The Ride: Connecting to God in Hollywood, the Ivy League, and Beyond

Part 2 in series Finding God in Hollywood: Soul-Nourishing Practices in a Soul-Deadening World

Horseback riding is not a mode of transportation from one physical locale to another. It is a mode of transportation from one spiritual state to another.  And so are the classic spiritual disciplines.

by Gary David Stratton, Ph.D. • Senior Editor

Micaiah with ‘Maryland’: The crankiest and best horse in the Equestrian Center’s stable

As I write this, I am watching my daughter, Micaiah, take a riding lesson at the Equestrian Center in Burbank, CA. The Equestrian Center is, uh, shall we say, “oddly out of place” in urban Los Angeles. On my right, traffic on the Golden State Freeway (“the” 5, as we say here in L.A.) zooms by at 65+ miles per hour. On my left, horses plod around a riding circle at, well, a lot less than 65 miles per hour. What gives?

Why would anyone invest so much time and money striving to master such an outdated mode of transportation? It takes years to painstakingly advance through learning to walk, trot, cantor, gallop, jump, dressage, etc. Then, once you do achieve riding excellence, your top speed is still only a fraction of that of the traffic whizzing by. My daughter shovels, “stuff,” to earn her lessons, but most riders shell out enough cash to cover monthly payments on a luxury car. I mean, if your goal is to get from Pasadena to Hollywood, then this horseback riding thing is a total waste of time. Just buy a Jag and get on with it.

Yet if you think of horseback riding as something designed to get you somewhere on your busy schedule then you are missing the entire point. Horseback riding is not a mode of transportation from one physical locale to another. It is a mode of transportation from one spiritual state to another. The disciplines of learning to ride cleanse the rider of the soul-deadening effects of modern life and “re-center” their soul in a calmer, deeper place. My actress-singer daughter says it’s “rejuvenating.” Seeing the light and energy in her eyes after each time she rides, I believe her.

Spiritual Disciplines

Now at first glance, striving to master 2,000 year-old spiritual disciplines seems even more irrelevant than learning to ride a horse. I mean, at least horseback riding might help you land a role, or inspire a screenplay. What earthly good does it do to invest the time and energy it takes to master practices like prayer, meditation, fasting, Torah-study, or Psalm-singing? Sure, prayer can come in handy when you’re facing an audition, pitch meeting, or financing appointment. But this kind of “spiritual discipline” is practiced by everyone in Hollywood (even the staunchest atheists), and probably has about as much utilitarian value as wearing your lucky pair of socks.  Prep for your meeting, pay for some good coaching, and get on with it.

Yet, if you think of the spiritual disciplines only as something to get you somewhere in your career, you are missing the entire point. Spiritual disciplines are not tools for getting you from failure to success. They are pathways for keeping you alive spiritually in the constantly shifting landscape of success and failure that is Hollywood.

The Soul-Deadening Worlds of Power

The overarching characteristic of the Ivy League (and Hollywood) is what Schmelzer calls, “Grim drivenness.

Actor/Comedienne/Writer Susan Isaacs once challenged a crowd of aspiring entertainment industry students, “Would you accept God’s call to Hollywood if you knew that you would only have three successful years out of a thirty-year career?” Most wouldn’t, yet that is about the average for those who ‘make it’ here.  The spiritual disciplines are the means by which someone survives and even thrives, not only in the three years when they’re a hot property, but in the other twenty-seven as well.

Make no mistake, the competitive nature of all centers of power–Hollywood, the Ivy League, Wall Street, Washington, D.C., etc.–nearly always creates a soul-deadening culture. Former Yale Professor Henri Nouwen warned, “Our society is… a dangerous network of domination and manipulation in which we can easily get entangled and lose our soul.”[1] Dave Schmelzer, principal at Blue Ocean, Inc. in Cambridge, MA asserts the overarching characteristic of his Ivy League community is what he calls, “Grim drivenness.”  Dave adds, “These are the brightest and most talented people in the world, and the very drivenness that got them this far in a highly competitive environment prevents them from ever really enjoying the fruit of their success. There is always another rung to climb on the ladder of success.”[2] Sounds a lot like Hollywood to me!

Yokes that Bring Our Souls Rest

Spiritual disciplines counteract this soul-deadening effect by nourishing the soul of the practitioner and re-centering the filmmaker, professor, stockbroker, and/or congressman in a calmer, deeper place. Prayer, meditation, study, etc. are means by which we deepen our connection to others and to God. Nearly everyone working in a pressure-filled environment can benefit from practicing them—from Zen Buddhist’s like Laker’s coach Phil Jackson, to Scientologists like Tom Cruise.

However, the spiritual disciplines play a particularly meaningful role in the Judeao-Christian tradition. They are part of what early Rabbis referred to as their yoke—the teachings and spiritual practices each Rabbi used to guide their students into a deeper relationship with God.[3] Like learning to ride a horse, the study of Torah—the principal spiritual discipline in rabbinic education—demanded the utmost commitment to move from one level of expertise to the next. Yet, the promise of a life centered in God and his ways made the effort worthwhile. (See, Rabbinic Higher Education.)

Connecting to the Life of God

Jesus of Nazareth built upon this rabbinic tradition to shape his own version of spiritual formation. Jesus told his first followers, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). He taught his disciples to pray, study, build community, and serve not to earn religious brownie points, but to form a deep attachment to God—to ‘rest’ in him. Like vines on a branch, Jesus promised his followers that if they would focus upon staying connected to the life of God, then the life of God would flow into them and bear fruit in everything they do (John 15:1-8). The spiritual disciplines are one of the key means by which we maintain that connection. (See, With Prayer in the School of Christ.)

USC philosophy professor, Dallas Willard, has worked tirelessly over the last few decades to describe how Christian spiritual formation can and should help us maintain our connection to the life and the love of God in the Academy, Hollywood, and beyond. He states:

“God’s desire for us is that we should live in him. He sends us the Way to himself.  That shows us, in his heart of hearts, what God is really like–indeed, what reality is really like. In its deepest nature and meaning our universe is a community of boundless and totally competent love.”

