Some kids know what it’s like to have dad’s and mom’s who are doctors and lawyers. School teachers and salesmen. Corporate gurus and financial advisers. Each job brings with it a different lens by which a child comes to see the world around them.
I have only known a mom and dad in ministry.
I have only known church work my ENTIRE life. My parents are both ordained ministers, and growing up, my mom was my youth pastor. Now, she and my dad co-pastor a church and my dad is a Colonel in the military in charge of Chaplains. I married a guy who’s dad has served at the same church for over 30 years. Thirty years of employment by the same church is a rare feat. My mother-in-law has taught women’s Bible study for just as long. My brother-in-law is a pastor. And his dad is a pastor. One sister is a pastor’s wife. And the other sister, who is currently a stay-at-home-momma, graduated from seminary with a 4.0. Yep, she is one of those annoyingly smart, gifted people.
And me? I have spent the past twelve years traveling to churches all over the world singing, speaking and leading people into worship. Shows for 10 people and 10,000 people. Denominations of every shape and size. Churches of every shape and size. Theology of every shape and size. People as diverse as freckles and stars and falling leaves off Autumn trees.
With all the church-y-ness in my blood line, I feel like a sociologist. A church expert of sorts. And at the end of the day, I have two overwhelming thoughts about the Church universal.
1. We are beautiful and capable of much.
2. We are divided and unable to experience our fullest potential.
That’s it. It’s not rocket science. Certainly not the types of conclusions that experts come up with. Just a simple belief that the universal church matters. We are, at our core, the meeting and gathering place for Christ followers. What spills out of the walls of our churches has the power to change the world, one broken person at a time. We are beautiful because we are called into communion with one another by Christ himself. And for nearly thirteen years I have traveled into small communities and cities all over the country and sat inside hundreds of churches and smiled deeply at the love and beauty present within their walls. Local churches and the Universal church are bloodlines of grace and mercy; bearers of the Holy Spirit; keepers of the story of Abraham and Isaac and Jesus. We are powerful beyond measure when we walk in step with the Holy Spirit and one another.
And yet, we are divided. So divided. We are divided, in part, by our own short-sightedness and lack of grace. Our theologies, our use of money, our legalism, our musical preferences, speaking preferences, all of our freaking preferences, keep us at odds with one another. And the world laughs and mocks us. Not because of our faith, but because of our lack thereof. We are also divided, in part, by historical modes of socialization. Our churches are still segregated. This is no secret; but we should count it a great shame. We are segregated by color, yes. But also by social status, age, and money. There are rich people churches and poor people churches. Of course, we would never say this out loud. But count how many low-income people on food-stamps pull into a parking lot of Escalade’s, Audi’s and pretty people, with their barely working cars. And vice versa. Lastly, we are divided by naturally occurring circumstances. Our geography. Our first language. Our ability to meet and gather. So, the church is divided. This is neither new information or specific to our generation.
But what if the curse- the curse of division- could stop here?
And what if unity occurred and because of it, the church could shine more beautifully and be more about what is was actually created to be?
It is possible?
It seems silly really. That we could curb such a deep rift. Our divisions as people are so deep in America that we currently don’t have a working government! Seriously? We are on government shut down? Why? Because of deep divisions that could not be compromised on or resolved. Is unity for the sake of making Jesus’ name great even possible?
Could a group of people, who love God, but hold vastly different political, spiritual, theological, racial, financial and geographical differences actually come together for the sole purpose of gathering, equipping, and unleashing a generation to live out their God-given purposes?
More specifically, could the women in our generation create a safe place for ALL to come to the table- as Christ followers- in order to build up, nurture, wrestle, inspire and unleash women into their lives as beautiful forces of radical grace and mercy?
I think it’s possible. I think it is time. And I think we are ready.
We, as women in the church, have more means of breaking down walls than ever before in the history of the church. We are capable of unity. We are capable of authenticity. We are capable of being brave and changing the world- one person at a time. And we are ready. It is past time.
And I’m not sure how such a radical vision to unify women from mega churches and tiny churches and Greek Orthodox churches and Catholic churches and Baptist, Disciples, Methodists, Lutherans, Reformed churches all works. But I believe that it can work. In much the same way that movements of people throughout history have joined together and persuaded millions to fight for a basic principle of freedom or justice; I believe millions of female Christ followers can come together with a unified voice that boldly proclaims we are image bearers of Jesus Christ and we will use every ounce of our lives towards kingdom work that matters. Because it is time for God’s daughters to be free. And it is past time that we fight towards making much of Jesus instead of fighting amongst ourselves.
As I have grown up and worked in and among churches, I have often found myself dreaming of a day where we, the church, would see the bigger picture. Where one mega-church knew about the ministries that another mega-church were involved in. Women would gather in cities, from every church, joining together for prayer and coffee and “we’re in this together” moments. A gathering place where dreams are shared, ministries inspired, mom’s encouraged, business women equipped, and everyone in between getting a taste of what it means to be a part of a beautiful, diverse web of female believers from all over the world. That a unity would somehow be formed and created and shared; a unity that crossed denominations and county lines, state lines and theological lines, a unity that was inspired by a bigger picture. I have often longed for the day that the universal church would wake up and remember-
We are beautiful and capable of much.
I assumed this day would not come in my lifetime. Because it’s audacious and we are practical people known more for our deep rifts than our abiding desire for unity and kingdom work.
But I believe it is coming. And I think it starts here.
A weekend of prayer. A Gathering. A desire for new relationships. A safe place to wrestle. A bold call for unity in our time.
A place for all.
“We want God to tear down walls and bring people together through authentic humility and vulnerability. That is our heart, and we know that one or two physical gatherings is not the vehicle to accomplish that. It is going to take a diverse group of brave women bringing other women together to accomplish this. Pray with us that God will call out these leaders and build a restlessness in our generation for unity in our time.” -Jennie Allen, IF
What do you think- Is it possible? Join us and let’s find out together.
Make sure to sign up for the email list so we can- you know- be unified and all.