Women’s Ministry in the Local Church: An Interview with Denise Hardy

?It was such a joy to sit and interview our Women’s Ministry Director here at Cornerstone Baptist Church. I fully support her, her vision, and the Women’s Ministry at CBC. I hope that this interview will encourage and challenge you as much as it has me. Thank you for all you do, Denise.

Share with us some of your story.

I was born in Clarksville, TN and grew up in church. I was used to hearing about Jesus and I was used to hearing about the cross, and you know all the altar calls and that stuff were very familiar. When I was 8 my mom and dad had split up, and we came to Detroit for that summer. I went to VBS at Gilead Baptist Church in Downtown Detroit that summer and I do believe through that time God saved me.

I am very leery about praying a prayer and all of that kind of thing. But I can speak confidently as one looking back at what God was doing in my life after that moment. I was baptized at 9, I was actually baptized in a creek back in Tennessee. I remember when the pastor put me under looking up through his fingers and seeing his face. Isn’t that a strange thing to remember all these years later?

When I was 10 my parents got a divorce and we moved to Detroit. We ended up going to Gilead Baptist Church. By the time I was fourteen I was teaching eleven year old girls in Sunday School. The Lord was just growing me and growing me fast. So much so that by the time I was a senior in high school I was doing Backyard Bible clubs and leading children. My senior pastor pulled me aside one day and said, “You need to go to Bible College.” And I said, “I don’t want to go to Bible College, I want to go to nursing school.” So I ended up going to nursing school and lasted 6 months. But I kept teaching in the church and doing all those things.

I married at 20. I married an unbeliever. He had nothing against the church and never stopped me from teaching and being involved, and so I was able to continue to do that. I came to Cornerstone Baptist Church in 1984, joined the membership in 85. I came on staff in April of 1989 originally as the Children’s Ministry Director.

I was the Children’s Ministry Director until 2001, when I transitioned into the role of Women’s Ministry Director. That transition happened in part because of our then Associate Pastor Jerry Benge. Jerry came on staff in 1996 as the associate pastor of counseling. He asked me one time to sit in on a counseling session with a mother and son. And after an hour they left and I looked at Jerry and said, “You just used the Bible!” So I sat in another time and then on the third time he asked me to take the boy and work with him. And Jerry had me sit in on a few more counseling cases, and then a few more, and then eventually he started turning counseling cases over to me.

Jerry brought in an eleven week training course on counseling and I took that. And I remember picking up a friend and taking her with me to the training and after a few weeks she said “I can’t wait to get certified.” And I said “I am not going to get certified, I don’t have any interest in that.” Eventually I got certified and she ended up deciding not to, so it’s just whatever God has for you. So in 2003 I was certified with NANC.

What are some future plans you have for the Women’s Ministry?

I would like to see more women seriously in the Word, and seriously then taking that Word and living it out. I think the big thing I hear from women is “I am overwhelmed.” Overwhelmed by this or by that and my whole life is just overwhelming. That is such a wrong view of life and God, because, yeah, sometimes we get too much on our plate (and sometimes we put it there), but if God put it there he will give us the grace to deal with that. For us to have women who are prepared to come alongside other women and help them get through things is what we need. You do not have to be overwhelmed by this; this is where God has brought you at this point. So I want to see more ladies embrace the Word, and then take it over here and use it. I don’t want women who just sit in class after class after class but don’t realize they need to take it and apply it.

I also want women to realize it’s not about your “role,” but rather it’s about God. For so many women life is about their role. “I know I am supposed to do this and this and that. But now my kids are all gone and I’ve lost my purpose.” And I want them to see that in fact they never understood their purpose rightly. So, identity is huge for me. I want women to understand their identity is in Christ and see that played out in every role they have.

How would you define your role in the church?

I am part of the wheel, the center being Christ. I don’t think it’s about being under or over but rather part of. So if the center is Christ then I am one of the spokes. My spoke is the connection for the women of the church. I am, then, to guide them and lead them and point them back to the center. I do that in connection with the other spokes. So I am connected to the pastoral staff, the elders, the finance team…everyone that I need to work with. So I am not going to think that women are the most important part, they are just one part of the body.  So I am to lead the women, but I also believe that I am to work in tandem with everyone else in the church leadership as a whole.

Is it acceptable for women to be “theologians”?

I think it is unacceptable if they are not! We all need to be theologians. We need to study and know our God. If we are followers of Jesus Christ that is the only way we are going to be able to live our life out in the roles to which he has called us. We need to not shy away from the words theology and theologian.

I realize that that is kind of an inane question, but it’s not uncommon. Why do you think that a question like that would even get asked?

Because we have the idea that theology is for men because they’re supposed to be the spiritual leaders. But we can’t be the spiritual helper if we’re not studying theology. Our first responsibility is to God, and what does he want from us? To follow in obedience, and that includes studying theology. Because we make the roles in the family more important than the identity in Christ we get it topsy turvy.

What do you think are the biggest issues facing Evangelical women these days?

I think identity is huge! Realizing that identity is the engine that drives your life. Being in Christ, identifying with Christ, knowing that it is not about us but about Christ and the gospel, is just what so many women are missing. And because of that confusion a lot of women end up coming to counseling. But if they had that right they wouldn’t need to come to counseling in the first place.

Would you consider yourself Complimentarian? And what does that word mean to you?

I would really just use the word Biblical. I want to go back to the Bible and ask what does the Bible say about our roles in the family and in the church. There are a lot of good things coming from the Complimentarian camp, I believe that. But I believe that there’s a lot of emphasis there that can result in wrong thinking. I don’t believe that women should be pastors or elders, that’s not Biblical. But I am not sure that I need another word for that.

Is there danger in using labels like Complimentarian and Egalitarian?

Yes. I remember a panel discussion I heard once where the speakers kept saying “Most people who claim to be Complimentarians actually live like Egalitarians.” And they kept saying that over and over, and I don’t know what that means. Does that mean women shouldn’t have a voice? Does that mean that husbands and wives can’t work together? I think the labels add confusion.

We sometimes quarantine women and treat them as minority members of a congregation. How can pastors do a better job of discipling and utilizing women in the church?

Every time we end up talking about “using women in the church” we talk about the kitchen or the nursery. And those are important ministries, but that’s not all that God desires for women within the church. When God made women it was to be a helper. I know that the elders are to be men, but I think it would be a good practice for them to invite a few selected, godly, women in a few times a year to contribute some insight. Women see and think about things differently, and they can help with looking at the big picture of our church. We should have women on the Missions teams and Finance teams, etc. Here at Cornerstone we have deaconesses. Women can be involved in lots of ways in the church, we just have to look beyond the kitchen.

Any good books you would recommend to women wanting to study theology?

When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James – this book opened my eyes up to the purpose for single women. There are some stretches in the book, so read it discerningly, but there is a lot of good stuff in there.

Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick – this book builds on the gospel and helps readers to realize all that Christ did on the cross. It is jammed packed with gospel theology.

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp – It was hard for me to read because she’s kind of poetic. Sentence fragments drive me nuts, but if you can stick with it it’s worth it. The challenge of the book is to see everything as a gift from God. It’s a theology of being thankful, and that’s huge.

Comments

  1. Pat Jenkins says:

    Pastor Dave, thank you for the enlightening interview with Denise Hardy!! Denise you are a “HUGE BLESSING”!!
    Pat Jenkins

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