Personalizing the Process

Like horseback riding, staying connected to the life and love of God is not a one-size-fits-all process. It has taken Micaiah years to find the right stable, the right trainer, the right horse (the crankiest, but “best” in the stable), and the right sub-disciplines to learn to ride in a way that maximizes the ‘gladness’ riding brings her soul. The same is true for those seeking to cultivate a relationship with God. The disciplines that help one person are often torture for another. The key for some is sitting quietly in a beautiful sanctuary, for others it is walking in the beauty of nature, for some connection to God is found among books in a quiet library, for still another it is best found amidst music is a raucous worship service.

The point of spiritual discipline is not to perform some cookie-cutter religious ritual to make God like you better, but rather to find the pathways that best help your soul connect to the God who already loves you infinitely, ultimately, and unconditionally.

In the following weeks I will explore a number of the key concepts and disciplines that have been most helpful to a variety of leaders in Hollywood, the Ivy League, and beyond in living a soul-nourishing life in a soul-deadening world.  My hope is that we can help you create your own individualized set of spiritual disciplines that help you stay connected to the life and love of God even in the most pressurized situations.

Of course there is another way: the way of giving in to a soul-deadness. Will we? Or will we follow my daughter’s example and embrace an “outdated” approach to life, that in the end is the only one capable of transporting us where we really want to go—to the very heart of God.

Let’s ride!


Next post in series: Life on the Fast Track: Spiritually Thriving in High Stress Environments 


See also

Emmy Magazine Article Featuring Emmy-winning Producer Kurt Schemper, Director Korey Scott Pollard, and Gary David Stratton

Why Lent is a lot Like Surfing

Spiritual formation book recommendations:

The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence

Sacred Rhythms, by Ruth Haley Barton

Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, by Adele Alberg Calhoun

The Organic God, by Margaret Feinberg

The Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster

Invitation to a Journey, by Robert Mulholland

The Way of the Heart, by Henri Nouwen

The Life You’ve Always Wanted, by John Ortberg

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero

The Good and Beautiful Life, by James Bryan Smith

Sacred Pathways, by Gary Thomas

The Spirit of the Disciplines, by Dallas Willard


[1] The Way of the Heart (New York: Random House, 1981), p. 9.

[2] At least in the Ivy League it is possible to get tenure!

[3] M. Maher (1975). ‘Take my yoke upon you’ (Matt. xi. 29). New Testament Studies, 22, pp 97-103


Why I am Giving Up Prayer for Lent, by Margaret Feinberg

Part of Lenten Series You Are What You Do (and Eat): Spiritual Formation in Everyday Life

When Lent began, I struggled to pray three word prayers. I’d count words. Oops! And realized I’d added a fourth or fifth. As the days rolled into weeks, three word prayers became more natural. But now I’m finding that my prayers are becoming one word. Not out of force or effort but this natural expression to God.

by Margaret Feinberg 

I’ve been thinking a lot about Lent this year and wondering how best to walk through the next seven weeks. I know people who are giving up Twitter, chocolate, and a long list of self-indulgent or addictive activities and foods.

As I’ve reflected, I’ve decided to give up prayer for Lent.

Okay, maybe not all prayer, but lengthy prayers in my personal time with God.

I recently heard a sermon by our friend, Jay, which highlighted the importance of praying simple but potent prayers. As I’ve been mulling over this concept, I realize how mindless I’ve become in my own prayer life. Yes, I feel free to express every desire, whim, ache and need to God–which is a good thing!–except that at times my prayers sound like a gushing four-year-old who talks in an eternal run on sentence. I realize that over time I’ve been increasingly unspecific and inattentive in my prayer life.

That’s why I’m giving up prayer for Lent. Or at least long prayers. For the next 40 days, I’m committed to only offering God three word prayers.

Help me Lord. Heal oh Jesus. Give grace abundant. Grant strength now. Thank you, God.

I’m hopeful the discipline will help me be more thoughtful in my prayer, more strategic in the things I ask God, more focused on Jesus, more ready to listen, more prepared to unleash heartfelt worship and gratitude on Easter morning.

Since I began this journey, I’ve found myself becoming more focused in prayer life, more sensitive to God’s presence, and more aware of my dependence.

But over the last week something new has been happening and I didn’t notice it at first.

When Lent began, I struggled to pray three word prayers. I’d count words. Oops! And realized I’d added a fourth or fifth. As the days rolled into weeks, three word prayers became more natural. But now I’m finding that my prayers are becoming one word. Not out of force or effort but this natural expression to God.

This morning I’ve been praying some friends who are facing a challenge in their relationship. I know they’re talking about the issue sometime today diving into the messiness of hurt, pain, and miscommunication all with a hope of healing and restoration. My prayers for them began as three words. But slowly rolled into two then one. Heal. Restore. Reconcile. Understanding. Compassion. Grace. With each word, I naturally pause as the fullness of the word is heartfelt and passionate yet peaceful.

The single word is a petition, a request, a prayer. One that I offer with the full confidence that God hears and that God will answer.

My prayer life is far more simple than it’s ever been yet somehow feels more effective, more intentional, more potent.

Next: The Soul Killing Problem of Bad Art, by Ashley Arielle

Visit Margaret’s Award-winning website. Used by author’s permission. Photo credit



How Maya Angelou’s Class Changed My Life, by Margaret Feinberg

I barely knew of Ms. Angelou at the beginning of the semester, but fell in love with her by the end.

She captured my heart and imagination not because of her fame, accolades or literary acclaim, but because she displayed such deep, rich wisdom. Maya Angelou didn’t want us to just have information, she wanted us to take part in the process of transformation.


by Margaret Feinberg

Some speakers own the room. Maya Angelou owned the campus. 

Nearing the end of college at Wake Forest University, I hadn’t taken a class from the famed writer and Poet Laureate, Maya Angelou. I heard her speak on occasion at the university during which her deep, thunderous voice filled the auditorium and settled over the listeners like a thick, musty haze.

She was never afraid to address uncomfortable topics like prejudice, discrimination and sexuality, but she did it in a way that was both tantalizing and terrifying. While she verbally welcomed exchanges and debate, you never knew where the line, that line, the one you’re not supposed to cross was with her.

