Today I came across an excellent article on The Center for Women of Faith in Culture website. It spoke directly to my largest frustration with the evangelical church:
I am continually bothered by the lack of women in the church implementing their intellectual gifts as theologians, philosophers, apologists, ethicists, economists and so forth because I believe we have put women and their gifts, needs and interests in a box and tied it up—tightly—with a pretty lace bow. …We run the risk of not only losing more women to theological wimpiness, but their children as well. All of this causes me to wonder if the complementarian community is losing intelligent women to egalitarian-leaning churches because little effort is put forth to see their gifts truly bless the church.
Apart from pulpit ministry, how can women serve the church with their intellectual gifts? Perhaps it is time (some would say we are long overdue) to discover new ways for women’s voices to be a strong, compelling means for discipleship and outreach for the church without compromising views on church leadership and government.
My heart beats faster every time I re-read this quote. I’m not just some nerdy oddball after all!! Hooray!!! Somebody out there understands my frustration–and has articulated the root of the problem and a potential solution. This is an issue that has literally kept me awake at night. How do I (as a woman) reconcile my intellectual spiritual gifts–my intense affinity for theology and apologetics–with the biblical model of church? Isn’t there a way my specific gifts can be used in ministry at church?
Think of what women’s ministries are usually like in mainstream evangelical churches. In my experience, they’re very lopsided. They often offer excellent education and discipleship in the areas of mothering, being a godly wife, developing a strong prayer life, and topical Bible study; but they have a meager (if any) emphasis on Christian philosophy, apologetics and theology. The unspoken inference is that women simply aren’t interested in these areas…
I truly believe it’s not a lack of interest, it’s an absence of opportunity (in the church) for women to be cultivated (and to help cultivate!!) in these areas. I agree with the author of the quoted article that this is an example of poor stewardship of the intellectual gifts God has given women.
A little over a year ago, my family and I began attending a new church. I absolutely LOVE this church. However, not long after we began attending, something happened that was distressing to me. I was invited to bring my sons to one of the weekly playgroups and I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to meet and chat with some of the women from my new church. The women were wonderful–extremely friendly and welcoming to me and my sons. Since I was the “newbie,” I received several questions about myself, including the inevitable, “Do you work outside the home?” Here’s how the conversation proceeded from there:
Me: “No, not technically. I homeschool my boys and I’m in graduate school full time.”
Other Mom: “Oh, how nice! What are you studying?”
Me: “I’m getting my Master’s in a specialized area of Christian Apologetics.”
Other Mom stares at me blankly for a moment, then says: “What’s apologetics?”
Now, don’t misunderstand me here. I’m by no means suggesting that this other mom was not very intelligent, or that she didn’t have a potential interest in the more intellectual side of the Christian faith. What I’m trying to illustrate is the fact that despite being a long-time, very involved member of an excellent church, with dozens of topical Bible studies under her belt, this woman had not been discipled in at least one critical intellectual component of Christianity.
Driving home from playgroup that day, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen if one of her kids (having not been equipped with basic apologetics while still at home) comes home from college one day and announces that he/she no longer believes Christianity to be true. What would that mom say? Or, what if the son/daughter decides to convert to Mormonism after a semester of living with a Mormon roommate and this mom has absolutely no clue what Mormonism teaches, much less how to point out its serious theological problems.
Do you see what I’m saying here?
But, I do see glimmers of hope!
A couple of weeks ago, I was on the website of a suburban Dallas church and I clicked on their “Women’s Bible Study” page. There was a long list of options, including parenting studies and several Beth Moore studies (all highly valuable, I submit). But at the very bottom of the list was a Bible study called “More Than a Good Bible Study Girl.” It was a class that introduced the basics of Christian theology, philosophy, and apologetics. Praise God!
Now, if we could institute such education opportunities in the women’s ministries of all our churches by tapping into this valuable resource–women educated and trained in these areas–can you imagine the revolution that would transpire? What would the impact be on the Kingdom as women are empowered to use their God-given gifts to train other women? Then those women would grow in knowledge; they’d be loving God with their MINDS, they’d be better equipped to reach the non-Christian women of our society, and they’d be instilling their own children with the essentials to stand firmly on a reasonable faith and reach their world for Christ!