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This series is by Alice Shirey, one of our regular commenters. She will lead a conversation about Nancy Beach’s new book, Gifted to Lead.
Almost anyone who has been to a Willow Creek conference or worship service has seen or heard Nancy Beach speak. For some, her leadership presence is threatening; for others it is affirming. Regardless of personal reaction, it is obvious to all that Beach is a woman fully living into her giftedness in the church. I?d imagine many women who are currently leading or preaching in their churches may owe quite a bit to Nancy Beach?s courage and example. Her newest book, Gifted to Lead – The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church, evolves out of the trenches of her decades in ministry and leadership at one of the most visible and influential churches in the evangelical world.
For those seeking an exegetical analysis or theological treatise arguing for or against women in leadership and preaching, you will be disappointed. This is not that book. Instead, it is about the practical realities of leading, as a woman, in the church and is aimed at those already serving in church leadership capacities. My sense is this is a badly needed resource.
The beauty of this book is that Beach has no axe to grind; she is neither angry nor plays the gender card. She is not strident, or demanding, or whiny. She is a fellow Christ-follower sharing her experience of navigating the often unexplored terrain that many women must travel in the evangelical church if they are to be obedient to Scripture?s call to “use whatever gift you have received to serve others …” (1 Peter 4:10)
The closest she comes to making a theological statement is this ? “[It is my] fundamental belief that the Holy Spirit did not distribute gifts according to gender; both men and women should be free to express their God-given abilities in the local church.” She says to women, who have been gifted to teach or lead, “No mistake was made in heaven when God gave you the gift of leadership or teaching.”
For many, myself included, words like these are balm to the weary soul. I am not sure anyone can really understand, unless they?ve lived it, what it is like to find oneself gifted in those areas that many still believe are “off limits” for females. Beach does understand.”As a young woman with the leadership gift,”she writes, ” I got the message loud and clear: ?You don?t fit.?”
In the first chapter Beach outlines the story of her history with Willow, from her days in Bill Hybel?s burgeoning youth group, to the moment she was tapped as a “secretary” of one of the youth teams, because Hybels and other leaders told her “…you are a strong leader and could be a captain … but we think, for now, those should be guys. We have a leadership role for the girls, whom we call ?secretaries,? and we?d like to pair you … with one of the weaker guy captains so you can help him along!” Thankfully, the story continues, and Beach is offered the position of programming director, her role as a woman leader in the church officially begins, and I?d imagine Hybel?s views on women in leadership begin to evolve!
So, here?s a question that I hope sparks some discussion: Does what Beach experienced in the early years of her ministry still happen? Do women still find themselves and their spiritual gifts placed in the second chair simply because “for now, we think leaders should be guys?”

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