Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

***Working to be a safe place for all sides to share.***


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Book Review: "Women's Ministry in the Local Church" by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt

Welcome to a guest post from appreciated Complegalitarian commenter, emsolidegloria. She attends a complementarian church, though does not identify with either complementarian or egalitarian positions in full, and wishes for personal reasons to remain anonymous. The following is her review of a book recommended by CBMW's Randy Stinson, Complementarian pastor, C.J. Mahaney, Mary A. Kassian, PhD, and more. John Piper's website discusses the book here.

I enjoyed reading through emsolidegloria's thoughtful commentary, and am sure that you will find reading her perspective worth your time, whether you come from a complementarian or egalitarian perspective.

Molly Aley

A Review of "Women's Ministry in the Local Church" by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt

Observations by Complegalitarian Commenter, "emsolideogloria" 9/20/08

This isn't a book review or even a counter-perspective on women's ministry in the local church. Rather it is a collection of observations based on the Duncan / Hunt book, my experience, and how I believe these interact with Scripture. My goal in writing this is to make some contribution to wise formation of ministry involvement including women in my local church.

At places I agree strongly with the authors and at others I don't. While I will try to note the most important contributions that I believe the authors make, I will spend much more time addressing those places where I have questions or concerns about the authors' perspective. There is much more right with this book than wrong with it but I will not spend extensive time highlighting what is right (they have done that themselves); thus, in the absence of propositional disagreement, it is safe to assume that I appreciate what the authors are teaching.

A Vision

First of all, let no foundation be laid than the one which has already been laid, that is, Christ.

"For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to
give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ." -2 Cor. 4:6

Women's ministry is to be rooted and grounded in the creative love of God who formed woman in his image from the man as a co-regent and partner for Adam and breathed into her the very same breath of life with which He animated the man. It is founded in the sustaining, merciful love of God, which did not destroy the woman or the man when they sinned, but rather promised them a Savior.

It is found in the pursuing love of God, who never left Himself without a witness in all of human history but chose a people for Himself and set His love on them and sent to them His law, His prophets, and last of all His Son, whom they killed. It is inseparable from the redemptive love of our Immanuel, who did not consider equality with God something to be clung to but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant and humbling himself to death on the cross – becoming what no woman or man could ever be so that we could be called the sons and daughters of God. It is a demonstration of the sanctifying love of God, who loves His church, and who gave gifts to the church in the form of men and women who will build the members of the body into maturity. It looks forward to glorifying love, when the Savior greets his perfected bride at the wedding feast of the Lamb and there will be no more sorrows – only joy in seeing Him as he truly is.

A Definition

While the authors of the book speak of "women's ministry," I do not recall them defining it. Since I'm pedantic about defining terms, I'll observe that the authors of this book seem to be particularly concerned with an organized, perhaps programmatic, division of church ministries that focuses on women, is led by women who function under the authority of the elders, and supports the other ministries of the church.

In a greater sense, though, "women's ministry" eludes definition. In that larger way, "women's ministry" can be seen as all ministry to women and by women in the local church and beyond – extending to all of the spheres of influence to which the women of the local church have been called. It includes, and indeed focuses on, how believing women minister to each other but it does not stop there. In as much as women are indispensible members of the covenant community, women's ministry is also about how women serve and are served by brothers in the church and how they serve as ambassadors extraordinaire to a world in rebellion against their Sovereign Savior.

In keeping with the focus of our authors, I will most often speak of "women's ministry" in the more specific sense but I will also draw connections to the greater sense – the greater purpose even, of women's ministry – as all that women do for the glory of God.

A Purpose

The authors of this book proffer several foundational themes of Paul's epistles which should be seen as the backdrop or context for all women's ministry (p 58-64). I could not agree with these more. Yet, I would proffer Ephesians 4 as an over-arching and unifying purpose for women's ministry that, at least in my mind, expands our understanding of what women's ministry is about.

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy
of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and
gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to
maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body
and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your
call 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each
one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.

