Growing up as an atheist, the last thought on mind was preaching the Gospel in a church in my 30s. It just wasn’t something that I ever thought I’d see myself doing. Even when I was in my mid-20s, now a Christian, attending seminary, it was still a thought that didn’t come to my mind. People would ask, “Oh, so you’re going to be a pastor now?” or “So, you’re like going to teach people about Jesus in a church, right?” And every time I would shy away and say, “God told me to go to seminary, but I don’t think it’s for that reason.” Why did I say that? Because public speaking is not something I like to do and I had also been trained to think that woman couldn’t teach from the pulpit.
Yet, I absolutely adore teaching. I love sharing with people what God has taught me. I love the collaboration between the Holy Spirit, myself, and the people in the room. Each time something gets revealed or understood for the first time or someone recalls a truth they used to know, it’s like everything in me wants to explode with joy. Each time someone’s life is transformed whether it’s at the end of our talk or I hear about it later, it’s prayers answered! And as a teacher, I get to experience these things first: I learn new things, I am reminded of truth, and I am transformed. It starts with me and sometimes it’s painful, but its always good.
So, how did I get here? How did a former atheist preach the Gospel to a church?
It Started with Chicago
So, when God called me to Chicago I had no idea what He was going to do. He said go to Chicago to help plant a church in Logan Square with Real Church. Okay! Whatever you say God because I follow you. My heart’s desire is to just be with Him, doing ministry with Him, wherever He says to go. And these past six years have been a growing, transforming, sanctifying process. And maybe one day I’ll write a book, but for now this personal blog will suffice. And really, the story isn’t over; in fact, God has started me on a new chapter.
I Blame Scotland
This next chapter is learning what it means to preach and answering the call to preach. It’s doing a thing I would have never dreamt of, well not until six months ago. Not until Scotland.
When I was in Scotland on retreat, God revealed to me many things. One of which is teaching. And as the months have progressed, He has been revealing more and more to me that I am called to teach — not just classes (though they are my favorite, so I hope I can still do them) — but really, to preach the Word.
I Can’t Preach, I’m A Woman
Some background. I started out as a Christian at a Southern Baptist church and then went to a conservative evangelical seminary, so the idea of a female preaching was nonexistent. Women taught over women and children and that’s it.
So, it’s no surprise that there’s been conflict in my heart. Let me try to unpack this conflict because I think it’s important to explain. First off, if you follow the enneagram, I am a 9w1, so I am all about peace, maintaining the status quo, and I really want truth to reign in my life and I value rules and traditions. So take that foundation and sit with me in this tension.
I’m in a culture that tells me I can’t preach because of tradition or interpretations of Scripture, and yet I also value doctrine and Scripture above most things in this world and I want to follow what God says to do. And then, I have God who is telling me that He has made me to do the very thing that others say is wrong or at least makes them feel uncomfortable. I have a church leadership team that is being obedient to God and offering me a chance to do the very thing God created me to do. I am dealing with my own insecurities because it’s much easier to sit in a crowd and listen than to be on stage and bare my heart to the masses.
There was tension. And I kept going back to God, “Is this really what you want for me? Am I hearing you correctly? Can you show me in Scripture where it says I can do this? Can you confirm it through others? Help me to follow you, Lord. I don’t want to make this about me. I don’t want to dishonor you. Lord, are you really saying this?”
It was a mixture of needing confirmation but also maybe trying to find a loophole to get out of it because as I said, it’s uncomfortable.
In the end, I had to focus on God’s Will. Not others. Not what others would think about me. What I feared. No, I simply needed to pay attention to what God was inviting me to do.
Which Road Will You Take?
This road I have been going (if we want to do another analogy) has taken me to this spot. I really do believe Scotland was one of those crossroads. God was asking me, “Will you follow me down this road? You can go on the other path and I will be there with you too… but you can walk this path. It will not be easy. At times, you will be afraid. It’s going to cause a lot of tension. You won’t be able to follow the status quo [and as someone who is a 9 on the enneagram that is terrifying], but you will be more alive than you ever thought possible. You will have more joy than you ever thought possible. You will know ME more than you ever thought possible.”
Obviously, I chose Him. I chose a deeper intimacy with God. I chose this crazy path of obedience because I honestly could not have chosen the other path, it’s not me. It’s not what I was made for. Why live this life not fully being the woman God created me to be?
As God said, this road is not going to be an easy one. I know I will receive pushback. I know as I continue to grow in these gifts, I am going to have to die more to myself. There’s going to be a lot more pruning. A lot more faith. There’s going to be a lot more external forces that will either push or pull me to take the other road.
And yet, and yet, I can’t go back to the woman I used to be. I am not that atheist, I am not even that seminary student anymore… I have been changed by Chicago. I have been changed by Scotland. I have been changed by God.