Witness

Emboldened for Mission and Ministry: An Interview with Tara Beth Leach

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Tara Beth Leach is the Senior Pastor at First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena (“PazNaz”) in Southern California. She is also a member of the Missio Alliance Writing Team. I recently sat down with her to discuss her new book Emboldened.

Derek: Tara Beth, I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability in this book, what did you learn about yourself when you were in the writing process?

Tara Beth: I learned a little bit more about my writing style throughout this process. Before this book, I mostly had written blog posts, sermons, and academic chapters and papers. Writing Emboldened was the first time I had written anything so personal, and I learned that I write much like I preach. I have a very exhortational style of writing, and this is not something I fully realized until I wrote Emboldened.

Derek: I listen regularly to your sermon podcast and I read the book and you’re right! The voice I hear in your preaching is in this book. In processing your journey as a pastor, were there any personal discoveries you made or did writing this book confirm what you have come to know about yourself?

Tara Beth: One personal discovery was something I was awakening to, and that was my deep love for the bride of Christ. I’ve always had a heart for the church, but through writing this book, my aches and longings for the bride of Christ to live into her fullness was amplified.

Derek: Your heart is on full display in this book. You describe some of the pain and frustration you have experienced as a woman in pastoral leadership. What is one thing that may surprise readers about the life of a female lead pastor?

Tara Beth: I don’t know that I can speak for all female lead pastors, so I’ll speak for myself. I put a lot of pressure on myself. There is often a great fear that if I mess up, it impacts other women’s opportunities. If I succeed, I’m succeeding for other women out there. This is a narrative that I have slowly been letting go of, but it impacts the amount of pressure I put on myself day-in and day-out. Not only that, but as a female pastor, there’s pressure to be the picture perfect mom, wife, cook (well, I’ve pretty much let that one go!), and pastor. The Spirit is constantly reminding me that the world is not on my shoulders. Thanks be to God!

Derek: Wow. That’s seems like quite a load to shoulder. What do you do to let go of all this pressure?

Tara Beth: I stay in touch with a lot of women clergy, and especially a couple who feel the same burdens as I do. When I talk to them, I am reminded that I am not alone. Not only that, but the disciplines of daily prayer, Bible reading, and worship keep me grounded to reality.

Derek: What is the first step a young woman should take when she is sensing a call to ministry?

Tara Beth: Talk to your pastors and inner-circle, and ask them what they observe in your giftings. Ask for opportunities that match your gifts, and form friendships that could turn into a mentoring relationship. And of course, I always recommend pursuing seminary education. And remember, even when you think you’re an imposter, you’re not. You are called; you are gifted; and the Spirit will continue to form you and equip you for this calling.

Dear young Christian women, even when you think you’re an imposter, you’re not. You are called; you are gifted; and the Spirit will continue to form you and equip you for this calling. @TaraBeth82 Click To Tweet

Derek: In the book you connect the need to embolden women in ministry to mission rather than justice. Can you explain the difference?

Tara Beth: Well, justice is still really important in this conversation. Really important. However my hope in this chapter was to reframe the conversation. When it comes to justice, in the western ideological context, we tend to focus on human rights and equality. This is good. It’s important for order, safety, protecting the vulnerable, and equality. And of course, justice is a major theme in the Bible’s big story. But we can’t stop at justice. If justice were the single goal, then perhaps our focus would be reduced to pushing for an equal number of men and women into the pulpit without any sort of testing, discerning, and approving. I love the way Christopher Wright talks about the mission of God when he says, “Mission, while it inescapably involves us in planning and action, is not primarily a matter of our activity or our initiative. Mission, from the point of view of our human endeavor, means the committed participation of God’s people in the purposes of God for the redemption of the whole creation. Mission is God’s. The marvel is that God invites us to join in.” The marvel is that the whole bride of Christ is invited to participate in the purposes of God for the redemption of the whole creation. The way I see it right now, some 90% of the church is being held back.

Derek: You address both women and men in this book and in chapter nine you offer men practical steps for emboldening women in ministry. What is the one thing men in church leadership can start doing immediately to have the greatest impact in the lives of women in ministry?

Tara Beth: Immediately begin praying and discerning about who the gifted women in your midst might be. Seek them out, encourage them, and mentor them. Through mentoring them, give them opportunities to use their gifts of teaching, leading, and preaching. Point them to seminaries, books, and resources. Even if your gifts aren’t encouragement, do it anyway. Women need your affirmation and observations.

