A note from Chris Adams: I think about this topic quite a bit. The longer you live and serve in women’s ministry, the more you wonder what you’re leaving behind for others so that they know Christ. Guest writer Stephanie Edge is the director of women’s ministry in Poplar Heights Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn., and a good friend of mine. Whether you are young in ministry or have served for years, this article will speak to you.
By Stephanie Edge
Have you ever heard this piece of advice, “Begin with the end in mind?” A quick Google search credits Stephen Covey with this principle in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey’s resource and title for Habit 2 seems an appropriate fit for a discussion on the leadership and legacy of women’s ministry leaders. I must say, when I hear this helpful tip, I find it relatively easy to apply to short term, tangible projects. However, I believe this principle also offers a harvest of fruit spanning the length of a ministry or even a lifetime.
If you are an emerging women’s leader, the thought of leaving a legacy likely has not crossed your mind. But, perhaps, Covey is right, leaders should begin with the end in mind. Take a moment to contemplate this question: What kind of legacy do you want to leave? For more seasoned leaders, you know that days of faithfully serving quickly turn into months and years, and the thought of a legacy, which was once a remote, fleeting idea begins to appear and maybe even linger on the horizon.
So, what is a legacy? “Your living legacy is the wisdom you have gained, the people you have influenced, and the convictions you model which inspire a subsequent generation,” says Jeff Iorg in Seasons of a Leader’s Life: Learning, Leading, and Leaving Your Legacy. His emphasis on wisdom and convictions is affirmed by 1 Timothy 4:16, “Pay close attention to your life and your teaching: persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Our lives and our teaching contribute to our legacy. So, let me ask you again: What kind of legacy are you leaving?
As women’s ministry leaders, we have the benefit of learning from the lives, examples, and legacies of other leaders. Recently, I had the opportunity to hear a family pastor’s last message to his beloved congregation. Pastor Tim Lamb was transitioning from the senior pastor of a local church to a state-level supervisory ministry position. He and his wife had labored alongside their local church for 20 years. The couple came to serve as a young family and church members had witnessed the birth of their children and now grandchildren. With that much history together, what would this pastor share? What kind of legacy was he leaving?
Acts 20:17-38 was the foundational Scripture for his final message to his congregation. The Apostle Paul shared these words with the Ephesian elders: “… he said to them: ‘You know, from the first day I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time—serving the Lord with all humility, with tears, and with the trials that came to me … and that I did not shrink back from proclaiming to you anything that was profitable … I testified to both Jews and Gentiles about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus … I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus …” (Acts 20:17-24).
Here are a few points I gathered from Pastor Lamb’s tenure and his final sermon.
1. Serve the Lord with All Humility.
As I sat among the record number of attendees listening to his farewell message, I heard Lamb use this phrase several times, “It’s not about me, it is about Him.” Lamb served with and evidenced humility. His new position is one of greater influence and is viewed by some as a promotion. However, Lamb humbly said he did not view the transition as such, but rather simply saw it as a new area of service. He served his congregation faithfully and humbly.
2. Do Not Shrink Back.
Paul did not shrink back from sharing what was profitable and from calling for repentance. (Acts 20:17-24) Similarly, Pastor Lamb preached the gospel message clearly and unapologetically. His wisdom and convictions were continually shared with the congregation over a span of 20 years as he expounded God’s Word.
3. Be Entirely Present.
I was overwhelmed by the recollection of the events and memories Pastor Lamb and his family had shared with the members of the local body. They had shared weddings, births, illnesses, and funerals with church members. Both celebrations and hardships, joys and trials, just as Paul had done. On a personal note, I remember his many cards, phone calls, and visits to my family’s home, his presence at the hospital for my dad’s surgery, his preaching my dad’s funeral, and his prayer at dad’s graveside service. I remember the comfort of his consistent presence when needed. I remember the shared life experiences.
As I reflect about Pastor Lamb’s tenure of 20 years, I cannot help but think of my own tenure of 15 years serving as a women’s ministry leader. I have shared births, graduations, weddings, illnesses, tragedies, and deaths with my church family. They have become a part of my extended family. My legacy will consist of the influence of my presence and shared memories, whether or not I have the courage to speak the truth with wisdom, and the convictions that I hold. May I walk with humility and be found worthy of the ministry to which I have been called. (Ephesians 4:1) And, may we leave strong legacies of faith to the next generation by keeping the end in mind.
Stephanie Edge is the director of women’s ministry at Poplar Heights Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn., and a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. Stephanie also completed a Masters of Theology and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Stephanie currently is an associate professor at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and an adjunct instructor of women’s ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a passion for God’s Word and ministering to women.