Women

A Bible Study

in Leadership

Our continuing challenge is to honor God’s intention that women and men work together as partners in fulfilling His will of bringing wholeness and healing to the world. This study is meant to help you do that. Each of the seven Bible studies consists of a Scripture reading, a short reflection, a testimony, and questions that can be used in discussion or for written reflection in a journal. The challenges of a lost, broken, and need-filled world cannot be met by one gender alone; it will take both women and men working side-by-side to fulfill our calling as servants of Jesus Christ.

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s t u dy ov erv iew

Beautiful Fruit
» Read
Jeremiah 29:11 and John 15:5

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» Reflect
The Lord knows the plans He has for every individual (Jeremiah 29:11). Scripture shows us time and time again that God chooses and appoints sometimes unlikely individuals—people that a biased and broken world may not see as the best option—and equips them for the task God has for them. John 15:16 says God appoints people to “go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” John 15:5 promises us that if we abide in Jesus, we too will bear fruit. Our sovereign God chooses leaders with different strengths and capabilities and helps them to nurture their gifts for service to the kingdom. God chose both men and women for leadership positions. Moses, Joshua, Deborah, and Esther are just a few of the well known ones. God has invested extraordinary potential in men and women. But in a fallen world, there are sometimes extraordinary obstacles to realizing these capabilities. What we are capable of and what the world encourages us to do may be two very different things. As we struggle to fulfill our God-given potential and help others reach theirs, we meet these obstacles head-on. Despite them, the potential always exists for extraordinary service to a God who has told us of His great plans. The making of a leader may seem slow and painful. There is probably no painless way to create a servant with a strong character.

» JouRnal oR discuss
» The Lord says: “For surely I know the plans I have for you…” Sometimes we may feel that God knows these plans, but the world doesn’t seem to have heard about them yet. What are some obstacles in your life and work as you strive to follow God? » Name some of the obstacles you have seen others overcome as they are built into a leader. » The verses from John 15:4-5 are some of the most beautiful in the Bible. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you… ”says Jesus. “I am the vine; you are the branches.” How do you abide in Jesus? How does being a branch attached to the Jesus vine impact your work—your fruit? » Women may face extra obstacles to fully engaging in the work to which they believe God is calling them, because of society’s expectations upon them. How can these potentially life-changing verses encourage and equip us to work with each other?

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I Will Follow
» Read
Ruth 1

» Reflect
When the Book of Ruth begins, no one would ever guess that this seemingly insignificant woman would end up in the genealogy of Jesus as great grandmother to King David. Hers is a story of obstacles overcome, of powerlessness turned into opportunity, and of personal loyalty to a friend changing the course of history. Crisis, survival, and sorrow transformed into faith, love, and hope are all hallmarks of this beloved Bible account. There are no great battlefield stories here; no shimmering angels. If anything, Ruth’s story is testimony to God’s presence in the day-to-day details of living. The divine meets the ordinary as two women struggle to survive in a society where that is very difficult to do without a husband or a son by your side. And Naomi and Ruth have lost both sons and husbands. Ruth is a foreign woman in a strange land. She had no standing in the society to which she pledged to follow her mother-in-law, yet God used her. Her brave decision would eventually lead down through the generations to another scene of the divine meeting the ordinary in a barn in Bethlehem. Ruth and Naomi become decision-makers, and God honors their efforts. A foreign woman trying to survive in a patriarchal society reminds us that the living God is a God of both women and men—both created to reflect God’s image.

» JouRnal oR discuss
» In the spirit of much of the Old Testament, Naomi is a woman who is unafraid to share her real feelings with God. In Ruth 1:20-21, she says, “the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty.” Being that honest about one’s feelings, even toward God, can be empowering. How has the decision to speak up honestly, to God and others, impacted your own development as a person and leader? » How can an honest evaluation of a difficult situation help women to make the decisions they may need to make to overcome obstacles placed in front of them?

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» When Ruth makes the decision to follow Naomi, twice Naomi tells her and Orpah to “turn back.” What are some of the voices that tell women to “turn back” from their progression as powerful decision-makers and leaders in their own lives? » Orpah did turn back. Ruth did not. Where did Ruth find the courage to continue? Ruth and Naomi acted together. Ruth pledged her support to Naomi, and Naomi became a partner in the subsequent decision to engage with Boaz. In places where women have little power, there is much to be gained by partnering together. How can you encourage these partnerships of power in your work and your life?

