We read books for different reasons. But whether we pick a fictional, historical, biographical, doctrinal, or self-help book, we are after a positive experience. There is something noble about reading—even if it isn’t quality reading—in an age that is captivated by visual media. Picking up a book comes with an intended purpose, one that requires more discipline than reading a blog article, perusing our social media news feeds, or even committing to watch a movie. Reading takes more work. And we want to be rewarded for it in some sense. What expectations do you have for this book? What do you hope to learn? That’s a question we will return to later.
When we are talking about Christian books, we really expect results—positive results, even eternal results. And yet, as noble as the art of reading is, it is not neutral ground, not even in Christian publishing. This is a book that aims to help the whole church by examining church initiatives for a group that makes up over half of our congregations—the women.
It’s good news, really. I’m not writing as someone offended or burned. I am an advocate for the local church. I am writing as one small person who represents this group of more than half the church. I am a woman. I am happy to be a woman who is a member of a faithful, confessional church. I’m not exactly young anymore; I’ve grown as a woman in this environment. And yet I’m not one of the women we look up to who are the most experienced in life and have so much wisdom to offer. I’m somewhere in between, having just celebrated my fortieth birthday, creeping up closer to my twentieth wedding anniversary, and having three children who are still in the home, albeit two of whom are going through the confusing teenage years.
This seems to be a good time for reflection in life. I can look back at my own naïveté, bad circumstances, mistakes, sin, and occasional glimpses of providential obedience and good timing in the Christian life, and I am also at a good place to look ahead, hoping to wisely apply what I’ve learned, God willing, to my own family and to any who may care to learn from a semi-crazy, yet informed and venturing, sister in Christ. It’s also an interesting time in history for women and the church. While we believe we are in a more enlightened age than our ancestors, we are still trying to decipher and work our way through basic issues such as gender distinctiveness, sexuality, women’s roles in the church and home, family dynamics, discipleship, and the relationship between church and culture. I want to encourage readers that there is good news about all of these related and important issues in life. But as you already know, because you were obviously concerned enough to read at least this introduction, there is some critique that needs to be evaluated, even in the places where we would like to take refuge, such as Christian publications, parachurch organizations, Christian radio, blogs, and even the ministries we try to build in our own churches.
Some of this is uncomfortable to talk about, but we aren’t called to be comfortable. So I’m not writing in some kind of alarmist tone. I am writing because I know that God has ordained that we often grow in a slow process. My own life is certainly representative of this fact. Some people seem to be blessed with a faster track to maturity. I have often learned the hard way. But I value that learning and don’t want to make it any harder than it has to be, especially for those who are younger than me. I want them to learn much quicker! Even so, younger people have a voice that we need to listen to as well. Whatever our age and experience, we are valuable to the church of Christ, and he wants each one of us to be competent in our knowledge of him and in our understanding of the gospel. I still have a long road ahead, Lord willing.
Jesus Christ loves his church. That is the great news I want to share with you in this book. We believe that, right? In fact, Christ loves his church so much that he wants all of his church, including the women, to “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13). And, of course, we believe that too. But how does Jesus do this for all of us? That is where we begin to have some differences.
Our theological views about creation, gender, and the household context affect the way we think about women’s status, roles, and contributions to the church, home, and society. There has been a lot written on these topics, ranging from good to horrible. Many books written for women in the church, whether good or bad, are never read by the elders, pastors, or laymen. Women’s ministries have become a sort of separate entity in the church, and this is one of our biggest problems.
As someone who speaks at women’s retreats in different churches, I have been blessed to meet many wonderful women who have great intentions to live faithful Christian lives. Talking with many competent women in the faith is always an encouragement, especially when I am able to witness their conversation and life examples. Yet I have also talked with many women in the church who lack important skills in discernment for discipleship. I’ve also talked and corresponded with numerous pastors who would like to serve the women in their congregations better and to encourage them in using their gifts. But often there isn’t clear communication between women’s ministries and church officers. All these conversations have led me to ask some questions that I aim to answer in this book. It is written both for women and for church officers, as well as for laymen who care about these matters:
• How does God describe woman?
• Should the church have women’s ministries?
• Are women’s ministries the best way to serve the women
in the church and for the women to serve in the church?
• Is every member of the church a minister?
• How does the church minister to every member?
• Are the women in the church being properly equipped in
• What happens when women teach bad theology?
• What are the responsibilities of the head of a household?
• Can men learn from women?
• Have we lost the skills to read for understanding?
• Is there a difference between preaching to (and pastoring)
men and preaching to (and pastoring) women?
• What is our responsibility in sitting under the Word?
This book is for the competent women who are seeking a better way, as well as for those of you who would like to become more competent, as God has called you to be. This book is also for pastors and elders who would like every member of their church to be well equipped in the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. I hope that all men in general will be interested in this significant matter of women and the church. I write with my eyes on the new heavens and
the new earth, where we will worship God together in resurrected bodies, forever praising our King. Our blessed Father has set his love on all his people, sent his Son into a fractured and broken world infested with sin, and bestowed on all those who believe in him new life in his Spirit. We are united in Christ. To God be the glory!
The best pastors and elders I know are learners. While they have so much to teach us, God can use even a housewife theologian like me to get a conversation going on this important topic. You will see that the chapters in the first three parts of the book have subsections directly addressing church officers in relation to the material of that chapter. This doesn’t mean that pastors shouldn’t read the sections directly addressing women or that women shouldn’t read the sections addressed to church officers. I take this direct approach because we need to be listening to one another. Pastors, you need to hear what I am saying to the women, and women need to hear what I am saying to pastors. The whole book is meant for both men and women, laypeople and church officers, to read.
The fourth part of the book is very practical for all readers, ending in a chapter addressing pastors on the topic of preaching to and pastoring women, with a subsection for women about sitting under the preached Word. My hope is that this book will help both pastors and elders to shepherd the women in their congregations, and to encourage women to thrive under the ministry of Word and sacrament, so that it flows out to the whole church, to their homes, and to their communities.