Though dubbed a professor, Ms. Angelou didn’t teach more than one class a semester. In the world of academia, she seemed far more like a trophy than a teacher, but no one really seemed to care.

After all, she was Maya Angelou.

For that simple reason, I signed up for her class.

I didn’t know much about the woman except that she was African American, wrote poetry, and was featured on Bill Clinton’s inauguration day. I knew enough that if I didn’t sign up for her class I knew I would regret it one day.

Rumors ran wild about signing up for Maya Angelou’s class. Some said it required a personal interview. Others cited an essay. Still others spun yarns of a wait list a mile or, at least several semesters, long. I wasn’t too surprised when the registrar’s computer printed a wait list notice at registration. I joined the ranks of the waiting and showed up to class on that first day.

The class was limited to around 30, but less than a half dozen were on the wait list. I was number three. Those nasty rumors about the impossibility of getting in prevented many from even trying. Ms. Angelou began the class by taking attendance. One by one she called out each student’s last name, introducing them as mister or misses.

I wish I could to tell you that the first class I sat in on with Maya Angelou was filled with an unforgettable poetry reading and rich stories about her textured life, but for the next hour, each of the students circled the room introducing themselves, stating and spelling their names. In this class, I was no longer Margaret, I was Ms. Feinberg, and everyone else would recognize me as such.

At the end of hour, Ms. Angelou explained that what we were learning was very important. This formed the basis of our first test. Our first testI should have been paying more attention. Sketching a seating chart, I recorded as many people’s names as I could from memory.

A week later, the Poet Laureate, called me, Ms. Feinberg, to the front of the class. I responded with a kind of awe and reverence reserved for religious occasions.

“Do you like this class?” I heartedly agreed.

“Will you attend regularly?” I shook my head affirmatively.

“Will you work hard?” I affirmed the commitment.

With a priestly nod, her deep voice assured me that I was no longer on the waitlist. Everyone who was on the waitlist and attended class was welcomed into her classroom that day. No essay. No prolonged interview.

So much for all the rumors.

As I scuttled back to my seat, my smile fell limp. Ms. Angelou asked everyone to switch chairs. My seating map became worthless. We spent the second class reviewing each student’s name. Round and round the room we went. Not exactly the awe-inspiring look at African American literature I had hoped. We would be called on by name to identify someone else in the class for our test. I breathed deep to avoid a panic attack; I hate being put on the spot.

We endured Ms. Angelou’s hour long interactive test where we went around the room naming each other as misses so-and-so and mister so-and-so. When she called on my name, I somehow said the right name. I breathed a sigh of relief and took an imaginary Valium.

At the end of the interactive test (which we all passed), she asked a simple but unforgettable question:

Why did we just spend the last three weeks getting to know each other’s names?

She pressed it further:

Why did I just spend nearly 20% of our very valuable class time together making sure you knew each other’s names?

The room stewed in a kind of deafening, molasses-thick stillness that only the presence of Maya Angelou could command. She explained:

Because your name is a sign of your dignity.

When you recognize someone’s name, you recognize them not just as human but as a person. One of the greatest ways you bestow human dignity on someone is by calling them by name.

For the remaining weeks of class, we read a wide range of African American literature—including works by Maya Angelou. We listened in reverent awe as she read and recited poems that shook the soul. We laughed when she shared colorful stories from her childhood, personal adventures, and movies. We held back tears when she told of her painful past. We dug deep to create a final project that answered the granddaddy of all questions:

Why does the caged bird sing?

More than a decade later, the greatest lesson I learned from Maya Angelou is from those first three weeks. She taught more than a lesson about human dignity—she allowed me to experience and partake of it firsthand. After sitting in her class, I will never be able to refer to Maya Angelou as merely Maya.

This woman, who I barely knew of at the beginning of the semester but fell in love with by the end, captured my heart and imagination not because of her fame, accolades or literary acclaim, but because she displayed such deep, rich wisdom. Maya Angelou didn’t want us to just have information, she wanted us to take part in the process of transformation.

More than anything, she wanted the three dozen or so students in her classroom to experience and appreciate every human being with whom we came in contact.

Ms. Maya Angelou, you will be missed.



Follow Margaret on Twitter: @mafeinberg
Facebook Page: Margaret Feinberg

*Adapted from The Organic GodClick here to pick up a copy.

**Original Photo Source


Wonderstruck: An Interview with Author Margaret Feinberg

Wonderstruck Bible Study series may be as beautiful as it is inspiring

“The first time I saw a snippet of the footage, I thought this must be CGI. If I hadn’t actually been there, I would say, “That’s not real!” It’s truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring.” -Margaret Feinberg

by Gary David Stratton • Senior Editor

Author, blogger, speaker, and two-handed warrior, Margaret Feinberg
Author, blogger, speaker, and two-handed warrior, Margaret Feinberg

Margaret Feinberg is a popular Bible teacher and speaker at churches and leading conferences such as Catalyst, Thrive and Extraordinary Women. Her books and Bible studies have sold over 600,000 copies and received critical acclaim and extensive national media coverage.

Margaret’s latest book, Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God recently premièred at No. 1 on’s ‘Hot New Releases’ in Christian Living. It’s Margaret’s first book since Christianity Today named her to their 50 Women You Should Know list and one of her most significant.

The book invites readers to recognize the presence of God in the midst of your routine, develop a renewed passion for God, identify what’s holding you back in prayer, and rediscover the joy of being a child of God.

With the release of Margaret’s Wonderstruck Bible study series this week, we thought we’d ask Margaret what makes this series special.


 An Interview with Wonderstruck author Margaret Feinberg 

THW: ‘Wonderstruck’ is such a great title. What does it actually mean?

Margaret: I think that living wonderstruck is about recognizing that God is busting at the seams to display His glory, might, and power in our lives—and live on the look out.


THW: Why do you think it’s so important for people to live wonderstruck?

