What is the Place of Women in World Missions?

by R. Nyman

“What is the place of women in world missions? Jesus said, ‘You [and the word means all of you, male and female] are my witnesses. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.’ And there have been countless thousands who, without reference to where they came from or what they knew or who they were, have believed that Jesus meant exactly what he said and have set themselves to follow. —Elisabeth Elliot

One joy of my life is coaching and mentoring women for effective engagement in launching movements to Christ. Yet often, I discover missed opportunities surrounding the role of women.

Sometimes I hear: “I felt called to the field. I came with a passion to labor alongside my husband. I don’t want to take over. I just want to be involved! Yet my organization only makes CPM training and coaching available to men. Now that we have children, I get the subtle message that my only job is supporting my husband and caring for our kids.”

Single women have shared: Men leave us out of strategy discussions. We don’t have a lot in common with women on the team who have husbands and children, and when we talk about ministry, some moms seem jealous that we have “time” for ministry.

I see this repeatedly: Husbands and wives come to the field to make an impact, yet when the wife doesn’t feel she is contributing, this may become a reason the couple goes home.

And the problem goes deeper. A local colleague told me, “Please tell Western women not to come if they aren’t going to make reproducing disciples. When they don’t, they model disobedience to the Great Commission!”

In many cultures, men can’t interact with women. Often, especially among Muslim UPGs, women are gatekeepers for their households. Who, if not women, will seek out Women of Peace to open their oikos to the gospel? And as new movements emerge, who will equip first-generation women leaders?

Regarding equipping missionary women, I sometimes hear mission leaders say, “We don’t want to burden women or make them feel guilty.” Is the best solution to not equip them for multiplication? Isn’t it better to help women follow Jesus in ministry appropriate to their season of life and prepare them to help launch a [movement]?

Will the global mission community make stewardship of missionary women a priority? Will we equip missionary women with competence and confidence to be and do all He calls us to be, especially as catalysts in launching CPMs?

How can the Body of Christ best steward missionary women? How can we support, inspire and equip them to thrive and bear multiplying fruit in all stages of life?

Why Focus on CPM?
Kent Parks, President of Act Beyond, notes that today there are twice as many people with no access to the gospel as there were in 1980. In 1980 there were “only” one billion unevangelized. Today that figure has risen to 2.1 billion!

This unjust trend requires that we do something differently.

And we can! Since the days of Jesus and Paul, the Church has repeatedly grown faster than population growth through movements – with women playing a key role. The 1900s offer extraordinary instances of movements in China and Korea fueled by women missionaries. 

Women as DMM Practitioners
All of us (men and women) are to delight in and declare God’s glory, developing intimacy with God. Out of the overflow of this intimacy, we are to “be” and “do” in Christ and seek to reproduce Jesus in others. For all who follow Jesus, reproducing disciples is a privilege as well as a command.

Essential CPM elements include: extraordinary prayer, searching out persons of peace, discipling groups of new believers, and equipping leaders. We need missionary women as well as men for these tasks.

Being a wife and mother is one of my greatest joys and privileges. In highlighting points of engagement for women in CPMs, I don’t at all mean to suggest that women short-change their God-given roles as wives and mothers. For me, life is integrated: more like a woven tapestry than distinct compartments.

Regardless of their stage of life, the vast majority of female missionaries with whom I have interacted passionately want to have eternal impact. May this article [first published in Mission ] help them do so.

This article was first published in Mission Frontiers, it was edited with permission.

Women and Vision Casting

by Erika Parks

If you really wanted to do something better, and could study under the world’s leading expert, would you?

In the past few years, workers tired of seeing few results in hard places desperately went back to learn from Jesus. Through His Bible and His Spirit, they learned biblical “secrets” for how He cast vision and gave strategies for not just making a few disciples, but for launching Disciple-Making Movements in order to make disciples of all nations (ethné ). Are you desperate enough to see all peoples reached that you would change major parts of what you do, in order to reach that goal? If so, consider how Jesus cast vision.

First, Jesus modeled how to be a disciple that the Father could use. Some examples: He modeled prayer. He broke “religious” people’s expectations for the sake of reaching people. He modeled going to households rather than inviting people to synagogues. He modeled how to live the “love and obey” (shema) lifestyle[1] of Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Laura traveled over 10,000 miles to prayer walk among her focus unreached people group (UPG). Susi was a new believer from that UPG. Laura invited Susi to join her. Susi learned about prayer walking and spiritual warfare. Amazed, Susi said, “I have never walked and prayed for my people. But I will from now on!” Since then, Susi has launched many reproducing disciples and an amazing prayer movement. Laura modeled, and Susi learned and passed it on.

Second, Jesus showed how to completely follow the Father’s heart and end-vision for all ethné  He equipped his ordinary disciples to focus on His strategy. His process produced obedient disciples who immediately became the harvest force. As He left, He told them to follow His model among all nations by teaching people “to obey everything I’ve taught you.”

Grace, an Asian artist from a UPG, became a true believer in Jesus. She soon met Lynn, recently trained in Jesus’ discipling plan. The Spirit led Grace and Lynn to hold an art exhibit designed to foster spiritual discussions. They cast vision—and believers shared invitations to the exhibit and chatted and/or prayed with attendees. The spiritually interested were visited and invited to study about God with their family or friends. Today, people in this UPG are studying His word in new Discovery Groups. Vision casting multiplied the number of workers who seek People of Peace.

Third, Jesus modeled being an outside catalyzer (spark) who starts disciple-reproducing fires through simple ways that do not depend on the outsider. These new disciple-makers depend solely on the Spirit and His Word.

Donna was invited for further training after learning these discipling paradigm shifts. She knew it was more important that her three local partners catch this vision. Donna prayed, and God provided the funding for them to be trained together. These four made needed ministry changes to follow these biblical strategies. Donna didn’t know that God had plans for her and her new husband in other places. But the DNA for reproducing disciples continues in that local team and the reproducing disciples they are training, thanks to Donna and her vision for them.

Do we women see ourselves as disciple trainers or vision casters? Busyness and the challenge of living among the unreached might make us think we can only reach and disciple a few women. But that’s not what He asked of us.

Trainings are often primarily for men. Recently, a trainer working in a culture where women are not highly valued invited women to join the training. The next day, many came. At the end, the trainers emphasized “Now, you women must go and make disciples, too! Go and obey what you have been taught! Pass it to others!” And they did! They rejoiced that women are highly valued in God’s plan. They have discipled multiple households into becoming reproducing disciples.

Women can pass on this Great Commission DNA. We can teach those we disciple to be obedient, loving, and reproducing disciples. God wants spiritual generations from these disciples, in the same way that He wants that from us.

Thus, we joyfully invite them to raise their own spiritual children and grandchildren into generations. God has called women to be Spirit-powered disciplers, harvesters and vision casters. He is an end-vision Father; Jesus is the vision-casting Savior, and the Holy Spirit enables workers to complete His vision. Faithful is the One who called us — both male and female — and He will do it! (1 Thess. 5:24)

[1] Shema Lifestyle—Intentional statements and actions that give a glimpse of the reality of who God is and how He desires to draw us to Him. Around the world, the top way DMMers find those interested in God is by serving them (with healing prayer, kind deeds and community service) while consistently pointing to God in culturally appropriate ways.

This article was first published in Mission Frontiers, it was edited with permission.