WHY WOMEN WERE THE FIRST EVANGELISTS OF THE GOSPEL!

Recently helped coordinate a women’s training program in order to equip women with various skills needed to run a family. This followed the one the same team did for men and I found a vast difference in the way both these took off. It was interesting to study and note the different gender workings!

The men’s program registration picked up very slowly and not until the last few days, in spite of advertising it 3 weeks in advance. The number of men who attended were only the half the number registered, with some of these too dropping out midway the training. Only about 40% of those who registered completed the course fully and most of these were part of one church!

The women’s program, on the other hand, showed the opposite trend. Learning from the experience with the men’s program, the core team of women began praying together once a week, a month before the program. Planning and relevant issues were included as part of this prayer agenda the following week. The next week the core team of women, apart from praying, took total ownership of the event and began reaching out to churches and people they knew. Intensive and intense canvassing begun, with each one inviting their relatives, friends, aquaintances and church members to register for the training. Taking time to explain the nuances of the program, viz. the what, when, why of it, they urged and motivated the women to attend.

A week before the program the registered participants were put into WhatsApp groups and the team began to keep in touch through short messages. Prayer points as well as practical tips of how to arrange their schedules, prepare food etc in advance so that they could attend the meetings, were shared, helping to keep the women alert and in touch with the program. It served to trigger curiosity and maintain interest in the event, besides creating an anticipation of the event.

The women’s program netted more participants than the men’s and had more than 70% participation till the end.

In John 4 we see that the first real evangelist was a woman, the one at the Samaritan well whom Jesus met. She went back to her village and told everyone that Jesus knew all about her and all that she had done. She made such propaganda, not feeling the least afraid to expose her own sinful nature and His acceptance of it, that they went back with her to meet Him and believed in His Word.

The last ones at the tomb, when it was closed sealing the burial of Jesus and the first ones when it was opened at His resurrection, were women. It was they who carried the good news to the apostles who then verified it. Women were indeed the first evangelists of the gospel of His resurrection from the dead!

Comparing and combining my practical experience with the Biblical precedents, I had a glimpse of why Jesus chose women to be the first evangelists of His good news!

1. Women are eager learners and thirsty for growth, especially if you give them space and attention. The best way to teach a woman is to give her some consideration, respect and acknowledgement. She will then be open to correction and rectification without rebellion or resistance.

2. Women are relationship-oriented, being connectors and builders of people. Their ability to be empathetic and sympathetic listeners enables them to quickly build a bond with others, intuitively sensing their need.

3. Women are good communicators and are never hampered by a lack of vocabulary, both the educated and uneducated. The 21,000 words a woman is supposed to have in contrast to a man’s 7,000 helps her voice out her thoughts, emotions and opinions. Women may need triggers to talk in order to overcome their natural reticence, but most women will just articulate and blurt out with a little motivation.

4. Women are doers and Bible designates them as the builders of the home. Nowhere in the Word of God does it say that a man builds a home, but does insist the role of a woman. A man governs the home that the woman builds, guarding, provisioning and administering it, but it is the woman who is mooted as its architect and builder.

5. Women are willing to go the extra mile to connect, communicate and care for others. They reach out to those around her and will generally have or be part of a group of people. She will have at least 2 or 3 cronies and friends with whom she will talk at least once a day. She cannot just be without reaching out to others.

Knowing all of this, Jesus not only brought emancipation to women, but also used them extensively in His ministry.

Understanding this, the Apostles and leaders of the early church tapped into their potential, giving them free rein even though they laid down principles for their spheres of action. These principles were not meant to confine women (as it is thought and practiced today), but rather provide walls of protection for them to be guarded from the enemy and guided in the right way. Lacking this was what caused her to be exposed to manipulation and exploitation in the Garden of Eden.

Jeff Reed of the BILD network USA, in his paper entitled ‘Women and the spontaneous expansion of the gospel’, declares and authenticates that women were key to the growth of the early church.