Margaret: If you look in the Gospels, what you’ll discover is that those who encountered Jesus were left in wild amazement. They were awestruck by the teachings of Christ, the healings of Christ, the mind-bending miracles of Christ. Within the Gospel of Luke we see words like “awe” and “wonder” and “marvel” at every turn. If this is the natural response to encountering Christ, how much more should it be for you and I—who are invited to live in relationship with Christ as sons and daughters of our God Most High?


THW: Sounds like there is a personal story behind that Biblical application.

Margaret: There is. The Wonderstruck book and Bible study were born out of one of the toughest years of our lives for my husband Leif and I. We were getting pounded in all directions—and the prayer that emerged wasn’t for greater faith or trust or even strength, but a prayer for wonder. In the midst of pain and loss and hardship, I longed to recapture the wonder of God and be astounded by Him again.


THW: What can church leaders do to begin rekindling their own sense of wonder?

So I would counsel them to do what Leif and I did and start praying for wonder. Every day. What we discovered is that as you pray, it changes the posture of your life and begin looking for how God wants to answer. You begin to see the divine fingerprints of God in your schedule, your “chance” encounters, your conversations.

Before you know it, you’ll begin pausing by details you once walked by—the soft light of the setting sun, the brightness of an infant’s eyes, the particulars in Scripture you may have once rushed by. Praying for wonder asks God to reveal Himself and again and places us in a posture of seeing and savoring God and His handiwork all around.


THW:  The Bible study series you wrote to accompany Wonderstruck doesn’t seem like a typical Bible study. What makes it different?

Margaret: Well, Wonderstruck does have similar elements to lots of Bible studies—20 minute video teaching segments ranging, discussion guides, and even five nights of homework for those who want to dive deeper, and fun, engaging experiential activities.

But a few things make Wonderstruck unique. First, it’s filmed near Banff, Canada—at Lake Louise, Lake Bow, Lake Morraine and surrounding area. The first time I saw a snippet of the footage, I thought this must be CGI. If I hadn’t actually been there, I would say, “That’s not real!” It’s truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring. The wonders of God as displayed through creation are mesmerizing and the Lifeway team did an incredible job in filming.

But this study isn’t just about diving into the Scripture or discovering something new about God (though that’s included!), but it’s about changing the posture of the way we live so we’re ready to encounter God in ways we’ve never expected.


THW:  That certainly sounds exciting.  Can you give our readers some examples of what that might mean for them?

Margaret: Since the release of Wonderstruck on Christmas Day, we’ve had emails pour in from readers of how they’re encountering God. One woman was struggling to find a job. She began praying for wonder—asking God to give her those moments of spiritual awakening that stir her hunger for God. She went in for yet another job interview and this time was extended an offer. She wrote us let us know that it was like God had gone before her and all she had to do was show up. Her response was one of gratitude and thanks to God.

Another person began praying for wonder and stepped outside one evening. She sat in awe as seven shooting stars illuminated the sky above her. Her response was one of praise at the nearness of God and celebrating God as Creator.

Another reader began praying for wonder. As a stay-at-home mom surrounded by laundry and a million to-do’s, she thought, “How can God reveal his wonder in this?” Later that day, she received a text with the news that they had lost a loved one. She was able to respond with words of comfort, and prayers on their behalf. In that moment, she was reminded that even with toddlers in tow, God wanted to use her.


THW:  Are such results “typical?” (I sound like I’m interviewing a doctor who discovered a cure for a disease.)

Margaret: Well, I hope so.  I am certainly offering a ‘prescription’ for anyone experiencing a ‘boring’ walk with God, or who is feeling overwhelmed by the challenges they are facing. Through the book and Bible study, I offer a “30-Day Wonder Challenge” that invites people to take time through specific activities—including journaling, snapping photos, embracing silence, prayer, and study, that are designed to rekindle the wonder of God.

I believe that genuine wonder awaits awaits anyone willing to start looking for it in their relationships, schedule, Sabbath, and so much more. 



Margaret Feinberg’s latest book, Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God and 7-session DVD Bible study are available on her website or

You can follow Margaret on Twitter at, or click the image to learn more.



Margaret’s Winter Schedule

January 12, 2013
Chase Oaks Church Leadership Forum
Plano, TX

January 17, 2013
Children’s Pastors’ Conference
Orlando, FL

February 3, 2013
Cherry Hills Community Church Weekend Services
Highlands Ranch, CO

February 19, 2013
Children’s Pastors’ Conference
San Diego, CA

March 1-2, 2013
Extraordinary Women Conference
Tulsa, OK

March 3, 2013
Simply Youth Ministry Conference
Indianapolis, IN

March 15-16, 2013
Extraordinary Women Conference
Greenville, SC

April 5-6, 2013
First Baptist Jackson Women’s Retreat
Jackson, MS





4 Keys to Finding The Perfect Mentor You’ve Always Wanted

A good mentor is hard to find. Here’s where to start your search.

by Margaret Feinberg

Over the years, I’ve found some incredible mentors in my life—people who have spoken words of wisdom and guidance into our marriage, finances, personal life, and ministry. These people have left me wonderstruck by the richness they’ve added into my life.  But to be honest, finding such people hasn’t been easy. At times, I’ve reached out to people I hoped would become mentors who didn’t respond, didn’t have time, or didn’t particularly connect with the idea. Other times, I’ve waited for people to reach out to me, even dropping hints along the way, but the relationship never developed.

Here are four keys I’ve discovered to finding the perfect mentor…

Continue reading

*Photo courtesy of here


Two Handed Warriors Named to CT’s ’50 Women You Should Know’

Part One in Series “Women of Faith in Leadership”

Posted by Gary David Stratton, Senior Editor

Congratulations to Two Handed Warrior contributors Margaret Feinberg and Rachel Held Evans for their inclusion in Christianity Today’s “50 Women You Should Know” (below).  In truth, many if not most of the women on CT’s list are true Two Handed Warriors, including some excellent choices from the world of higher education: Shirley Mullen of Houghton College, Dorothy Chappell of Wheaton College, Kim Phipps of Messiah College, and Kara Powell of Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as reconciliation advocate Brenda Salter McNeil.
While one could quibble with the omission of many of the most influential women of faith in Hollywood (many of whom would never wish to appear in such a public list), it is a great honor and a sign of the growing influence of women in evangelical leadership.
May their tribe increase!


