By Chloe Sun
There is a saying in Chinese: “Two tigers cannot live in the same mountain.” It refers to the reality of two leaders who often cannot survive and thrive in the same realm. I think it applies to many of our ministry settings where two equally qualified and charismatic male leaders or two gifted and vocal female leaders have difficulty working together in the same realm. It is supposed that one would dominant the other, or there would be competition between the two.
As female leaders, we may face a dilemma. On the one hand, we do not want to feel alone in our ministry. On the other hand, we hesitate to have another female leader coming into our realm, for the fear that she would take the attention away from us or compete with us for influence.
This situation reminds me of a passage in the Book of Ecclesiastes:
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Eccl 4:9-12 ESV).
This passage is often used in wedding messages referring to the union of a couple. However, the real context behind the passage is obviously pointing to a working relationship between two men who labor together. I think we can apply the passage to a working relationship between two women as well.
Two women working together are better than one woman alone. Four reasons are given: (1) Broader ministry: They have good reward for their toil (v. 9b). Their ministry would be much more fruitful than what either of them could achieve on their own; (2) Better support: When one falls, the other can lift her up (v. 10). In times of stress, discouragement, or failure, the other can be a source of support and comfort; (3) Mutual company: Two can keep warm (v. 11). Two people can keep one another company through life’s ups and downs. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship rather than a competitive relationship; (4) Better Defense: Two are stronger than one to fight against the enemy. A common cause does not weaken a relationship, but rather unites it.
When another female leader shares ministry with us within the same realm, keeping in mind the above four advantages may save us from jealousy, competition, insecurity, and hurt feelings. The bottom line is “two are better than one.”
Chloe Sun, PhD., teaches Hebrew Scriptures at Logos Evangelical Seminary. She lives with her husband and son in Southern California. To contact Chloe, please send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.