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Women in Ministry: When the Call is Enough

We can trace the path of some of our most beloved biblical characters through their call to ministry: Moses, Gideon, even Jeremiah were called by God, pushed towards that call despite their own fears, and were reassured that God would be with them as they went forth in obedience. It’s not nearly as common to hear of a “call narrative” for women in the bible, however. The biblical stories of women entering ministry are present but often overlooked.

Today, we still find that many women who are called into ministry are met with a silencing of their stories, untold moments of how they moved from obscurity to the pulpit. Being a woman in ministry comes with a unique set of challenges that plague the longevity and acceptance of a woman into a male-dominated vocation. Women who enter ministry often juggle motherhood, marriage, other careers and hobbies, and face the ever-growing demand to be all things to all people.

Women who find their way into ministry, whether that’s Sunday-to-Sunday pulpit preaching or singing on the praise team, in religious education, church administration, or the like, find it hard to stay in ministry because of a lack of communal support. As a result, many women find themselves burned out because the world around us failed to affirm and support God’s call on our life.

Much of the discussion regarding women in ministry is surrounded by the theological belief that women do not have a place in pulpit ministry. Often times, conversation that opposes women in ministry is shaped around Paul’s commentary about women in the church; from women keeping their head covered to women remaining silent, much of our understanding (or the lack thereof) is rooted in a misunderstanding of Paul’s partnership with women in ministry.

There are counter positions to this, however. Take Phoebe for instance: she was a leading woman in the early Church that was responsible for delivering Paul’s letters to the church in Rome. In fact, Phoebe was referred to as a “deacon,” (versus deaconess) that worked in, championed, and traveled for the sole purpose of sharing the Gospel. In Romans 16, Paul names Phoebe first in a long list of servants in the Church, naming nine women he labeled as one who “works hard in the Lord.” A brief mention of Junias in Romans 16:7, a woman who worked in the ministry with Jesus, was also deemed “outstanding” by Paul.

What is interesting about the biblical examples of women who were called into ministry is that though there is no defined call narrative, the women simply took the charge from God and did what God called them to do. They rose to the occasion, many times with impending social criticism, to be the clarion call to share the good news of the Gospel.

How, then, do women continue to carve out a much-needed space in ministry that is not filled with the concern for justification or acceptance? Who can tell the struggles of feeling inadequate as a mother, wife, and caretaker? Who can speak to the distinct ways in which the woman’s story reverberates from the fabric of society – the hidden cases of sexual abuse and gender inequality on the job? Who can declare the hope for a generation of women who are awaiting the opportunity to chase after their dreams? It is the woman’s voice that narrates the unique stories of women.

Considerations for the ways in which we embrace and accept women in ministry is deeply rooted in our own awareness of the long-standing role women have in the expansion of the Kingdom of God. The Call to ministry is enough; it may not look like what we see the next woman doing and it may not come with public praise and large platforms. But there is important work for women to do – and it begins with us. Our call to ministry is more than enough. It is the only qualifier we need!




A Community of Reliable Others

In his book, Cut Dead, But Still Alive, Caring for African American Young Men, my friend and mentor, Dr. Gregory C. Ellison, II outlines this notion of a “community of reliable others.” This community, he says, does three things:

  1. share their stories of vulnerability through “authentic truth-sharing” to “elicit fearless dialogue”;
  2. work to envision new possibilities in the midst of hopelessness;
  3. act prophetically in supporting and nurturing those people once ignored and “unseen” living in the margins.
    (p. 153)

This community of reliable others, then, becomes a critical component to the lives of those who live in the margins, those whose lives are often strained between the hope for an imagined future and the hopelessness often found in a present reality.

I know what it is like to live between hope and hopelessness; life as a single mother has proven itself to be a path that is not for the faint of heart. It often requires one to choose many other people, places, and things over the well-being of self. It often snuffs out the secret hopes and desires of a woman whose dreams were once bigger than life — who has laid them aside to meet the most immediate needs of kids who grow entirely too fast. It often leaves behind a burning hope that cannot be quenched.

In the last 10 months, I have traveled to Brazil, London, and Uganda. I graduated from seminary, had an article published in one of the largest Christian publications in the country, preached the good Gospel of Jesus Christ (twice!), wrote about and protested against issues that matter to me, worked with a high schoolers who were searching for God in the midst of chaos, managed social media accounts and curated blogs, hosted a workshop at Allume, wrote a small group curriculum for single moms, and a bunch of other stuff.

Today, I’ll set off on another adventure, one that will take me 6,000+ miles around the world to see God in a new way. To see myself in a better way. To see other people in the best way.

I don’t say these things to boast. I say them to give credit to where credit is due: my community of reliable others.

The community of reliable others who baby sit 10-year-olds and keep them happy and safe in my absence;
the community of reliable others who drop a lil’ somethin’ something’ in the PayPal simply because they thought of us;
the community of reliable others who come over with prepared food or gift cards or fresh flowers;

the community of reliable others who treat us to dinner;
the community of reliable others who make laughter a part of our day-to-day lives;
the community of reliable others who believe in me more than I sometimes believe in myself.

