Thrive Church Network recently sat down with church planter and presbyter-at-large Laury Hunter to talk about what it's like to be a woman in leadership. Rev. Hunter is the pastor of The Journey Church in New Lenox. 8/4/16
First of all, Laury, how are you feeling these days?
I feel stronger right now than I have in the last three years. Stronger and more energetic. Still under intense observation until I have passed the five-year mark (for my cancer). The love and support of this District brought me great strength and encouragement.
Tell us a little about Journey Church.
We planted Journey Church five years ago; we launched in February 2011. Doug and I have been together in ministry for 39 years. Throughout those years the Lord began to call me into the preaching ministry. I filled in for our pastor, did Wednesday nights, Sunday nights. I traveled extensively as a WM District Director around the world. But Doug and I were going in two different directions. We decided we should blend our ministries together.
We candidated at different churches. The church leaders would either want Doug to be worship pastor and not me, or me to be the pastor and not want Doug. The Assemblies of God leadership recommended that we plant a church, so we did. The process took 3 years.
We came to Chicago with nothing. We had no base from which to plant. I had deep insecurities about being a woman pastor. But God spoke to me and asked. “At the end of your life, when you stand before me, will you have lived to please man, or Me?” That was the turning point for me.
I knew the Chicagoland area was ripe for church planting, and God opened the doors of opportunity in New Lenox, so I jumped off the high dive hoping there was water in the pool.
How is the church plant doing today?
Healthy, strong. So many stories of life transformation! At our picnic over July 3rd, a lady came up to me with tears in her eyes. She told me, 'When I came to the church two and a half years ago, I wanted to die. My daughter was in prison for drug possession, and my granddaughter was in an unhealthy environment with her father. We came to church for Angel Tree (a ministry that provides gifts to the children of inmates). We came to your party that Sunday and you showered us with gifts. My granddaughter wanted to come every single week after that. My daughter got out of prison a year and a half ago, and now all three of us come to Journey. I love my life now!'"
Tell us a little bit about what it’s like to be a female pastor.
I think I fight my own insecurities more than what others put on me. There are probably thirty families that have rejected Journey Church because a woman is preaching on Sundays. Rejection is a huge issue for women preachers.
I want to be perceived as a leader but also feminine. It’s difficult to speak with authority and walk in the tenderness and fabric of a female. My husband Doug is my greatest cheerleader, pushing me forward in my gifts. He empowers me in every possible way. But it’s still challenging.
The enemy knows this, so it’s a constant internal battle for me.
In 1995 I had a miraculous healing. A Book of Acts type. As a result, I was invited to be interviewed on the set of The 700 Club. They encouraged me to write a book. It would travel farther than I could. It took me two and a half years to write. I titled it, “I Stand in Awe.”
Later The 700 Club came back and reenacted and taped my healing. The marvelous part of my testimony is that I was healed while people sang and praised God during a worship service. From a weak wheelchair state, I went running and leaping and praising God. That was probably what catapulted me into my speaking ministry all across the country.
What does the future look like for you, as a woman in leadership? What’s God speaking?
My life adventure is different than I dreamed it would be. Never in a million years did I think God would allow me to face such a devastating cancer diagnosis after obediently planting a church as a woman. I used to have grand visions of the future. Now I plan for the future, but invest in the day. I’m not where I want to be or doing everything I want to do, but now the day is more important to me than distant future vision. I’m not guaranteed three years medically, so it has changed my perspective, and my investment in the present is much greater. I still have plans and goals. But I invest in today.
About Laury: "I was raised in an amazing Christian home, the oldest of four. I believe I had a dream childhood. My entire childhood was filled with IL District AG activities, from kids’ camps, youth camps, family camps, revivals, Teen Talent, Bible Quiz, Youth Rallies, (CA, Christ Ambassador's rallies in the old days.) In fact, in 1971, I was CA of the Year for the Assemblies of God. I witnessed my parents’ love for Christ and the fire that burned within them. That fire caught in me. I cannot remember a time in my life when Jesus has not been my best friend. At age 16 I felt God call me into ministry at youth camp. From that day forward I have followed His call. After high school, I attended Evangel University, where I met Doug. We married and entered into ministry in 1977. We have two adult children and five grandchildren."