Category Archives: Womanhood
I find it interesting to talk to different folks about the relationship between the weekly pulpit ministry and the place of formal women-to-women teaching ministry. Even among complementarian churches, the range of opinion is really quite surprising. As I look around the church it appears to me that at the very least there are six categories of how the relationship between the two ministries is defined. I have numbered them here for no other reason than to make them easy to reference.
Here’s a list of the varying opinions that I see:
- The preaching of the word by called and equipped men is sufficient for women too, therefore while organic women-to-women relationships are important in the church, a more formal women-to-women teaching ministry in the church is not.
- The preaching of the word by called and equipped men is sufficient for women too, therefore the women-to-women ministry in the church is focused on application and domestic excellence, and theological training is of less importance.
- The preaching of the word by called and equipped men is sufficient for women too, yet out of the strong pulpit ministry emerges a necessary women-to-women teaching ministry, it echos the theology of the pulpit, and requires that women also be trained theologically for the teaching task.
- The preaching of the word by called and equipped men on Sundays is vital to women, but it is an entirely different context than women-to-women teaching ministry, therefore the two teaching ministries should not be connected or compared or contrasted but left alone as individual expressions of teaching gifts.
- The preaching of the word by called and equipped men IS NOT entirely sufficient for women, it is weakened by a lack of female perspective, therefore formal women-to-women teaching ministry is a necessary supplement to the preaching, and to do this well women must be trained theologically for these teaching roles.
- The preaching of the word by called and equipped men IS NOT entirely sufficient for women, therefore to reach women, women are needed to preach to the church at least on occasion.
What other categories have I missed? And where would you fit in your understanding of the categories? I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments to this post.
Octavius Winslow writes the following to comfort all who carry the weight of “home-burdens.” After I read it I stopped to pray for the wives I know who carry a heavy load of family duties and burdens on a daily basis. This is from his book The Ministry of Home (London: 1847), pages 351–352:
Perhaps, your home-duties, trials, and needs, form your burden. Every home is an embryo kingdom, an epitomized world, of which the parent constitutes the sovereign. There are laws to be obeyed, rules to be observed, subjects to be governed, cares to be sustained, demands to be met, and “who is sufficient for all this?” is often your anxious inquiry. Who can tell what crushing burdens, what bitter sorrows, what corroding cares, what pressing demands, may exist within a single family circle, deeply veiled from every eye but God’s? . . . Your children are an anxiety. Your domestic duties a trial. Your necessities are pressing. Your whole position one of embarrassment and depression [financially].
What shall you do? Do even as the Lord who loves you enjoins — “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you.” Your Heavenly Father knows all your home-trials, for He has sent them! Jesus, though he had no home on earth, yet sympathized with the home-cares and sorrows of others, and is not a stranger, nor indifferent to yours. Bring all to Him, tell Him all, confide to Him all, trust Him in all. You have no family trial too great, and no domestic need too little, and no home-sorrow too delicate, to take to Christ. Obey the precept, “Cast your burden upon the Lord;” and He will make good the promise, “and He shall sustain you.” O costly and blessed home-burden that brings Jesus beneath our roof! . . .
Jesus is the great Burden-Bearer of His people. No other arm, and no other heart, in heaven or upon earth, were strong enough, or loving enough, to bear these burdens but His! He who bore the weight of our sin and curse and shame in His obedience and death — bore it along all the avenues of His weary pilgrimage, from Bethlehem to Calvary — is He who now stretches forth His Divine arm, and makes bare a Brother’s heart to take your burden of care and of grief, dear saint of God, upon Himself.
In our English Bibles the book of Ecclesiastes follows the book of Proverbs. But in some of the Hebrew orderings of the OT the book of Ruth immediately follows Proverbs. The original order makes theological sense. The Hebrew noun translated “excellent wife/woman” (אשת־חיל) is used only three times in the OT, twice in Proverbs (12:4, 31:10) and once in Ruth (3:11). Ruth is the living example of the Proverbs 31 woman, a connection our English OT arrangement makes difficult to see.
“Exceptions exist, but, as a rule, the experience of pregnancy and birth appears to be a more profoundly life-altering experience for women than becoming a father is for men. So closely is giving birth linked to the fundamental human goal of giving meaning to one’s life that is had been argued that, ultimately, it is not so much that motherhood keeps women from doing great things outside the home as it is men’s inability to give birth that forces them to look for substitutes.”
—Charles Murray, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 (HarperCollins, 2003) p. 287.