth, wildly electrifying everything around it with living life.
The dust that sparkled blew and blew and blew away on the wind, far as the eye could see. The magic landed here and there, glory to be found only with the most careful eye, by the Noticers. These souls are special. God gave their spirit eyes a gift to see the glimmer of God in the wind, through prairies, over mountains, desert savannah’s and high on the seas.
If you are a Noticer, you already know. In sleepy dreams or awake, you know that glory, and you are learning it by name. You don’t know what to call it, but you will. Just notice for now. You will grow into your soul eyes in time.
Live in wide eyed wonder for what holds up sunsets and rainbows. Tell your secrets, but only to a few.
You have probably guessed, but I am a Noticer too—So, my sacred bit of wisdom to you is this-
Every evening when the sun is setting, keep your eyes alert for magic especially then. Everything glitters in sunlight and moonlight. The places in the morning where the night fades into day…you will find the glory spots most bright.
Look for the trees that awaken the day with songs of praise. The yellow flowers on the hill beaming back the magic light of morning light back to the sun, the birds that sing the loudest are the ones who used to perch on the old wise branches of The Sunset Tree. They are her messengers. Listen to them.
These are only the places I have seen the sparkle of glory. So it’s your turn to Notice and tell about the places my eyes have not seen. Look high, look low, and do tell, but only to a few
There is a sacred to this glory
You will only understand one day when you are maybe as old as the Sunset Tree on the hill that once held up the Western sky. Listen, watch, wonder, and Notice the glory most especially when you see the sparkle of your own eyes in a mirror.
You sparkle and shine with the dust of the earth alive with the glory of the One whose hand created, and feet that once walked on it. I see it in your soulish eyes. Do you?
My family, my world. I am more grateful every day for the people God gifted me with, called family. We are not perfect. We are flawed–Pretty much all of us. But, we love. We forgive. We grant pardon, we embrace, we venture on, because This is Us. This is our family.
What if women…had a more prominent leadership role in the Church worldwide?
What if women still respected men as leaders, lived Biblically sound lives, but had a chance to speak their minds in a humble and unique way? Traditionally, it doesn’t happen very much. Most women aren’t jerky and demanding about it. They’re just quiet. And passive. And really quiet. Their voices of individual leadership, uniqueness, and creativity aren’t heard very often.
More than almost anything, I want my 3 young women to know there is a place for them at the table.
It saddens me when the topic of women in church becomes a divisive thing. What if it didn’t have to be? Really.
I love men. My dad is a man. My brothers are men. I have a zillion male cousins—I was raised in a world of men, (sort of like being brought up with a pack of wolves, but they were generally very fun wolves. 😉 )
I married a man. I love him deeply. I completely respect him.
I respect and admire my pastors more than they or anyone could know.
I believe women would raise issues that aren’t being raised. I believe the worldwide orphan problem might be solved. I firmly and wholeheartedly believe more broken people will be healed. Sharing our stories gives strength to both the listener and the teller.
Shame dies when empathy is given. Light bearing light to dark, shadowy, sometimes very sad souls brings life. Women need women to learn from. Men need women to learn from.
The women in my life are rock solid, genuine followers of the Way, the Truth and the Life. They walk and talk with Jesus. I am transformed by their love and commitment to God.
I see a trend in the young men I know. I see them seeking after spiritual leaders who are men just like them — college professors, authors, musicians, male pastors, etc as their only source for Biblical direction and interpretation. This isn’t bad, just inbalanced.
I think women would feel better about themselves knowing God can and does use women in powerful ways. I know scores of highly educated, intelligent followers of Jesus who feel worthless because there is not a place for them in the Church in The USA and around the world.
Its funny how when you throw a subject out there, like I did with this one the other day, how others can sometimes state the way you feel better than you can. I’ll leave you with a friend’s thoughts, then I’d love to hear yours:
Maybe there was a time when women weren’t the best choice as leaders and teachers. But we have women senators, congressional representatives, judges, college professors and university presidents, CEOs and hopefully someday a woman president. There have been many queens who ruled their countries, even centuries ago, and many presidents and prime ministers in other countries. There are many women heads of household. Women are scientists, doctors, astronauts, engineers, and inventors. Women hold high ranks in the armed forces and die defending our country. And women (mothers and wives) have long been understood to be primary influences in prominent men’s lives. There are many women who will be lost to the Christian message if they believe it can only come from a man’s tongue. <<