Derek: What is it about the shape of our current cultural context that makes this book a must read for Christians who care deeply about the church and our mission?

Tara Beth: There are countless churches who “affirm” women in ministry, but function as though they are a complementarian church. In other words, they continue to have male-only leadership, male-only platforms, and women continue to be sidelined in their own churches. We can do better. The church suffers when only half of the team is engaged in the mission.

The church suffers when only half of the team is engaged in the mission. @TaraBeth82 Click To Tweet

Derek: The emergence of the #MeToo movement has brought to the surface the value in giving voice to women who have suffered. In what unique ways does Emboldened give a voice to women in ministry?

Tara Beth: Sometimes hearing the words “me too” can be one of the most validating words to hear. Often times being a woman in ministry can feel incredibly isolating and lonely. But when we discover that we aren’t alone after all, and when we discover we are apart of a gifted, called, and anointed sisterhood, we are emboldened to live into the fullness of what we have been called, equipped, and empowered to do. Emboldened names some of the many “me too” experiences that women often navigate in the journey to and in ministry. It is my prayer that women reading Emboldened will discover that they are not alone.

Derek: Thanks Tara Beth!


If you’d like to hear more from Tara Beth and several other Christian leaders on this important topic, we invite you to join us for this webinar on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 at 11:30ET. Click the image for more info. and registration.

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28 responses to “On Mission Statements, Core Values and the Power of Three Adjectives

  1. I think I would say that what you have on your bulletin IS a mission statement don’t you think?

    as to the broader issue, I agree, I think we get too locked into that sort of stuff but it does help to have some direction that comes out of a broad vision. I guess that’s how we look at it anyway.

    our “mission” at Revolution is to “do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God” but we do go on to explain that in a mission statement sort of way for people who want to know…always qualifying that we’re here to love God and love people and everything always points back to Christ and His mission.

  2. Great post. I love the Yoder quote too.

    I understand the organizational benefit of a mission statement–it helps one stay focused. However, mission statements and other organizational trappings become an odd substitute for the Holy Spirit. I’m convinced that the church in America is in a pneumatological crisis of sorts. Even with the growing suspicion of formulaic approaches to church, we still seem to rely upon an ever-growing array of technologies and techniques to substitute good-old-fashioned communal discernment.

    We have a sort of mission statement at Missio Dei, however (but it is one that we believe ALL churches should share). It is the “Spirit of the Lord” passage in Luke 4:18-19 (which I call “the Jesus Manifesto”). Instead of printing it on brochures and whatnot, we’ve decided to make it more of a formative statement for us by including it as part of our Sunday evening prayers in the Missio Dei Book of Prayer:

    The Jesus Manifesto

    With Jesus, we proclaim:

    The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

    Father, anoint us with your Spirit. As you sent your Son, your Son has sent us; may we embody the presence of your Son in the world, and on the West Bank. Empower us to live and proclaim your good news on the West Bank, and in the world. We pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever, Amen.

  3. How bout Gateway’s
    The Way of Christ
    1: Love God
    2: Love others
    3: Build Character
    4: Build the Church?
    I think this does a pretty good job of replicating the “bases” approach, while at the same time being thoroughly Biblical.

    It is both Mission, and Goal

  4. D.F.,

    This is something I’ve thought about before, but, not being a pastor (with the training) and not having taken “chruch planting 101”, its not something I was confident enough to have a real, articulated, axpressible thought about it really…at least not very often and not to very many people. Thanks for the help. Interestingly, the only model in my expereince was my first job at “Cinemark Theaters”, wehre we had a “mission statement”, ect.

    And Mark, “pneumatological crisis” is now my holy grail vocabulary phrase for the day. Thanks.

  5. My thoughts on mission statements and core values tend towards your own expressed in this mildly flippant post. I’m only writing to say thanks for giving me a good laugh – I love the things that are written on the back of your suburban bulletins. I’m glad my brother is a part of your community at LOV.

    Peace,
    Jenny

  6. My thoughts on mission statements and core values tend towards your own expressed in this mildly flippant post. I’m only writing to say thanks for giving me a good laugh – I love the things that are written on the back of your suburban bulletins. I’m glad my brother is a part of your community at LOV.

    Peace,
    Jenny

  7. Yoder sounds to me like a disciple of Jacques Ellul and “the Presence of the Kingdom.” His references to “the spirit of technos” always recalled for me the words of Isaiah (2:5-11) which point out so clearly our tendency to depend on ourselves for security rather than the Lord.

