By Lori Arnold
IRVINE, Calif. — Ruth Chou Simons spent the better part of a decade rocking her shopping carts back and forth as she raised six sons. Like a glider, the multitasking motion lulled the babies to sleep as she scanned the grocery aisles.
Even after the youngest one outgrew the cart, Simons was still in a perpetual rocking motion. She practiced it so often it became her default setting.
“Are you defaulting to truth when you go through life’s greatest concerns and chaos?” Simons, an author, entrepreneur and artist asked 750 women at Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum’s first-ever West Coast gathering, held Feb. 20-21 at Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif.
Flourishing, Simons offered, requires the continual practice of remembering God’s character—and who we are in Him.
“If what you love the most is not Christ himself, if you don’t love Jesus most, above even those good things in your life, you will be shaped by that love,” said Simons, a new Lifeway Bible study author.
Women from 14 states, including Hawaii, and Canada attended the Women’s Forum. The theme was “Flourish,” with Acts 12:24 serving as the foundational Scripture, “But the word of God flourished and multiplied.”
Kelly King, women’s ministry specialist for Lifeway Christian Resources, said, “I’m not only amazed at these women’s commitment to Kingdom work; I’m energized by their joy in ministry. We were all ready for this event to happen in this part of the country.”
King told the audience she was especially pleased to bring the event to that venue because it reunited her team with Eric Geiger, who became senior pastor of Mariners Church—the event venue—18 months ago. Geiger formerly served for seven years as a vice president of Lifeway.
During his general session presentation, Geiger cited Colossians 3:16 and the importance of character in shaping leadership.
“The way you flourish as a leader is that the Word of Christ sits in leadership over your life,” Geiger said. “The way you flourish as a leader is that the Word of Christ dwells and lives richly in your life; that when you are squeezed, the Word comes out; that when you face a trial, the Word is on top of your mouth.”
Earlier in the afternoon, during a panel discussion on effective leadership, Geiger also warned about the dangers of hollow authority.
“Sometimes the role weighs more than their character and when the role weighs more than their character they crumble,” he said.
During the same panel, Bible teacher and long-time Lifeway author Beth Moore urged the audience not to hide their ministry scars.
“You are going to get hit and you are going to tumble and your hip’s going to come out of joint,” she said. “You are going to wrestle with God like Jacob did and that’s OK, because it just shows that we are so very human.”
Many of the general session topics touched on soul care and healing. Among them, Lifeway author and Bible teacher Kelly Minter shared the passage in Luke 4:38–39 where Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. In Luke’s account, she immediately gets up and begins serving.
“What are you doing with the healing that Jesus brought in your life? Are you serving out of that place of healing or is that story old news now?” she asked, adding, “Sometimes those things can get so far back, and we stop serving Him. We get used to the healing but we forgot what it is we’ve been healed for.”
Jen Wilkin, author of the newly released Lifeway Bible study “Better: A Study of Hebrews,” gave the audience a glimpse into the first house church in Europe—where Paul, Luke and Silas initiated the groundwork for the gospel in Macedonia—by sharing the story of a woman, a slave and a Gentile as recounted in Acts 16:11-34. There, they ministered to the triad of unlikely ministry recipients.
“The Word of God is going forth and it is flourishing in such a way that now in Philippi there is this wacky house church with three founding members,” Wilkin said. “Lydia, a woman who sold purple goods, a slave girl recently delivered from a python spirit and a Gentile guard who has witnessed a miracle. Can you imagine them hanging out in small group time?”
Diversity, not division, is a unifying message of the gospel, a point she underscored by reading Galatians 3:28: “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Many serving Jesus, she acknowledged, know what it’s like to be “made last, least or pushed aside,” a factor she believes makes Christ-followers “uniquely qualified to carry forth the work.”
“Are we these who hold fast to our confession and hold loosely to everything else?” she posed.
Breakout session topics included suffering in leadership, sharing the gospel with confidence, exploring giftedness, ministry tensions, peacemaking God’s way, theology, cultural leadership, and finding joy in messy seasons.
In addition to King, other Lifeway breakout presenters included Dr. Alicia Wong, Dr. Jeff Iorg, women’s ministry trainers Martha Lawley, Marshelle Wilburn and Simone Monroe, plus Lifeway author Mary Jo Sharp and Lifeway writer Diane Nix.
The next forum will be held Nov. 12-14 at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
Lori Arnold is a San Diego-based freelancer writer.