As I said in my introduction to the True Woman series I have agreed to review, the premise of the book is certainly necessary in the day and age in which we live. There is an incredible need for true Biblical Womanhood to be defined and practiced amongst professing Christian women, especially in America. This Biblical virtue has been so lost for so long in femininity, and it does need addressed.
Reading this book caused some questions to be raised in my mind that will probably fly in the face of some, maybe even the writers of this book. Keep in mind that I am looking at this from the perspective of local church ministry. My intention is not to discredit them or demean anything they have to say, because for the most part, I wholeheartedly agree with what they are trying to accomplish. The message is in danger of being lost. That is true. But if the message needs to be reformed in the hearts of Christian women, then maybe the method does too. These wonderful folks who wrote this book and who are working so diligently are only following the accepted patterns of ministry that have become established in the church. I'm not questioning the writers, their motives, or their work. What they are trying to accomplish is truly a need in today's Christian experience. But as I began to sit and really think about all of this, I began to see how the methods of ministry to women can actually foster some of the ideals that are trying to be eradicated by the ministry. So with that in mind, I'm going to throw these questions that arose in my mind on here for speculation and consideration. Then I will move on to the next chapter because there are some wonderful truths that have been presented by the authors of this book.
1) As a former feminist, I felt a little "ick" in my spirit when this return to Biblical standards of womanhood was labeled a "movement". Yes, we are trying to "move" women from one place to another, but if we are returning to Biblical womanhood, then there will have to be a dispersal. A dispersal of women back into the local church, under the authority of a local Pastor and her husband, a dispersal back into the priority of marriage and the family unit. A decreasing of group visibility and more of a melding into a local expression of Christ.
I think that we need to be very careful when we take women and define them as their own entity. This idea was solidly established very early in the women's movement. Tis true, we are different from men, but in terms of the Body of Christ, we are not our own entity. We are part of Christ's body and He has only ONE body. HE is the entity. And we are to reside in the body in such a way that we decrease and He increases. We die so that He can live through us.
The church is made up of men and women collectively. Our differences are part of that body, they bring completeness to that body in order to display the vastness of the personality and character of our God, but the ultimate goal is so that HE can be seen and known completely to His own glory! To segregate parts of the body according to sexual classification, to shine the spotlight on one part of the body is sometimes necessary, but I think that there is a very delicate balance that needs to be maintained. We live in a culture that "specializes" in everything! And I think that by "specializing" in the church, we have allowed a cultural influence to invade the Body to the point that it is divisive more than it is helpful.
We all have different spiritual gifts. We do not segregate and "hang" with others with those same gifts. Instead, we congregate with those whose giftings are different from our own in order to have a complete representation of the person of God. I would suggest that God is more gender neutral and color blind. When He looks at us, He does not see male or female. He does not see Black or White, Asian or European. He only sees the blackness of sin, or the redness of His Son's blood. So, if God is gender neutral in how He sees mankind, then why do we spend millions and millions of dollars segregating ourselves into groups for the purpose of worship?
Without berating those specific commands of scripture to the different sexes, we have to realize that the amount of commands separated by sex is very small compared to the amount of commands written to all the Body of Christ. And honestly, if we would be following and practicing the commands written to all, the commands written to separate sexes would, for the most part, be a natural outcome. Furthermore, teaching a woman how to operate according to the commands of scripture written specifically to women without first teaching her the commands written for all in the Body of Christ is really putting the cart before the horse. I see this in certain religions where women are these weak, poor, little robots who stand and tremble in the presence of their male authority. They live in bondage.
It can be dangerous to gather women, especially those that came after my generation, in a room together and exalt womanhood. As I sit and talk with young women about what womanhood was like when I was small, it becomes obvious that feminist ideals are just normal to their culture. They look at me like I have three eyeballs when I tell them what "the norm" was when I was a child.
I cringe when I hear teachers or preachers exalting our differences and talking about the "destiny" of women, without also expressing and stressing the importance of "local body life". It can disrupt the unity of spirit God desires for all mankind to have. That unity that melts into one another so completely that a perfect representation of the Lord Himself is presented, much like different waxes combine together to present one solid light when formed into a candle. I fear that losing this balance in teaching women puts us dangerously close to the edge of the cliff.
I hear it said a lot by ministers that "the message hasn't changed, the methods have." Well, the message has changed, which is why the people who wrote this book do what they do! But could it be that part of the reason the message has changed is because the methods have changed? Could it be that not only do we need to reform the message, we need to reform the methods?
I don't see anywhere in scripture where Greek and Jew, slaves and masters, or men and women were separated by classification for the purpose of ministry. What I do see is local bodies made up of all of these classifications of people with all their differences coming together to form the complete expression of God in their locality. I don't see them running to Jerusalem to attend the latest conference on "Biblical Living for Slaves" or "The Proverbs 31 Woman."
