One of the themes I will try to develop in this haphazard series on Women and ministry is that “minstry” can’t be limited to ordination and serving as a senior pastor in a local church. In fact, I want to expand our sense of ministry and to do this we can consider the example of Phyllis Tickle.
First, let me ask this: Have we defined “ministry” so exclusively in terms of Sunday morning preaching or senior pastor leadership that we have deconstructed what the Bible means by “ministry”? In so doing, have we missed the incredible impact women have in the “ministry” of the Church?
I have heard it said that Phyllis Tickle was for more than a decade the most influential voice in the American religious landscape — and you might now be asking, “Who in the world is Phyllis Tickle?” Good question. From 1992 to 2004 she was the editor for Religion in Publisher’s Weekly. No doubt, you’ve probably never read PW. Doesn’t matter. Bookstores like Barnes and Noble, Borders, and local bookstores and Christian bookstores buy books on the basis of recommendations. The single-most influential publication that scans the scene of religion, that summarizes books and the coming influential ones, and that decides — here’s the power of it all — which books to recommend and which ones not to recommend is PW.
Go to any Amazon or Barnes and Noble book, and scroll down to Editorial Reviews. At the top is “Publisher’s Weekly.” That review can determine whether or not thousands of venues will or will not buy the book.
And Phyllis created the Religion section of PW. For more than a decade she bopped around this country, listened in on major events — like the Parliament of World’s Religions and the Jesus Seminar — and she interviewed and met with all the major figures — like John Shelby Spong and others.
Not only is Phyllis an editor, but she is a great speaker and a talented, exquisite writer. Kris and I heard Phyllis preach at the Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, MI. Excellent sermon. Have any of you heard her?
When it comes to writing … If you’d like to read her autobiography of this time in her life, pick up Prayer is a Place. I’m not saying you’ll agree with her on everything, but if you wonder if women have a place of influence and have ministries, you surely ought to think about Phyllis some time.
And if you’d like to come hear her speak, Oct 2 and 3, 3:30-5pm at North Park University’s Anderson chapel… she’ll be there giving the Zarley lectures.