Christine Caine's advice to women - how to be fruitful and flourish
Finding balance, purpose and empowering others
On International Women’s Day and just before Hillsong’s 2021 Colour conference for women – which will be online only this year, streamed globally on March 12-13 – Eternity thought it timely to offer Christine Caine’s advice to women from an interview with her at last year’s Colour conference.
I feel like a teenager with a crush as I make my way to interview the iconic Christine Caine in the dimly-lit vastness of Sydney’s International Convention Centre.
Caine is instantly warm and welcoming as we hook up the recording equipment. She is particularly keen to make conversation with my tech crew – that is, my teenage daughter Caitlin (who also has a major “Caine crush”).
“I wake up every day and I aim for the hub of that wheel, which is Jesus.” – Christine Caine
It’s lunch break at Colour 2020 – Hillsong’s annual women’s conference, which has attracted 17,000 women in Sydney alone. Caine is not on stage this year but unassumingly couched in a row of chairs like all the other thousands of women attending the conference.
While the crowd seeks refreshment outside the auditorium, I’m settling in to be refreshed by Caine’s trademark dynamism and directness.
I ask the – obvious but necessary – question (which, she says, she gets asked all the time): “You’ve got an international speaking ministry. You’ve written many books and Bible studies. You’re a social justice advocate, c0-founding the anti-trafficking organisation A21 with your husband Nick. You’re an entrepreneur and an advocate for women, founding Propel Women ministry. And you’re a mum of two teenage girls, Catherine and Sophia. So I’m going to ask you the question on every woman’s lips – how do you balance it all?”
Daily time with God is non-negotiable
“Imagine a wheel, with lots of spokes and a hub,” Caine begins. “I’ve got all of those spokes – I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m an author, I’m a teacher. I’ve got all the different spokes in that wheel, but my life is actually quite simple. I wake up every day and I aim for the hub of that wheel, which is Jesus. And then just like any wheel needs oiling, I feel that the oil of the Holy Spirit keeps that wheel spinning.
“And if I keep my own intimate life with Jesus alive, I find that wheel spins really well. If I pay attention to my spiritual disciplines – normally in my quiet time or in my time walking along the beach with the Lord – there’ll be a sense if something’s a little bit out of whack or one of those spokes is going to break, such as ‘Christine, you need to pay a little bit more attention to one of your daughters, maybe, or your husband or one of the ministries.’
“I always tend to think it’s not what you do for God that will burn you out. It’s what you don’t do and what you stopped doing … For me that’s the non-negotiables of time in the Word, time with the Lord, however that looks. I’m not trying to say ‘it has to be an hour’ or [to dictate] ‘it looks like this’. But nothing can stand in the place of my personal relationship with Jesus, which then orders the rest of my world.”
Don’t try to do it all
After time with God, the second principle that Christine employs to manage her busy life is delegation.
“I do what only I can do, and everything else, somebody else does,” she explains.
“When I first started [A21], I didn’t have help like I do now, but I always began delegating. Even when I was living here in Australia [she now lives in southern California] and Nick and I were just starting out, I would always have young girls that I would be discipling and raising up.
“Then when I had babies, those girls were part of my world. When we were doing different areas of ministry, they jumped on board and started helping, and I was discipling them. It was a great synergy.
“I don’t want any girl to think that I actually, physically cook dinner every night because I don’t.” – Christine Caine
“As our ministry grew (and as you know, Nick and I are in partnership), I pretty much do what only I can do. So I speak, I write my messages, I write my books. Only I can be Nick’s wife. Only I can be the girls’ mother, but I have a lot of help to do a whole lot of other things.
“I don’t want any girl to think that I actually, physically cook dinner every night because I don’t. I’m not even in my home every night to do that. Whatever someone else can do, I delegate. I have a lot of help around me.
“And I don’t allow guilt, shame or condemnation, because I think that’s the greatest threat to any woman. Truly, if you try to do it like somebody else does, then often it’s your perspective of what a wife or a mother should be that keeps you in bondage and stops you from stepping out and saying, ‘Well, my scenario’s a little bit different and this is the help that I’m going to have to do what God has called me to do.’
At this stage, Caine gets more candid about her experience as a Christian woman preacher: “You’ve got to find what works for you. I’m 53 now, and so when I started, I was unlike any other woman. Thirty years ago, women were not doing what I was doing – traveling the world preaching. And to be honest with you, the biggest challenge I had was from other women. Some out of goodwill, some I’m sure out of brokenness and insecurity, would say to me, ‘You know Christine, you should be at home with your kids. This is what a good wife would do’, without even knowing how Nick and I operated or how our kids operated.
“Nick and I knew what God had called us to do, and together we found what works best for our family. And we’ve done that and adjusted that as life grew. I had to ensure that I didn’t let what other people’s expectations were of me to limit me and limit what God had called us to do. So I had to go to a real isolated place for a lot of years in those early years.”
“Here’s the truth, girls, if you’re wondering: I don’t do it all.” – Christine Caine
Caine concludes with gusto, “So, here’s the truth, girls, if you’re wondering: I don’t do it all. I do what God has called me to do, and I empower a lot of people to do a lot of everything else.
“I think the more secure you are, the less you feel the need to do everything. I don’t need my name on everything. My greatest joy is to raise up other women and to see them released into what God’s called them to do.”
