FIRST-PERSON: What women need
PUTNAM, Conn. (BP) -- While working with a program that prepared couples for long-term missions, I began to notice a deeply troubling gap in the expectations and the definitions of spiritual excellence for males and females.
Husbands were loaded up with classes, mentoring, books and accountability groups -- but a monthly meeting was too much to ask of their wives.
Both inside and outside the world of full-time ministry, studying the finer points of our faith is a mainly masculine enterprise.* Aren't women busy enough without diving deep into the Word? (Let Pinterest catechize them, some seem to imply.)
But when half the church is spiritually deficient, the entire body walks with a limp.
This is not always a problem of men downplaying the importance of women’s spiritual growth.
We, as God's daughters, often take our own personal development less seriously than our Christian brothers. There is no need for instruction in biblical languages or hermeneutics, it seems, when most of us are hard-pressed to find time for basic discipleship amid so many other things that take priority.
Yet we sell ourselves and one another short of the gloriously robust contribution we're meant to make in the Kingdom by assuming that learning biblical doctrine is the responsibility of our male counterparts. Women have become spiritual wallflowers.
Despite culture and our own personal hang-ups, Jesus holds His little sisters in high regard, and this should be echoed by everyone who calls Him King. Orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy, so believing rightly about the importance of women in the church should lead to behaving rightly in response. We don't need another tea party. We need the hearty fare of Scripture so that, alongside the heroine of Proverbs 31, we can make our arms strong for the task at hand.
In "Word-Filled Women's Ministry," Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman write, "Neither do we women participate in ministry to 'have something to occupy our time.' Contra the misconception that women's ministry is simply a social venue, there is something profoundly theological and eschatologically oriented about ministry among women."
In light of the approaching splendor, women need to grow in the Gospel together with both intensity and intentionality. How I long for the day when we stop excusing ourselves from full engagement in Kingdom training based on our sex. The price Christ paid is too precious, the cunning of the enemy too great and the work left to be done too extensive.
God sovereignly designed women to show a distinct aspect of His image, and everyone suffers when we fail to take our place at the table. Heaven help us if we relegate one another to anything less than souls loaded with dignity, worth and purpose.
Ladies, it's time to stop sidelining ourselves. For the sake of Jesus our Brother, make space for a sister today. Don't imagine the 15 reasons she won't have time; just ask her out for coffee and listen to her. Challenge her to spiritual growth. Comfort her. Pray with her. Champion her.
Invite her to partner in the Gospel of a God so vibrant that He chooses to use two genders to express His heart to a broken world.
*This is not to say that there are no women taking seriously the call to discipleship. A tiny but robust segment of solid Christian teaching is heralded by sisters who have mightily invested in learning truth, and the Kingdom is better as a result.