50 Women You Should Know

We asked key leaders which Christian women are most profoundly shaping the evangelical church and North American society. This is who they picked. 

by Christianity Today

Christian women who want to pursue influential roles in politics, the church, and other sectors of public life in the United States and Canada have never before had more opportunities to do so. As the following profiles in our cover package show, they are taking advantage of those opportunities in spades. It’s not just a golden moment for Christian women, of course, but for the entire church, as we benefit from the fruit of their manifold gifts.
Not that long ago, this cover package would have been inconceivable. But that isn’t to say that Christian women had no influence in church and society before 2012. It was women who formed the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Harriet Tubman, a Christian who escaped slavery, went on to lead an influential movement within the Underground Railroad.
Methodist Frances Willard led two million members worldwide in the temperance movement more than a century ago, influencing many to support women’s suffrage as a “weapon of protection to her home and tempted loved ones from the tyranny of drink.” The movement also started kindergartens, passed child labor laws, and in the 1870s created the first daycares for the children of working women.
Today evangelicalism continues to feel the effects of women’s leadership. In the 1940s and ’50s, Henrietta Mears, a dynamic Christian educator, shaped the church’s future in powerful ways, discipling a number of future evangelical leaders, including Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.
Women writers have played a particularly important role in evangelicalism. Rosalind Rinker’s Prayer: Conversing with God changed the way evangelicals prayed together. Before Rinker, many believed that prayer should be in the King’s English, spoken formally, as if addressing a monarch. The idea that Christians could talk to God as a friend, conversationally, was Rinker’s radical idea that is now commonplace.
Tensions remain—and in some ways are exacerbated—as women pursue leadership in many spheres. Denominations and particular churches continue to argue about the appropriate role of women—whether they can teach men or be ordained, for example. Others debate how to best understand Scripture’s description of the role of women in marriage. Some raise concerns that by recognizing women who find a voice in the public sphere, we may be subtly denigrating the work of stay-at-home mothers. (This would be true only if one believed that public work was intrinsically more valuable than private, which would be hard to defend if one really believes the meek are blessed.)
In some key respects, though, the distinction between public and private, between professional career and mothering, is being blurred. Many stay-at-home moms have become publicly influential as they blog from their farmhouses, tweet from grocery stores, or phone in a conference call while watching a 2-year-old.
The causes and subtleties of Christian women’s newfound public influence will have to wait—it’s a topic that deserves careful analysis. In this issue, we simply want to highlight, indeed, celebrate, the simple fact of this new development, as women’s leadership gifts are changing the life of the evangelical church and North American society in remarkable ways.

View CT’s Complete List


Next Post in Series: What Women Think of Leadership and Their Role in the Church

See also:

7 Ways Women Can Damage Their Leadership, by Margaret Feinberg

The Danger of Calling Behavior ‘Biblical,’ by Rachel Held Evans


A Divine Masquerade: The Beauty Behind the Mask, by Margaret Feinberg

If we were to take off our masks and give ourselves wholly revealing the beautiful work of God in our lives, then what might God do?

by Margaret Feinberg

Confession: Masks sometimes scare me. Though the artistic flair of a masquerade half mask can be spectacular, full masks make me uncomfortable. Not only is there mystery in whom I’m talking to, but they are too reminiscent of clown makeup for my liking.

The worst part is that sometimes I wear them myself-without even realizing it.

I don a mask of happiness when I’m really struggling inside. I slip on a mask of energy when I’m really exhausted. I know I’m not the only one.

We all slip on masks. We hide parts of ourselves to distract each other from the real identity underneath.

As I’m going through the Gospel of John for Lent, I was reminded of this truth. John 4 depicts the revealing of one woman’s true identity. A Samaritan woman is so desperate to hide from others she fills her water jug during the hottest time of day. Only on this occasion, Jesus is there.

With a few words Jesus tugs at her mask, “Give me a drink.”

The woman is thrown off by the request. With only four words, Jesus breaks down the barriers of gender, politics, and religion.

A man speaks to a woman.

A Jew addresses a Samaritan.

A rabbi asks to drink out of a defiled, unclean bucket.

Rarely has a request for a drink of water been so scandalous.

The woman is no longer invisible. She’s been called out. Jesus moves past any labels of identity given to her either by the townspeople or herself. Instead, Jesus offers her something better than musky well water: living water and the chance to be truly known.

Like the woman at the well, sometimes we need to realize that as hard as we try to hide God not only sees us, but in his love he sees through our efforts to hide.

As the woman’s mask falls to the ground, she refuses to remain hidden from others in her community a moment longer. She rushes into the town, calling out to everyone to come and see the beautiful work Jesus has done in her. They ask Jesus to stay with them and many come to know him as Christ their Savior, the Un-masker.

The woman at the well took off her mask and displayed God’s beautiful work in her life, and an entire village was transformed. Can you picture the scene? A sea of masks tumbling to the floor in a great tumultuous roar.

Which raises the question, if we were to take off our masks and give ourselves wholly revealing the beautiful work of God in our lives, then what might God do? Who would He draw closer to Himself as a result? A friend? A Neighbor? An entire community?

Anyone interested in diving into John’s Gospel with me may enjoy Pursuing God’s Beauty: Stories from the Gospel of John.


**Photo courtesy of:



Two Handed Warriors at Eight Months

Reflections on the Relaunch of Two Handed Warriors

Dear Two Handed Warrior Community,

When Sue and I first launched Two Handed Warriors eight months ago we never could have imagined how many people would connect with our theme. All we had was a deep conviction that an unnecessary dichotomy between faith and culture has plagues both the quality of life and overall effectiveness of an entire generation of leaders.

Leaders adept at culture-making—whether in Hollywood or the Ivy League—are rarely trained in the disciplines of faith-building; whereas leaders with strengths in faith-building—whether in a local congregation or an international relief agency–are rarely trained in the art of culture-making.

It is a dichotomy that not only creates glaring blind spots in our leadership (and personal lives), it also robs us of a vibrant conversation with other leaders from whom we have the most to learn.