    As for the rest, Alan Hirsch argues for a covenant and core practices rather than a philosophy of ministry, which appeals to the head but in a pluralistic and individualistic and dualistic context leaves us untouched. That connects with me. You may have run across Gordon Cosby’s famous words somewhere: “vision is the destroyer of essence.” Whew. That is worth some exegesis!

    Final thought.. I think we need to work through in more detail the relationship of vision and mission. I understood that relationship in the context of modernity, but in a non-dualistic and organic system context there is still a relationship, but it is vastly different.

  8. Yoder sounds to me like a disciple of Jacques Ellul and “the Presence of the Kingdom.” His references to “the spirit of technos” always recalled for me the words of Isaiah (2:5-11) which point out so clearly our tendency to depend on ourselves for security rather than the Lord.

    As for the rest, Alan Hirsch argues for a covenant and core practices rather than a philosophy of ministry, which appeals to the head but in a pluralistic and individualistic and dualistic context leaves us untouched. That connects with me. You may have run across Gordon Cosby’s famous words somewhere: “vision is the destroyer of essence.” Whew. That is worth some exegesis!

    Final thought.. I think we need to work through in more detail the relationship of vision and mission. I understood that relationship in the context of modernity, but in a non-dualistic and organic system context there is still a relationship, but it is vastly different.

  9. One of my favorite verses is “Go to a place I will show you.” Mission statements strike me, after your questioning of them, Dave, as something akin to “Here’s the place we want to go, God,” like He’s some cosmic chauffeur.

  10. One of my favorite verses is “Go to a place I will show you.” Mission statements strike me, after your questioning of them, Dave, as something akin to “Here’s the place we want to go, God,” like He’s some cosmic chauffeur.

  11. Len,

    I like that: “covenant and core practices.” This is definitely where we’ve landed. But it freaks people out. I think mission statements are great in that they help churches move beyond simply being about “right beliefs” but instead move people towards an embodied faith. Perhaps we should be grateful for that. But such statements don’t go far enough in their embodiment and often go too far in their totalizing focus.

  12. Len,

    I like that: “covenant and core practices.” This is definitely where we’ve landed. But it freaks people out. I think mission statements are great in that they help churches move beyond simply being about “right beliefs” but instead move people towards an embodied faith. Perhaps we should be grateful for that. But such statements don’t go far enough in their embodiment and often go too far in their totalizing focus.

  13. I forgot to mention why it “freaks people out.” Often such a move seems to smack of legalism, especially for confessional folks. They see membership as a creedal commitment more than a commitment to orthopraxy–which is often seen as a misguided concept.

  14. I forgot to mention why it “freaks people out.” Often such a move seems to smack of legalism, especially for confessional folks. They see membership as a creedal commitment more than a commitment to orthopraxy–which is often seen as a misguided concept.

  15. Okay, my last was a bit harsh. I’ve been apart of a church that was so convinced it knew what Got was doing it was pretty much veboten to question their concept of it.

  16. Okay, my last was a bit harsh. I’ve been apart of a church that was so convinced it knew what Got was doing it was pretty much veboten to question their concept of it.

  17. Mike, I don’t know, perhaps.. but there is no question that in a consumer oriented church culture God became our servant. Mark, I hear you man… its this reality that has held us back locally, believers.. often the most serious and dedicated, have been so wounded by the church that the word “covenant” is almost unusable. However, we can still go there in our relationships. But the word “covenant” is so important to who we have been historically as God’s people, and to where we need to go, that we almost HAVE to use it. It is part of our imaginative story and our imaginative.. destiny? SOme things have to be articulated in order to become part of the ongoing narrative of a community, it’s enfleshed fabric. Is this one of the paradox of words — perhaps one more meaning of “by your words you will be saved and by your words condemned” (apologies to the exegetes).

  18. Mike, I don’t know, perhaps.. but there is no question that in a consumer oriented church culture God became our servant. Mark, I hear you man… its this reality that has held us back locally, believers.. often the most serious and dedicated, have been so wounded by the church that the word “covenant” is almost unusable. However, we can still go there in our relationships. But the word “covenant” is so important to who we have been historically as God’s people, and to where we need to go, that we almost HAVE to use it. It is part of our imaginative story and our imaginative.. destiny? SOme things have to be articulated in order to become part of the ongoing narrative of a community, it’s enfleshed fabric. Is this one of the paradox of words — perhaps one more meaning of “by your words you will be saved and by your words condemned” (apologies to the exegetes).

