This week I’m ministering at Trinity Christian Centre, one of Singapore’s largest churches. It is led today by Dominic Yeo, but for 30 years it was pastored by Naomi Dowdy, a brave American missionary who grew the church from about 250 believers in 1976 to more than 4,000 members in 2005. The Pentecostal congregation has grown even larger since then, when Dowdy set Yeo into his pastoral role so she could do more traveling ministry.
Dowdy is a friend and a spiritual mother in my life. I’ve ministered with her in Malaysia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Ukraine and other countries. I’ve gleaned from her leadership skills, benefited from her counsel and been inspired by her zeal for missions. I view her as one of the planet’s best examples of a female church leader. When I consider her amazing legacy I’m grieved that we don’t have more women like her.
The primary reason we have so few Naomi Dowdys today is that the church does not encourage trained and anointed women to step into leadership. A second reason is that many women have either disqualified themselves from taking on such roles, or they aren’t willing to face the criticism that inevitably comes when a woman defies tradition.
I agree with the makers of the 2011 film Courageous that Christian men should demonstrate integrity, sexual purity, family values and moral courage. But isn’t the same response needed from women? For every brave Abraham, David and Mordecai in the Bible there was a fearless Sarah, Abigail and Esther. God’s women don’t just sit around waiting for the guys to act when things get tough.