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Justice
» Read
Genesis 38

» Reflect
Here we find a story about a woman who, against all odds and using the resources available to her, holds others accountable and obtains justice for herself. Tamar is wife to Er and daughterin-law to Judah. She is widowed and then given to her brother-in-law, who does not meet his obligations and then also dies. Judah promises her another husband, his remaining son, Shelah. But Tamar must wait for him to grow up. Judah reneges on his promise, and Tamar is left to her own devices to secure her life and future. She finds herself living in her father’s house, which is not much of a life at all for a widowed, childless woman in this patriarchal society. Tamar takes matters into her own hands, and this colorful Bible story gives us a glimpse into the lengths one woman went to in order to exercise power over her own life and move from passive victim to powerful player. That Judah holds tremendous power in this story is never questioned. He can pronounce the sentence of death on a pregnant daughter-in-law living in her father’s house. Tamar’s power comes as surprise. She becomes an independent agent who secures a future for herself. Recognizing the injustice done to her—that Judah has not kept his word—she takes the initiative to very cleverly right the wrong committed against her. Judah recognizes his own sin and gives patriarchy a blow when he acknowledges Tamar as “more in the right” than himself. Tamar becomes a founding mother of Israel. Her name is listed also in the genealogy of Jesus.

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» JouRnal oR discuss
» Clearly there is a double standard at work in this story. Even today there are double standards at play for men and women. Share some of the more obvious ones you have experienced or witnessed, either in the workplace or in your community. » Does God have double standards? » How were the rules and assumptions of patriarchy challenged in this story? » Tamar recognized the wrong done to her and set out to right it, using whatever means available. What wrongs have you experienced as a woman—or witnessed happening to a woman—simply because of gender? How could they be set right?

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Leader Born–Nation Saved
» Read
Esther 2:5-17, 8:3-14

» Reflect
Esther is known as the book that doesn’t mention God, but of course, God is ever-present, transforming the lives of the woman Esther and the people of Israel. Esther’s story shows God’s love for his chosen people and God’s readiness to protect and set these people free from their oppressors. God’s timing, combined with the courage of willing individuals who happened to be at the right place at the right time, can be the bridge of transformation for people’s lives. Esther’s story is the story of a woman coming into her own. She finds her voice and her power and identifies the thing she believes God is calling her to do. At great potential risk—her very life—she constructs a plan that will end up saving God’s chosen people. As her cousin Mordecai reminds her, she may be in that place at that time “for just such a time as this.” Esther is an orphan who becomes a queen. She is a woman who is in the background of the king’s life (ignored for one month before her risky intrusion into his chambers) who takes center stage on behalf of her people. She becomes an advocate of her people, willing to speak out

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against injustice and thereby saving the lives of the Jewish men, women, girls, and boys. This is a story of the transformation of a woman and the deliverance of a nation—and how, with God’s help, those two things can give birth to each other.

» JouRnal oR discuss
» What leadership qualities does Esther exhibit in this story? » Mordecai is the lesser hero of this story, but serves an essential role as encourager to Esther. He nudges her to step out in faith and into personal power. Who has been the Mordecai in your life? » How can you act as Mordecai in the lives of the women with whom you live and work?

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Resurrection
» Read
Galatians 3:26-29

» Reflect
We are all called in Christ to a restored dignity. What the Fall took from men and women, the person, cross, and resurrection of Christ restores. This is a dignity that surpasses gender. There is now, therefore, no longer “Jew nor Greek…male nor female.” This Scripture passage, regardless of our own church’s denominational leadership practices, must impact how we view men and women in relationship to each other and in relationship to our God. Christ is the model for the renewed human existence. Christ changes everything. All of culture and society’s views of men and women must fall under the new way of Christ’s kingdom. The image that Paul draws on in this passage from Galatians is that of baptism. New believers took off their old clothes before entering the waters, and put on new clothing when they emerged. This “change of clothes” became a rich symbol for how they had left their old lives and were now new creations in Christ.

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Jesus Himself said, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). This new freedom of existence will extend to the whole range of our lives and our work: justice, peace, compassion, and service marked by sacrificial love. We have received the command to become like new. Jesus shows us what that looks like.

» JouRnal oR discuss
» How is God’s way of relating to women and men different from the way the society in which you live in relates to women and men? » What “old clothes” are you still wearing from before you became a new creation in Christ? » How could the leadership models you see around you more accurately express the revolutionary message of Galatians 3:26-29?

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Lead On
» Read
Romans 16:1-2

» Reflect
The Apostle Paul recognized the leadership of women in a cultural and social context that offered them few opportunities. Phoebe was a Christian woman whose service and leadership helped shape the early Christian community. Paul refers to her as a deacon, the same term he uses for himself and other male leaders elsewhere. He roots her in a specific congregation, Cenchrea, making it even more likely that Phoebe was a leader of significance there. Paul sends her with a letter to the Romans, which goes on to specifically name other women in leadership. The names are part of the honor roll of women whose histories we will never fully know, but who were shapers and builders of the early church: Priscilla (Romans 16:3), Mary (Romans 16:6), and Junias (Romans 16:7), joining with their sisters in the Old Testament like Miriam, Deborah, Abigail, Esther, and Ruth, to name only a few.

