Acts 16.11-15 & 40., Gender Roles, Leadership, Lydia, vocation

Looking for Lydia’s…

Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi

11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district[a] of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
(the story of Paul and Silas healing the demon-possessed fortune teller, ending up in prison, they were praising God and there was an earth quake and the jailer was about to kill himself as feared the prisoners would have escaped, but they hadn’t, spoke with Paul and Silas, he and all his house got converted)
40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

So, Lydia is a community leader, a gentile woman of standing within her community, and she hears the message and gets saved, and her and her whole household are baptised, she welcomes the apostles into her home, and hosts the Church at Philippi in her front room… 

Lydia moves from a spiritual seeker and person of peace to one of the key (if not the key) mover and shaker in the Philippian Church. 

When I headed up the youth work at college, I made the joke, “In our kids groups this evening you may well have the next Archbishop of Canterbury, so we’d better all make sure your nice to HER”

(Ironically, as an aside, Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury was turned down for being  a Vicar and told he didn’t have a future in the Church of England, but clearly God saw something the selectors didn’t and eventually he was recommended for training, and then ended up Archbishop!)

We simply don’t know where God will take the people we come into contact with, where they are destined to go… to often we look for healthy, fully formed disciples who agree with all our theological and biblical quirks, rather than the more costly step of growing our own disciples and seeing people released in all that they could be for the Kingdom.

You might be reading this passage and saying, ‘So what?’  woman became a Christian had massive ripple effect and was one of the key players in the Church in Philippi, what’s the big deal?

Yet in many Churches, women aren’t allowed to take a leadership role, due to (I believe) a misreading of a verse in Timothy, and a bit of confusion around the word head (which can also be translated source!).
Often those of us who are pro-women leaders, aren’t vocal enough in explaining the Biblical mandate for women in leadership ministry…
Although lets not forget that people like Miriam, Deborah and Esther all seem to involved in leading God’s people.
Well, for starters she was a woman. Remember in John’s gospel the Samariton woman at the well it was a bit iffy for Jews to talk to women they weren’t related to or married too, so Luke, Timothy, Paul and Silas, have crossed some cultural barriers talking to a woman, who accepts Christ and is baptised. 

This was new revolutionary ground, just as it was for Philip in chapter 8 with the Ethiopian Eunuch (who couldn’t be circumcised even if he wanted to be) but took the gospel back to Ethiopia and planted/led the Church there, or Peter and Cornelius in chapter 10 -could a Jew go and eat with a Roman solider?

On Pentecost (Acts 2) two worlds collided, the Jewish world of law, scripture and traditions of their ancestors and the gentile world which had a different world view entirely…So unsurprisingly the early Christians were wrestling with questions about how being a follower of Christ looks within a different culture yet still being authentically Christian, so they had a big meeting, the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 when the Church settled its views on the collision between the Jewish world view and the Gentile world view. 

The reason it is in the Bible is Luke wants to clearly show a woman getting clearly saved, baptised, and leading others to faith and serving in the local Church; an authentic Christian gospel assimilating into indigenous culture, what was following Christ and what was cultural baggage was worked out by the first recorded conversion since the Council of Jerusalem.

It is an argument Luke is building that women are equal in discipleship alongside men, and not second class citizens.

We  see in Luke’s Gospel, Mary’s righteous response with Zachariah’s sinful response to the news of miraculous pregnancies.
Jesus being anointed -Christ means Anointed– by a (sinful) woman.
Women being faithful disciples at the cross when the male disciples had run into hiding.
The first witnesses of the resurrection.
Mary Jesus’ Mum is there on Pentecost… 
In John’s Gospel tells the first person Jesus reveals that he is the Messiah is the Samariton Woman at the well (who becomes the first Christian evangelists).
Paul in Romans 16 lists a load of women who clearly are active in leadership roles within the early Church.


This goes along with Luke also showing 1st, 2nd and 3 generation of disciples preaching the Kingdom, healing the sick and raising the dead; and Jews and Gentiles sharing mission together. 

Paul in addressing this  issue later says that in Christ Jesus there is no jew/gentle, male/female, slave/free as we are all one in Christ (Gal.3.28)… Much of the narrative is the excluded become the included with Christ… 

David Watson wrote about not realising the gifting God had placed within his Church, by not realising the calling of women within his congregation, the body of Christ needs to function with everyone in it living out their call and gifts; the body of Christ is made up of  Jews and  Gentiles, slaves and free people, males and female and we are all called to play our part, our identity is no longer determined by such factors,  but instead by whether or not we are in Christ.I believe that as human beings most of us feel we can’t possibly be used by God in whatever he calls us to due to our own insecurities, what has been said too us, or about us…

Whoever we are, what ultimately matters is whether or not we echo the words of Mary (Jesus’ mother) and say “yes Lord”. 

Luke makes  the point that God seems to specialize in working in and through the people the religious establishment don’t think he should…

So, I long to see everyone we meet in Christ reaching their full potential in him.

I love the thought of the unlikely looking kids in the skate park eating our cakes from after the service may one day be the Churches next pastor.
The future Bishop of Bristol, might be a young drunk girl we help into a taxi having given her a pair of flip flops. 

The next  great evangelist of the UK might walk into the foodbank tomorrow. 

The boxes ‘you’ll never amount to anything’ or ‘you’ll won’t be able to’ are glass celling’s the world puts on over us are shattered by the empowering call of Christ.

Lydia was a key player in her  community, and brought others to faith… many of these people are key players in their community and may bring many of people to faith.

So let us look at people with eyes of faith, not with what the ever changing opinions of the world tell us, but see them through Christ’s eyes and his call on their lives.

So let’s spend this week looking for Lydia’s.