Ministry is never just a job, says Lillian Hinds.
She’s known since she was a teenager that God was calling her to ministry.
“One Sunday evening, I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to surrender to God. In those days, we called this ‘surrendering to full-time service,’” she said. To understand what that meant for her, she attended a Bible college in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Much later, Hinds attended a Bible study on the role of women in the church taught by a professor from East Texas Baptist University.
“I felt God calling me to preach. In fact, I heard his voice,” she said. “It took me completely by surprise, not that he was calling me, but that he was calling me to preach! I could not ignore God’s voice.”
Women who receive this call from God are well-acquainted with the typical response, which Hinds describes as comical.
“People want to be encouraging to the call of God, but most of the time, they are truly unsure of what to do or say next,” often trying “to ‘refer’ you to someone else or to some other calling,” she said.
At first, the typical response surprised her. Then it became discouraging.
Finding an abundance of encouragement
First Baptist Church in Tyler ordained a woman while Hinds and her husband were members.
“Rev. (Pat) Mallory was already a minister on staff and had worked in churches for decades,” Hinds recalled.
Hinds took her own call to ministry just as seriously and attended Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary to prepare herself. The Truett faculty embraced her and her hard questions.
Describing her experience at Truett, Hinds said: “When I got to Truett, it felt as if the entire staff was mentoring me. The encouragement and support I received was astonishing. Everyone seemed to be glad that I was there and wanted to do everything they could to help me move forward in my call to ministry.”
Hinds, referring to her upbringing in what she calls “a fundamental Baptist church,” said she had questions about the Bible and doctrine she had not voiced before seminary.
“Seminary helped me to see the Bible as a whole, to connect all the parts and to understand the sources of all the parts. … The result was that the Bible began to open up for me in ways I could never have imagined,” she said.
For example, Hinds gained new appreciation for some of the overlooked people in the Bible, like the girl mentioned in 2 Kings 5, a story in which Naaman and Elisha are featured most prominently.
“As an orphan, a child, a female and a slave, this little girl was the picture of being powerless and hopeless, and yet she maintained her faith despite the most horrible of circumstances,” she said.
The prophet Huldah—whose counsel was sought “concerning the words of the book” found in the temple (2 Kings 34:21)—is another overlooked person.
“They knew she was a prophet of God, [that] she could speak for God, and she was faithful. The fact that she was a woman is not even mentioned,” Hinds observed. “The good news is that while we overlook people, God never does!”
After moving to Waco to attend Truett, Hinds and her husband attended Calvary Baptist Church, where she heard then-pastor Julie Pennington-Russell preach. The experience was shocking because Hinds—despite being called to preach—never had seen or heard a woman preach and “had no idea what that might look or sound like.” Now, she had seen it. Now, she knew.
Now, preaching is her favorite part of ministry, and she takes it with the utmost seriousness, saying it is “the most challenging thing” she does because “it holds so much responsibility and accountability.”
Who & what is being overlooked in ministry
Hinds would like to “bring Baptists to unity over women pastors,” while at the same time understanding Baptists will differ on this issue. She believes “most Baptists would be surprised to know how many young Baptist women are called to preach but end up in other denominations where they are allowed to follow God’s call.” She used to be angry about this but now grieves.
Responding to the penchant for “the latest, the most exciting new thing,” Hinds calls churches back to “hiding the word of God in the hearts of children.”
“Bible drills and memory verses have gone out of style. So, our children have hearts full of superheroes, sports figures, fantasy characters and sitcom theme songs,” Hinds laments. In place of all these things, Hinds would like to see a child’s ability to memorize be harnessed so their hearts and minds will be full of “Bible stories, Bible verses and godly music” and so that “when they are old, they will not depart from it.”
A calling emanating from the past
When Meadow Oaks Baptist Church in Temple, was seeking a pastor, the older members wanted someone who would visit them at home and in the hospital. They weren’t concerned about her gender. They wanted someone with maturity.
Carol Holcomb, professor in the College of Christian Studies at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and former deacon chair of Meadow Oaks, said Hinds appealed to the church “because she is ‘comfortable in her own skin,’” “is secure and confident,” and has a “wonderful sense of humor.”
“Our church family loves to be together, and Lillian is largely responsible for the spirit of family that permeates our fellowship,” Holcomb said.
Before being called as pastor of Meadow Oaks, Hinds served Bruceville Baptist and First Baptist in Evant while at Truett.
But Hinds’ relationship to ministry began well before graduate school. Her father was pastor of a Baptist church in Houston when she was a child.
When asked how much of her father comes through in her ministry as a pastor, Hinds responded: “It is impossible for my father and my mother to stay hidden in my pastoring. Their ministry was so much a part of my life at home, as well as church.
“My father was never a different person at home than in public. I try to be as genuine as he was, to not have a hidden life that is different from my church persona.
“The other idea that I pray comes through my pastoring is that ministry is always about people. It is never just a job. My father spent his life preaching to people, teaching people, caring and praying for people, loving people. It is my prayer that I will be as faithful as he was in his pastoring.”
Hinds’ congregation seems to think she is.
“One of my favorite things about Lillian,” Holcomb said, “is her storytelling. She weaves the message of the gospel together with narratives about her parents, her children or her grandchildren. Often, she adds in an old frontier hymn that she learned in her ‘Daddy’s church’—just for extra color!”
Lillian Hinds also has been featured by Baptist Women in Ministry and Truett Seminary. February is the BWIM Month of Preaching. For more information about Baptist Women in Ministry and the Month of Preaching, visit bwim.info.