About J. Lee Grady
J. Lee Grady is an author, award-winning journalist and ordained minister. For 18 years he worked for Charisma magazine, one of America ’s most widely distributed evangelical Christian publications, and he served as editor for 11 of those years. He is the author of six books, including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, and he focuses much of his ministry on releasing women in ministry. Lee has taken his message to 30 countries. Lee and his wife, Deborah, have four grown daughters and two grandsons. They live in LaGrange, Georgia.
That’s the official version, but if you want to know more details, from a more personal perspective, Lee answers some questions below in this online interview...
Q. How did you become a Christian?
A. My parents raised me in the Southern Baptist church. I am very thankful for that heritage because it taught me to respect the Bible and introduced me to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Like a lot of churchgoing teenagers, I struggled in my walk with God during my high school years in Atlanta, Georgia. I was searching for spiritual reality and at one point even considered becoming a Jew. I flirted with atheism for a few months, too. But because of the influence of a godly youth pastor at my church in Atlanta, I decided to make Jesus 100% Lord of my life when I was 18.
If you’d like to know more about having a personal relationship with Jesus, click here. I’d love to share some very good news with you.
Q. How did you come to focus your ministry on women? That seems kind of strange since you’re a guy.
A. Tell me about it! I can promise you I never imagined until a few years ago that God had this unique ministry for me.
It all started in 1999 when I talked to a female pastor who led a church in Virginia. I called her to ask if she would write an article for Charisma defending women preachers. I wanted to run this article because we routinely received many negative comments whenever we published a story about a woman pastor, Bible teacher or evangelist. The critics would send me tons of Christian hate mail telling me that the Bible commands women to stay on the sidelines of ministry.
So I asked this dear lady if she would write an article explaining what the Apostle Paul meant when he said “women must be silent in the churches” (I Cor. 14:34 ). Of course I knew that this verse had been misused to limit women’s ministry involvement, but I didn’t know how to explain this. So I figured this woman—who was a bishop in her denomination, overseeing many churches—would be glad to help out.
I was wrong. The woman told me: “No, I will not write the article. I am tired of defending myself. If these critics want to come to my church and interview the new converts, observe our school and talk to the single moms who have been delivered out of drug addiction through our faith-based program, then they can come and look me in the eye and tell me my ministry is illegitimate. Otherwise, tell them to leave me alone and let me do what I am called to do.”
I had struck a nerve. There was a lot of emotion in her response. Many people had criticized this woman, but she had stayed faithful to her calling. I admired her spunk. But who was going to write the article that I needed?
When I hung up the phone I was discouraged. Then I heard the Holy Spirit whisper something to me that would change my life forever. He said: “Why don’t you defend her?”
I knew the Lord’s voice well enough to discern that this was more than a question. It was an invitation from heaven. God was calling me. It was an opportunity to say yes to Him, even though I had no idea what my yes might require.
I raised my hand and volunteered. “OK Lord, I will defend the women,” I said. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But an exciting journey began that day.
Q. Is that what led you to write the book 10 Lies the Church Tells Women?
A. Absolutely. I immediately began researching the issue of women and gender in the Bible. I discovered that there is a wealth of Christian scholarship on the subject. I began to devour books on the topic and realized that many of the best works were academic … and somewhat tedious. So I began to write a book for the common person, something that could be easily translated into other languages.
10 Lies the Church Tells Women was published in 2000 and has since been translated into Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Dutch, Hungarian and Indonesian. Soon we will have it in Portuguese, Arabic and Russian.
Q. Tell us more about your family.
A. I tell people that the Lord set me up for this ministry to women by surrounding me with them. My wife, Deborah, and I have four daughters: Margaret, Meredith, Gloria and Charlotte. I am drowning in a sea of estrogen! I used to have a male dog---a dachshund named Flapjack---but he died in 2004. But now I have two wonderful sons-in-law.
I love my girls and they have been a special joy. They also have helped me understand our Heavenly Father’s special delight in his daughters. I know that in some cultures boys are more valued than girls, but God does not share that sexist attitude. He wants His girls to enjoy all His benefits, and He has special and unique callings for them. He does not limit or disqualify them because of gender.
Q. What is your wife like?
A. She’s an amazing woman. Also raised in a Christian home, she was baptized in the Holy Spirit as a teenager around the same time I was. Jesus is her number one priority and that is what drew me to her back in the early 1980s when we met. We married in 1984 while living in Gainesville, Florida .
Deborah majored in child development at Florida State University. As soon as we married, she started developing children! She has totally loved being a mother and will receive special awards in heaven for sacrificing her own needs to help our daughters succeed.
Deborah loves to minister to people and is a skilled prayer counselor. She also loves to read, and fiction is her favorite genre. In fact she has written a novel and is currently looking for a publisher.
Q. Are you affiliated with a particular Christian denomination?
A. I consider myself a spiritual mutt. I was raised Southern Baptist, but in 1976, just before leaving home for college, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and began to associate with charismatic churches. My wife and I were affiliated with a charismatic campus ministry during the 1980s. Then, when we were raising our young children we joined a charismatic Episcopal church in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. This was a stretching experience for us because we had never had any association with liturgical churches. (We had been told that God didn’t visit there regularly because they were “dead.”)
