Why do many Christian women declare that they are not leaders? Is it because they see leadership as a job or a position that is usually filled by a man? This might have been true during the past Industrial Age, but it is no longer true today. During today’s Information Age, leadership has a whole new meaning. The emphasis on the term “leader,” a noun, has been replaced by the term “lead,” a verb. Leadership isn’t always about a job or position. Leadership is about influence. According to Ken Blanchard, “Influence is the ability to affect how someone thinks, acts, or develops.” Hmm…. That sounds like women’s ways of leading!
Women lead in a variety of ways, and their styles of leading are often different from the ways that men lead. According to Ken Blanchard, “70% of effective leaders in organizations had no leadership positions.” With the definition of leadership as influence and not as a role, women’s ways of leading become more identifiable.
Lately, I have been spending a lot of time studying the women of Genesis. From a 21st Century perspective, these women appeared to live lives of quiet desperation where they often found themselves in mindless, voiceless, and powerless positions. It’s no wonder that they reverted to non-confrontational methods when they met life’s challenges. A woman’s worth was closely connected to her beauty and appeal to men in powerful positions. When the Egyptian pharaoh confronted Abraham, beautiful Sarah obeyed her husband Abraham’s order to remain silent and pretended that she was Abraham’s sister. Abraham was afraid that the pharaoh who wanted to take Sarah would kill him (Genesis 12: 10-20). This didn’t happen just once; the story is repeated when Abraham feared Abimelech and again passed Sarah off as his sister (Genesis 20). Sarah silently obeyed her husband, who lied to powerful men in order to save himself.
For the women of Genesis, their worth also was measured by their ability to bear children. Barren Sarah was so desperate that she manipulated her husband Abraham into having a child with Hagar. When Hagar became pregnant and flaunted her condition, Sarah blamed Abraham for the problem. Later, when God told Abraham that Sarah would have a child, Sarah laughed in the tent as she eavesdropped. When God confronted Sarah about laughing, she lied to Him by denying that she laughed. Manipulation, silence, laughing, lying, and denial are tactics used by individuals in powerless situations.
I wonder how many times Sarah wanted to give up. Why try? Why bother? Women were treated as objects more than as human beings. Yet, Sarah’s position was not as powerless as some might believe. Sarah had amazing influence. In Genesis 17:16, God says, “I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Sarah’s influence is acknowledged in Romans 9:9, Galatians 4:21-31, and Hebrews 11:11.
A most astounding verse about Sarah and her influence with Abraham is Genesis 21:12. After the fiasco of the Hagar and Ishmael story, God told Abraham, “Listen to whatever Sarah tells you.” God recognized Sarah’s influence with Abraham. “Silent Sarah” was not so silent after all. Even as she practiced many non-confrontational tactics, she exerted amazing influence in her relationship with Abraham, the Old and New Testament worlds, and even today’s world. Sarah did not hold a leadership role or position in the patriarchal world of Abraham, but she certainly had influence.
What is your sphere of influence? As a church worker or a worker in the church, do not be deceived by thinking that you have little influence. In March, 2000, George Barna reported, “Women are the Backbone of the Christian Congregations in America.” In his research, he found that women were:
100% more likely to be involved in discipleship
57% more likely to participate in adult Sunday school
56% more likely to hold a leadership position at a church
54% more likely to participate in a small group
46% more likely to disciple others
39% more likely to have a devotional time or quiet time
33% more likely to volunteer for church
29% more likely to read the Bible
29% more likely to attend church
29% more likely to share faith with others
23% more likely to donate to a church
16% more likely to pray
These are amazing statistics about the influence of women in congregations, but only one of these statistics addresses a formal leadership position. These statistics are about actions and influence that women have within their congregations. One woman can make a difference in people’s lives as she shares the love of Jesus. Seize your “Sarah Moments” for such a time as this!