She adds: “I think that’s evident not only in the fact that we’ve got 300 plus staff around the world, but I have multiplied thousands of volunteers. Propel is in 88 countries. Now there are 4000 women running Propel Sophia chapters around the world – 100 chapters in Pakistan alone.
“You know how much joy that brings me? I’ve got Pakistani women in villages that are discipling other women because I dared to be obedient to what God called me to do. And I don’t need to be in Pakistan doing it because those women are doing a greater job than I will ever be able to do.”
One step at a time
Caine’s the first to admit that the stats she’s just given about the breadth of her Propel Women ministry – on top of A21, which has spread to 20 countries across the world – can make people assume she’s a superhuman.
“Sometimes I’m hesitant to even say this because I’m 30-odd years on in my journey and I know I’m not even where I’m going to be. My greatest years are still ahead of me.
“But for some women reading this, just saying those numbers will paralyse and cripple them, and make them think ‘I can’t do that’. I get that, but it all started because I stepped into my local church 31 years ago and the [Hillsong Hills campus] youth pastor at the time said (this is as simple as it started),’I need volunteers on Tuesday. We’re doing a big church clean-up.’
“I’ll never forget it. I was at Sydney Uni doing a Bachelor of Arts at the time And for me, that was so bold. I remember making that decision that I wasn’t going to go out with my girlfriends after uni that day, but I was going to get on a train, get on a bus, get to Castle Hill and put my name down to sign up for the church clean-up.
“I honestly believe that was the beginning, that step of obedience – being willing to sacrifice going out for a drink with my girlfriends. I mean, it seems like no big deal as I’m telling you this now, but honestly, for a lot of women on the other side of this article, the point is what’s your next one thing that you can do?
“God never asks us what we can’t do. He says, ‘What’s the one thing you can do?'” – Christine Caine
“Did I think it was going to lead to a global anti-trafficking organisation or a global teaching ministry? Of course I didn’t. I thought I just want to do the next thing that I felt that the Lord was saying, ‘Chris, you can do that.’
“And so often we do nothing because we can’t do everything, instead of doing the one thing that will activate something. I can honestly say in my 31 years journeying with Jesus, I have always just done the next right thing that the Lord’s put before me. And it’s always been costly.”
Caine adds: “The seeds to greatness are always small. And so I would suggest do the next right thing wherever you are. And you’re going to have to overcome your fears and insecurities because we all are in the habit of telling the Lord what we can’t do – ‘but God, I can’t do this, I haven’t got time, I haven’t got money’.
“But God never asks us what we can’t do. He says, ‘What’s the one thing you can do? Can you give in this situation? Have you got a little bit of time? Have you got a little bit of money? Have you got a little bit of kindness?
Do that next one thing. That’s it. And you will be blown away with what God opens up.”
Create pathways for other women
“For most of my 31 years, I’ve been the only woman in a lot of those rooms. I’ve had a privilege of God opening doors into the church world, the pastor’s world, the corporate world. Even though we’ve had women’s empowerment for a long time, it’s one thing to have policy change, but then another to create pathways and pipelines in order to see that affected.
“So here’s what you’re going to have to do. If at this moment in your life, you are the only woman in the room, then you’ve got to take your seat at the table, own your seat at the table, but consciously be thinking about where you could create pathways and pipelines for other women.
“I think that’s what I’ve done. I haven’t waited until I retire to say, ‘Then I’m going to try to open some doors for other young women.’ I think from day one, when I was director of Youth Alive, I was always bringing young women with me. Wherever I had it in my realm of authority, I would make sure I was positioning and promoting women. I think we see it very clearly in all my work with Propel Women, which is 80 per cent women … I did not want it to be a Chris Caine preaching platform. I wanted it to be an empowerment platform for women … not only to elevate white women’s voices from Western countries, I want to ensure that our sisters from all over the world can teach us some things as well.”
Caine continues: “If we’re not careful, some men can shut some doors for a little bit longer than they need to be shut, which causes a lot of pain and discouragement, disappointment and disillusionment for a lot of young women. And I think for the women reading this, at some point, it may take you to walk through the door to keep that door open for someone else. And you’ve got to trust that God is with you in the midst of all of that.”
The one job for every Christian woman
Ultimately, Caine’s advice to women on how live free and full lives leads – of course – back to Jesus.
“As Christ followers, what is our primary job? Well, our primary job is to lead people to Jesus. Ultimately, whether you’re a stay-at-home mother with ten children homeschooling them, or you’re a corporate CEO of the biggest organisation in the country, as a follower of Jesus Christ our predominant identity is in Christ and our predominant job is to lead others to Christ. Therefore, if our primary job is to lead people to Jesus, that makes us all leaders at that level.
“And I think for every Christian woman, whether she’s complementarian or egalitarian in terms of functions in church or roles within the home, we [should be asking] how can I most empower you to be the most fruitful version of you that God created? Because it is to our father’s great glory that we bear much fruit.”
She adds: “I don’t think there’s anyone in human history that has helped women to flourish more than Jesus Christ …
“For me, the bottom line, the ultimate freedom is to be found in Christ. You know, Galatians 5:1 says ‘It’s for freedom that Christ set us free.’ I think it all it comes back to fruitfulness and flourishing – the freedom to have the agency to make choices, to honour God, to follow God, to serve God and to flourish.”