A note from Chris Adams: As leaders, we have such a privilege and responsibility to influence those God brings into our lives. Often, we don’t even know how we are touching the lives of those around us. But our lives, lived honestly and transparently before other women, speak as loud as any other message we share. Read this poignant article by Linda Lesniewski, Women’s Minister at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas.
My husband and I just celebrated our 43rd anniversary. Only weeks before, I’d noticed the dusty basket on my closet shelf that contained the love letters exchanged during our two year “long-distance” courtship. I had a cold on our anniversary, so instead of going out to dinner, we decided to sift through our old letters instead. I retrieved the treasure trove, sneezed, wiped off the years of dust, and sorted the letters into “his” and “her” stacks. What a delightful time of laughter and memories we shared. In one particular letter, Gary read a quote that had impacted him as a young believer. “The most important thing you bring to leadership is your life.” We paused to think about that and agreed on its simple, yet profound principle. It was true. As a leader of women, I lead because I have life—both physical and spiritual.
The women we lead are also living individual and unique lives that God has entrusted to them. Ministry happens when their lives intersect with ours. Many of the stories in Scripture we treasure about Jesus reflect individual encounters He had with people who were just living out their lives. This principle is particularly apparent in the greeting of Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. In Acts 16, we see that three of those church members in Philippi had shared specific and unusual life experiences with Paul: Lydia, a Roman jailer, and a slave girl (quite possibly a trafficked woman) who made a living for her owner by predicting the future.
Paul dined with Lydia in her home and returned to its refuge when released from a beating and a stint in prison. Paul’s jailer had not only washed and treated Paul’s wounds but also served him a meal in his home. Paul’s encounter with the enslaved woman occurred after days of frustration as she continually interrupted his teaching. Paul spoke, “‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out right away” (Acts 16:18).
It’s no surprise to discover gentleness in the greeting of his letter to the Philippians: “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer…It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart….For God is my witness, how deeply I miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:3,7a,8). Paul knew and loved this church in Philippi because his life and their lives had intersected and God had been glorified. That’s what the day-to-day aspect of leadership and ministry looks like—just living our lives as they intersect with others’ lives. And, within that mixture of birth and death, celebrations and sorrows, sickness and health, God is glorified and the Kingdom is built up. We are also able to say with Paul to those we lead that we are “always praying with joy for all of you in [our] every prayer” (Phil. 1:4).
So, live on and lead on, sweet sisters, as long as the Lord gives you breath and “while it is still called today”! (Heb. 3:13.)
Linda Lesniewski is the Women’s Minister at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas and the mother of four young adults and grandmother of six little girls. She is a contributor to the book Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level published by LifeWay. She has authored A Little Book About Knowing A Big God for children, Women at the Cross, published by Revell, and Connecting Women: A Relational Guide for Leaders in Women’s Ministry, published by Baker Books.