Rev. Liz Testa
Women’s Transformation and Leadership and
Reformed Church in America
In this series of 4 devotions, Liz shares lessons from her journey as a visionary leader called to create a Spirit-led movement that encourages, equips and empowers women of all backgrounds to live into their God-given gifts and callings, and helps faith communities create healthy ministry environments where sisters and brothers can serve together, freely and fully.
For Surely God knows the Plan!
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. Jeremiah 29:11-12
It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2013, and my daughters and I were settling into seats at Radio City Music Hall, in NYC. A text popped up from the Rev. Dr. Ken Eriks, an RCA senior staffer, asking if we could speak. I responded a bit glibly – I was about to see the Rockettes and Live Nativity and would have to take a rain check. I thought he wanted me to lead devotions for an upcoming meeting; surely that could wait a few days. And so on Monday morning, in the quiet of my 5th Avenue church office, he shared the real reason for his call. He was inviting me to consider applying for a role within Transformed and Transforming, the RCA’s 15 year ministry plan, to lead a new ministry, “Women’s Transformation and Leadership.” This was an honor; however, I had just been ordained as a Minister of Word and sacrament two months prior, feeling I had finally accomplished what God had asked of me by becoming a “Rev”, serving my congregation more fully as an associate minister. Ken, in his lovely relational way, encouraged me to stay open to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and enter a process of prayerful discernment. I confess I felt rebellious and didn’t want anything to do with this opportunity – I had worked for 7 years to get here, I wanted a break, to stay where I was! But through our conversation, I realized I needed to be obedient to both Spirit and process. We agreed I would put it to prayer.
As I wrestled with myself and honestly, with God, the words from Jer. 29:11-12 kept washing over me.
These verses are on nearly every Christian graduation card, focusing on the personal translation of “you.” And it’s true, God does have a plan for each of our lives, but what is lost in (English) translation is that the prophet is actually speaking to the whole people of Israel. It is a communal promise.
Slowly, I realized that what God was calling me to was a brave new kind of leadership in a broader context. I had to really (and I mean REALLY) trust that God knew the plan for “us” and that I would lead not alone but in the company of others. This obedience meant embracing the both/and of my calling – faithfully using my God-given gifts and strengths AND collaborating with like-minded sisters and brothers. The result has been a Spirit-led movement bringing about godly, gracious change, hope and possibilities as we have pursued the RCA’s vision for the full inclusion of women’s gifts, and influence in all areas of the church and beyond.
The more we Christ-followers can embrace a biblical “both/and” sense of call, the stronger we will be as leaders. It can feel counter-cultural in our highly individualized Western society, but if you want to go far, you must go together…praying and seeking God’s guidance every step of the way.