8 Therefore it says,
When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men
(and women?). 9 (In saying, He ascended, what does it mean but that he had
also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is
the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all
things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the
shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all (men and women) attain
to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature
manhood (and womanhood), to the measure of the stature of the fullness of
Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the
waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by
craftiness in deceitful schemes.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we
are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from
whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is
equipped, when each part (male or female, young or old, etc) is working
properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

If this passage is written to the entire church and is for the entire church, both men and women, such that "all" means "all," then I cannot think of a better statement of purpose for women's ministry (or youth ministry, or men's ministry, or children's ministry, or single's ministry, or senior's ministry, etc), than this. In other words, this passage reveals God's heart for the entire church – any given ministry within the church should be about helping the saints catch a vision for the glory of God, to know and be known by the Savior, in a way that transforms the unique experiences of the people in that ministry. To elaborate, each ministry of the church has the same grand purpose, but it is woven into the lives of different people in beautifully diverse ways. Thus, while men's ministry and youth ministry have the same over-arching purpose, the goal of each ministry is to help its members grow to maturity and "work properly" as members of the body.

A Commendation

To speak of women as important in the church at all – of the worth of women and their call as disciples – is progress for many local churches in the evangelical movement. I appreciated Duncan's commendation of the pastors who have invested in the women in his life and Susan's of those who have trained her. There is no doubt in my mind that such pastoral investment is immensely valuable for both men and women in the church. Unfortunately, pastors often fail to see the value of investing in women. I've seen the bad fruit of such inattention many times, including in my own church. When I asked him why women were not included in discipleship in our church, my pastor once said that he didn't think it was necessarily wrong for other churches to include women in discipleship but it wasn't going to happen in his church. He explained that men were his priority because he is following the model of Jesus (who chose 12 male disciples) and that, as he understands Scripture, he is "not called to train women."

Such statements are not just offensive; they set aside much that is in Scripture. The church needs to be careful that it does not respond to extreme feminism with equally extreme male chauvinism ("superiority," however couched in "servant leader" terminology). As the authors of this book note, women were among Jesus disciples (though not the twelve). Mary chose the "better part," because she found her purpose at the feet of such a master. Wealthy women supported his ministry and were among his earliest followers. Jesus female disciples stayed with him throughout the dark night of his crucifixion and came first to his tomb. To some of them he first revealed himself as risen. Women were instrumental in the building of the early church. Did Paul consider it a waste of time to invest in Lydia (Acts 16)? It doesn't seem so – in fact, his first action when he got out of prison was to visit her. They "encouraged" the brothers but only Lydia is named – not even the jailer. Was Apollos embarrassed to have been discipled by Priscilla and to consider her (along with her husband) among his first teachers in the faith? This is not an apologetic for how great women are any more than the mentions of male ministry are to be an exaltation of men. Yet, these days it actually appears necessary to produce an apologetic for why ministry to women and by women matters in the local church. This book does produce such an apologetic.

Additionally, this book uses the word "ezar" or "helper" for women in a robust and positive way (p34). While some complementarian authors treat all wives as their husband's personal assistant (and single women in an equally diminutive way), these authors go out of their way to affirm the helping function as one which images God and is characterized by strength – it is a help that is not just practical but deeply spiritual as well. Grasping this concept would be a vital corrective for many in the complementarian movement (see Grudem, BFMW, 32). I believe it would reduce the excuses for men to use a complementarian emphasis on sexual hierarchy to justify their own personal desire for superiority.

My biggest laugh moment, in reading this book, was when Duncan quotes Dorothy Sayers from Creed and Chaos saying, "It is not the business of the church to conform Christ to men but men to Christ." She is a personal favorite of mine and I must appreciate any author who quotes her but to quote her in this book adds a touch of irony. She also said, "What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person." She got more specific on issues related to women in the church in her essay "The Human-Not-Quite-Human". Here is a relevant excerpt:

"Blessed be God," says the Jew, "that hath not made me a woman."

God, of course
may have His own opinion, but the Church is reluctant to endorse it. I think I
have never heard a sermon preached on the story of Martha and Mary that did not
attempt, somehow, somewhere, to explain away its text. Mary's, of course, was
the better part - the Lord said so, and we must not precisely contradict Him.
But we will be careful not to despise Martha. No doubt, He approved of her too.
We could not get on without her, and indeed (having paid lip-service to God's
opinion) we must admit that we greatly prefer her. For Martha was doing a really
feminine job, whereas Mary was just behaving like any other disciple, male or
female; and that is a hard pill to swallow.

