I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Holly Wagner. She and her husband Philip are the founders and lead pastors of Oasis Church in Los Angeles, California. They started in 1984 with a vision to see the people of Los Angeles encounter the love and grace of God. Today, the church has grown into a life-giving community of over 3,500 people.
Over the past several months, our culture has become more and more aware of the environment and prejudices that women have traditionally encountered in the workplace. I was curious what it was like for Holly to be a female lead pastor starting a church in the 80s.
“When we started, we had our heads down, and I was doing everything but leading worship. We just did it together. And then, after a few years, I looked up, and there were people that would come and challenge that or question that more. That's when I became aware that not everybody is as big a fan (of women leaders) as I am or as Philip was. So it's been... it's been a journey."
“But honestly, I think that just like a healthy home has a mother and a father, I think a healthy church has a mother and father. You know I was created in God's image just like Philip was. We both come from Him. And so there's just as much of a need for the feminine voice to be present. And so I think perhaps in days gone by––because women might have been oppressed or held back––they came back with a vengeance and with an anger that might not have been acceptable or appropriate. And so I think it's finding the strength without trying to control everything. I feel like that's the dance that I've had to walk in.
“Many times I have been the first woman on people's platform. And I think it's partly because I'm at a local church, they know it’s not just a gig for me. I’m coming in to help build a church. And so I'm always honored when I find that out. I'm also a little freaked out when I find that out, but I'm always honored, and then I realize I'm opening a door for a generation of young women to come behind me to actually have the chance to communicate the word of God from this place.”
Despite the naysayers and those who challenged her place of leadership, Holly trusted God and did what He uniquely designed her to do. Today, because of that faithfulness, thousands of lives have been changed, and new doors are opening to women around the world.
I invite you to listen to my full interview with Holly. We talk about many things from her days as a Hollywood actress, to her cancer diagnosis and the launch of the organization She Rises.