It is because of the community that this single mom can leave Decatur to do what she coined as her mantra for my last year of seminary: write, teach, and travel.

I didn’t really know what that meant when I first said it; it was vague and scary. It had no shape or real path. I just knew that it was what I wanted to do… needed to do.

Last night, I left Ashli at my moms house for the third weekend in a row. Between speaking at Allume, attending an FTE retreat, and finally, this weekend’s excursion to Israel, Ashli has had her fill of mama’s travel schedule! She wept, profusely, asking for me to stay home. She begged and reason in my mother’s kitchen, searching my eyes for the possibility of concession.

Sadly, she found none. (but we did manage to take this nice picture!)


You can imagine the heartbreak I felt having to leave behind this brown-eyed-girl who ached to have her mama stay home “this time;” you can imagine the tension between saying “not this time” to your child in order to say “yes, it’s time” to the call to go.

But it is the community of reliable others that have shared their own truths, their own moments of regret and triumph that carry me to say yes anyway.

It is the community of reliable others that envision new possibilities for not only my life, but their own — knowing that if I can stand at the water’s edge and be brave enough to wade through the proverbial waters, others can too.

It is the community of reliable others who are prophetic guides, using their own giftings to nurture me from the margins.

But I cannot help to think about the millions of single mothers whose hopes will never actualize because they do not have a community of reliable others to support them.

I think about the crushing realities of “not enough” and “not yet,” both of which seem to never actualize themselves because of the systems in place that make those possibilities impossible.

How do we become intentional about building a community of reliable others around single mothers across the globe, a community that helps us actualize our dreams? I’m reminded of the single mothers I met in Brazil and Uganda earlier this year who, too, were working towards their dreams. They have hopes just like me — and it’s because of community that they are able to finish degrees and build their businesses.

I cannot account for any of this on my own — I am only able to do these things because I have a community of people who support me. It is the only and sole reason.

Grateful for you who support me in ways I cannot begin to articulate.

This trip is for you. THANK YOU.

On the chase,

Alisha L.


The Cornerstone: The Response of the Church in Violent Times

As originally printed in T.D. Jakes’ MegaFest 2015 Souvenir Magazine:

With violent assaults on historically African American churches resurging in recent months, many in the Body of Christ are searching for a faithful response from Christian leadership and community. Attacks on these churches are not a new thing; the Emanuel African Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina had experienced its own violent history nearly 200 years prior to the June 17 massacre of nine people. White residents in Charleston burned down the same church in 1822 after Denmark Vesey, one of the founders of Emanuel, organized a slave revolt that was later thwarted. Continue reading


Hope Dies Last: A Word on Kelly Gissendaner

On this day, September 21, 2011, I wrote an Open Letter to the State of Georgia about the state-authorized death of one of their sons, Troy Davis.

The blog went viral in a matter of 24 hours, finding its way on a host of news sites and it would be the first time that I would enter into public discourse about social justice and the death penalty.

Four years later, I’d find myself penning yet another article about a daughter of the State of Georgia, Kelly Gissendaner, a woman whose original execution was stayed because the drugs the State planned to use to kill her were cloudy and not fit for use. Recently, we learned that Kelly would be executed by the State of Georgia on the 29th of this month, after six long months of appeals and public outcry for her stay of execution. Continue reading


The Starfish and the Spider: A Conversation about Jesus and the Church

Last year I read the book The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brayman and Rod A. Beckstrom. The 200-plus page book explores the concept of the “starfish” and the “spider,” two leadership models for organizations in any sector. Quickly, I’ll explain how both the starfish and the spider represent every organization you can think of:

The spider, according to Brayman and Beckstrom, is an insect that needs all of its parts to fully function. If a spider loses a leg, it will still live but will be severely handicapped, making it difficult for the spider to function as it should. If the spider loses its head, the entire body suffers and inevitably dies.

The starfish on the other hand, when it loses a limb, regenerates a new arm. What’s even more interesting, the separated arm will grow a brand new starfish out of that detached limb! What many people don’t know is that each arm of the starfish has everything it needs to regenerate and grow a new starfish — this means that even when a starfish’s arm is severed, the original body not only grows a new arm, but the new arm grows a new body! Continue reading


The New Civil Rights Movement: An Open Discussion

From the The Shakeup’s website:

The Shakeup crew pressed pause on regular programming and invited Alisha L. Gordon,AlishaLGordonatTheShakeup M.Div. into the studio to discuss the climate of America, racism and black lives.  The discussion opened the door to the beginning of discussions that need to continue to happen in our country.

This conversation will begin a series of discussions at THE SHAKEUP and at BossFM.  Stay tuned to the BossFM website for details and to get involved, email us at

The following video has not been edited in anyway.  Viewer discretion is advised.

For an audio version of this show, check out our OnDemand Podcast.
[jump to the 42:30 minute for some good stuff!]