By Keri Williams
Published by Good News, May 2012
In a culture that glorifies beauty, sexuality and wealth above character, it should not be surprising when popular female role models party panty-free, proudly serve their not-so-proverbial five minutes of jail time and regularly grace the tabloid covers. A glimpse behind the glamour, the six-figure contracts and fame all too often reveal substance abuse, depression and sexual promiscuity.
In contrast to the typical celebrity-saturated list of female role models, there are some extraordinary Christian women who are inspirational role models. These women are passionate, beautiful and talented. They are leaders, influencers and devoted wives and mothers. They are living out God’s calling for their lives with excellence. These Christian women are truly remarkable role models for girls and women of all ages.
Nancy Alcorn , a role model for championing the needs of girls and women.
Nancy Alcorn spent several years working in juvenile delinquency facilities and rehabilitation programs where she witnessed firsthand the tragedy of young girls aging out of the system, unequipped to be successful. The failure of these programs to effect lifelong change was obvious, and Alcorn knew the solution was found in Jesus. Not content to be a bystander, Alcorn was determined to be part of the solution. In 1983, she founded Mercy Ministries, a Christian residential program for troubled girls and young women. This ministry is offered free of charge, and is funded entirely by faith. Alcorn has refused to accept federal funding because she does not want the Christian-based program to be limited in any way. Over the last 30 years, Mercy Ministries has expanded into multiple states and countries. With an impressive 93 percent success rate, Mercy Ministries has dramatically changed the lives of over 3,000 young women.
Joyce Meyer, a role model for turning adversity into victory and personal success.
Joyce Meyer has often said, if she can overcome her past, anyone can. Sexually abused over many years as a child, Meyer turned to alcohol, sex and men for happiness. Her search ultimately led her to Christ, but she still struggled with her past in addition to anger issues and emotional issues. “I was just a ball of stress,” Meyer stated in a 2005 interview with Larry King. Her breakthrough came when she radically committed herself to pursuing Christ and a lifestyle of righteousness. Meyer believes it was her decision to be a person of integrity, even in the little things like putting away her grocery cart, which ultimately launched her into world-wide ministry. Today she travels the world challenging her audiences by offering practical, biblical solutions. Meyer freely shares her struggles and is willing to lead the way to healing and joy found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Kay Warren, a role model for rejecting stigmas to offer the love of Christ.
Kay Warren is passionate about helping HIV/AIDS infected people abroad as well as at home. Her passion began with outreaches in Africa, but God quickly turned her focus inward—inward to the church and local community where HIV/AIDS infected people are so often ostracized by the church. Her husband, Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren, calls AIDS “the leprosy of the 21st century” and together the Warrens are determined to bring infected people out of the shadows and into loving church families. Wanting to wake up the church to this issue, Warren organized the Disturbing Voices conference for church leaders. Christianity Today reports that: “Hundreds of evangelicals attending a Disturbing Voices conference repent and refocus on outreach to outcasts.” Through Saddleback Church, Warren offers practical training and tools to empower churches to support to the sick as well as offer HIV testing and counseling within their local communities. Warren’s website states, “Churches must embrace people who are HIV positive by replacing rejection and alienation with mercy and acceptance. It is not a sin to be sick. The question should not be, ‘How did you get infected?’ but ‘How can we help you?’”
Priscilla Shirer, a role model for living out biblical womanhood.
Priscilla Shirer embraces biblical womanhood as a wife and mother. Shirer believes in the traditional roles of marriage, but says family life does not need to be divided into “his jobs” and “her jobs.” People are often surprised to learn that her husband does housework and childcare too. Shirer has a teaching and speaking ministry, Going Beyond Ministries, which is managed by her husband. At conferences, her approach and appearance are distinctly feminine, but there is nothing dainty about her deep and insightful messages that are based on her study and love of the Word. In the 2010 New York Times article titled, “Housewives of God,” Shirer is described as having, “built a new paradigm for feminine preaching, an ingenious blend of traditional revivalism, modern therapeutic culture and the gabby intimacy of Oprah.” In a culture where feminism often clashes with Christianity, Shirer is living and teaching biblical womanhood that is intellectually honest while contemporary and attractive.
Mary Beth Chapman, a role model for sharing her journey through disappointment and grief.
It was an unthinkable tragedy. Mary Beth Chapman’s teenage son drove into the driveway one afternoon and accidentally struck and killed his little sister, Maria. Chapman, wife of singer Steven Curtis Chapman, wrote a vulnerable and honest book about her grief called, Choosing to See: A Journey of Struggle and Hope. “At first the working title was Mary Beth vs. God, about my wresting match with God,” Chapman explained to Christianity Today’s Mark Moring. It is a candid book about her life long journey with God through depression, disappointments, challenges in marriage and grief at the death of her daughter. With brutal honesty, Chapman brings her questions about the goodness of God, the same questions many others have, into the light. Having wrestled with these questions and walked through difficult times, she can now offer hope to others. She states, “I can now say that God is good when things are really, really bad.”
Leslie Nease, a role model for choosing God over one million dollars.
Leslie Nease, contestant on Survivor China 2007, found her faith challenged almost immediately. As part of the first episode, the contestants visited a Buddhist temple and were expected to bow down to a golden Buddha. Nease knew in her heart that it was an idol. She does not pretend that she did not have an inner struggle in those moments trying to convince herself that she could participate and still not deny God. Ultimately she walked out of the temple without bowing down, knowing she could very well be voted off the show as a result. “The biggest lesson I learned was that God means more to me than anything else in the world,” Nease tells Kyria. “And that is worth way more than a million bucks!” Nease was the third contestant voted off the show, but her actions have become a platform to share her faith. Nease now speaks around the country and according to her website, “helps audiences get gutsy for God.”
Bethany Hamilton, a role model for her optimism in the face of tragedy.
Soul Surfer, hit the theaters in 2011. It is the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a talented young woman who was already surfing competitively when she was attacked by a Tiger shark and lost her left arm at age 13. Hamilton amazed doctors with her quick recovery and optimistic spirit. She has gone on to realize her dream of becoming a professional surfer even without one arm. Hamilton has capitalized on her incredible platform to share her faith with others. She says, “Bad things are bound to happen to everyone. That’s life. Here’s my advice: don’t put all your hope and faith into something that could suddenly and easily disappear. And honestly, that’s almost anything. The only thing that will never go away, that will never fail you, is God and your faith in him.” She is beautiful, athletic, determined and glorifying God through her life.
Condoleezza Rice, a role model for a life of influence based on faith.
Condoleezza Rice, affectionately called “Warrior Princess,” in the White House, was well known for her prayer life according to Christianity Today. Accomplished pianist, political professor, Sanford Provost, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Rice broke through racial and gender barriers. With all her achievements she has never turned from her faith—she has relied on it. Highly intelligent and well educated, Rice believes there is no contradiction between faith and reason. According to The Christian Post, Rice recently encouraged students at the University of Mobile in Alabama saying, “…faith and reason are not enemies of one another…we are called to love the Lord God with our hearts and minds.” During her formative years, this perspective was bolstered by her father, a minister, who did not brush aside her questions. “He allowed me, as someone who lives in my mind, to also live in my faith,” Rice says. Rice has achieved enormous academic, professional and political success to become one of the most influential women in the world by relying solidly both on her mind and her faith.
What other Christian women do you know who are good role models?