By Carl Stagner
History has been made at Akron Church of God in Akron, Indiana. Through the years, the flock has been led by shepherds of the highest caliber. These men of God have led the congregation to a deeper walk with Christ and a more pronounced presence in their small town. Under the leadership of these pastors, the church’s journey has been marked by blessings too numerous to count. But now the baton is being passed once again—this time not to a man of God, but to a woman of God. This month, the church celebrates the arrival of Kathy Nelson—Akron’s first-ever woman pastor.
“I am excited to step into a place where it is evident that God is already at work,” Kathy explains, reflecting on the rich history of Akron Church of God. “It is what we do as Christ-followers—be present and aware of where God is moving, and then take action by engaging the lives of people around us, inviting them on this journey of following Christ. It’s one small step that has the potential to change an entire community one person at a time. That is exciting!”
Though the Church of God has historically affirmed women as pastors, we haven’t always practiced what we preach. Lately, many influential voices in the Church of God have been calling us back to our roots—roots that brought us heroes of the faith like Lena Shoffner, Nora Hunter, Lillie McCutcheon, Gloria Robinson, Donna Thomas, and countless others. God calls women just as he calls men. Kathy Nelson knows this fact personally. Still, her experience in ministry hasn’t been without opposition.
“I believe every female pastor can answer yes to the question regarding opposition solely based on gender,” Kathy reflects. “Having moments of being unsure of your calling, on the other hand, comes with the territory of vocational ministry…I spent many months wrestling this out. It used to push my buttons if you brought my gender up as a reason that I should not pursue my call to be a lead pastor. I no longer struggle with that. My desire is to serve alongside those that are called to be pastors in such a way that gender does not matter. Are men and women different? Yes! Are men and women called to lead the church? Yes! Can we work together to further the kingdom of God? Absolutely! I have been told that I am part of a ‘super minority.’ Even though statistically this may be true, I choose to look through the lens of Ephesians 2:10, ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago’ (NLT). I see no gender in this verse, only promise. It is my privilege to work alongside gifted men and women as we offer a hope that is found only is Jesus Christ.”
Kathy Nelson may be making history, but she only desires to glorify God. It isn’t about the attention, or even challenging those who oppose women as pastors. This is about the kingdom. This is about the Good News that saves and transforms. This is about Kathy heeding the divine call to pastor. As such, she focused on preparing to preach, teach, encourage, and bless those inside the four walls and those beyond. “My prayer is that the people in this church body become disciples who make disciples,” Kathy explains. “We are often good at being disciples of Jesus in our own spiritual disciplines, such as Bible study and prayer, and yet we often do not take the next step of spiritual reproduction. This requires intentionality and hard work. It is messy and without reward. It is beautiful and life-transforming. It is how the early church changed the known world. It is what will change the world today.”
Kathy takes to the pulpit at Akron Church of God on Easter Sunday.
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