Perhaps it is no wonder that the
women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man
like this Man - there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who
never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made
arch jokes about them, never treated them either as "The women, God help us!" or
"The ladies, God bless them!"; who rebuked without querulousness and praised
without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who
never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or
jeered at them for being female; who had no ax to grind and no uneasy male
dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely
unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that
borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from
the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything 'funny' about woman's

Finally, in commending certain themes in this book, I cannot overlook the authors' emphasis on prayer – especially prayer by women's ministry leaders for the ladies under their care but also for the elders under whose oversight they serve. This couldn't be more essential.

Global Analysis

The authors of this book set up five questions and answer them in the book. Their organization is good and worth retaining for further consideration. For each point in this outline, I will denote any additional observations I might make in italics.

[Edit by M. Aley to Add: My apologies. Blogger did not appreciate the cut-and-paste of this outline and made a real mess of it. I've patched it up as best as I can, but apologies for the odd formatting. To help, I have put the book's points in bold, emsolidegloria's observations in italics. This applies only to the following outline, not to the rest of the review].

1. Why should a church have a women's ministry? P37-38

i. Cultivate godly feminine women

1. Yes, but the word "feminine" carries many connotations and whose ideas of "feminine" are promoted can mean the difference between biblical women's ministry and a ministry that is legalistic and judgmental of women who don't fit the accepted mold.

2. Let us rather cultivate godly women who are passionate about living for the glory of God – who behold the Savior in every line of Scripture, who seek to mortify their own sin, who encourage others in godliness, who evangelize the lost and who clothe their defense of the truth with humility.

ii. Promote healthy Christian marriages

1. Of course. But the details he adds leave room for much controversy. He claims that "egalitarianism… is part of the disintegration of marriage in our culture." Rather, I would suggest that strict role-bound models for marriage are as likely to lead to joyless, selfish, legalistic relationships as Christian egalitarianism. At the same time, either complementarian or egalitarian models, applied with grace, humility and flexibility, can be quite beautiful. Most marriage struggles I've seen are not really about gender roles – especially if you look past the surface. Dave Harvey handles this well in "When Sinners Say 'I Do'."

iii. Promote godly, monogamous, heterosexual marriages

1. The claim that evangelical feminism leaves no reason for heterosexual monogamy is simply false. Scripture and natural law provide ample reason for any evangelical Christian to reject same-sex marriage and infidelity. The claim that celebrating an equal partnership between men and women in the gospel leads to androgyny is one for which I have not found reliable evidence. To claim to see more biblical evidence for a sort of complementarity that is characterized primarily by sexual hierarchy than egalitarianism is Duncan's right as a scholar. His smear of evangelical feminism, however, suggests the slippery slope fallacy to me.

iv. Cultivate among Christian women a joyous celebration of godly, healthy, Christian, male spiritual leadership in the church.

1. Wise pastoral leadership in the church is to be celebrated and the testimony of Scripture seems to be that the apostles and elders of the church were male by God's design.

2. Duncan could have had the grace here to admit that male chauvinism has frequently damaged the testimony of the church and still does in many local churches. When women are appreciated for releasing their husbands to serve the church but not as ones released by their husbands to serve the church, the imbalance is noted. When women are welcomed on some ministry teams but not others; trained in some ways but not others; considered capable of submitting but not leading (and I'm not talking about the pastorate)- think lay ministry or the deaconate here, those behaviors will be noted as statements of value by a watching world. I would suggest that pastors ask, "If someone came in from outside, would they quickly observe that women here are genuinely valued as fellow divine image bearers, heirs of grace, and earthly under-sovereigns with their brothers in Christ? Is there anything in the way that our church separates women that is not necessitated by Scripture? Do women or men in our church believe that we could improve in these areas? (if you don't know, ask)."

v. Help Christian women appreciate the manifold areas of service that are open to them in the church and equip them distinctively as women to fulfill their ministry.

1. Certainly, but Duncan doesn't stop here. He attacks what he calls an "androgynous" approach to discipleship. But I might suggest that a gender inclusive approach to discipleship is far preferable to either (a) discipleship as a "no girls wanted" clubhouse or (b) segregated "women's discipleship" that is characterized by a watered down "theology lite."

i. My summary response

i. Overall, I think Duncan's reasons for women's ministry fall short of the greater purpose I would envision. His thoughts are not necessarily bad – just incomplete – and in my mind carry an anti-egalitarian sub agenda that is not necessary.

