My heart is full of thanksgiving and delight for my friend, Tara Beth Leach as I have finished reading her book, Emboldened: A Vision for Empowering Women in Ministry.
She’s breaking new ground, friends. As a female senior pastor of an evangelical megachurch and as an author.
She’s gifted. She’s a leader. And she knows how to embolden women to break stereotypes, overcome opposition, and to invite women to step into their God-given giftedness as leaders for Christ’s mission.
Although she never uses the phrase, “spiritual intimacy,” almost every page of her book breathes this palpable, authentic, and intimate journey of an evangelical woman’s response to the call of God in her life to full time pastoring. All the way from a teenager to her present love, a Nazarene Church in Pasadena California, "PazNaz". I couldn't be any more thrilled that she writes this book as a senior pastor of a megachurch. She's a trailblazer. In her words, "I have never seen a female senior pastor lead."
I have to lay my cards on the table. First, she’s a friend. I was so excited for her when she was called to PazNaz that I watched her first sermon that was streamed live on Facebook. I am so happy for her.
Second, I am writing a book on spiritual friendship (intimacy) between men and women. Third, it was through an intentional spiritual friendship with another female friend that God used to convert me from a complementarian to an egalitarian. In the day-to-day praying with and for this friend and processing possibilities of ministry, I saw God’s presence and gifting in her life; I became a supporter of women in ministry via an intimate spiritual friendship with a woman. My eyes were opened to the stereotypes and opposition Tara Beth writes about.
But I would like to suggest Tara Beth in her new book gives us a transparent and inviting look into another dimension of spiritual intimacy between men and women: what it means for gifted female leader who is a wife, mother, and a lover of Jesus to boldly step into the leadership gifts God has lavished on her.
I say “spiritual intimacy” is appropriate because she gives us an inside peek of her heart as she faces self-doubts, stereotypes embedded in ministry, discouraging comments expressed to her in private conversations. We discover the many times she's been told to, "not lead like a man."
We get a peek into her first few months of being a senior pastor at PazNaz where she faced some difficult conversations about gender issues. We get an inside look into her particular struggles as she yearns to become her unique self in the presence of significant others.
Spiritual intimacy is appropriate because we see page after page her love for Christ, her love for her husband, her love for her children, her love for Christ’s church. And, yes, her current particular love for her church, PazNaz. She nurtures a desire for us to want to see Christ through all these loves.
I have no doubt that other gifted women will see themselves in these struggles because of abounding and embedded stereotypes about female leaders in ministry.
This is a book that fills a huge void. I can’t recommend it enough.