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In this passage, Paul instructs the community to receive Phoebe and to help her in whatever way she requires from them. She was a woman who commanded respect, and Paul wanted to make sure she received it. Therefore, for Paul, the leadership of Phoebe was worthy of recognition, admiration, and respect. Phoebe was a woman on a mission. Her gender was not to be viewed as an obstacle in fulfilling it.

» JouRnal oR discuss
» How often in your church have you heard sermons or teaching about the many women in Old and New Testament history? » Paul tells his co-believers to welcome Phoebe and help her in whatever way she may require. How have you welcomed and helped the women leaders around you? How have you personally been welcomed and helped by other believers? » Phoebe is described as a “great help to many of many,” including Paul. This term can mean one who takes care of and gives aid to others, but also indicates a supervisor function. Phoebe was free to use her gifts in the church, and clearly many people benefited, including Paul himself. Imagine what the church and society would look like if all its members were free to use their gifts for the benefit of everyone. Identify one person in your life whom you can help to be even freer to use his or her gifts.

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The Present Future
» Read
Luke 1:26-56

» Reflect
Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God—a worldview so radically different from that of the prevailing culture. His is an upside-down kingdom. It started out that way from the very beginning, with God choosing a humble virgin named Mary to help bring it forth. Jesus could have entered history in a more spectacular way than being born to a poor, young Jewish peasant girl living in an insignificant first-century Roman province.

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Her response to the encounter with the angel Gabriel, however, convinces the reader that Mary is indeed the right woman. Her initial apprehension turns to humble acceptance of God’s favor. Unafraid to ask questions, even of an angel, Mary asks how it is that she will bear “the Son of the Most High.” When she was told that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her, Mary’s amazing response demonstrated why she had found favor with God: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). Mary revealed a simple and unqualified trust in the character and promises of God. She believed him. God chose Mary to fulfill his promise to the people of Israel, a promise that had first been announced in the Garden of Eden after humanity’s fall. Mary exhibited true servant leadership by opening herself to be used by God in this amazing way. As a result, this humble peasant girl has been honored throughout history. She is an inspiration for all Christians as a symbol of faith.

» JouRnal oR discuss
» Mary gains incredible strength by submitting to God. How have you experienced that in your own life? » Presumably Mary risked and withstood the potential scorn (or worse) of her community and her fiancé by saying “yes” to God’s plan. How have you seen this kind of faith and commitment lived out in your own life or the lives of women leaders around you? » The Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise in Luke 1:46-56, speaks of a new order to things God scatters the proud, brings down the powerful, and fills the hungry with good things. How does the promise of all things made new, found here and elsewhere in Scripture, encourage you in your work and your relationships with the opposite gender?

(This resource is adapted from a resource developed by World Vision International. Contributors include Joy Alvarez, Nthuntsi Borotho, Joyce Jackson, Isdalia Ortega, Dennis Osorio, Fr. Mihai Pavel, Carmen Perez, James Sarfo-Adu, and Manrhoateng Sibolla.) The Scripture in this resource is from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2011 World Vision, Inc., Mail Stop 321, P.O. Box 9716, Federal Way, WA 98063-9716, wvresources@worldvision.org. All rights reserved.

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About World Vision
W o R l d V is io n is a Christian humanitarian organization

dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, World Vision serves alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people. We envision a world in which each child experiences “fullness of life” as described in John 10:10, and we know this can be achieved only by addressing the problems of poverty and injustice in a holistic way. That’s how World Vision is unique. We bring more than 60 years of experience in three key areas needed to help children and families thrive: emergency relief, long-term development, and advocacy. And we bring all of our skills across many areas of expertise to each community we work in, enabling us to care for children’s physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Partnering with World Vision provides tangible ways to honor God and put faith into action. By working together, we can make a lasting difference in the lives of children and families who are struggling to overcome poverty. To learn more about how you can help, visit www.worldvision.org.

About World Vision Resources
e nding gl o ba l po V eRt y and injustice begins with education: understanding the magnitude and causes of poverty, its impact on human dignity, and our connection to those in need around the world.

World Vision Resources is the publishing ministry of World Vision, which educates Christians about global poverty, inspires them to respond, and equips them with innovative resources to make a difference in the world.

For more information, contact: World Vision Resources Mail Stop 321 P.O. Box 9716 Federal Way, WA 98063-9716 Fax: 253.815.3340 wvresources@worldvision.org www.worldvisionresources.com
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