2. Who is responsible for the women's ministry? P78

i. The elders of the church

i. Agreed, without reservation. The elders provide leadership, oversight and direction for all the ministries of the local church. A model where women's ministry operates as an autonomous sub-unit is a recipe for disaster and will not achieve the great purpose of building women to maturity as members of the body of Christ for the benefit of all.

ii. Consistent with this pastoral responsibility for the women's ministry should be a pastoral initiative to seek the counsel of the leaders of the women's ministry and to view them as a resource in church life. Greater harmony will result when the pastors include the wise women of the church in decision making that affects them as much as possible. Although the women should submit to the decisions of the elders even if they are not included in the decision making process, exercising pastoral authority in an arbitrary way not only can be provoking to the women, but the elders can miss out on much benefit that they might have received from the counsel of wise women. I don't think the authors disagree with this observation but they do not address this issue clearly.

3. How does women's ministry relate to other ministries in the church? P94

i. As a corporate helper to the whole church

i. The authors see women's ministry assisting other ministries in the church. They apparently have a committee driven (very Presbyterian or Baptist) model in mind. There is nothing wrong with this but I would see women's ministry relating to other ministries as a co-laborer or another team member. I would see the various ministries all helping each other toward that goal of maturity.

4. What are the tasks of women's ministry? P83-105

i. Accent on compassion and community; also submission and discipleship

i. There is biblical warrant for these values and they are very well presented here.

ii. My only additional encouragement would be to not exclude women from any area of ministry Scripture does not. In emphasizing compassion and community, it is important that we not place an improper reliance on perceptions of women as relational, intuitive nurturers. This is generally true, but it can leave out women who are not as gifted in these areas – who would be better suited to helping frame the church budget or administrating an evangelism program or defending and teaching sound doctrine. Those gifts aren't bad just because they are evidenced in a woman instead of a man.

5. How does a church implement a biblical approach to women's ministry? P141-143

i. Authors provide various examples of women's ministry activities in local churches and curriculum suggestions.

i. I struggle with some of these examples personally though I can see how they would be helpful for many women.

ii. Sometimes it can seem like these suggestions constitute a plan for implementing a diminutive or anemic (rather than thoroughly biblical) approach to women's ministry.
[Outline concluded]

Not-so-Random Thoughts

Titus 2

Titus 2:3-5 is a popular text for women's ministry and appropriately so. It may be the most specific text in Scripture justifying woman-to-woman training and discipleship.
Some pastors see this as excusing them from involvement in training women (as one young pastor seemed to once in quoting it to me) but a closer reading shows that this is part of a list of instructions to Titus as to what he is to teach various groups of people in the church. All of the things listed in verses 2-10 are the subtext of verse 1, instructing Titus to "teach what accords with sound doctrine." Titus, as a pastor, is to provide the equipping framework and training for all of these groups of people to excel in godly character and actions.

Other pastors see Titus 2:4-5 as setting forth the things that are important to teach women. Nothing else is needed in women's ministry, they believe, and so nothing (or little) else is allowed to be taught. The focus for women's ministry can amount to "Christian" Home Economics and somewhere in the long list of 'ways women should behave,' God gets lost. The remedy for such a narrow focus is to see the instructions to women in their context and to remember verse 3b.

If this is the exclusive list of things young women are to learn (or older women are to teach):

(1) love of husbands and children,
(2) self-control,
(3) purity,
(4) working at home,
(5)kindness, and
(6) being submissive to their own husbands;

then, young men should only be taught self-control, and older men just get to hear about being sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness – all the time.

But Paul is not meaning to give Titus an exhaustive list or curriculum for men's and women's ministries - he is emphasizing things which ought not be neglected. I've never yet heard a pastor use Titus 2:6 as grounds for teaching that the only thing young men were to be discipled in was self-control.

If a pastor is still inclined to see Titus 2 women's ministry as being about teaching women specific behaviors, then he still has a great reason not to interpret that list of behaviors narrowly. The whole passage says:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or
slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young
women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure,
working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word
of God may not be reviled.

The only direct command is that the older women "teach what is good." Paul's assumption is that as they teach what is good, the younger women are being trained in these good works that will bring glory to God the Father (rather than giving the world an excuse for reviling the gospel). But the admonition to "teach what is good" is quite broad – for above all, God is good. And it is in explicating and learning the glories of His character and His sacrifice on their behalf that the women will be changed and will "grow up in every way" (Eph 4:15). It is worth noting that the verse does NOT say that older women are to disciple the younger ones in how to "love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands." This is to be the fruit of teaching what is good – it is not necessarily the whole of the teaching itself. Women – like men – are to be discipled as Christ-followers. The fruit follows.