We launched Two Handed Warriors in hopes that it would inspire an ongoing conversation among educators, filmmakers, business and spiritual leaders devoted to gaining expertise in BOTH faith-building and culture-making. Our hope was that (in time) such a conversation might help birth a movement of intellectuals, artists, leaders, and philanthropists who could redefine faith and culture for an entire generation.

Our hunch was that such a movement of experts in such diverse fields could be unified by developing a common “school of thought” centered on a deeper understanding of “the stories we live by” at the deepest level of our societal and personal worldviews. Or at least that story was one place where filmmakers and college professors, musicians and CEOs, scientists and pastors could meet as equals and develop a common language for tackling the reintegration of faith and culture in their own lives and in the organizations they lead.

On the one hand, THW has exceeded our wildest dreams. Readership has outstripped anything Sue and I could have imagined. On the other hand, THW still has a long way to go in fostering the kind of conversation we envisioned.

Toward that end we are going to try a few new strategies in this next year.

First, we’ll be hosting a series of face-to-face conversations among key leaders in variety of settings–Entertainment, Education, Ministry, etc.–to help better understand the unique issues facing leaders in each setting and (Lord willing) foster the kind of relationships required for a deeper ongoing conversation. (The next step will be cross-pollination meetings between leaders in different contexts.)

Second, we are going to accept some graciously offered help in upping our social media game. These experts tell us that we are seriously under utilizing Twitter and Facebook and have a very time-consuming email system. Please be patient with us as we try new things and let us now if they are helpful (or not).  The goal is to build community, not annoy people.

Third, we are officially asking for help. We need to solidify our team of writers, editors, photographers, graphic designers, event planners, administrators, etc.  If you have the time and talent we have the need. We’ve got some exciting new pieces and projects in the works, but with my sabbatical coming to an end, we need HELP bringing the website to print and peer group gatherings to reality!

Finally, we want to say thank you to everyone who helped get us this far. We never would have made it without the generous help of so many dear friends. We’d like to give special thanks to Margaret Feinberg, Scot McKnight, Mike Friesen, Dale Kuehne, Dave Schmelzer, Lem Usita, Cheryl McKay Price, Cathleen Falsani, Lauren Hunter, Dean Batali, Sheryl Anderson, Phil and Kathleen Cooke, Erik Lokkesmoe, Jessica Rieder, Michael Warren, Monica Macer, Kurt Schemper, Kevin Chesley, Korey Scott Pollard, John David Ware, Jenn Gotzon, Chris Armstrong, Ashley Arielle, Adam Caress, Dennis Ingolfsland, David Kinnaman, Jay Barnes, Ralph Enloe, McCoy Tyner, Chris Fletcher, Neal and Laurie Barton, Todd Burns, Chris Easterly, Jeremy Story, Bret McCracken, Brian Bird, Ken Minkema, Rich Gathro, Peter Kapsner, Ray and Wendy Hanson, Craig Case, David McFadzean, Dallas Willard, Chuck Swindoll, John Ortberg, Tim and Char Savaloja, Lisa Whittle, Michael Hyatt, Randy Elrod, Ian Collings, Ken Stewart, Dale Schlafer, Dave Warn, Jeremy Story, Mark Russell, Amy Larson, Ben and Rochelle, Jake and Erin, Mario and Kathy, Bill Diggins, Brent Kanyok, Carol Shell Harris, Dave Warn, Doug Clark, Kelly Erickson, Drason Anderson, Keri Lowe, Scott Smith, Steve and Diane Dunkle , John and Laurie Bruns, Wes Wilmer, Wesley Tullis, William Bergeron, René Delgado, Stanley D. Williams, Shun Lee Fong, Jaeson Ma, Jim and Karen Covell, Rodney Stark, Dean Smith, Amanda Llewellyn, Bren and Melissa Smith, Kait Stratton, Ron Jesberg, Brent Kanyok, Randy Elrod, Deborah Arca Mooney, Libby Slate, Jack Gilbert, David Medders, Gabe Lyons and the entire Q Ideas team.

May your tribe increase!

Please let us know if you’re sensing a calling to pitch in.

Grace and great mercy,

Gary and Sue


For more info on Two Handed Warriors, see:  You Shall Not Pass! The Supernatural Power of Two Handed Warfare


Social Media Advice for Churches: Lauren Hunter’s Interview with Margaret Feinberg

by Lauren Hunter @ChurchTechToday

Margaret Feinberg: Award-winning author, blogger, and savvy social media driver

When I attended the Bayside Thrive conference last month, I had the pleasure of attending a break out session called, “Social Media Bootcamp” where I met Margaret Feinberg, acclaimed Christian author of two dozen books and multiple Bible studies. She was gracious enough to let me interview her about how the Church must view, use, and embrace social media:


1.    How has social media technology affected your faith and profession as a Christian author?

I don’t think social media has affected my faith as much as it has opened up avenues for the way I express my faith and journey with Christ. Whether it’s trying to sum up a God-moment in 140 characters or less on Twitter (@mafeinberg) or engaging in a discussion on Facebook on how to handle the awkward silence that comes with leading and being in a small group, I’ve seen technology affecting the way we engage and discuss issues of faith. The potential reach as well as opportunities for cross-pollination of learning is mind-boggling.

2.    What is the biggest stumbling block for church when it comes to using social media as a viable communication tool?

I think the biggest stumbling block is simply buying into the myth that engaging in social media is somehow optional for the church today. It’s a requirement. I have friends who I can call repeatedly without response, but when I message them on Facebook I receive a response in less than three minutes. The way people engage in conversations, commit to attend a gathering, and share their lives is changing—and the church must be at the forefront.

