So thankful that Trish allowed me to share her heart for Women’s Ministry with you all.
~ Gena McCown, Co-Founder WMC
Our newly-rebooted women’s ministry leadership team met recently with Jenny Andrews to learn more about mentoring. The day before that meeting, I was moved to spend several pre-dawn hours trying to put into words what God had placed on my heart. This was an unedited letter sent to my team, with certainly no idea of sharing it with a larger audience – who would know or care? I did, however, copy Gena on it as another means of further introducing myself to the Women’s Ministry Council. To my surprise, she asked if I would allow for its publication. This is pretty much as it flew off my fingers – meaning it’s quite long and wordy – but it does express my firmly-held beliefs about women’s ministry – beliefs that appear to be shared by many. So, I offer it without apology, with the prayer that you may find it challenging and helpful, and for the glory of our King and Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Trish Jones
Dear Sisters: To use perhaps an overworked “Christianese” term, but an apt one – I’m heavily burdened with many things that right now are all connected, in one way or another, to “women’s ministry.”
I don’t know about you, but the events in this country over the past two weeks have left me almost literally nauseous and terribly sad. The hatred and division that is spewing forth from multiple sources and appearing in full blown color on our TV screens – indeed, everywhere we turn – is ugly and frightening. And growing. The women’s marches that took place across the US the day after the Inauguration were breath-taking in their scope of lostness, vitriol and perversity. But – if we were to engage any one of those woman on an individual basis, we would have found someone just like us – lost, hurting, angry, with brokenness and pain in their lives, just looking for hope and peace in the only ways they know or believe in.
The open war that has been declared and is increasing daily between “conservative” and “liberal” viewpoints, values, opinions, and stances is growing bloodier and more vicious, as the media – and I mean both sides of it – have taken off the gloves of even rudimentary politeness. There is no such thing as “news” anymore – it’s simply slanted headlines delivered by talking heads who have their own agenda. And yes, that’s just as true of Fox News as it is CNN. And it is tragically but increasingly true of “conservative, Christian” news sources.
Our country is staggering towards – what? Only God knows. But the pace of change and the bloody carnage it is leaving in its wake touches each of us, whether we choose to believe that or not. We may try very hard to pull the comforting blanket of our own church-based, family-oriented little worlds tighter around us to ward off the ugliness and protect our children and our grandchildren – but it isn’t going to work. It’s here. And it’s growing.
And it should not surprise us at all.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
You know one of the things that has struck hardest at my heart, oddly enough? The recent deaths of famous people – people who have entertained me, who are of my generation. Most recently, Mary Tyler Moore. She was 80. I’ll be 70 in April. She appeared to be – because of the characters she played – sweet, loving, wholesome, kind – a woman to be admired. Really? Where do you suppose she is now? She’s alive – somewhere. Where?
Alan Thicke. He was only 69. Again, apparently one of the good guys. Where is he now? And Debbie Reynolds, for goodness sake! Dying one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher – who admittedly led a fairly rough life. Golfing’s greatest, Arnold Palmer. A good guy, to be sure. Florence Henderson, Hugh O’Brien. John Glenn – the American hero. George Michael: a great musical talent who led a dark and twisted life. And then there’s Fidel Castro. Where are they now?
Their achievements, their careers – their movies, the pleasures, fun, entertainment they brought to our lives – what do they matter now? How important are they now? Oh, it may have been fun while it lasted – but was it enough – for eternity? Fidel Castro – his destiny is fairly obvious. But Debbie Reynolds? Mary Tyler Moore? Robin Williams?
I don’t know why their deaths have impacted me so, except to say they have reminded me of my own mortality and the swiftness with which my life here can end. I’m not afraid of death at all; it’s nothing more than a welcome door to eternal happiness with my Lord. But what about everyone else? Death is real – but what lies beyond that doorway is even more real – and everlasting.
So what does that have to do with women’s ministry? Well – everything. As I’ve been seeking God’s will and direction through prayer and His (living!!!) Word for such a ministry at our church, I keep coming up against one major question: What’s the point? What are we trying to do – and why?
Let me share two more verses from that same passage that hit me like a ton of bricks. And keep in mind, Sisters, I didn’t write them – God spoke them:
For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:6,7)
Whoa. This letter isn’t meant to be an exposition of this passage. There is much here to be learned by careful study, comparison with other Scripture, and the wisdom God has given other commentators. But those are pretty strong words – about us. Women. There are 1,000 things that can – and probably should – be said about this, but there’s one phrase that sticks out to me: “let astray by various passions”.
