Sometimes I feel like I'm not an "inspirational" worship leader, I'm just a garden variety sort. That's OK by me. I'm a worship leader (vocalist) and a songwriter. I just love to contribute my gifts to the body of Christ. I serve the church by leading the congregation's singing. Because for me worshipping at the ordinary, local church is truly the greatest joy on earth. I've never aimed for labels and industry recognition.
Once, I did find myself in the center of the Christian music industry in Nashville. And, due to the kindness of a businessman, I recorded a group of songs, 'Grace'. I sing those songs in churches, and I'd also like to write some more, especially as it seems to help people find a connection with God.
But I'm not sure I could continue this in Nashville. While there, I caught up with a friend, a prolific writer, who over lunch recommended I get botox. It shook me up a bit, because I thought I was there to write and sing music that would encourage the church. I didn't expect forehead lines to interfere much with this service. Not that there's anything wrong with botox, but the comment definitely took me off guard, and I decided I probably wasn't resilient enough to deal with that kind of thing on a regular basis. So, instead I continue my study, and I also write other things mainly academic papers, and presentations. And, I travel a bit because of it.
When I'm headed to a city, I contact friends to say I'd love to come to church with them. Sometimes they ask me to sing, or to preach. These are kind of tours, except I don't have a manager, I don't charge large amounts, and I can spend time getting to know the hosts. This really helps me to understand the challenges local churches face, and therefore my research. Perfect for me.
Occasionally a friend offers to organize music events, which was the case for my trip to the UK this summer. While I was waiting, I received this comment. I could tell how upset my friend was by his formal tone.
"The dates are fine and you're welcome to stay with me and family. I joined my church three months ago after leaving [previous church] for work related reasons. I've only found out due to your visit that they will not permit women to lead worship or speak so I've decided to move on. I've asked another local church if you could lead worship on Sunday and I'm still waiting to hear back. So, as it stands it looks like dates are great but as for music, I'm still unsure. Please feel free to let me know if this is OK. You may have lots of music opportunities and I don't want to waste your time if you have other offers."
I get it. I certainly don't expect the right to be on any platform. It's a privilege. But if a friend of mine is excited to have me at their church, and is bitterly disappointed on my behalf, well... that's sad.
I don't attend a 'male headship' church. But if I did, I would have to struggle through what it means to have the women's voices intentionally silenced in my community. A lot of theologically conservative Christians are respectful, and communicate to women that they are valuable to God. But unfortunately, some do not. So, here's some tips for those negotiating situations that seem unbelievable in this day and age.
1. You are not alone. For my sisters struggling with shut doors and still wanting to share your gifts with the church, stick at it. There are many churches and many other women who have experienced what you are going through. It's not unusual. And you don't have to do this alone.
2. Remember to thank those who absorb any 'cost' of your ministry. There would be no way I could go anywhere else for this particular trip... how can I not give time to a man whose family left their church because I couldn't worship lead? And this was not because I asked him to. But this made me wonder if I am aware of other people who speak up on my behalf? There are so many great men that respectfully state their values, and I think we need to get better at saying a big "Thank you". Not because it's required, but because it makes us more gracious women. And I think of the character traits that drew God to a young teen called Mary all those years ago... humility. Graciousness. It's beautiful.
3. Know that we are built for community. Women truly understand community. A baby on one hip, a bible in the other hand. So, we may decide to lay down our hopes for the people we love. And that's OK. It's OK to decide that continuing in community is more important than using your own personal gifts. So long as your conscience is clear. BUT, it's also OK to be sad that you are unable to share your gifts in your community. Let's be honest, hey? And that's grief you're going to have to walk out with your sisters, your church family and Jesus.
So, if this is you, hold tight sister! We're in this together (see point #1).