The highly acclaimed movie Hidden Figures relates a captivating story from the early 1960s when a group of African-American women in the marketplace played a crucial role in getting astronauts into space.
The film shows how NASA didn’t appreciate the gifts it had been given. Only at a crucial point did the agency realize how much it depended on these women to complete its mission.
I see a similar failing in the church, which often fails to appreciate its resources—those gifts wrapped in human bodies. Remember that, in the first century, a lot of pastors, evangelists and other leaders were also laypersons, such as merchants and fishermen. Yet today, instead of utilizing those resources, we too often let them sit on the sidelines.
We say lay members aren’t excluded from any level of leadership, yet that doesn’t always translate to the local church level. That means when it comes to the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30), we are like a “half-talent steward,” burying half the talent in our midst.
What can we do? For starters, more coaching. Male pastors often don’t mentor women because of their reluctance to get into one-on-one settings with the opposite sex. Yet this can be overcome through mentoring in groups, something Jesus routinely did.
We also need to overcome the dualistic mindset that promotes a sacred-spiritual divide that places pastors and missionaries at the top of importance to God’s kingdom, and those in marketplace occupations at the bottom.
After all, everyone—regardless of role and gender—who follows Jesus is called to be a disciple. Leaders should mentor businesspersons and youth to benefit God’s kingdom, not just their church.
Let’s intentionally learn from the project engineer in Hidden Figures who says, at a pivotal moment: “We all get to the peak together, or we don’t get there at all.”