3.    What are the top 3 suggestions you have for church communicators to get over this hurdle?

First, make sure the person who handles communication in your church loves social media. If the person you’re considering for the role hears the word “mac” and thinks of a quarter pounder with fries, you’re not choosing wisely…

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Margaret Feinberg: A popular speaker at churches and leading conferences such as Catalyst and Thrive, Margaret Feinberg was recently named one of the ’30 Emerging Voices’ who will help lead the church in the next decade by Charisma magazine and one of the ’40 Under 40′ who will shape Christian publishing by Christian Retailing, she has written more than two dozen books and Bible studies including the critically acclaimed The Organic God, The Sacred Echo, Scouting the Divine (Zondervan) and their corresponding DVD Bible studies. She is known for her relational teaching style and inviting people to discover the relevance of God and His Word in a modern world. (Article originally published in Church Tech Today. Used by Permission)


Is Jesus Still Surrounded by Too Many Men? By Cathleen Falsani

Why is Margaret Feinberg the most influential young woman leader in evangelicalism you’ve never heard of?

Cathleen Falsani and Margaret Feinberg are two of my favorite authors and bloggers. Last week they tag-teamed for a thought-provoking article on the future of female leadership in evangelicalism. I came away more determined than ever to seek to be part of the solution not the problem. Why?  I’ve seen too much waste of God-given gifts and talents in the church.

Today we interviewed a faculty candidate to teach communication in ministry for our department. The candidate was a gifted teacher who not only possesses all the requisite communication and theological degrees, they’re also an award-winning speaker, as well as a former TV anchor and talk show host.

The only thing lacking on their CV was extensive preaching experience. Why? Her local church will only allow her to do the announcements!

We recommended her for the job anyway. We don’t want our students to miss the privilege of being instructed by such a gifted and anointed teacher–a privilege the congregants in her own church may never know. Personally, I think that’s a crime against the kingdom of God.

You may disagree, but I highly recommend that you wrestle with the issue as Cathleen and Margaret explore it their interview.

May their tribe increase!


Jesus is Still Surrounded By Too Many Men

By in the Huffington Post.

Pop quiz: Name three women leaders in evangelical Christianity.

Not including women known primarily as partner to their better-known husbands. And just to make it interesting, let’s say they have to be under age 60.

Stumped? Don’t feel too badly. You’re not alone.

Back in 2005 when Time magazine published its list of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals,” only four women made the cut — and just two without their husbands. Of the two solo women, Diane Knippers and Joyce Meyer, only Meyer is involved in actual church leadership.

But Meyer turned 68 earlier this month, and Knippers (then president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy), died of cancer shortly after the Time designation.

From the outside, the evangelical Christian world, insomuch as it is identified by its “celebrities,” looks like Jesus’ good ol’ boys club: decidedly male and predominantly white.

In the words of the R&B group 702, “Where my girls at?”

Enter Margaret Feinberg

Since she began her writing career in 2001, Margaret Feinberg, 37, has written more than two dozen books, including the critically acclaimed “The Organic God,” “The Sacred Echo” and “Scouting the Divine.” She is a sought-after speaker for gatherings of young evangelicals including Catalyst, Thrive and Creation Festival.

In 2005, Charisma magazine listed her among the 30 Christian leaders under 40 who represent “the future of the American church.”

She’s probably the most influential young woman leader in evangelicalism you’ve never heard of…

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Danger! Angry Blogger: The Apostle Paul’s Cyber-Relationship Checklist, by Gary David Stratton

“Christians are routinely taught by example and word that it is more important to be right than to be Christlike. In fact, being right licenses you to be mean, indeed, requires you to be mean.”

-Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart


So many people have asked Sue and I to weigh-in on the Rob Bell’s Love Wins debate that we finally broke our mini-protest against the over-hyping of the book and bought a copy. We just finished reading it and (assuming we conclude that we actually have anything new to say) we will probably post some thoughts soon. (For some of our initial thoughts, see, Love Wins?  The Irony of the Rob Bell Controversy)

Today, I thought I’d give you an update on the controversy itself…

Cyberspace Wins!

Perhaps, we really should call the Love Wins controversy, “Cyberspace Wins.” The Christian community’s current Bellapalooza is the first evangelical doctrinal debate in history to occur nearly exclusively on the Internet. The printing presses that launched the Reformation are silent. No books, no tracts, no pamphlets, no (print) magazines. Perhaps a few print newspaper articles, but that’s it. (With the notable exception of Bell’s publisher.)

Yet, a Google search of “love wins”+”rob bell” nets over 400,000 responses (and counting), and the book hasn’t even been out for a month!

This development is as unprecedented as it is expected. We all knew that we would get to this point eventually, but what do we do now?  No matter who wins the theological debate, this is a very important watershed in church history. Where will the advent of cyber-theology take us in the future? No one knows for sure.

Love Loses

What we do know from this first round of cyber-theology is one very painful truth: “Meanness Wins!” Nearly a decade ago (2002), USC professor and spiritual formation expert Dallas Willard warned us that civility was near an all-time low in American church history:

“Why are Christians so mean?  Well, there actually is an answer to that question. And we must face this answer and effectively deal with it or Satan will sustain his stranglehold on spiritual transformation…  Christians are routinely taught by example and word that it is more important to be right… than to be Christlike. In fact, being right licenses you to be mean, indeed, requires you to be mean–righteously mean, of course.” [1]

The advent of Internet culture has only made things worse. I thought sports radio was venomous… then I started reading blog posts on Love Wins. Wow! Talk about caustic! The boastful, arrogant, angry toxicity in some of these posts would make the coarsest Packers fan blush!

I am not saying that the issues are unimportant, or that we that shouldn’t show some passion. But shouldn’t we also show some grace? [2]

A Modest Proposal for the Future of Cyber-Theology

I seem to recall the apostle Paul warning the Corinthians about the danger of “fathoming all mysteries and all knowledge” only to become nothing more than a “noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal.” No matter how worked up Paul got about an issue (have you read Galatians?) he was determined to make sure that his “blog posts” (isn’t that what an epistle is?) actually “edified” those who read them.

So in honor of the church’s first “blogging” superstar, I would like to make a modest proposal: From this time forward let no blogger ever press “send” for any post on any topic without first utilizing the “Saint Paul’s Blogging Checklist” provided below.

SAINT PAUL’S BLOGGING CHECKLIST: Do not press “send” until your blog post scores 5 out of 5 on the first set of questions, and zero out of 5 on the second.