It appears to me that Duncan & Hunt subscribe to a narrow view of Titus 2:3-5 (p127). I do not think that this is necessary based on the text or wise in practice.

Evangelism and Discipleship

The authors assume the virtue of same gender evangelism and discipleship. So do I. They also suggest (p105) that evangelizing and discipling women should characterize women's ministry in the local church. I agree. What I do not embrace is their implicit assumption that cross-gender evangelism and discipleship are wrong or even less than ideal. Women should be encouraged and equipped to evangelize both men and women. While a woman's closest relationships will usually be with women and her sphere of influence will usually be widest among women, this is not always the case. The female office manager for a construction company probably interacts with men more than women. She has countless opportunities to be a gospel witness and she should take advantage of each opportunity in the power of the Spirit. Likewise, men should evangelize women.

Similarly, Scripture nowhere prohibits women and men from discipling or counseling each other. It rather seems to assume that this will be happen. While there are distinct benefits to same-gender discipleship, that is not the only way God works. Every Christian is to be an evangelist and disciple-maker. As long as Matthew 28:18-20 is considered a general call for all believers (not just to the eleven or only apostles), we have no warrant for attaching a same-gender rule to it. In a society where the genders are less separated than in the first century, it ought to be far more normative now than then.

The authors suggest that the universal reality of male / female differences speaks to the need for an intentional, deliberate approach to female discipleship (p39-41). In law, the legitimacy of a constitutional concept's application to a particular case can be challenged "facially" or "as applied." A facial challenge says that the concept does not apply at all while an as applied challenge suggests that justices not apply a generally accepted constitutional concept to the given case for particular reasons.

I would suggest that gender differences do not affect how discipleship should occur facially – or, rather, essentially. The core content and focus should be the same when discipling men or women. But there are "as applied" differences between male and female disciples and so these should be recognized in discipling / applying the gospel to the lives of men and women. Differences in dealing with temptation (p41) and, to some extent, even the nature of the temptations faced (only women physically experience miscarriage or hormonal changes associated with menstruation, for instance) are one of the best justifications for same-gender elements to any formal discipleship program. However, I have concerns about the assumption that sex differences are so profound that the entirety of discipleship must be tailored to gender. Men and women are different but the gospel is the same. And the gospel looks very similar when lived by each gender (is there really male kindness and female kindness? Male self-control and female self-control?).

Thus, I would rather have a well-qualified man leading a women's discipleship group (if the group is not to be mixed) than a poorly qualified woman. I've learned much from wise men. I can only imagine how much Apollos benefitted from being discipled by a mature, godly team: Priscilla and Aquila. This example is one of the reasons why I cannot see 1 Timothy 2:12 as a universal prohibition on a woman teaching a man or a man learning from a woman regarding spiritual truths. Rather, I see it as a proscribing a woman from being in a position of spiritual authority over and authoritatively teaching the men (an elder). We should not be quick to overlook the value of spiritual mothers in the church. These women can be a great resource to young men (who are not their natural sons) – guiding, counseling, encouraging and even instructing them in the faith. Further, when both men and women are discipled by a mature male / female team, I actually think far more benefits accrue than when only one gender is doing the discipling. Ideally, this teamwork creates additional contexts for modeling how the gospel is lived out in different sorts of situations.


The authors bring in Dan Doriani to explain possible interpretations of "likewise, the women" in reference to the deacons (p84). They believe that women were / are to be involved in diaconal work (service and caring ministry) but as wives to deacons rather than as deacons themselves. Nonetheless, the authors seem to allow for the possibility of other legitimate interpretations. I would see women as likely to have been deacons in the early church; however, I would not see this as a governing role over the whole church but rather as an office of ministerial service. The diaconate has some responsibility but it is a very submitted level of responsibility – the governing authority remains with the elders.

The authors seem to view male deacons as wise leaders and women as relational helpers. This seems to once again exclude women from exercising wise leadership. In their example (p95), the authors assume that male deacons are to make such simple decisions as to how church resources might be used to assist a single mom and more complicated ones regarding how to care for an abused woman. The women of the church are then "freed" to carry out the male deacons decisions with relational care for these women. Not only is this condescending but I believe this view also robs the church of the counsel and decision making skills of wise women by assuming the women will be too emotional and relational to view the situations objectively. A woman who runs a small business or directs a charity should certainly be as able to make such a decision as a man or to give input into a group decision made by all the deacons. And, since Scripture doesn't prohibit her involvement, neither should we.

