by Johnathan Arnold
If your pastor announced a new women’s small group meeting, what would you expect? If you visited your local Christian book store, what kind of resources would be available to you in the “For Women” section? While women have specific emotional and relational needs, our pink, flowery book covers and human-centered, feeling-driven approach to women’s ministry makes a subtle statement: meat is for men, milk is for women (Hebrews 5:12). In fact, women are some of the most brilliant, perceptive, and capable members of our congregations. Women deserve more.
A High View of Women, A High View of Women’s Ministry
The local church should be a strong group: a place where women can talk about their feelings, build lifelong friendships, draw emotional support, and discover their identities as Kingdom daughters. We have a lot of work to do at our church, as I suspect most churches do, before this kind of atmosphere will be noticeably felt. However, fellowship, support groups, and heart-to-heart talks are not enough. They are not nearly enough.
Transformative women’s ministry is Word-centered. As long as our needs and our identities are the focus of what we are doing, we are missing the greatest treasure: “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). How do we gaze into the face of this glory — the face of Jesus Christ? How do we see this glory? Simply put, solid Bible teaching.
Heart-to-heart talks are not enough. Transformative women’s ministry is Word-centered.
Solid Bible teaching is not measured by how many commentaries we refer to or by the number of Greek words we reference. While solid Bible teaching requires solid exposition, which engages these tools, we would all be bored if that were the end of the matter. Nobody is transformed when they see that.
People are transformed when they see Jesus. Solid Bible teaching is about offering people Jesus, not offering people ourselves. It is about revealing the glory of God in His Word, not inspiring people with our abilities. The tragedy of many evangelical women’s ministries is that they are packed with emotion, charisma, and personal narrative, but little or no Bible.
Nancie Guthrie observes, “women love story — personal, winsome, emotional, funny story — but story can be a stumbling block. We hear all the time ‘just tell your story, your story has power.’ Here’s what I would say: use your story to tell God’s story. Our stories have the power to amuse, impress, and inspire, but only God’s Story, centered in the person and work of Christ, has the power to make dead people alive!”
The Heart of Women’s Ministry
Frances Ridley Havergal wrote,
“Looking into Jesus,
Wond’ringly we trace
Heights of power and glory,
Depths of love and grace.
Vistas far unfolding
Ever stretch before,
As we gaze, beholding,
Ever more and more.”
The Scriptures are the lens through which we behold Jesus, ever more and more. From Genesis to Revelation, we trace the heights of power and glory. In verse-by-verse Bible study, we uncover depths of love and grace. At the end of our exposition we find vistas far unfolding, like the magnificent view after ascending a steep mountain.
The heart of women’s ministry is beholding Jesus through the lens of Scripture.
In Luke 24:27, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Do you want to see Jesus? Look for Him in His Word. Look hard. Dig. Probe. Search. Study. Hang on every verse and word as if your life, husband, and children depended on it — because they very well may. Don’t settle for the status quo! In a world that is captivated with “empowering women” to do all kinds of God-dishonoring things, the Lord can empower you to “rightly divide the Word of truth” with exacting accuracy (2 Tim. 2:5).
Sharon Hodde Miller says, “Too often, women approach Scripture asking not ‘Who is God?’ but ‘Who am I?’” Seeing Jesus is the beauty of the Bible. Our identities are best informed by identifying Him. As we see Jesus in the Scriptures, “we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). This is the kind of solid Bible teaching that women need to be spiritually fruitful.
Treasuring Women of the Word
In Acts 18, Priscilla and her husband Aquila “expounded unto [Apollos] the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26). She expounded! Through systematic, intelligent exposition of the Scriptures, she and her husband were able to convince a man who was “mighty in the scriptures” (Acts 18:24).
A Word-filled woman sharpens those around her.
Does Priscilla fit our conventional idea of a Proverbs 31 woman? Why not! A Word-filled woman can be just as feminine, meek and quiet spirited (1 Peter 3:4), submissive to her husband (Ephesians 5:22), and attentive to her domestic responsibilities (Titus 2:4) as any other woman. One of the positive things that we often overlook in 1 Corinthians 14:35 (“if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home”) is that the women desired to learn! They asked questions! The church must cultivate this kind of interest and channel it in appropriate ways. My wife comes to me several times each week with excellent Bible questions. When discipling couples, I find that the wives are often more perceptive than their husbands and ask some of the most scrutinizing questions.
The kind of woman who is teaching other women “every good thing” (Titus 2:3-5) should certainly be well-versed in the Word. This kind of woman, a word-filled woman, sharpens those around her. “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26). We need more Priscillas!
Guthrie, Nancy. “Help Me Teach the Bible: Why Do the Hard Work of Exposition.” The Gospel Coalition.
Havergal, Frances R. "Looking unto Jesus." Hymnary.org.
Miller, Sharon Hodde. “Ladies, Put Down That Pink Bible.” Christianity Today.
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