What would it look like for women, not just from one church, but from an entire community, to come together for two days to worship and be equipped and encouraged in the gospel? How would it change not only their lives but the lives of everyone within their circles? Would the effects flow out like ripples on a pond, until they have touched every part of our community?
Those questions are what Elizabeth Tackett is hoping to answer with IF:Starkville. IF:Starkville will be a gathering of women to watch the live stream of IF:Gathering 2019. It is a two-day event filled with worship and women speaking about the truth found in Proverbs 3:5-8. According to their website, the "IF:Gathering exists to equip women with gospel-centered resources, events, and community so they may learn more about who God is and disciple other women right where they are."
"Women are expected to be here, do this, have this kind of house, do this kind of job, and just pretty much be great at everything. You're not allowed to fail," says Elizabeth, whose own desire for spiritual growth led her to host a local version of the IF:Gathering here in Starkville. Several months ago, she felt a need for this type of event, not just for her benefit, but for the women of the community as well. It is her hope that the IF:Gathering will be freeing for a lot of women as they listen to speakers be vulnerable about their own lives and spiritual walks.
What began as a moment of openness with her D-Group a few months ago soon blossomed into a community-wide event when Elizabeth started to recognize the same symptoms of spiritual fatigue that she was feeling among the women she knew. She would walk by women at work and feel the heaviness of the problems that were weighing on their hearts.
One of the goals of the IF:Gathering is for women to engage with one another, to be encouraged and empowered, and to be equipped to go out with the gospel and love others. And in a day and age where female empowerment is such a buzzword, our goal is to not empower women with the things that are going to leave them hungry and thirsty in two minutes. Where modern feminism is better at creating factions instead of community, with men pitted against women and women pitted against each other, we desperately need the unity and power of Christ to shine. Instead of turning to a fractured culture for what women ought to be and do, let us turn instead to Christ.
When women allow the power of Christ in their lives to replace their insecurities and doubts, they are empowered with something that is greater than themselves. They are able to extend the same love, forgiveness, and patience they have received from God to their families, their coworkers, and even the stranger that cut them off in the grocery store parking lot. And more than that, they can extend the same love and forgiveness to themselves.
“Women try to make it so much more complicated than it is, and when they do that it becomes unattainable and they just give up,” Elizabeth says, “But if you come, you will be loved, and when you’re loved, you’re going to love other people.” Think about what an impact it would have on Starkville for the women who come to this event to experience the truth that they are loved, they are seen, and they are known and go back to their own circles of influence with that knowledge and share it.
"I hope that we can provide women with intentional ways to go out and love the people that are in their neighborhood, their work, their church, and their families," Elizabeth says. Although the IF:Gathering is a women’s event, the emphasis of this weekend has always been on community. After discovering that the IF:Gathering, which is held annually in Dallas, Texas, was already sold out, Elizabeth's sister encouraged her to look into hosting a local IF:Gathering event here in Starkville. Elizabeth knew she did not want the event to only be for the women of FBC Starkville, but she was hesitant because of how daunting a community-wide event would be.
With such a focus on community, Elizabeth knew she would need people around her who were gifted in different areas, like technology and business, and who shared the same community focus that she did. To help reach out to the community, the event organizers decided to split into teams, with team leaders being in charge of different areas of the Gathering. Team leaders were then challenged to pick 3-5 people that they could work with to get things done for the event.
The team was also tasked with choosing a church from the community, regardless of differences in denomination and culture, with the goal to engage with the women they knew went to that church to invite them. Instead of just contacting the church's office and asking them to promote the IF:Gathering, this process hopefully creates an opportunity to connect with women from other churches.
What began as one woman’s desire to fill a spiritual void in her own life has grown into a two-day event aimed at breaking down barriers and building up the community. “Our community needs it,” Elizabeth says emphatically, “What would you do if you weren’t involved in a church, and a loved one died. Or you’re in a season of your life that is dark, and your community feels so limited? And I just think, if we’re all here, why not empower and encourage one another.”
IF:Starkville will be held at the Warehouse Church on February 8-9, starting at 5:30 pm. Registration is $20 and includes two tickets and all meals for the event. You can go to fbcstarkville.com/events to find out more information and to register online.
Our prayer for the IF:Starkville event is that as the women of our community gather together, despite generations, denominations, and cultures, we will have the opportunity to experience an encounter with God in a way that will compel us to link arms with Him in the greatest calling on earth — to make disciples.