The principle of submission should not be seen as "freeing" women (p90) from ever making responsible decisions or being a member of the team that makes such decisions. Nor should a woman's desire to use her gifting in decision-making or helping to set church policies in these matters of service lead to her being branded as "rebellious" by male leadership. A robust view of complementarity should actually convince us that the active participation of both men and women will serve the church well in such decision making.

In my local church, viewing women as helpers to the male deacons (small group leaders), generally means that the men are trained and developed as leaders in ways the women (wives / assistants) are not. Over and over, I have seen ways that this model does not serve the women of the church and may even be detrimental to the men. In this model, the women are often not regarded as strong partners in the ministry of the gospel, their perspective is not welcomed in decision making (how does that value complementarity?), and their giftedness is not fully utilized. I agree that a woman does not need an official position (p88) to serve others with care and compassion -- but neither does a man. If Scripture does not keep her from the office (and the accompanying training and opportunity to more fully use her gifts to serve God's people), then should the elders keep her from it?

In an emphasis on community and compassion, we should be careful not to restrict women from other opportunities for service and ministry (unless Scripture clearly does so). And we should be very reluctant to judge the motives of a woman who desires to serve in non-traditional ways. Can a woman be church administrator? Evangelism coordinator? Head usher? Occasionally facilitate a mixed bible study? Lead or co-lead an Alpha group? Develop curriculum for church use? Serve on the financial accountability / budgeting team that advises the pastors? Coordinate youth ministries? Should women be considered by the elders for these roles? If not, why not?


The authors mention strong personalities associated with women's ministry as a negative several times (p31, 139). I've personally observed a fear of strong women (particularly if they are allowed in ministry) in several churches and by more than a couple of pastors. I do think I understand this concern – particularly when semi-autonomous women's ministries begin teaching something contrary to the doctrines of the church or when major personality conflicts threaten to implode a ministry entirely.

Thus, I would share the author's concern about a personality driven women's ministry – or a personality driven local church, for that matter. Somehow, though, I don't recall ever hearing about the woes of a personality driven children's ministry. Would it be accurate, then, to say that many elders / church leaders are MORE concerned about strong personalities in women's ministry than elsewhere in the church? If so, why? Perhaps, my concern would be that in the effort to avoid a personality driven women's ministry, some leadership might demand a women's ministry devoid of personality.

God doesn't call women to efface their personalities any more (or less) than he calls men to do so. Rather, both ought to decrease that He might increase. Both sexes are to yield themselves as instruments of grace. But, women's ministry leaders need not be drab and colorless people who fear to express any gifting or confidence in God lest they be labeled as self-aggrandizing or perceived as a threat to male leadership. That shouldn't be expected or cultivated. Rather, leaders should look for strong, caring and intelligent – even pastorally minded (in the sense of desiring the good of others as God defines it and being willing to work to that end) women who will disciple, encourage, correct and cultivate gifting in others. They are women who challenge other women, who ask good questions, intentionally move conversation past the superficial, counsel those who are in need and bear with the weak gladly. Such women's ministry leaders are gifts to the entire church.


The church will be best served (and God most glorified), when men and women partner together in the advancement of the gospel. This partnership is one of inter-dependence and the ground of our unity is as sinners, saved by grace, called to serve and transformed for all eternity. Christ's prayer was for our unity – and that is achieved as we find our place, our peace, and our security in Him. Men and women who are secure in the Lord need not be threatened by or compete with each other. We are free to minister to each other, with each other, and to prefer one another in love - without arrogance, condescension or selfish ambition. In such an environment, the value of women in the church will not be in doubt. It will not be remarkable for a prominent pastor to say that the contributions wise women should be appreciated for no one will doubt that they are. Women in the church would be trained and equipped alongside their brothers for most areas of ministry. The Body will grow up in every way into Christ.

Perhaps, I've raised cautions where there are no dangers. Many of my observations may be invalid or tainted by my own sinful judgments. Please take my thoughts for whatever they might be worth and know that they are submitted with love for the church and passion to see God's greatest glory advanced in and through her.