by Judi Jackson
Jo Gordon is graduating this December with her Women’s Ministry Basic and Advanced Certificates from Leavell College. This ‘non-traditional’ student reminded teachers and fellow students in word and deed that age has nothing to do with call to ministry! What an inspiration she has been to all of us! Perhaps this article will show you why!
No Was Never an Option
by Jo Gordon
It was easy to say no. While attending a team leadership meeting, the women’s ministry director of eleven years announced she was stepping down. Some of the women said to me, “You will be our next women’s ministry leader.” “Not me,” I said. “I’m in the fifty-five to heaven age group. I’m too old.”
The first excuse rolled off my tongue like dominoes standing on end, lined up in a row. Once I knocked the first one down, others toppled from my mouth one on top of the other. I was not willing to serve.
Defending my decision further, I brought up health issues. Residuals from nine back surgeries and on-going chronic pain would prevent me physically from performing the requirements of the position. So much had been taken from me; I was not able.
“All the years I have put into ministry work; it’s someone else’s turn. Not to mention, I’m not qualified,” I continued. “We need a leader who can bridge the gap between the older generation and the younger generation.” Silently I was hoping my fear of failure was not noticeable. I had lost my focus.
At the age of thirty-six, while living in the New Orleans area, I prayed to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I did enroll in a night class, but life issues forced me to resign. As time passed, the thoughts, prayers, and chances to go to school got fewer. I accepted it was not God’s will.
Later, with the convenience of home computers and internet, I started searching the NOBTS web site. Dreams of taking classes would wake me at two or three o’clock in the morning. I could see myself sitting in class sharing my vast knowledge and experiences. The teachers would be lenient with me, I was sure.
But it wasn’t dreams. It was the Holy Spirit calling me. In October 2013, I enrolled in the Basic Certificate Program in Women’s Ministry at NOBTS. Over thirty years after I first prayed and asked God, my prayer was answered. At 67 years old, I was a student at NOBTS.
I was older than anyone in the classroom, even the instructors. The surprise was not the age difference, but actually seeing in person how young the other students were. Did I have anything in common with these women? What in the world was I thinking coming here?
Dr. Rhonda Kelley mesmerized me with her tremendous spiritual wisdom, teaching techniques, and leadership gifts. Dr. Judi Jackson challenged me to set a goal of having my doctorate by age eighty-six. There would be no leniency.
That was just the beginning. God wasn’t finished. The women’s ministry leadership position at my local church was vacant again. I approached the decision differently this time. The previous fear and insecurity was replaced with passion and motivation to serve. Influenced by remarkable Christian instructors, I learned effective ways to connect with other women. Society had changed since I prayed that prayer over thirty years ago. Learning techniques of reaching women of modern society better equipped me to relate. As a vessel used by God, I did have offerings to share with other women.
Titus 2:3-5 was the purpose for my call. As an older woman, I was to train and teach women to be spiritual leaders of tomorrow. Helping women discover and use their spiritual gifts in Kingdom work was my intent. No longer were my decisions turned inward and self-centered. I was willing to faithfully serve.
In Philippians 4:13, the writer proclaims “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (NIV). Faith, prayer, and Bible study grounded me to always look to God. My focus was to be on mission as His servant.
Way back over thirty years ago, the Master’s plan was designed. Today, requirements for the Basic Certificate in Women’s Ministry are complete and the Advanced Certification is almost finished. God called me; however, it’s my responsibility to prepare to the best of my ability. Seminary training at this time was God’s plan long ago to equip me for His ministry purpose today. I’m sad to see my time at NOBTS end.
Only God knows what’s in store for me. Whatever it may be, “No” will never again be an immediate option for me answering His call. I will no longer concentrate on what has been taken from me, but will use all I have left to spread Kingdom work. Keep a watchful eye, professors; I may be back!