60% of any church anywhere in the world are women and any church leader or pastor who recognizes this would be smart to tap into this greatest resource that God has given and blessed his church with.

Myles Munroe points out that the greatest need of a woman is a man who knows his mind and has a blueprint for his life and his family. Created as his helper, he opines that a woman comes equipped with all the skills needed for him to be an achiever. Therefore, if she is blocked or left clueless, she cannot remain quiet but will begin to flow in other channels that will give her field to operate, since she is meant to perform!

Most men reject and sideline women with the accusation that they are incorrigible. They do this because they have no idea or clue about the design of a woman nor do they take the time to learn about her. This ignorance tends to birth insecurity and fear, because of which they think and assume that the only way to handle a woman is to bully, threaten, control or restrict her to a narrow area of operation. This forces the women under such treatment to experience frustration and dejection, resulting in depression and disillusion or aggression and decadence.

This is not to say that there haven’t been any men who have upheld and promoted potential of women. In the history of the world and the church, time and again, there have been men who have understood the value of women partnerships and welcomed the input women gave. Nations have been blessed by the governance of women leaders, voted in and supported by strong and secure men. Corporate companies have grown and expanded by the leadership of women whose authority has been upheld by male colleagues and subordinates. Churches and organizations have been established by the ministry of women with the able support of their men and others in leadership.

However, these have been more of a minority rather than the typical, a very small and countable number in contrast to the vast majority. Acceptance of women potential is yet to become the persuasion and conviction of the masculine gender. It hasn’t progressed to become the default disposition of the male component and counterpart of society or churches as a whole. It is more of a rarity rather than the norm, even though of late there have been pereceivable changes in the general outlook of the male social perception.

Let’s remember that when God didn’t find a man, He always found a woman to birth His will and fulfil His purpose – Deborah, Hannah, Esther, Lydia, etc. Remember also that Jesus has depicted the church as His bride, not as just His Body!

Happy is the man, husband, father, leader, son, grandson who would recognise and accept a woman’s potential, step up to give time and effort to develop as well give room for women to blossom and self-actualize!

Blessed are you if you such a man, for your woman will be a fruitful vine within your house, gladdening your heart and refreshing your soul with the wine of joy distilled from the essence of who she is and what she has become!

Jesus, her Maker, upheld her potential and acumen, giving room for her to flower.

Can you do any less!

To gain more insight, please read: https://sabinatagoreimmanuel.com/2019/08/16/woman-warrior-or-worrier/

*Pics courtesy unsplash.com and Google images

SYMBIOSIS AND COVID

Symbiosis involves interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association. It denotes a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups or species.

Symbiotic relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together. There are three basic types of symbiosis: mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism.

Mutualism is a symbiotic relationship in which both species benefit. Bees and flowers have a mutualistic relationship as well. Bees get the nectar they need to make honey by traveling between flowers. The bee brings pollen from one plant to another, resulting in pollination.

Commensalism is a symbiotic relationship in which one species benefits while the other species is not affected. One species typically uses the other for a purpose other than food. Tree frogs using plants for protection, golden jackals, once they have been expelled from a pack, trailing a tiger to feed on the remains of its kills, goby fish living on other sea animals, changing color to blend in with the host, thus gaining protection from predators, are all examples of commensalism

Parasitism is a symbiotic relationship in which one species (the parasite) benefits while the other species (the host) is harmed. There are many types of parasitic fungi that will attack various plants, fruits, vegetables, and even animals.

In the Bible, we see precedents for all these three types of symbiotic relationships existing, especially in the church.

In Acts 4:32 we witness mutualism when we read that All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Israel was instructed by the laws of God to care for the widow and the orphan, the poor and the needy as well as for the foreigner and alien who.lived among them. The Church also lived by this principle, a clear demonstration of commensalism.

