It was in the late 90’s that I truly sold out to God and gave Him my everything. It was an awesome time to be a Christian. We had songs that told us it was cool to be a “Jesus Freak” and books that helped us ladies learn to value our purity and keep ourselves until marriage. Although I love this season of my life, in retrospect, I realize there were many well-meaning people who, if allowed, could have truly stunted my growth in the Lord. As a matter of fact, there are many people who remember this time and insist the “purity movement” did more damage than good and even hindered their personal relationship and walk with God. They share stories of how they went to youth group as young teenage girls, excited to learn about Jesus, and some misguided youth leader threw them a 3X T-shirt and told them they were responsible for keeping the boys’ minds pure. I understand their pain because I, too, had similar situations.
One time, just after preaching one of my first sermons, a judgmental older woman said she saw a spirit of “Jezebel” behind me. If you are not familiar with the character “Jezebel” in the bible you must not have been a girl on fire for God in the late 90’s. Allow me to elaborate, Jezebel was an evil queen married to Ahab in the Old Testament. She threatened to kill the prophet Elijah after he took on the 400 prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. Basically, she was one of the most evil, vile villains in the Bible. A Christian girl in the late 90’s – early 2000’ called a Jezebel was worse than being called the “B” word.
Not only was I called a “Jezebel”, but I also had a female leader (who I tremendously admired) confront me and told me “Not to hug her man”. I was a 20-year-old virgin girl who was just accepted into bible school. Apparently, I was not familiar with the “sanctified side-hugs” being the accepted public display of affection. If you don’t know what a sanctified side hug is, you need to Google it. We had a lot of weird rules during that time in history. My heart aches that many strong, amazing woman turned away from ministry because of those rules.
I have a 15-year-old daughter now and I don’t want her to go through what I and many others have experienced. I don’t want her to be insecure about being a strong and beautiful woman. I don’t want her to be ashamed of her body or her mind, but I also don’t want her to be a “Hoochie Momma”. Guess what? I have already had debates with her about clothing choices and I have already made some mistakes. But I have also listened to her and vowed to get better.
Recently I became familiar with the “deconstruction theology” and the damage the purity movement has caused too many young adults, and I thought now is the time to share some of my experience. Truly I feel led by the Lord to not only share my experience, but to share my heart. Because women, especially you STRONG women, we need you in the Church. I know many have been hurt, but if you truly want to make something better, reconstruction is better than deconstruction. Instead of only tearing down the extreme teachings that put all the responsibility of purity on the woman, let’s choose to learn from these mistakes. Let’s choose to build one another up. Let’s choose to do better for our daughters.
Four ways to build up our daughters in the faith to be strong women of God.
- Help them focus on their personal relationship with God more than their outward appearance.
Matthew 23:25-26 25″Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
I want my daughter to care more about her personal relationship with God than her outward appearance. If I see her wear something that is inappropriate for the occasion, I will have a conversation with her. But if she chooses to dye her hair pink, pierce her own ears or, God forbid, wear a crop top, it’s not the end of the world. Instead of focusing on her outward appearance, I am going to get to know her heart. I choose to ask probing questions like, “What are you reading in your bible right now?” Or, when she cries about some “mean girl” who hurt her feelings: “What does Jesus think of you?” See the purity culture taught girls to not dress inappropriately. To be honest I do value modesty, even though I refuse to ever dress “frumpy”. However, I have learned modesty is more of a heart issue than what you choose to wear on your body. True modesty and purity are more about valuing your relationship with God above all else. The pure in heart will see the face of God. So, if we want our daughters to be pure let’s focus on teaching them to get in the presence of God and let’s trust God to speak to them about what they should or should not be wearing.
- Help them learn to forgive ignorant or misguided leaders.
