I Found My Family at Awakenings – An #Awakenings17 Reflection

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Dr. Jackie Roese grew up in upstate New York. In 2003, Jackie joined the staff of Irving Bible Church as the Teaching Pastor to Women. Over the past decade, Jackie has taught the Scriptures and trained other women to do the same. In 2010, Jackie graduated with her Doctorate in Preaching from Gordon-Conwell Seminary. In 2012, she founded The Marcella Project, an organization committed to improving the view of women through the Scriptures. Jackie also speaks around the U.S. and internationally at conferences and retreats. She has been married to Steve, founder of Water is Basic, for more than 24 years and has three young adult children, Hunter, Hampton and Madison.

When the Spirit Tells You You’re Alone

I went because I needed a word. Ever been there? Where you really just need a word from Jesus. Not for a specific direction or an answer or decision but just to hear his voice. To be reminded that you still have a relationship with him. That he can hear you and you can hear him too. My soul was parched. I needed a word.

There was profound preaching through out the conference and with each preacher I waited for a word. Thursday came and went – nothing. Friday – nothing. I started wondering what I was doing there?

Saturday morning Cherith Nordling unleashed the power of the Holy Spirit through her profound prayer. She asked us to bow and let the Spirit speak. “Alone.” That’s what he said. “You are alone.” Not lonely, but alone. Cherith asked us to raise our hands if the Spirit spoke so others could come and pray over us. I didn’t. I kept seeking the Spirit, but the only word I got was “Alone.” Then suddenly I sensed these arms around me, praying over me. It was the Spirit.

I went to the Missio Alliance Awakenings conference alone, not that I minded, as an extrovert I rarely end up alone. But this conference was different. At this conference I acutely felt alone. Not because people weren’t friendly but because they were. As I observed the room, it was like watching a family reunion. This is the theological family in which I align but though they are my family I didn’t grow up with them. Let me explain.

.@missioalliance is my 'theological family,' but I didn't grow up with them. Let me explain... Click To Tweet

Finding Jesus as a Pagan

I grew up in Upstate New York in a pagan family (I mean that in the biblical sense.) No church, Bible or Christian friends. At age 22 I came to faith in Jesus and shortly after decided to attend seminary. I had no interest in ministry; rather, I wanted to get to know this guy, Jesus, that I had just given my life to. I wish someone had told me to go to church… would have been much cheaper! I ended up at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) because the pastor who officiated my wedding attended that seminary – I thought that was the seminary everyone went to if they wanted to know Jesus better. In the hallways of DTS I theologically grew up. It’s been fifteen years since graduation and my theological framework no longer fits my upbringing.

I used to believe the right view of Scripture was the DTS view. Don’t get me wrong I’m grateful for their parenting it’s just I’ve grown up and now know there are other ways to be an excellent parent. Somewhere in my faith family I learned that the best preachers came out of DTS. Don’t get me wrong they produce some great preachers, hopefully I’m a testament to that, but that thinking, the best of the best, was debunked at Awakenings. Preacher after preacher brought a powerful life changing message and none attended my alma mater. In fact after N.T. Wright spoke Sunday morning I thought – “Well there now, we might as well call it a wrap and go home.” Out of courtesy and pity (how does one follow after N.T. Wright?!) I stayed to hear the last preacher. Dr. Howard-John Wesley stood up and preached a sermon on the lame man at the Beautiful Gate. The room was rocked; it was the best sermon I’ve ever heard. That’s saying something. In fact, I didn’t realize it but I had been waiting a long time to hear a message like that. He spoke about racism, sexism, structural sin etc.– he was preaching the heart of God. I’ve been waiting for someone to say what he said, from the Word through the Spirit to God’s people. My soul sprung with joy much like the lame man who was healed at the gate.

At #Awakenings17 @PastorHJW preached the best sermon I've ever heard in my life! Click To Tweet

Finding A Theological Family as a Female Preacher in the South

See, I live in Texas. In 2008, after a long time in study and prayer my church elders decided women could preach from the pulpit. It was a firestorm. The blogosphere went wild, media showed up and I preached my first sermon with a bodyguard. In 2016 though, my brothers, leaders of several mega-churches in Texas, laid hands of affirmation on a presidential candidate because that candidate was anti-abortion. I get that, but they went radio silent about that same candidate’s sexual objectification of women. I was devastated. Many of us sisters in the faith were hurt. They went radio silent on us. Need less to say it’s rare to hear a message like Dr. Howard-John Wesley’s message that Saturday morning. My heart is parched. I’m not the only one. Many of us evangelicals don’t consider Trump the “Dream President of evangelicals” nor do we think there are specific roles and character traits for men and women. So where is our tribe? Those that speak our theology? Sometimes it feels like I’m homeless.

Alone is not the same as lonely. I’m not lonely, I have plenty of faith friends who feel the same way I do, more and more of us are feeling disconnected and disconnect. Many of us women live in liminality, no longer able to worship where we did but not yet found our new home. I’m not lonely but I am alone in that I have little if any role models. I’m alone in that I rarely have interactions with other theologians and practitioners. As I sat in the pews that weekend I realized women like Cherith Nordling, MaryKate Morse, Carolyn Custis James are my role models but they are nowhere near Texas. Nowhere near me. How does one connect with ones tribe when you are nowhere near them?

I suspect I’m not the only one who’s alone out here. The soul cries out for our family, our tribe.

I suspect I’m not the only one who’s alone out here. The soul cries out for our tribe. Click To Tweet

I’m grateful that the Spirit made me aware, once again, that I’m parched for my tribe. I’m grateful for my ministry work, my friends and blood family but I’m lacking in engaging my colleagues. I love that in the middle of that reminder the Holy Spirit wrapped his arms around me to assure me that although lacking in human connection I am not lacking with him. He is present and therefore I am never truly alone.

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