Who I am today has been profoundly and primarily shaped by the godly women who invested in me.
As a follower of Jesus, and now as a husband, a father, and a local church pastor, I cringe to think where I would be and what I would be like if it were not for the godly influence these women. I don’t think I am alone in that observation, and chances are you could reflect on your own story.
My mother first taught me about Jesus and the story of the Bible. Along the way, God used her to shape my little personality and guide the adventurous spirit within me. Sometimes she used simple words of love and care. Other times, she held me by my feet and dipped my head in a bucket of water to make a memorable point after I threw the family cat into the fishpond one too many times! (I never did do that again, and the cat was certainly grateful for my lesson learned.) Regardless of the techniques, with wisdom, biblical insight, and loving care, my mother poured into my life in ways that were unique and profound. Despite her growing up experiencing poverty and abuse, as a young woman, my mum was able to benefit from the practical teaching at a Bible training program in Australia. I am forever grateful for the opportunity she had to study God’s Word and be equipped for more significant impact. Those Bible-based learning experiences guided her significantly as she and my dad raised their kids, and spiritually impacted many other lives along the way.
The wife of the pastor in the little church I attended as a child also helped me take those first steps at putting my trust in Jesus. Melanie was the one who further explained the gospel in a way that a child could understand. She led me in that prayer, where I first chose to follow Jesus. She witnessed a little boy arriving burdened and leaving rejoicing after making that life-changing decision.
In the years that followed, countless women invested in me. They encouraged me along my journey, teaching me more about who Jesus is and the life of meaning and purpose that he desires for me. Lillian, Gwenda, Nancy, and Ruth are just some of the names of godly women who prayed fervently for me and spoke words that pointed me to Jesus. As a young man in college, I spent hours of blessed conversation with the late Angie Garber, a life-long missionary to the Navajo people. Privileged to visit with her often in her final years, her wisdom molded my life even further, ever pointing me to live for Jesus and to anticipate his return.
And more women poured into my life, including my incredible wife, Heidi, who partners with me in ministry. Indeed, who I am today has been profoundly and primarily shaped by the godly women who invested in me.
I think this has been the reality throughout history. A look through the pages of Scripture reveals numerous examples of the incredible investment that godly women have made in the lives of their families and those around them. I love the classic example of the Apostle Paul writing to Timothy, where he gave particular reference to the sincere faith which first lived in Timothy’s grandmother Lois and in his mother Eunice, and now was evident in his life (2 Tim 1:5). I am grateful for the investment of the Lois’ and the Eunice’s and the Priscilla’s in my life along the way. And their kind of godly influence and instruction is so desperately needed in our world today.
At a National Conference years ago, I shared a meal and conversation with a lady who serves with her husband as missionaries in Europe. As we shared our stories, she mentioned how she was encouraged to study and learn theology in the church setting she grew up in. She expressed how those learning opportunities developed in her a thirst and a passion for learning more and for being equipped in greater ways to teach, train, and invest in the lives of others. That simple conversation has been on my mind since that day. It makes me think of the training my mother received and the impact it had on my life. It causes me to wonder if we are providing enough of those kinds of opportunities to those in our Charis Fellowship.
What would happen if we, as a Fellowship of churches, decided to be more deliberate and intentional in providing opportunities for practical and theological training for both the men and the women in our local churches? While some of our congregations do a decent job on a local level, I have found that many women feel overlooked or under-encouraged in pursuing such learning opportunities. In recent years, Women of Grace USA has taken positive steps to meet some of this need through seminars and developing pathways to certification and recognition for training received. As a local church pastor, I feel the need for more accessible, practical training where both the women and the men in our churches can be further discipled in the understanding and application of Scripture. Some actively pursue it, but for most, it seems to be a daunting task.
Many of the women and men in our local churches are on the front lines of spiritually impacting the lives of people around them. Some have received biblically-sound training, but so many have not. And while a few men choose to pursue ordination, many key ministry leaders in the churches, both men and women, need more accessible pathways to further their training in theology and practical ministry.
I find that women are not seeking any kind of ordination or pastoral roles. Most men, including the elders serving our church, have little interest in pursuing degrees or ordination credentials. They want to simply learn and grow more through the study and application of Scripture to make a greater impact in the lives of others.
In the days ahead, we as a Fellowship can do a better job of working together to provide this training in more innovative and accessible formats. Steps are being taken to explore ways for local churches and national ministries to better collaborate by providing customizable training resources that boost discipleship and leadership development initiatives. (Stay tuned as these ideas are developed more.)
The more we do to provide relevant, customizable, and accessible training resources, the more we help the women and men of our Fellowship be better prepared to be used of God for a more significant impact. Pray that we will make the most of the opportunity that lies before us.
And to all the women and all the men who intentionally invest in the lives of those around you, thank you for your investment. You are making an eternal impact, and God is honored through what you do. – by Tim Hodge
Editor’s Note: Tim Hodge is the lead pastor of Grace Family Church in New Holland, Pa. He also serves as the assistant executive director of Charis Fellowship.