The day my leader told me not to “hug her man” I ran to my house, and I cried my eyes out. I was ashamed and embarrassed, and I thought I must not be good enough to ever be used by God. But thankfully I had wise parents who counseled me. They told me that what the leader said had more to do with her own insecurities than what it had to do with me. My mom reminded me that I did not know everything about this woman or her marriage. She told me to pray for her and her husband and to forgive her. At the time I wanted to leave the church and never see this woman again, but I listened to my mom’s advice, and I prayed. The next day I was at church volunteering and the leader who hurt my feelings came over to me and apologized for what she said. I learned that day even godly leaders make mistakes, and they too need grace.
Now that I am a church leader, I hope people give me grace when I stick my foot in my mouth or hurt someone’s feelings. I hope that my daughter will learn to forgive people who also make mistakes or say rude and misguided things. I hope she realizes the church is a beautiful but messy community full of imperfect people who serve a perfect God.
- Help them realize their strengths and that they are needed in the church.
“’In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17NIV)
I will never forget talking to my OB/GYN about God. She grew up a pastor’s kid and her dad taught her she could be anything, except a woman minister. She told me that she admired me for being a female pastor. I left that day, sad in my spirit that this brilliant woman was hindered from fully serving the church because of an outdated misconception that her church taught. She obviously is intelligent and was helping bring new life into the world – a valued and prestigious calling. But she was taught she was not allowed to help bring new souls into the kingdom because that was a man’s job. This, to me, was absurd and heartbreaking. I am not here to debate the importance of women in ministry. If you don’t believe God can and does use both men and women in ministry, then please continue reading my blog and watch your opinion start to shift. This blog is designed to empower women and to share with them how God loves them and wants to use them.
I understand many have been taught wrong information, but you don’t have to camp out there. Get in your bible and go to God in prayer. Ask Him what He thinks. Sis, I guarantee He values you and has given you gifts to help build His kingdom. If you too have suffered from this false teaching, I want to recommend a book that really has encouraged me. It is called, “10 Lies The Church Tells Women” by J. Lee Grady.
Women of God we need you! Daughters of the faith, we value you! Don’t let the haters keep you from doing what God has called you to do. You make up half of God’s army and we need you in your battle position because there is a lost generation who needs Jesus. Daughters of God, you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.
- Help them learn how to celebrate one another!
Philippians 2:1-3 1Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
The world is full of critics and haters; the church should not be! Unfortunately, many church-going women in the late 90’s did not know how to encourage young, motivated girls who loved Jesus and wanted to serve Him wholeheartedly. Instead of cheering on these up-and-coming God girls, some women chose to call them Christian cuss words, like Jezebel. Very likely, these insecure and bitter women would not have behaved so unkindly if they felt valued and respected by the church.
Let’s not make these same mistakes. Now more than ever our young girls need to be encouraged, strengthened, and celebrated. We need to set an example for our daughters. Show them that gone are the days when women only get to speak at church on Mother’s Day. We need women of God to mentor younger women. We need women pastors, evangelists, prophets, and the like! The church needs to celebrate women leaders the same way we do our male leaders. We need to encourage the bright, on-fire-for- God girls in our youth groups. They need to know yes you can be doctors and lawyers and politicians, but you can also be pastors and missionaries and church planters! And when we see young girls make mistakes and wear inappropriate clothing, let’s give the Holy Spirit room to convict them. Let us pray for them and encourage them to get into the word of God and prayer.
Saints, we can do better with this generation of young girls. Let’s empower them to be all they can be in Christ Jesus. Let’s teach them to focus on growing their personal relationships with God and to forgive people who hurt them. We need to train our daughters in the word and help them discover their purpose. We need to celebrate girls with the gift of leadership instead of calling them a Jezebel. We need every willing servant to do their part in the church. And I want to leave you all with one more word of encouragement.
Ladies if you were hurt by the purity movement, please forgive the church. I truly believe people are just people and do the best they know how to do at the time. If you have left the church because of offense and hurt, please come back home – we still need you and we are trying to do better. I encourage you to read my other blog Wounded by the Church? that addresses this very topic.
If you want to learn more about women in the church and ministry in particular, read An Open Letter to Beth Moore
If this blogged touched you, as it did me while writing it, I would ask that you comment and share it with those women in your life that you feel can relate to it and get a sense of clarity or healing through these words.
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