Daniel Vestal has written about “Why I am a Baptist” and recently commented on life and ministry in the church. He said, “In a Baptist vision of church, men and women are equal. Because of Christ there is no male or female, just as there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free. Participation and leadership in the church are not determined by gender, social status, or economic condition; these are determined by the grace and call of God.”
      Sometimes things can become so routine and familiar to us that we lose appreciation for them. We can, on occasion, take people, circumstances, and blessings for granted. Being part of a church that supports men and women in leadership should never be something that falls into that category. It’s imperative that we celebrate our church’s heritage and character as one who bases service on gifts and calling, not gender.
      The Apostle Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV). This text is the hermeneutical key for understanding the context in which the apostle lived and wrote his letters to the churches.
      In his own life and ministry, Jesus Christ included women as his followers. He did not rebuke Mary when she opted to sit at his feet to listen and learn rather than help her sister Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Women were also the first witnesses to and heralds of the resurrection (Luke 24:1-10). And the Holy Spirit’s arrival at Pentecost confirmed the prophet Joel’s prediction that “your sons and your daughters will prophecy” (Acts 2:17-18).  Phillip also had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9).
      There are other examples but you get the idea. Despite the cultural limitations, women played an important role in the life of the church. Now, in the 21st century, the equality of service and ministry should be even more apparent in the local church.
      UHBC is the only Baptist church in this area of the country that affirms and maintains that God can call anyone to serve in any capacity in the life of the church. For many years, UHBC has benefited from the involvement and leadership of women and men on boards, committees, and ministerial staff. It’s hard to imagine doing this another way.
      It is especially meaningful to me as a father of two daughters for them to see shared ministry modeled in our church. I hope that as they grow up and older that the lessons of service that they have seen and heard will stay with them. Let’s always remember the influence and impact we are having with the next generation of leaders.
      This Sunday, we will apply our Baptist principles and heritage in a deacon ordination service for Grace Clifton and Zach Fowler. As Baptists, we can ordain those whom the Lord calls out and that our congregation chooses. We don’t need approval from any outside authority or denominational body. As the local body of Christ, we affirm and acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is working the their lives and are grateful for their willingness to serve the Lord in this way.
      Many of you have known and loved Grace and her family for a long time, and I am so grateful for her leadership, friendship and servant heart. She is a wonderful presence at Glendale High School and has a heart for students and people in general. Grace will be a great addition to our deacons.
      It’s also been a pleasure to have had Zach in our church for the last few years. He has been involved in our student ministry, been visible on the platform on Sunday mornings, and shows a willingness to do whatever in the service of God and our church. Zach recently graduated with a Masters degree from SBU. In a relatively short period of time, he has become an integral part of our church family.
      This Sunday morning, we will celebrate both of them. One has been part of UHBC for years, and the other is relatively new to us. Both are loved and appreciated, and are examples of how the Lord adds people to the church to fulfill its purpose. I am thankful that God has blessed my life by bringing them into our church family. Each one is “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” Let’s give thanks for that they are serving the Lord with us.