Where Should Our Women be Discipled?

Women Need to Have the Same Theological Standards as Men.

Pastors and elders want thinking women in the church, right? And yet popular beliefs that came out of the nineteenth century’s cult of domesticity still seem to linger in the evangelical culture today. Back then, people taught that women’s brains were inferior to men’s intellectually and that women needed to reserve their energy and blood flow for reproductive purposes. These are ideas we usually joke about now, even to provoke a woman in innocent fun, because we know them to be scientifically proven false. And yet, even as the Reformed church is known for its more robust, theological teaching, there still seems to be some residue from the nineteenth-century worldview of a woman’s physical, intellectual, and emotional capabilities. While we pay lip service to the importance of competent women in the church, there doesn’t seem to be much outrage over the quality of their resources. How can the officers of the church engage with the market of theological material for women?

 
Women are a prime target market for Christian publishers and bookstores. In 2014, a global consumer study found that during the previous year Christian book sales grew four times as fast as those of the secular market. And women are reading more than men, buying 72 percent of Christian fiction and 59 percent of Christian nonfiction books. Barna’s research in 2015 continued to show that women read more than men do, revealing that almost twice as many women as men read Christian nonfiction (No Little Women, 114).

Christianity Today is now reporting on the doctrinal integrity of resources marketed to Christian women and how they are looking outside of the church to their favorite movements, speakers, and authors to be discipled. This reveals a pervasive lack of knowledge of the primary ministry of Word and sacrament, how any initiatives for laypeople fruitfully outflows from that, as well as a great need for elder-led women’s initiatives in the church to help women to disciple women under this ministry. And yet pastors are not always able to keep up with and be aware of what the women in their congregation are facing these days and what is in the so-called Christian market for them to read. This is why I wrote No Little Women, directly addressing both women and church officers throughout the book. We need to be listening to what we are saying to one another. I do hope 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. Here is one excerpt that I write addressing church officers:

Pastors and Elders, What Kind of Women Do You Want in Your Church? 

Pastors and elders want thinking women in the church, right? And yet popular beliefs that came out of the nineteenth century’s cult of domesticity still seem to linger in the evangelical culture today. Back then, people taught that women’s brains were inferior to men’s intellectually and that women needed to reserve their energy and blood flow for reproductive purposes. These are ideas we usually joke about now, even to provoke a woman in innocent fun, because we know them to be scientifically proven false. And yet, even as the Reformed church is known for its more robust, theological teaching, there still seems to be some residue from the nineteenth-century worldview of a woman’s physical, intellectual, and emotional capabilities. While we pay lip service to the importance of competent women in the church, there doesn’t seem to be much outrage over the quality of their resources. How can the officers of the church engage with the market of theological material for women? Here are a few suggestions to begin with.

Realize That Women Are Thirsty to Learn—the Market Has!

Read More