Is this post?
(1) Patient
(2) Kind
(3) Free from envy
(4) Devoid of boasting
(5) Stripped of arrogance

Or is this post?
(6) Rude
(7) Self-seeking
(8) Angry
(9) Unforgiving
(10) Believing/assuming the worst about others

Of course, bloggers in a hurry (and bloggers are always in a hurry) could simply refer to Jesus’ simpler one-step appraisal tool: “Is this blog post written with the love and fairness that I would want a fellow blogger to use in writing about me?”

It may sound trite, but it is nearly impossible to imagine what a God honoring breath of fresh air such practices might bring to the future cyber-theology. [3]


Most Exemplary Rob Bell / Love Wins Posts so Far

Sue and I have collected some of the best posts we’ve found for balancing truth and love. They range from Bell enthusiasts to Bell critics, but for the most part these authors have explored the issues involved in an even-handed and compassionate manner. Of course we have not read all 400,000 Google hits (who could?). So if you’ve read other pieces you think we should take a look at, please let us know.

Posts on what the current controversy reveals about Christian-Christian relationships in high-tech world:

Rob Bell Becomes 5oth Pastor to Ever Make Cover Story for  Time Magazine: Reaction Mixed

Bellapalooza: A bit more on the Rob Bell Love Wins controversy and Civil Conversations

Love Wins?  The Irony of the Rob Bell Controversy

Does Love Even Have a Chance of Winning? by Margaret Feinberg

Good Will Hunting and the Rob Bell Controversy by Mike Friesen

Not Many of You Should Presume to Be Bloggers, by John Dyer in CT Online


Book reviews more or less FOR Love Wins in which love actually wins

The Orthodoxy of Rob Bell, by Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Seminary

Rob Bell is Not a Universalist, by Greg Boyd

Go to Hell Rob Bell? by Jerry Walls


Book reviews more or less AGAINST Love Wins in which love actually wins.

Love Wins: A Review of Rob Bell’s New Book, by Tim Challies, in Crosswalk

God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True: A Review of “Love Wins”, by Kevin DeYoung in Gospel Coalition

Review of Love Wins, by Louis in Baker House


More or less MIXED reviews of Love Wins in which love actually wins.

Review of Love Wins: A Deeply Moving and Deeply Frustrating Book, by Ryan Hamm in Relevant

Rob Bell’s Bridge Too Far, by Mark Galli in Christianity Today

Exploring Love Wins, by Scot McKnight

Rob Bell and C.S. Lewis, by Jeff Cook


“Loving” Parodies of Controversy:

Unintentional Parody: What if Rob Bell and His Critics Had a Sing Off? 168 Film Festival Winner ‘Love is Good’

Intentional Parody: Justice Wins, by Jeremy Grinnel (Note: There is not video, only audio)

My Review of Love Wins, by Donald Miller



N.T. Wright Video on Heaven, Hell, and Universalism

Rob Bell’s Mars Hill Church FAQ’s on What Rob Actually Believes

Rob Bell Comes Clean on What He Really Believes (Video)



[1] Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002), p. 238.

[2] I am not saying that there is never a time to call a group of hypocrites a “brood of vipers” (Luke 3:7), or “white-washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27), nor even to wish aloud that stubborn religionists would “emasculate themselves” (Galatians 5:12), but that is always at the end of a very long conversation, not in the first month of a theological debate.

[3] It wouldn’t hurt if Rob Bell led the way in this project by refraining from his own favorite version of “mean”–mocking positions he disagrees with instead of respectfully rebutting them.

Rob Bell’s New Book: Does Love Even Have a Chance of Winning? by Margaret Feinberg


Award winning author and blogger Margaret Feinberg

I asked Margaret Feinberg if I could repost her thoughtful response to Rob Bell’s book release interview with Lisa Miller on Monday.

She is one of my favorite authors and bloggers and I think she raises all the right questions about what we can learn from this entire episode regardless of where you stand on Rob’s doctrine.

I have been a strong advocate for Christians using media to be heard in our celebrity-driven culture (See, Paparazzi in the Hands of an Angry God), but is this kind of intramural squabble that I envisioned? Absolutely not!

I’d love some thoughts on Margaret’s article and on whether Rob is using or abusing the principles I laid out in the Paparazzi post?

Does Love Even Have a Chance of Winning?

Tonight I listened to Rob Bell’s interview with Lisa Miller of Newsweek discuss his new book Love Wins. Miller’s questions were pointed and focused, much like those which were asked by the crowd and online viewers, but Bell’s responses were rarely direct. Instead, he offered a series of philosophical reflections blended with stories that left thick ambiguity hanging in the air.

Some will defend the thick ambiguity as the style of Jesus, who often answered questions with questions, but most of the people I know watching tonight were aching for a solid answer and explanation on what Rob really believes and why he believes it—which is a fair desire considering that at the end of the day this is still a book promotion.

Do I agree or disagree with Rob? The answer is neither. I found the responses so vague and nebulous I’m not sure what Rob believes.

So without a pre-release, I can’t comment on the book, and find myself wishing a whole lot of other people would hold their tongue and keyboards, too. I’ve been embarrassed by the number of online snipers taking shots at Rob in the name of Christianity who haven’t even read the book yet. Where are wisdom, discretion, and self-control?

As I reflect on what I watched tonight the image I have in mind is one of a boy playing in a mud puddle in the middle of a storm. He’s got a wide smile and glimmer in his eye. He’s joyful and delightful. To be honest, watching him puts a smile on my face. And I wince at the mudballs that are being thrown in his face by kids passing by. I’ve felt the sting and nursed the welts myself and wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Not everyone is throwing mudballs though. Others are diving in and building their own mud castles on the shores of the puddle. Still others and gathering and watching the events unfold.

Yet when I look up to the sky, I’m reminded that we’re in the middle of a storm. Lightening peels. Thunder crackles. Flood waters rise. People are leaving the church and walking away from faith in droves. Maybe it’s not the best time to be stirring up the mud in puddles. Maybe it’s not the best time for ambiguity and murkiness.

I find myself wondering who will really win from Love Wins?

Some may say Rob wins as his book will sell…

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