Apostles Paul, Peter and Jude warn of parasitical people in the church who are blots and blemishes in their feasts, people who use and misuse the goodness of others in the Body of Christ for their own needs. In the Old Testament too, God warns the shepherds through the prophet Ezekiel for not searching for His flock but caring for themselves rather than for His flock and living off the flock (Eze 34).

I believe the best illustration of symbiosis occurs in II Cor 8 & 9 when the Apostle Paul commends the Macedonian churches for their generosity towards other churches in need and recommends that the Corinthian/Achaian churches follow suit. He points out the cycle of mutual benefit that results from such caring and sharing when he writes This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
(II Cor 9:12‭-‬15).

In these days of Covid, churches can follow this principle and demonstrate community concern and consciousness to a watching world through the acts of positive symbiosis. Not just commensalism symbolized in caring for those adversely affected, but also in partnerships of beneficial mutualism.

An example of such a relationship would be for larger churches with extensive technological resources to help the smaller ones, who lack such amenities, use their facilities to record and propagate their online services. The prayers of the latter will surely bless the efforts of the former and God’s love will be exhibited in a very practical way in a greedy and selfish society, making hearts sensitive to receive the gospel!

Churches do reach out to those in the community being hurt by the pandemic, such as migrant workers or those who have lost their income. However, church communities haven’t yet begun helping one another enough to warrant a community impact that will open doors and hearts for the gospel. Unless a community cooperation and coexistence is perceived, people around will never understand Christ’s love for the lost.

A city church adopting a struggling village church, serving it in times of need will go a long way in showing solidarity between members of the same family of God to those around. Just as the conduct of individuals and families is to adorn the gospel, the attitude and deportment of churches towards their needy brother/sister churches would provide context for the content of the gospel.

Not just churches, but Christian businesses and businessmen/women can also adopt and emulate the Biblical model of mutuality or commensality. This is not the time to behave like vultures to swallow up others because of the opportunity for acquisition, but rather exhibit charity in every way.

God’s way is for the mountain to be used to fill the valley so that a highway be made for all. He had this in mind when He told His people to care for the poor: Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land. Deut 15:10‭-‬11

Symbiotic relationships are showcased in nature to clue in us to God’s plan for mankind, as individuals and communities.

Let’s not be cunning as jackals or ravenous as wolves, but pure as doves and innocent as lambs, especially in this pandemic crisis!

*Pics courtesy unsplash.com and google images

SALVAGING OR DISPOSING, WHICH WILL IT BE?

An unbearable tooth pain followed by a dental consultation showed a root canal infection needing immediate attention. As the doctor dealt with it, quite severely in fact because of the extent of infection, I distracted myself by thinking of the process of saving and salvaging, the opposite of disposing and destroying!

Salvaging is a term related to ships and seas, with marine salvage being the process of recovering a ship and its cargo after a shipwreck or other maritime casualty. Salvage may encompass towing, re-floating a vessel, or effecting repairs to a ship. The first known salvage was in 219 BC, the Chinese Emperor Qin Shihuang (r. 221–210 BC) assembled an expedition consisting of a thousand people for the salvage of the Nine Tripod Cauldrons. The tripods were considered important artifacts, Chinese legends credit a Xia dynasty emperor with their construction. The tripods were lost in Sishui River in present-day Anhui Province. The salvage attempt was ultimately unsuccessful.

As a life coach, my goal is to help people adjust and adapt to the different circumstances that come their way, especially the stressful and difficult ones. I spend hours talking with them, keeping abreast of the my clients situations, since I am often their last or only resort and rescue, especially for those stuck in a pit of depression. Just being there for them, helping them to download and de-stress, creates a space in their mind and emotions, enabling them to have the time, will and effort to recover themselves. Most often dramatic or drastic actions that are detrimental to life are the result of a temporary blinding of eyes, a sudden surge of despair, a momentary lapse of equanimity, a spur-of-the-moment impulse and an unthinking jump off the ledge. Being aware that some cares enough to listen, someone to give some time is sufficient impetus for people to recover and reconcile, both with others and with their unchangeable circumstances.

