“What’s the number one problem in women’s ministry today?”
It’s a question I was recently asked in an interview; one I can’t get off my mind. There are many good and wonderful things I see trending in women’s ministry, which are creating an increasing number of biblically strong, godly Christian women. But those women are still a tiny minority – a remnant, you might say – in contemporary evangelicalism. The problems, on the other hand? Overwhelming. Discouraging. Pervasive.
In fact, it’s a huge problem just to sit down and sort out exactly what the problems with women’s ministry are because they’re not in nice, neat little linear compartments. There is no one single most important problem in women’s ministry. The issues are interwoven and exacerbate one another, which leads to declining spiritual health for Christian women as a whole.
There’s a name for that in medical jargon: multimorbidity. Often seen in elderly patients, it’s a term used for someone who has multiple chronic medical problems: heart disease, diabetes, and COPD, for example. Each disease may work against the body in different ways, but they all work together to put the patient in a condition of overall poor health.
Fortunately, when it comes to the pox on God’s house – the Body of Christ – the Great Physician has written us the prescription for a cure that’s one hundred per cent effective. All we have to do is be good patients and take our medicine exactly as prescribed.
Possibly the most foundational disease in women’s ministry is the simple fact that there’s a large contingent of “Christian” women who aren’t Christians – they’re false converts. Their hearts aren’t diseased or even failing; they have dead, lifeless hearts of stone. These women might think they’re Christians, look like Christians, tell you they’re Christians, and go through all the right, outward Christian motions, but because they have never truly repented of their sin and placed their faith in Christ for salvation, they are not genuinely regenerated, born again, new creatures in Christ, Christians. And people who are unregenerate exhibit the symptom of being unregenerate: they prefer sin to Christ. When there are unregenerate women in your church – and they’re in nearly every church – their symptomatology is going to affect the women’s ministry and the overall health of the Body.
Congenital. Exacerbated by easy believism, mass sinner’s prayers, and the seeker driven movement.
A heart transplant via the proclamation of the rightly handled biblical gospel. We must make sure we don’t assume that just because someone attends church or says she’s a Christian, she’s been born again. We also can’t assume everyone knows the biblical gospel. The gospel has been so twisted and watered down in our culture that many people think they’re saved because they repeated a sinner’s prayer, got baptized, go to church, or are “good people.” Pastors must preach and teachers must teach the hard edges of the law, man’s guilt, God’s wrath, and eternal Hell so that they will know what they’re being saved from, as well as God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, so they will understand what they’re being saved to. Only those with new hearts of flesh can contribute to the spiritual health of the church.
Ezekiel 36:26: And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Many Christian women starve themselves spiritually without even knowing it. She’ll lay an elegant table of women’s ministry activities with the fine china and flatware of women’s “Bible” study books and DVDs, but when you glance over at her plate, she’s pushing one measly little piece of a Bible verse around with a fork.
And wondering why she’s so hungry.
Christian women today don’t know their Bibles. And it’s not because the pure milk and meat of the Word aren’t available for them to consume. It’s that they won’t eat. Sometimes it’s the aforementioned “heart failure” of being unsaved. (It’s only natural that a lost person would have no interest in studying God’s Word.) And sometimes it’s because they’ve spent their formative years under pastors and women’s “Bible” study teachers who starved them by never properly feeding them a well balanced diet of Scripture.
When an anorexic doesn’t eat, her entire body begins to shut down. Every organ, every body system, is affected. It’s the same way with women who starve themselves of God’s Word. There are heart problems: lack of love, trust, and belief in Christ and His Word. The digestive system becomes unable to handle a healthy meal of Scripture. The immune system isn’t strong enough to fight off the pathogens of false teaching. The brain can’t think biblically. Women’s ministry becomes a battle of a few healthy souls trying to coax the stubborn starving masses. “Just try one bite? Please?”
Exposure to pastors, teachers, Christian retailers, and Divangelistas who tell Christian women that the lacy tablecloth and the flowery centerpieces and the crystal stemware of Bible-flavored fluff are all they really need to keep them alive.
Nutritional therapy with copious helpings of Bible. These women have never even seen what a full plate of healthy spiritual food looks like, so they don’t know that’s what they need – to feast on God’s Word. They need pastors and teachers who will feed them regular, well balanced meals of in context, rightly handled Scripture and train them to feed themselves at home between therapy sessions.
Job 23:12: I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.
Deuteronomy 8:3: And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
This pernicious disease develops as women ingest, over time, the poison of false doctrine fed to them by the “Christian” leaders they follow. Sometimes led poisoning can be a cause of anorexia scriptura – a woman gobbles up the sweet paint chips of unbiblical teaching, thinking she’s filling up on Scripture, and is left with no appetite for the real thing. Sometimes led poisoning can be an effect of anorexia scriptura – a woman is so starved for God’s Word that she’ll consume anything that tastes good in order to fill the void. And sometimes it’s yet another symptom of heart failure – a lost woman who prefers even a toxin to God’s Word. In any case, the result is a sickly patient with multiple systems failure who often infects others by enticing them to follow the leader.
Environmentally transmitted. Strikes women with itching ears and flaccid discernment. Highly communicable to those with compromised immune systems due to improper biblical nutrition.
Chelation therapy – a process of ridding the body of the toxins she’s been led to. Discerning pastors and teachers must patiently, clearly, and unapologetically expose unbiblical teaching, including warning women away from false teachers by name. Symptoms of led poisoning include hearing impairment and learning disabilities, so the diseased patient isn’t going to get it if a pastor is hinting around about false teachers without giving specific names. He’s got to be loud and clear about exactly who is a false teacher and exactly how her doctrine and practices conflict with Scripture if he wants to cure the patient. Prophylactic treatment with regular inoculations of sound doctrine should also be prescribed.
Titus 1:9: He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that He may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
2 Timothy 3:5-7: [People] having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 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.
These are just three of the serious diseases that are an epidemic in women’s ministry today. The cure is simple: the gospel, sound doctrine, and the study of Scripture. The prognosis is sure: spiritually strong and healthy Christian women. It’s just what the Doctor ordered.