As I’ve been wrestling (correct word – this has been and is a battle) with the idea of “women’s ministry” and what it is supposed to be (in God’s will) for our church, I literally wrote down the names of many women I know who attend there. I won’t share them – you could make your own (in fact, I encourage you to do exactly that). I wrote them down as fast as they came to me – women from all ages, lifestyles, and spiritual maturity (as much as I can discern). Every one of them I know personally, some better than others. But I know their lives and at least some of what they wrestle with and what they are suffering – their “various passions:” sinful strongholds, financial difficulties, physical ailments, relationships gone wrong, family pains and tragedies, fear, anxiety, lack of knowledge of and faith in a sovereign, loving God, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, defiant, rebellious living, the consequences of past sins, repented of but the consequences remain, loneliness, sexual desires and sins – the list goes on. You may know many of the names on that list; women whom you may think “have it all together.”
I wrote them down – I sat back – I studied the list, I pictured each woman – and I asked: what do they need? I added myself to the list: what do I need?
Wham! Good question – but wrong question to ask first. Is a women’s ministry – or any ministry – supposed to be based upon what people need? Really?
Why are we here? What is our purpose in this life, on this earth? Why did God leave us here after He saved us? “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? Combine that with Jesus’ words in Matthew 22 and you have the basic structure of women’s ministry:
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37,38)
I picked up several books on women’s ministry, but started with one from The Gospel Coalition called Word-Filled Women’s Ministry, edited by Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson – two major names and leaders in women’s ministry. I would strongly encourage each of you to get one and read it. But here are a couple of quotes that I highlighted:
“Women’s ministry is ultimately not about women. Nor is it about programs. It’s about the glory of God and the health of his church.” (Melissa B. Kruger, Women’s Ministry Coordinator, Uptown Church)
“Profitable ministry among women is grounded in God’s Word, grows in the context of God’s people, and aims for the glory of Christ.” (Kathleen Nielson)
What do all those women need? What do I need? To be about the Father’s business. To be part of having His will done on earth as in heaven; to see and be a part of His Kingdom expanding. To know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and to share in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).
How do we do that – in women’s ministry, or any other area of “Body life?” Back to 2 Timothy:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16,17)
If our Women’s Ministry – in fact, if our Life Groups, our Bible Studies, our church services, our service to our community, our evangelistic trainings and church-planting efforts, our children’s ministry, our youth groups, our church itself – if any of that is not based upon the personal, God-breathed, living Word of God, taught and practiced and obeyed for the glory of Jesus Christ – it is an absolute waste of our time and efforts, is outside the will of God, and will be consumed by fire on that Day. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
Well. As usual, when I get started writing something, I’m off to the races. I’m a fast typist, so I can get a lot done in a relatively short period of time – but then I wind up with pages and pages. But – if you’ve stuck with me this long, I’ve got a few more things to share that – for me – have set the tone of why I’m even involved with this leadership team and where I think God is leading us – and why.
I’m simply going to quote what I have written in my “Women’s Ministry Journal” (I set aside a specific one for this very purpose). Some are questions I asked myself; some are my thoughts and beliefs. I offer them as starting points for your own reflection and comments. As I’ve already said (for three full pages!) – I had to wrestle with why I was even involved in this; was this something God wanted to do; if so, why? and what was the point of it all? You’ve seen the answer I came up with. What forms that will take, what that will look like, in practical ways, is still to be determined. But I had to lay a foundation in my own mind before I could go any further.
What do I want in this ministry? What do I believe God wants?
- For women to see Jesus as central to their lives, regardless of circumstances
- For women to have a hunger for the Word of God – to know it, study it, live it
- For American women to be focused on the Kingdom – not our comfort; focused on the Glory of God, not us
- For women to live with eternity in view – in our lives, the lives of our children and families and our world
- For women to be instruments of healing, of reconciliation, of peace – across racial, socio-economic, political lines
- For women to look up and out – to be the hands and feet of Jesus (example of Dorcas, Acts 9:36-42)
Why a specific women’s ministry?
- Women used to (and in many other cultures, still do) congregate around a communal well, or river, or fire pit – to draw water, cook, wash clothes
- They “did life” together naturally
- Older women naturally shared/mentored/trained younger women
- Life stories were shared, lessons learned
- American life just a generation ago was still very much this way, especially rural American life – quilting bees, church socials, active neighborhoods – in and out of church, women knew one another and shared life
- This is no longer true in our Western, American culture. We are withdrawn, independent, separated
- We all need supported, encouraged, loved, nurtured, admonished, trained, held accountable and made to feel safe with each other
How do we live for the glory of Jesus Christ; the expansion of His Kingdom; and the service of His people through the women’s ministry of our church? That’s what we need to determine – in that order.
“Women’s ministry must be first and foremost grounded in the Word. We must not start with the needs of women – although we must get to those needs. As in the case of any church ministry, in women’s ministry we must start with the Word of God at the heart of everything we do.” (Kathleen Neilson)
So. On this early Friday morning, as I prepare for our meeting tomorrow – this essay is just to share what’s on my heart. I hope it helps in some way to spark your own passions and thoughts and prayers for what we are doing. But even more importantly – for the why of what we are doing. Or to be even more exact: the WHO. He is able – and He is worthy.