June 24, 2013
“Why don’t you include women in your Master’s Program classes?”
Welcome to the 21st Century. Whenever we invite a pool of prospects to hear and consider the invitation to participate in The Master’s Program, it’s fairly predictable that a modern American filter will find its way into the room.
A room full of men is a powder keg, ripe for a cultural explosion. Assemble women in a space reserved for them to talk about leadership issues that are unique to women, and you’ll get a grant from a foundation. Do the same thing with men, and the question arises, quickly: is this a Neanderthal club of chauvinists who are going to paint their faces, pound drums, sit in sweat lodges… and claim gender superiority?
It came up recently; it wasn’t the first time. “Why don’t you include women?” I didn’t have to stretch for an answer; I cited Paul’s words, to Titus: “You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:1-8)
Living out the Christian faith is a challenge for everyone; to rise to the level of leadership in the journey is even more demanding. We’re commissioned to produce disciples – followers of Jesus – in keeping with the Last Words of Jesus before his return to heaven. But… who are the ones he dispatched to do that? They were apostles – leaders – given the assignment to take it to the ends of the earth.
It’s tough to be a follower of Jesus; it’s even tougher to be a leader who reproduces followers by modeling the lifestyle exampled and advocated by Jesus, and by the leaders to whom he delegated the task. The particulars are very specific; that’s why it’s so seldom attempted… and accomplished.
Simply: the roles of Christians in every society are unique settings to apply the Truth. The best men in any culture were to be the followers of Jesus; the best women in any population were supposed to be the ones who had found life in the Son. Within their roles in the family, in the workplace and in the community, the Christians were to be the highest level of principled participant. How could that behavior be learned? Can men teach women how to succeed as women? Ask the Taliban…
Modeling is everything. Leaders demonstrate to followers how it’s done. Men showing men how to take the teachings of the Scriptures and flesh them out; women doing the same with women, making the expectation clear. Mentoring is a focused effort; it’s life-on-life.
Within a year of launching The Master’s Program in Southern California, the question was raised… and we responded. TMP for Women (www.themastersprogramforwomen.org) has been part of our portfolio of ministries for over 15 years. Sandy Olsson – one of our team for over 25 years – leads this effort; hundreds of women have participated in this parallel process, from coast to coast. They use the same curricular materials and process used by the men’s groups… but apply it to the unique challenge of being a woman with influence, in the culture but representing the Kingdom.
I’m an older man, mentoring men. Sandy and the other women who lead the TMP/W groups have the right message and model for the women God is using to change the world and build his Kingdom. That was my answer to the thoughtful man who raised the question…