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Beyond Gender Roles: What About Gender Skills?

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying:

Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” – Matthew 13:3-9

Jesus tells us this parable that many call the parable of the sower. Some suggest instead it should be called the parable of the soils because it is really about the different types of soil and their ability or inability to sustain and grow the life contained in the seeds. If Jesus would say (and He would) He came to give us life and life abundantly, it is important to consider the kind of soil that can support and sustain the seed Jesus sows. It is important to consider leadership qualities that can provide a soil to grow good crop.

I have observed and been a part of an ongoing dialogue about women in leadership and the various social, cultural and even biblical parameters of what roles women could and should play in leading the church. I would like to turn the dialogue a bit to consider why these conversations matter so much.

Contained in the person of God are traits we would consider both masculine and feminine. When God created Adam in His image, the female, Eve, was yet contained in the soul of Adam until God removed her in a most unusual surgical procedure. Masculine and feminine traits both originate from the nature of God.

Specifically, God even has a name for Himself, El Shaddai, that clearly identifies Him with traits that are considered feminine. Leanne Payne, founder and influential leader of Pastoral Care Ministries, identifies for us the essential traits of masculinity and femininity. Giving a broad list of characteristics, she identifies the essential trait of each. While the central trait of the true masculine is initiative, she would say the primary characteristic of the true feminine is receptivity.

I would like to propose another word to help us understand and even begin to think differently about an often overlooked trait church leaders should develop. I would like to propose the word “nurture.”

You see, receptivity isn’t simply about receiving—it is about being open and welcoming. It is about receiving not just a possession but also humans and hearts, just as good soil receives seed. The word “nurture,” I believe, is a more helpful understanding of this trait that identifies the central characteristic of the true feminine nature. It also identifies a trait I believe is essential to spiritual leadership.

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Bob Hamp is the Executive Pastor, Pastoral Care Ministries, at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas. He was a counselor in private practice for sixteen years and holds a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. He is also the author of "Think Differently, Live Differently: Keys to a Life of Freedom."