Women & Leadership
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (ezer) fit for him.'” Genesis 2:18
This moment is one of the most incredible accounts in the Bible. It is the moment God determined to create Eve – the other half of His own image.
In the creation account of Genesis, we see God breathing life and fleshing out the world with His own two hands. We know that God does not leave anything unfinished or incomplete, so it is instrumental that He completed His creation with Eve.
There are countless Christian teachings about women. Why they were created, what their role is and how they are to fulfill that role. Some are valuable teachings, others have caused large amounts of pain and confusion.
I once heard a teaching on women that claimed they were the “finishing touch” on creation, like the star on top of a Christmas tree or a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae. While the intention behind this teaching was probably good, at the end of the day, it did not do justice to what I suspect was bursting within God’s heart when He created Eve.
When referring to a person, the word “help” or “helper” has become a derogatory term in the English language, so it is crucial for us to have a right understanding of what God meant when He used the word “helper” to describe Eve.
The Hebrew word ezer was used many times in the Old Testament by God to describe Himself. It comes from two Hebrew roots, one meaning “to rescue” and the other meaning “to be strong.”
“Behold, God is my helper (ezer); the Lord is the upholder of my life.” – Psalm 54:4
Dr. Marcus Murphy, a scholar of Hebrew language, explains the significance of this word choice to describe Eve.
“God is attributing Eve’s role in humanity to an aspect of His own upholding power. Eve is a strong rescuer corresponding to Adam by possessing the other half of the qualities of God,” Dr. Murphy said.
Eve was not created as a finishing touch or afterthought, but rather as a foundational part in God’s original design.
Eve and the Curse
So how did this powerful truth become lost?
When sin entered the world and Adam and Eve fell from God’s original design, everything started to shift out of place. One of these shifts was how Adam and Eve related to one another.
In Genesis 3:16, God tells Eve some of the consequences that would come to her because sin had now entered the picture.
“To the woman He said . . . ‘Your desire shall be for your husband, but he shall rule over you.'”
That is a strong statement and it has certainly been taken out of context to justify the mistreatment of many women throughout the course of history. To really understand the context of this passage, we need to remember that God was telling Eve what would happen because of sin – not because it was His design.
Man would not rule over woman because he should, he would rule over her because he could.
This and many other curses were brought upon humanity when Adam and Eve stepped out of God’s design.
Fast-forward thousands of years later and we see Jesus fulfill what God told the serpent in Genesis 3:15.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This prophecy was given immediately before God told Adam and Eve of the curses that would befall them (Genesis 3:16-19).
Not only did Jesus come and live a perfect life and die a sinner’s death to offer us eternal life, He came to literally reverse the curse – all of it.
If you take the time to read through Genesis chapter three, it ends with Adam and Eve being driven out of the garden away from the tree of life. Jesus’ death on a cross would invite us into life at a tree once again, where He bore our curse.
What is our responsibility with this truth in mind? As Kingdom leaders we have a responsibility to help restore right-relationship between men and women.
There are implications and applications of this in every sphere of society, but for the purposes of this article we will focus on Kingdom businesses.
If your desire as a leader is for your business to be an expression of God’s Kingdom, your beliefs about women and their ability to lead are of critical importance.
Much of the Evangelical world has remained silent in the recent outpouring of opinions about women’s rights and other issues as they relate to the female role in society.
I do not believe they remain silent because they do not care, but because there are only two polarizing groups society has left them to join. You can align yourself with women who are angry and whose approach is to overpower men, as men have overpowered them. Or, you can fall back and adopt a view of femininity that much of the Evangelical world has taught, which can have its own slew of problematic implications.
A Kingdom business is in the unique position to champion a healthy view that models God’s original design, one that lies between these two popular opinions.
“If God established man and woman as partners in the garden, we should probably do the same in our businesses,” said Jeanna Roach, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Betenbough Homes.
Jeanna is one of few females in executive-level leadership in the home building industry.
Starting at Betenbough Homes in 2006 as a public relations specialist, Jeanna steadily grew into the role she has today. She will be the first to tell you that her ability to do so was a direct result of Betenbough Homes making decisions based on people, not gender.
“When our leadership team gets together with our national builder group, I am the only woman in the room,” Jeanna said.
“Even though I believe this industry will see a large increase of women in leadership over the next few years, our company is leading the way in this because of men like Ron & Rick Betenbough,” Jeanna said.
“When our leadership team was looking at people who work for Betenbough Homes as candidates to form the leadership team for the company, I felt very strongly that Jeanna Roach should be in that group,” Ron Betenbough said.
“Jeanna embodies characteristics that I respect and admire. She is smart, intuitive, a great judge of character and acts decisively. She can be tough when she needs to be, and she manages her team with truth and grace. She is not afraid to make hard decisions but does so with compassion and love. My life and that of Betenbough Homes would be greatly diminished without her,” Ron said.
Business leaders can say they hire and promote based on talent, but unless those talents and traits are agreed upon and go into writing, it’s often hard to know what might drive a decision.
“We have leadership values we look for when hiring or promoting a leader. A few examples from that list are humility, curiosity and passion. There are specific things we are looking for in an individual, none-of-which has to do with whether they are male or female,” Jeanna said.
