One year ago, Unashamed Servant-Leadership was released by Langham Publishing as part of the Global Perspectives Series. How it came about to be published is another story but one that began at the GProCongress for Pastoral Trainers in 2016. Prior to that, this was just a research done to fulfill my doctoral study requirements at Tabor Adelaide, Australia. At the Congress, I met Dr. Riad Kassis, a Langham Partnership Director and scholar who encouraged me to send my manuscript to the extended publishing arm of Langham. There were no promises that the manuscript would be accepted. I had sat on this idea of a book for close to a year, and so I thought that I better send my application and sample manuscript off to Langham Publishing.
Unashamed Servant-Leadership is meant for any leader, regardless of gender, who is in the business of serving alongside or equipping Asian Christian women Leaders. I have personally discovered that the issues presented cut across geographical boundaries and is applicable to any Christian pastor or leader who serve alongside or equip women leaders. I have found that women ministries are managed by women with, often, a male leader as the supervisor. I am not against this idea but what is interesting is that the male leader (and sometimes the pastor) has no clue about women’s issues.
In 2018, I was in Kenya and a young female leader asked me, “Dr. Rachel, we women in Kenya work so hard for the church. Why is it that we are not recognized and appointed for our leadership skills?” I was teaching at a coaching/mentoring conference where about 100-plus bishops, pastors and leaders from different denominations were present. I am not going to write about my response here but it suffice to say that I challenged the numerous male bishops and pastors to re-think about “ the women in leadership” issue for kingdom’s sake.
One of the mistakes some potential readers make, especially women, is that there is a thought that this book is meant for the women. I hate to disappoint you but this book ought to be read by both men and women. Unashamed Servant-Leadership is gender-friendly and transparent.
I used a narrative research method whereby I re-told the stories of ten Asian Christian women leaders who faced their own challenges to become national, regional and global leaders. They were ordinary women – none are ‘big names’ and yet they obeyed God against all odds.
My dedication note in the book is very telling. I dedicate this book:
To all Christian leaders, both men and women, who continue to release women into servant-leadership so that we might together bring great glory to our God.
My question is: Would you consider yourself as the Christian leader who releases women into servant-leadership for God’s glory? If your answer is “yes” or you are nodding silently to yourself, then do pick up this book and read. It comes in both printed and e-formats.
I have been through some challenges too and this personal curiosity to discover if other women were challenged in their growth as servant-leaders and the desire to be the voice were definite motivations. However, I would not have embarked on this route if not for God’s prompting to investigate and tell. So, He deserves all the glory!
Before I go onto a short excerpt from the book, here are some endorsements from Asian and American leaders:
“It is about time that we heard the voices of Asian Christian women servant- leaders. We need to understand, be increasingly aware of, and recognize their contribution in national, regional, and global leadership contexts. This book is a must-read! It provides a comprehensive discussion and encourages the Asian Church to release and acknowledge the gifted women who serve alongside men servant-leaders.”
Sierry Tendero, EdD
Adviser, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) Women’s Commission Missions Director, Kamuning Bible Christian Fellowship, Quezon City, Philippines
“If you are expecting Unashamed Servant-Leadership to provide pat answers to the perplexing problem of the lack of Asian Christian women in leadership, look elsewhere. Writing from an insider’s perspective, Rajagopal crafts a much- needed start to the discussion of inequality. The uniquely prepared author invites ten daughters of Asia, operating from a culture of shame, to unashamedly tell their real-life narratives of transformation and encouragement despite Christian leadership revolving around men. In the light of cultural, spiritual, familial, theological and other challenges inherent in Asian societies, the forum of female voices and the author’s insightful interpretations challenge the church to mobilize and activate Asian Christian women into servant-leadership. As the Majority World church continues to swell, Unashamed Servant-Leadership is an important addition to leadership and missional libraries.”
Karen Hatley, PhD
Professor, Missional Leadership, Missional University, North Augusta, SC, USA Author of Missionaries from Everywhere to Everywhere: A Delphi Study to Identify the Emerging Roles of US Missionaries in the Majority World
“Unashamed Servant-Leadership, authored by leading Asian Christian servant- leader Rachel R. Rajagopal, is a unique saga of her own journey, along with myriad others, who have undergone painful and humbling experiences in their commitment to Christian service. The socio-cultural settings, gender prejudices and theological context of Asia quite often limit the growth of Asian women leaders to their fullest potential. The author’s well-researched work is a great combination of rich theology, missiology, presentation and analysis of facts. Above all, what she writes arises from her real-life experience and is exemplified in her life and service. The book is deeply insightful and has uncommon content with academic rigor. I am sure that this book will be a valuable asset to the Asian Christian community and, in particular, a great inspiration to the Christian women of Asia. It’s a must-read!”