We discovered a unique blend of the old and new at that church—both the richness of church history and the newness of the Holy Spirit’s vitality. It was wonderful to discover how big the Body of Christ really is. It helped us appreciate the older churches that carried the banner of Christ in previous generations.
When we moved to Orlando in 1993 we joined a similar Episcopal church that had a charismatic bent. That church left the Episcopal denomination in 2004 to join the Anglican Mission in America, a staunchly evangelical denomination that is open to the charismatic renewal. It is led by bishops from Africa.
When I realized that God was calling me into itinerant ministry in 1999, I sensed that He did not want me to be ordained in the Anglican tradition. Because of some close relationships I had in another group, I was ordained in June 2000 with the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. Today, the IPHC provides me with a wonderful covering and close relationships that provide accountability and wise counsel. So I guess you can say I am a blend of evangelical, liturgical, charismatic and Pentecostal. My broad exposure to different streams in the body of Christ has given me compassion for all Christians.
Q. What one event would you say most shaped your walk with God?
A. That’s an easy question. On September 5, 1976, I went out on the volleyball court at First Baptist Church of Avondale Estates, Georgia, and asked Jesus to baptize me in the Holy Spirit. I had read about this experience in the book of Acts, and I had met several Southern Baptists who had prayed for it. So I decided to take the plunge myself. I wanted all God had for me!
My life was forever changed that night. I was already a Christian, but I had felt spiritually weak and powerless. That totally changed after I was filled with the Spirit. It was like I was electrocuted! God jolted me with His power and gave me a reservoir of His anointing. I suddenly had a strong hunger for the things of God. I wanted to pray, read my Bible and share my faith. And I drew much closer to the Lord as a result of this experience.
Q. Why is your ministry called The Mordecai Project?
A. Mainly because I did not want to call it the Lee Grady Evangelistic Association. In our culture, religious-sounding names can be a turn-off to people who have had bad experiences with the church. So I picked something a bit more mysterious.
Mordecai was a godly man who played a major role in the book of Esther in the Old Testament. He lived in ancient Persia (modern Iran) during the time that the Jews were living there as exiles. Mordecai discovered that the wicked bureaucrat Haman had convinced the king to kill all the Jews living in the country.
Meanwhile, Mordecai’s young cousin Esther had been abducted by the king and was in line to become part of his royal harem. Mordecai realized that God had allowed this so that Esther could expose Haman’s plot and stop the planned genocide. So Mordecai went to Esther and commissioned her to act courageously.
I identify with Mordecai more than any other character in the Bible. I believe God has called me to prod many Esthers into bold action. Christian women have been destined and positioned to make a huge impact on the world, yet the church has told them that they don’t really have a significant role to play. Not true!
I believe my divine assignment is to rally God’s women and to commission them for service. That is the primary purpose of the Mordecai Project.
Q. What do you want to accomplish during your lifetime?
A. I believe every Christian can be a world changer. Since I was filled with the Holy Spirit I have always believed that my life can make a difference in nations.
My goals are to preach the gospel in the nations of the world, to train effective Christian leaders in both the church and secular society, plant new churches and equip God’s people with the tools they need to transform their cultures for Christ. I want to do this through teaching, preaching, books and all other available forms of media.
I especially want to bring Christ’s liberating power to regions of the world where women are currently oppressed. As the message of Jesus takes hold in these countries, I expect spiritual strongholds to break, governments to shift, laws to change and freedom to spread. This will happen throughout Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia.
I believe in the power of mentoring and discipleship. I plan to raise up many disciples--both men and women--who will change nations. I can’t go everywhere and do everything, but the people I impact can do more than I could ever dream.
Q. Of all the places you have visited, what was your favorite?
A. China made the biggest impact on my life because I spent a week with leaders of the underground Christian movement. Everyone I met during that trip had been in prison at least four times. My faith was challenged to the core by their commitment and sacrifice.
I have a special place in my heart for Nigeria, which I have visited eight times. I feel a strong connection with my brothers and sisters there, even though travel in that country is not easy. (I think maybe I have some African blood?)
The most beautiful place I have ever visited so far is rural Guatemala. The best food was in Egypt. The most “difficult” food was durian--a bad-smelling but good-tasting fruit grown in Indonesia. The most physically challenging place was Bolivia, because of the high altitude. The place where I got the sickest? Salt Lake City!
Q. You travel, preach and edit a magazine. But what do you like to do when you’re relaxing?
A. I try to keep in shape by jogging. I also love to visit Orlando ’s theme parks —and my favorite ride is the Incredible Hulk roller coaster. My music of choice is black gospel, but I also love 1940s big band music as well as praise and worship from various nations. I especially love the Hispanic praise recordings of Jesus Romero and Marco Barrientos. My wife and I also love movies—and my all-time favorite is To Kill a Mockingbird starring Gregory Peck.
I don't really have a favorite vacation spot, but I really enjoy the museums in Washington, D.C. And one day I want to spend a week riding a horse across the American West.