Tuesday, August 2, 2016

"What recommendations do you have for Women's Studies?"

A friend asked me to recommend some women's studies for a new church plant. Though there are many fine Bible studies aimed at women or by women on the market, I don't prefer them. First, these times if apostasy means women are especially vulnerable to it, and there are tons of false teachers out there of the female persuasion. Even solid teachers who have for decades developed good curricula of late have made a turn for the worse. (I'm thinking of Kay Arthur, among others). What is recommended today might be apostasy-ridden tomorrow when the woman creates her next curriculum. Though men are not immune from the same, it is a fact that satan attacks women with impunity. (Eve, symbolic Jezebel of Revelation 2, 2 Tim 3:6, etc)

J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt do express the need for women's ministry in the local church in their excellent book, Women's Ministry in the Local Church. I would say if one is going to start a women's ministry in a new church or resurrect a suspended ministry in an old church, to know why you are doing it and what the Bible has to say about it. Don't have a women's ministry just to have one. That's where the Duncan book comes in. An excerpt from the Dallas Theological Seminary's review of it states,
The book builds on five foundational themes taken from Paul’s pastoral letters: the Gospel, truth, sound doctrine, discipleship, and covenant. From these themes Duncan and Hunt identify five key passages, each emphasizing a different element that they feel is necessary for developing a healthy women’s ministry: 1 Timothy 2:9–15 (submission), 1 Timothy 3:11 (compassion), 1 Timothy 5 (community), Titus 2 (discipleship), and 2 Timothy 3:1–17 (Scripture). Each section offers a solid interpretation of the text, gives biblical examples of women who exemplify the meaning, and lists practical ways to carry out each element in a women’s ministry. Each chapter ends with testimonies from men and women who have implemented that principle in their own ministry experience. 
The authors give five reasons why women’s ministry is important in every healthy evangelical church, and they warn of the adverse effects to marriages, families, and churches if women fail to have opportunities to meet and serve together. 
I'm not opposed to all women's ministries of course, but I'm advising care and thought into the creation of it and a watchful eye from the elders to ensure its solidity over time.

What I'd shared with my friend is the second reason I'm not all that excited about women's ministries led by women is that all too often the ministry delves into topics aimed at women only, meaning, dating, courtship, marriage, and children. While they are important and worthy topics, first, it marginalizes single women by definition. Second, many times these topics are dealt with emotionally and not as theologically as one would prefer. I prefer theology for all ministries, men's, women's, and youth. Even children.

As for women, my specific target audience, if satan targets women then it behooves the church elders to formulate a plan for combating that attack. Grounding women in solid theology seems the best method. And yet women are often the last to be offered solidly theological studies in which to delve.

Even at that, the women who nod most vigorously during a solid theological sermon are often the first to gush about the latest Beth Moore study/Lysa TerKeurst book/Sarah Young devotional. That's why I appreciated the chapter on Scripture in Duncan & Hunt's book about women's ministries.

There are three issues with the church ministries' approach I've noticed over time, I'd mentioned in the conversation, and I'll flesh out further here. (Twitter limits are so exasperating sometimes!) Women as well as men-

1) deny the beginning,
2) mock the end,
and
3) are biblically illiterate with most everything in between.

To ground women in the beginning, Genesis 1-11 studies help. I believe the following studies from Genesis would make a wonderful addition to the rotation of any women's or men's ministry. We must know what we believe and why. Genesis provides that foundation. If more youths, especially girls, were taught the basics that are contained in Genesis, perhaps when they reach age 20 they would not be Already Gone.

A good resource is Genesis 1 to 11- Before Abraham, Creation, Sin, and the Nature of God (MacArthur Bible Studies)

Another good resource for Revelation: This book promises blessing yet too many people fear it, especially women. Here is a booklet that will help, "Jet Tour Through Revelation" ($2 for the booklet or click here to read it free of charge)

Biblical illiteracy: For a new church, I recommend Justin Peters' seminar "Clouds Without Water", which discusses what discernment is and why it is important, as well as critiquing the word-faith movement;

or

This free booklet (free for a limited time as of July 2016) "Discernment: Spiritual Survival for a Church in Crisis".

9Marks: Anything from 9Marks, an organization designed to help church plants and older churches become and stay healthy.

So that's it. I might be somewhat if an anomaly, single and childless yet in my mid 50's. I'm a Titus 2 elder woman who has nothing to say about marriage or child rearing except what the Bible says, not from experience. Perhaps that is why I focus on theology so much. Of maybe it is the Holy Spirit impressing on me that women, man, youth or child, you're never too young or too old to study God, which is simply what theology is.





5 comments :

  1. Elizabeth,

    Sadly, it seems these days that a woman who has a strong desire for sound doctrine, a visceral disdain for compromise in the church (watered down messages, worldliness, loud music with vapid lyrics, "worshiptainment", tolerance of false teachers, etc), and who isn't overly emotional, will be misunderstood and thought of as an anomaly in the church.

    How I have grown in the Lord - studying the word on my own and with my husband. Scripture truly has been sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness. I personally do not engage in "women's studies". They do not interest me, nor have I had any attraction to any of the popular women's teachers. I actually read/listen to very few teachers, and I vet them thoroughly against the word.

    You are right, most women's studies focus only on marriage and family, which marginalizes single women. You are also right, women seem to be the last people to whom solid theology is offered. That's why I sought it on my own from day one. Women can be - and need to be - as theologically astute as men.

    -Carolyn

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  2. Great article! I just ordered "Before Abraham, Creation, Sin, and the Nature of God" based on your recommendation & can't wait to read it. I was planning to take a Precept class this fall on the book of Genesis (or portions of it, as it is broken into five studies) and it ended up not being offered, so am happy to have this instead. Thanks so much!

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  3. What about studying a confession of faith, such as the London Baptist 1689 Confession of Faith?
    http://www.chapellibrary.org/files/3413/7643/3292/lbco.pdf

    BTW, chapel library has loads of good resources.

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  4. Thank you for your thoughts about women's studies. As a single woman, it has definitely been frustrating at times to find a study that isn't focused solely on how to be a good wife and mother (valuable things yes, but not completely relevant to my life at this time). Thank you for this blog...it has been a blessing!

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  5. A friend and I were asked to teach a Bible Study at our church last year. When the end of the year came around, we saw some really good things take place-- a) women were fellowshipping and getting to know women they ordinarily would not know. b) Compassion and empathy were developed for women in all different walks of life c) (and most importantly) women were developing a hunger for the meat of the Word and studying the Bible --some for the first time ever.

    For these reasons, I think Women's Ministry can be a wonderful and important ministry. Our Bible Study was made up of women of all ages and of all walks of life (single, divorced, widowed, married, with kids, without kids).

    While I agree that theology should be the focus, we also found that application naturally comes up (as it also does with MacArthur--which is one of the things I love about him!) As we discuss theology we naturally discuss how it applies to our lives.

    I think Women's Ministry can have a very valuable place in a church. But only if done correctly--under church leadership and without marginalizing any group of women (i.e. single or divorced, etc.) Women can be very catty and unkind and I think a proper study points their eyes to God and His Word and builds and encourages biblical and healthy relationships with each other. That is certainly what we have found in this past year.

    A change we are making this year is to do a book of the Bible for our study. This will naturally lead to theology AND application and will keep our eyes focused on the Word, where it belongs :)

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