Vice President, International Ministry Development, Haggai Institute
Dr Rachel Rajagopal’s book, Unashamed Servant-Leadership, was birthed from her personal background, secular work experience and Christian ministry involvement. Despite all odds, first as a female, next, as an Indian, growing up in a Hindu environment, and serving God as a female missionary in Asia, Africa, Latin America and beyond, the author has overcome numerous challenges to become one of Asia’s few women who dares to be different and ‘unashamed’ to be God’s leader! What is most powerful in this book are the snapshots of 10 women from different ethnic, social, educational and single and marital backgrounds, from different countries, including the Middle East, all who rose under different and difficult situations to take on leadership, and in the process, blossomed and thrived as God’s servant-leaders. I trust that many will read this book and that the stories of these Daughters of Asia will bless men and women, and give courage especially to Asian women to rise up and let God use them for His kingdom work and His greater glory.
Violet James, PhD
Chaplain, Singapore Bible College
Do enjoy reading an excerpt from pages 100-102, Chapter 7 (Christian Growth Among Asian Christian Women Servant-Leaders)
A discussion related to the narratives reveals a category of people most ready for the gospel, the need for clear proclamation and persuasion of the gospel to those at a vulnerable youth age and the importance of having believers engage with activities initiated by the church or Christians. It also reveals an understanding of key encouragers in the process of sanctification.
Need for Clarity in Gospel Communication and Assurance of Salvation
Most of the women sought to identify themselves with Christ at a young age due to various influences. Unfortunately, not all received a clear gospel message. Their identity was insecure in Christ. This caused half the group to rededicate themselves or have a true conversion at a later age.
In terms of culture, Confucianism affects South Koreans and Singaporean Chinese people. Yet, the responses to the gospel by the Singaporean Chinese women were firm while the South Korean women doubted their salvation. All of these women came from non-Christian backgrounds that are culturally influenced by Confucianism. The Singaporean Chinese’ firm responses were a result of the clear gospel communication by those serving in the role of evangelists and preachers, and a clear understanding of the gospel by those hearing it. Clarity in Gospel communication and assurance of salvation would certainly help Asian women to be rooted firmly in their Christian beliefs from the first day of accepting Christ as Lord and Savior (initial salvation).
Wholesome Discipleship for Asian Christian Women
Asian Christian women are uniquely placed amidst various cultural and religious environments. Some are placed in nations that restrict the gospel or are hostile to it. Most Asian Christian women carry ungodly practices and past emotional and spiritual hurts and wounds, and ungodly practices as they step into a relationship with Christ. All of the ten women in this book were not discipled after receiving Christ. This resulted in them trying to wrestle and understand God’s Word by themselves. Wholesome discipleship would be beneficial for Asian Christian women who have just accepted Christ. Spiritual encounters are a reality in Asia and therefore ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit subjected to the truth of God’s word has the potential to move these women at a quicker pace. The manifestation of God’s love and faithfulness in the lives of these women was a strong factor in transformation but stronger than the manifestation is the understanding of God’s Word.
Current and emerging women servant-leaders need godly encouragers. Pastors play a crucial role in identifying emerging leaders and guiding them into further education—theological or professional. Every married woman who is a servant-leader needed the blessing of her husband; this blessing is both a “male covering” as required by complementarians and respect required by egalitarians. Single women like the ordained pastor, Elizabeth, need encouragement from both pastors, and fellow Christian brothers and sisters.
Men were the majority motivators according to the narratives. The mentors and role models for these Asian Christian women servant-leaders were primarily other women. However, from my personal experience and observation of other women, this is not necessarily the case for all Asian women. In my life experiences, male leaders within the Christian environment were my primary motivators and mentors for more than two decades. I have had only one female mentor for a period of three years.
Opening the Doors Wide for Non-Christians and Christians
Most Asians are communal by nature and therefore, it would be perfectly acceptable to have non-Christians helping out at fellowships, school meetings and church events. Asian women from mostly patriarchal nations need to have a sense of belonging to someone or some group.
Asian women at a young age are not only seeking their identity but they are also seeking for love and trust. Guided seeking with the church’s help allowed these ten women to place their trust in Jesus. Ruth stated that she had always thought church was a place for prayers. Asian churches, except some in South Korea, do not have an open-door policy for anyone to walk into their sanctuary and pray or receive prayer. Increasing security issues and restrictions at worship venues will pose a challenge to both the church and those who wish to pray. An open church-concept would be an option for further exploration in countries receptive to the gospel.
The mobilization of Asian Christian women servant-leaders is dependent on their knowledge of the Word, their experience with God and their obedience in fulfilling God’s mission. Group bible study brought most of the women to the saving and living knowledge of God. Some were engaged in Bible Study even before they became believers. Here is an indication that cell or care groups need not be exclusive to Christians. This is another example of the need to open the doors wide to reach other Asian women.
You can order Dr. Rachel Ratha’s book from major re-sellers like Amazon, Book Depository, SKS Books (Singapore) and Mexico’s largest retailer, Ghandi.com.