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.
Church, Gender Roles


To purchase this video or customize it with your church logo, visit funny video shows how easy it is to invite someone to…

I know its silly but I love this little clip from Back to Church Sunday… In many ways Mothering Sunday was the original back to Church Sunday, a chance to return back to Church.The whole concept of Mother Church is something that has developed through out Church history, although not a biblical concept, although the Church does have female imagery being called “the Bride of Christ”.

Thinking about this image of the Church, the mother, its a nurturing image, the idea of being ‘raised’ or brought up in the faith is certainly a biblical idea of what the Church should be about… It is a loving picture, too, for many the Mother image speaks of love, commitment and self sacrifice which are characteristics we should see in the Church.

Yet more than this I think the Mother image of Church is actually all about birth and birthing. The Church is called to see people born again, or re-born, it is meant to be constantly not only seeing individuals saved but moving out into new areas and communities, it is a missionary movement, the writer of Acts keeps using the phrase “and every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved”.

Yet many of our Churches in the UK rarely see people saved, and really see new Churches planted from existing Churches, we’ve forgotten that we are here to bring about birth.

The aim of the Church is not just its survival in its one location, but to see the Kingdom of God birthed in and around our neighbourhood.

The book of Acts narrative is about the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy to be his witnesses in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samara and the ends of the earth” and the narrative unravels to show the Church planted not just locally, nationally but across the (known) world (that is why the book of Acts ends in Rome).

One of the wonderful things about Mothers is that their primary motivation is not their own survival but the survival of their young, and yet we see the opposite in many Churches, their survival matters more than the survival of the next generation of Christians, or of the Church they have planted.

Yet in Spiritual terms, the birth of new Churches, is actually the natural progression of things, in the human story after birth becomes nurture and growth until eventually independence and eventually continues the pattern of reproduction and new life, its meant to be cyclical rather than liner.

Perhaps that is why they call Churches Daughter Churches, the idea again of potential fertility and possibly more fertile than its older mother.

Interesting too, perhaps this is why we see Churches which have planted more than once, sometimes we see sibling rivalry and throwing their toys out the pram at another child coming on the scene?

Also, birth is sometimes messy, painful and costly but worth it (without it none of us would be here!)… And carrying a baby is often an uncomfortable time of sacrifice and weird unpredictable cravings, yet worth it to see a healthy baby at the other end, and looking after a new born is full of sleepless nights and (so I’m told) teenage years are even more challenging!

Yet this picture still works with the Church and its maternal image, often the mess, pain and cost of birth sometimes isn’t something that is embraced but without it out Churches wont be here (or at least wont be here for much longer), carrying the baby (or seekers) is sacrificial and unpredictable with odd cravings, and seeing new Christians coming to faith is the start of a great challenge of discipleship (and maybe some sleepless nights) and then the nurture of the teenage years seeing people released to be all they are called to be, is a great challenge (often difficult and painful but also wonderful),

So, thinking of Church as Mother, is a call to mission, a call to nurture and discipleship, and a call empowering and releasing.

Its a costly, sacrificial, uncomfortable call (where siblings can play havoc) and yet the greatest challenge in the world and is the very heart beat of Christ.


Bravery, Gender Roles, Nurture

Fiesty Birds… A Mothering Sunday Blog!

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing
Last year I spoke about ‘Feisty Birds’ on Mothering Sunday, and I said we often take some of these feminine images to be very gentle and a bit twee.
 I remember when I was courting Allana coming face to face with a swan, it saw us as a threat and was angry we were on its territory, we had  to back away pretty carefully.
Swans and Wild Geese are ferocious! You don’t mess with them, especially when they have young. -Its not a tame picture as we often think. 
The image of the ‘Wild Goose’ in the Celtic tradition is often viewed as a picture of the Holy Spirit…Something at the heart of nature protects, shields with self sacrificing bravery for those we love.
I love CS Lewis portrayal of Jesus as the lion, Aslan… A great quote “safe, of course he’s not safe, but he is good”.
I then began to explore the way we define what are male and female character traits and suggested that actually nature itself shows that women can be warriors,  full of courage and bravery and yet these roles within the Church we don’t consider feminine… Perhaps we need to discover afresh the heroines of scripture such as Deborah or Rehab?
It also debunks the myth of nurturing and compassion as ‘weak or feminine’ -you wouldn’t call a protective swan weak would you!!
We often don’t celebrate the brave and courageous side of faith, we forget that heroes such as Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandella and Martin Luther King Junior are some of the bravest (but non violent) people we have seen in recent history…
We often make Jesus out to be a bit soppy ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’ but forget that he probably avoided a stoning probably most days of his preaching ministry, was nearly murdered after his first sermon and drove tax collectors and traders from the temple single handedly…
Our Churches and our world desperately need to encounter afresh Jesus from the Gospels rather than this weird distort of him which often exists within the mind of our society.
But before we end up going crazy and tell everyone to eat raw steaks and growl at everyone, it is worth re-claming that beautiful and nurturing side of this image (and just think how massively counter cultural this was for a rabbi to align himself with feminine imagery!).
Jesus was the very embodiment of compassion, showing  humility in washing feet and being crucified, definitely offering no defense when questioned… showing emotion when crying over the city of Jerusalem…
You see I think as guys we need to reclaim compassion, kindness, gentleness as not signs of weakness but signs of simply being human, just as bravery and courage aren’t male traits but again traits of being human).
Perhaps we should nail our views of gender roles to the cross of Christ and let our understanding of what it means to be human to be found in Christ and not in social expectations and history…
What shapes our identity? So much of it is a culture which doesn’t really understand itself, let us be shaped not by other peoples expectations or silly inherited stereotypes but in being like the only human being ever to have a handle on humanity, Christ himself.
So let us not let the world squeeze us into its mold, but throw of all that hinders and entangles so that we might run the race set before us… being Alien Ambassadors, that leave the world scratching their heads at our strange existence, but in living this different way others may see Christ in us.