At the same time, Betenbough tries to celebrate differences and individuality.
“You have to be willing to talk about these topics,” Jeanna said. “There is a different point of view that a female can bring to the office, and men should be excited to learn from that. That goes the other way too. We all have something to contribute, and ultimately everyone thrives when people have the freedom to be themselves.”
“Women bring a perspective that is different and of equal value. Very often a woman can quickly size up anyone they meet with remarkable accuracy and clarity,” Ron said.
None of this happens when you can’t talk about it though. Space has to be made for these conversations.
“I just can’t help wonder if people want to hear more about women in leadership because they want to see what that really looks like,” Jeanna said. “I feel passionate about people being able to see a female leader in a homebuilding company. It’s not normal. For example, if my daughter sees it, what impact will that have on her?”
Women in leadership is something people want to see more of. Maybe because they didn’t see it growing up, or perhaps because they are the only female leader in their organization and feel alone. Whatever the reason, we do not have to go any further than the four gospels to see it. Jesus was passionate about the world seeing Eve restored and released to walk in her full capacity.
Jesus and Eve
Women were incredibly marginalized and mistreated at the time Jesus began His earthly ministry. The very fact that Jesus, as a rabbi, had women in his inner circle would have been unseemly to those around Him.
“This idea that women were second-class citizens was itself a product of sin that carried throughout generations until the time of Jesus,” said Sherry Bassinger, Business Manager for Cornerstone Business Holdings.
“Women were not allowed to be witnesses to any trial or public testament at all. So, I think it was very intentional of Jesus to make sure that women were the first witnesses to the resurrection,” Sherry said.
In her book, Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey unpacks this idea further as she explains how Jesus’ treatment of women was a driving factor in her decision to follow Him.
“I saw how Jesus didn’t treat women any differently than men, and I liked that. We weren’t too precious for words, dainty like fine china. We received no free pass or delicate worries about our ability to understand or contribute or work. Women were not too sweet or weak for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or too manipulative and prone to jealousy, insecurity, and deception to push back the kingdom of darkness.”
Kathryn Miller is the general manager of Betenbough’s Lubbock-West region. She is the first female to fill that position in the company’s history.
“When I was in the Church of Christ more than 15 years ago, I sensed the Lord tell me that one day I would shepherd both men and women, which was totally unheard of in my denominational background. Women were not allowed to have leadership roles – period. So, when the Lord gave me that word, I thought ‘that’s impossible,'” Kathryn said.
Recently, Betenbough Homes altered some of its terminology and purpose concerning manager roles. Managers are now considered as shepherds since leading people is the number one priority.
“I remember sitting in the meeting where they announced the change, unable to speak because I realized the Lord had fulfilled what He promised me 15 years ago,” Kathryn said.
Kathryn leads a team of three women and 23 men. She will be the first to tell you of the challenges her role has provided and the fear she has had to overcome.
“I was recently in a morning jumpstart (Bible Study) with my team when I became very emotional about the subject we were discussing,” Kathryn said.
“This was the first time my team had really seen me. I had believed a lie that because I led a lot of men in construction, they would feel uncomfortable if I cried or got emotional in front of them. It was really the exact opposite. They needed to see me in order to fully trust me. That morning, God showed me that He appointed me as the general manager because of who I really am, not who I was trying to be,” Kathryn said.
“Two men I really look up to in senior leadership at our company cry all the time, and I have so much respect for these individuals. So why did I feel it was okay for them to show emotion but that I couldn’t? Because I am a woman? That was a lie from the enemy,” Kathryn said.
Male or female, good leadership means knowing who you are and humbly standing firm in your identity. All leadership is ordained by God, so if you are leading a Kingdom business, it is because God saw something in you that your people need – and most often the thing they need is you.
Eve and The Kingdom
Time and time again in the Bible we see strong women judging nations, prophesying over kings and delivering people groups from genocide. They smuggled spies, went to war, stayed by Jesus’ side as He was murdered, and they were the first at the empty tomb. It was even a group of women who opened the door for the spread of the Gospel into the West.
The first sermon given after Jesus rose from the dead made it clear that the Holy Spirit was in the business of using everyone, to bring everyone into the Kingdom. Peter quoted the prophet Joel at Pentecost saying:
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.” – Joel 2:28-29
As kingdom leaders in business, we have the opportunity to bring the Kingdom of God to earth in this tangible way. Men and women are designed to lead side-by-side, each working with one another as they exhibit the unique expression of God that is inside each of them. God cannot be divided against Himself, so a true reflection of His heart in our businesses will require men and women walking along side one another in humility, collaboration and grace.
Men, if you have been given a position of leadership, do not be afraid to raise up strong and wise women around you. You have a platform and a voice that many do not have, and the Kingdom needs men who will speak up and stand up for Eve.
Women, if you are in a position of leadership, rest in the fact that you have been placed there by God. If others doubt you, or even more likely, if you doubt yourself, commit to your spirit that you are part of God’s original design. You are not second-best or an afterthought. You are the ezer expression of God Himself, bringing life, order and strength to all you put your hands to.