[Bible, Ministry & More] Shari Edwards: Leadership and The Gospel

Shari has been active in Women’s Ministry leadership for over 20 years and is a Lifeway Women Trainer. She currently serves as Co-Coordinator for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention Inspire Women’s Conference, and in the ABSC Women’s Ministry Leader Network. She holds a BA in Journalism and Public Relations and currently serves as Adjunct Instructor of Ministry to Women at Ouachita Baptist University Pruet School of Christian Studies. Shari is a wife of 32 years to her college sweetheart, mother of 3 sons and a beautiful daughter-in-law. She is also “Sibby” to 2 precious young granddaughters. She resides in North Little Rock, Arkansas and has been an active member of Park Hill Baptist for 26 years. Shari loves to encourage women in their everyday and leadership lives and can be found atgenesisgirlsministry.com, on Instagram @sharibeth88, and on Facebook. 

About five years ago, God got my attention about owning my personal leadership development. I was sitting in a breakout session at a leadership conference – one I had long desired to attend but never able to because it was always in early November. You see, for most of the previous 10 years, I was typically in attendance at my sons’ football games. All of my boys played high school football and November was playoff time. As a die hard football mom I was not going to miss cheering for our team! Our middle son continued to play football for Ouachita Baptist University, so that meant November football always included the oldest small college football rivalry in the country – the Battle of the Ravine between OBU and Henderson State University. Everyone knows that is the best college football around!

What does all of this have to do with owning your personal leadership development? Nothing, except for the simple principle that when we align our priorities with God’s, His timing for how He intends to purpose our lives for His glory is always perfect. For that season in my life, my main ministry was my family and being available to raise up these young men God had blessed us with. Then God provided me with an opportunity to attend the LifeWay Women Leadership Forum for the first time. 

The theme verse for the conference was Paul’s letter in Ephesians 4:1-6, which begins, “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received…”. What does it mean to walk “worthy”? What does it mean to have a “calling”? What if I’m not serving in vocational ministry? What if I don’t really have a ministry position or title? These are questions God began to use to speak into my heart as I sat absorbing all the phenomenal teaching over the course of this three day conference. 

In the breakout session I mentioned earlier, I was challenged to consider this question: “What am I doing to use what God has placed in my hand for His glory?” I was struck by the fact that as a woman who had served for years in my local church in a variety of volunteer roles, I had never really considered my role or my part in developing myself as a leader. God used this session to convict me about how I was stewarding opportunities, relationships and abilities for His kingdom purposes: to build up the church and further the gospel. I came away from that conference with an overwhelming motivation to take intentional steps to grow in my leadership development journey. 

Why does leadership development matter? I would say that leadership development matters because the Great Commission matters. When we view our leadership through the lens of Jesus’ mandate in Matthew 28, to “Go and make disciples…,” it should shape our thinking on how we steward what God has placed in our hand (our gifts and abilities, relationships, and opportunities) to strengthen the church and spread the gospel. I love this quote in “Designed to Lead,” by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck: “Because the core of sustaining and transforming leadership is the Church, no organization should outpace the Church in developing leaders. Why? No other gathering of people has a greater mission, a greater promise, or a greater Reward.” 

The Bible is full of passages that speak to growing in personal leadership development. In 2 Peter 1:5-10, the phrase “make every effort” is used twice. Peter exhorts followers of Christ to intentionally pursue developing qualities that lead to fruitful and useful lives. Ephesians 4:12 reminds us that our callings and spiritual gifts are to be used to effectively “equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.”

In the years since I attended this conference, I have taken steps to grow in my leadership journey. God has faithfully provided opportunities for me to walk out the calling He has placed on my life. Friends, if ever there was an urgency for leaders who model what it means to unite around a common goal to strengthen the church and draw people to the good news of Jesus, it is now. May we be faithful to lead well.

For more information on leadership development for women’s ministry leaders, go to absc.org/women.

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