2) I question why it is that in order to get women to attend a conference on spiritual living, our first appeal has to be to their femininity instead of their spirituality. We draw them together because they are women first in order to try to build them up spiritually. Until the late 1900's, this was never done! Again, a cultural shift that was left in the church that maybe shouldn't have been.
In a Gospel that continually speaks of: dying to self, promotion of none other than Christ; and one Body, it makes me wonder why there is this tendency to separate body parts for the purpose of teaching them to function in the Body. We don't severe our arms so they can go to school and learn to work with the rest of the body. They learn through receiving messages from the brain and by the continual using of them everyday, learning to coordinate their movements with what the rest of the body is doing.
I guess I am questioning whether segregation of certain groups of people within the church is not more divisive than unifying. And I wonder what damage this does to the local church and the authority structure God set in place from the very beginning. That's not to say women should never congregate together for the purpose of ministry, teaching, fellowship and prayer. In our church, some of the sweetest times I've had have been with other women. But I believe that when women congregate for spiritual purposes, it should be in an atmosphere that promotes discipleship AND accountability.
I've known many women, who are more a pain in the tukus of their local pastor than a blessing, who run all over the country, seeking out teachings from women teachers, or seeking teaching on Biblical womanhood who will sit under an "acclaimed" teacher while they preach at them hard! I mean they will part your hair, knock you flat, cut you off at the knees and then stand there and watch you bleed and afterwards these women will stand and applaud and say "Wow! I really needed that!"
But if their local Pastor stands in the pulpit and preaches the exact same thing, they leave the church offended. I think the reason this happens is that when the God appointed local Pastor, the one that God says is to watch over their souls, preaches it, they are then held accountable to God, the Pastor and the their local body to bring the fruit of that teaching into their lives. In a large gathering of women at a conference, there is really no spiritual authority. There is really no lasting accountability and the problem of having knowledge, but denying it's power exists! God set up His church with an accountability system because He knows that the nature of human beings needs it!
3) I live in a Big 10 University town. At the forefront of every newspaper article, in every City council decision, in every classroom from the university on down to kindergarten is the idea of acceptance and celebration of the differences of others and the exalting of those diverse differences. On a basic level, that is not bad, BUT I have observed that it defeats it's own purpose because it causes people to look more at how they are different than how they are alike. There is a drastic change in the mood on campus from what was there before "diversity training" was made mandatory. In the early 1980's you could walk on campus and see students of every tribe and tongue working together in study groups, eating together, or just sitting and chatting. Now, you see the same, except that all the tribes are now sitting with their own kind. No longer do you see, black, white, African, Asian, and European mixed together in a study group. Now you see the Asians in one corner, the Africans in another, the Caucasians in another and so on. And sad to say, this is also prevalent in a lot of our churches as well. The very thing this "education" meant to eradicate has produced the opposite effect.
If I would identify any "problem" that needs to addressed, I think it would be the local church. Perhaps the decline of the power and purpose of the local church is what caused this type of ministry to arise. Or maybe because cultural influences so permeated the local church, this method of ministry arose. Perhaps the buckling of Pastors to the loudest voices aided in this type of ministry to occur. Either way, there needs to be a return, a "movement" back to the local church. There needs to a return to true Body ministry on the local level. Then I think that ministries to men and women separately could be done in a more effective, fruit producing way.
As you can probably tell, this issue weighs heavy on my heart. I've run full circle with the women's movement. I was born in 1960. I watched the evolution of the women's movement. As a teenager, I embraced the women's movement. As a Christian, saved when I was 23 years old, I left the women's movement. I don't claim to be "the perfect woman", but I've had perhaps much more to learn and change simply because of the time in which I was born.
For 28 years, I've been married to a Godly man, a fourth generation Pentecostal. Over the years as I observed his grandmother, his great grandmother, and my mother-in-law, and I see that they are truly spiritual women, full of power, full of joy, effective ministers of the gospel, satisfied with Christ and where He has positioned them, I realize that THIS is what women need and if they were honest, this is what they are looking for. But the women of their generations did not get what they were looking for by studying "women", although Godlier women I doubt I will ever find anywhere. In fact, a women's conference would have seemed totally odd to them! No, they found true womanhood by simply reading the Word, believing what it said, and putting it into practice. They found it by taking what the local Pastor preached and "praying through", as they call it. They found this blessedness in the paradoxes of freedom through submission, life through dying to self, and effectiveness by becoming unknown to anyone except God.
Okay, enough about the method. From here on out, we will be looking at the message.