God Needs More Women Leaders
Influential and inspirational women have always played a significant role in the moving forward of family, culture, business and society. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, in 2017, women owned more than 11.6 million businesses in the U.S., which generated $1.7 trillion in sales. Not only are woman thriving in business, they are also pursuing higher education in increasing numbers.
In 2019, an impressive 36.6 percent of women in the U.S. had completed four years or more of college, according to Statistica. This is up from the 3.8 percent of women who earned a college degree in 1940. Women have undoubtedly become more educated and have taken on more principal roles in politics. With the appointment of Kamala Harris as vice president of the United States, more women, including women of color, will hopefully win more leadership positions in all aspects of our society.
Historically, women have had to overcome significant obstacles to have a seat at the table in our maledominated society. Both racial and gender discrimination have weakened women’s chances for achieving success not only in the business world but also in our faith communities.
Women played significant roles in Jesus’ ministry and contributed greatly to his success. Frankly, we must acknowledge the perseverance, presence and influence of godly, Christ-centered women.
In Acts 16, as the apostle Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, makes his way through Macedonia, having been prevented from going to Asia, he enters a Roman colony known as Philippi. On the Sabbath, he went outside of the city gate to the river to spend time in prayer. Upon arriving, he sat down and spoke to several Godfearing women. One Gentile woman that he encountered was Lydia, from Thyatira. According to Acts 16:14, she was a prosperous entrepreneur who sold purple cloth. Lydia’s business relied on the purple dye sourced from Thyatira and procured from shellfish. She was incredibly smart, resourceful, resilient and industrious. It was rare to find a woman engaged in this type of lucrative business, particularly in that aristocratic cultural setting; however, in God’s providence, Lydia became a trailblazer.
Yet, what made her significant wasn’t her entrepreneurial prowess, but her heart for God. She was a God-fearing woman. To be God-fearing meant that she had a respect for God. She demonstrated her respect by reading the Old Testament and revering God. Upon her encounter with Paul, she wasn’t yet a Christfollower. Instead, she was a religious and dignified woman.
When Lydia heard the apostle Paul sharing the truth about Jesus Christ and what he had done on the cross to redeem sinners, she was eager and receptive. Lydia listened to every word that Paul said about Jesus Christ. She wasn’t too successful to listen and learn. The more Paul shared, the more her ears perked up. Posturing herself to hear truth, God opened up her heart and she became a believer in Jesus Christ. Lydia was not only open to listening to Paul, she was also open to hearing from and surrendering to God.
Successful women trailblaze to make an impact, but godly women who love Jesus Christ change the world for his glory. After Lydia became a believer, she was baptized to demonstrate to those around her that she had placed her faith in Jesus Christ. She became a growing believer. As an entrepreneur, she knew how to start businesses. Now as a Christian, God used her to help the apostle Paul start a church.
The Philippian church was founded based on the newfound faith of Lydia — its first convert. Although it was rare in the Roman culture for a woman to be wealthy and own a business, God knew who to use to advance the gospel in that area. Additionally, although God told Paul not to go to Asia to evangelize that region, God knew that a woman from Asia (Thyatira) was poised and positioned to become a catalytic leader for helping to found and establish this prominent church.
Lydia was a resilient woman who faithfully stewarded the resources and influence that God gave to her. She changed all of Asia with her entrepreneurial zeal and expertise; however, her greatest impact grew when she surrendered to the love of Christ and his plan of redemption for her life. Lydia is known throughout Scripture not for her business sense, but for her Christian conversion and her gracious hospitality that availed many to the good news of Jesus Christ.
What resources has God put in your hands? Where has he placed and positioned you to steward your gifts? Consider the posture of Lydia and surrender your life and business to God’s will to bring glory to him. May we continue to trailblaze not for our recognition but for his honor.
The Rev. Dwayne Bond is the lead pastor of Wellspring Church.
Pride Magazine – 2021 March/April “Women’s” Issue