  19. I agree with Makeesha that the adjectives act in some way as a mission statement … but I would say in a way that is descriptive..rather than prescriptive i.e. tells you ahead of time what to do all the time …
    and boy .. i couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of everyone above .. that commitments are necessary if we are to be a substantive people… In Len’s comment .. a Covenant .. and yes I really do think Mark Van points to a key isssue. Do we blow people out of the water up front … before they see the vision here … with a list of covenantal commitments… Nonethless.. as Frost & Hirshc first made explicit in their first book.. and now it appears Hirsch is in this 2nd book (which I’ve got to pick up an read… Len tahnks for your great reveiw)… at some point .. deliberately we must discern our commitments to one another as to what it emans to be a journeying comunity a living Body inthe world … To me this seems to be shaping up as we now discern membership issues at our church …
    So … perhaps membership comes (the Covenant invitation) after opeople have spent enough time in the vision .. the description of what this place is becoming .. sufficient to join in a communal covenant ..
    Thansk to all for clarifying …
    DF

  20. I agree with Makeesha that the adjectives act in some way as a mission statement … but I would say in a way that is descriptive..rather than prescriptive i.e. tells you ahead of time what to do all the time …
    and boy .. i couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of everyone above .. that commitments are necessary if we are to be a substantive people… In Len’s comment .. a Covenant .. and yes I really do think Mark Van points to a key isssue. Do we blow people out of the water up front … before they see the vision here … with a list of covenantal commitments… Nonethless.. as Frost & Hirshc first made explicit in their first book.. and now it appears Hirsch is in this 2nd book (which I’ve got to pick up an read… Len tahnks for your great reveiw)… at some point .. deliberately we must discern our commitments to one another as to what it emans to be a journeying comunity a living Body inthe world … To me this seems to be shaping up as we now discern membership issues at our church …
    So … perhaps membership comes (the Covenant invitation) after opeople have spent enough time in the vision .. the description of what this place is becoming .. sufficient to join in a communal covenant ..
    Thansk to all for clarifying …
    DF

  21. Great post Dave…definately worth reflecting on. I like the idea of adjectives, because they necessarily evoke conversation about their meaning and what they are describing. It seems that many churches with mondernist assumptions use words that function like dogmatic pegs rather than dynamic words that point to a fuller story in the life of the community. My community Mountainside Communion has chosen Micah 6.8 with justice, mercy, and humility. These three words become in a sense poles through which we read the Scriptures. When new people come to our community they often wonder how we came up with these three. I tell them way in the back of tht Old Testament, a prophet dude named Micah, says that is what God requires of his people. They’re ususally unaware of this passage.

    I’m enjoying your book. You remind me of Hauerwas and Willimon in Resident Aliens, except your discussion is really accesible to evangelicalism as a whole. Thanks for your clarity, passion and refusal to pull punches!

    SPA

  22. I’m enjoying the discussion. As we at the congregation I serve (www.brunswickgracecommunity.org) have just minted some words/ideas/statements that people can hang there hat on, I have grown disenchanted with the typical church planting/growth suggestions (i.e., get a mission statement, then a vision statement and just watch what happens).

    I can never get away from Christ’s sublimely pedestrian answer to the question about which is the greatest commandment: “love God, and love people.” Seems such an understanding of the gospel lived out can give people something to hang their hats on, simply because it is transfomational, communal, and missional.

    By the way, just recently began reading your blog. Really enjoying your zestful approaches to stimulating the Church toward being who we were called to become.

    BMN

  23. David, I concur. Three words really at the heart of what our gathering and being as the Body of Christ in this world, is all about. Yet doesn’t get in the way of God’s initiative by the Spirit, or the living, breathing reality of who we are, in Christ, together.

  24. Thanks for the post on this issue. I am teaching this “making vision statements and values” etc. in class to undergraduate Christian ministry students and mostly do it to deconstruct the whole enterprise.

    I love what you do. Thanks for Great Giveaway and the blog.

    I have a post on the same subject:

    Why pastors should be both goal-setting fanatics and cynics

    Andy Rowell
    Taylor University
    Department of Biblical Studies and Christian Ministry
    Blog: Church Leadership Conversations

  25. לפני שאני מתחיל המלצה קטנה , בניתם בית כדאי לעשות עבורכם עיצוב וילה עתיק , אתם יכולים לבנות תוכנית עבודה עםאנשי מקצוע או עם מעצבת פנים ממגוון מקצועות , עיצוב הבית , שיפוץ , שולחנות שידות ועוד המון נושאים.

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