With the passage of years, I see a downward trend, an increase in and a multiplication in the number of people succumbing to instability of mind and emotions. Of late, there seems to be a proliferation of negativity, a lack of mental stamina, a loss of emotional control and a tendency to give up too easily and too readily. The impulse to throw in the towel, throw up the arms in futility, the sinking into the darkness of depression is affecting almost all and across the spectrum of age and gender. Of these, the more vulnerable section seems to be the young, specifically children and teens for whom suicide has become the most extensive and popular outlet. It appears to be an easy way to blow off steam, with the added bonus of having taken revenge on those who love you but who unwittingly drove you to it. Or so they think!

The root cause of this seems to be an inclination towards I-need-it-all-now attitude, an urge towards I-want-to-experience-it-all-now outlook and a penchant for I-must-have-it-all-now demand. A denial, then, leads to a sullen sulkiness, a moody weariness and a damaging insecurity. There is a dearth of understanding and accepting that life doesn’t promise or guarantee many of the things you deem necessary or demand it as necessary.

The basic ingredients of nature, of existence and of the universe are entropy, probability and randomness. It is what make life so exciting and adventurous, that it is so unpredictable, ever changing and ever evolving! What then is the reason for such low adjustment factor and adaptability quotient that triggers defeat, especially in the young whose very youth gives them the handle and capacity to bounce back easily!

The trigger for such defeatist mentality lies in the socio-cultural impact of a society that is tuned to easy disposal. It is the effect and outcome of living in a world wherein disposal is mooted over salvaging. Gone are the days when everything was built with the intention of durability, reliability and longevity.

Today’s world is all about constant and continuous change, a fluidity that belies stability and sustainability. This has created and birthed an environment that promotes an unhealthy appetite for constant upgrade, an avaricious longing for continuous newness and an unsatiated thirst for competitive consumerism. There is a singular lack of sticking it out, trying to make the best of it, seeking to work it out and fighting the good fight of life, whatever be cause or cost.

Nowhere is the impact of this felt more than in the basic structure of society, its foundation and fabric viz., marriage and family. A lifestyle geared up to easy disposal and a mentality tuned to instant use-and-throw has not helped foster marital and familial relationships. It has, on the other hand, eroded the stamina needed to cultivate long term relationships. It has made people weak and weary, devoid of the strength needed to build and maintain all types of relationships. We have become scaredy cats, shying away from bonding, often opting for short term connections that grant instant gratification. We have forgotten the recurring returns and lasting rewards that come from investing for and in the future.

We have become passive and content to live in the moment and for the moment. We have forgotten that we are not animals made for instant gratification by instinct, but are eternal beings made in the image of God, created to be bolstered by mutual kinship. We have created a society that’s filled with divorce and heartbreak, a structure lacking the scaffolding of nurture and care, a place where the young and weak are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. What in the world have we become!

I was born into a family where salvaging bikes and cars was a pasttime, hobby and creative outlet. Men in the family would choose to buy second-hand vehicles and restore them, before disposing them for a profit. What joy and pride I would see in their face when their task was dine. It was obvious that the price they paid was small in comparison to this sense of accomplishment!

I saw the same thing in my dentist who went the extra mile to salvage what remained of my tooth. It would have been easy for him to just pull it out, cleanse the area and go his way. Yet he chose to spend hours bent over my teeth, digging out the infection with a ruthlessness that was quiet daunting. It comforted me to note that he would not rest until I was totally free of any infection. He restored my faith in the medical profession and its practitioners.

How like the Lord, I thought to myself, who He came ‘not to condemn but to save’! How precious to know that He rejects no one, but seeks to rescue the lost! How soothing it is to know that He is all about saving and salvation, and not about disposing!

*Photos courtesy of unsplash.com and shutterstock.com