Bible Study, Church

Throwback Thursday ~ 4 Ways We’re Getting Women’s Discipleship Wrong, and How We Can Get it Right!

Originally published November 2, 2018

In the days leading up to Wednesday’s observance of Reformation Day, I directed your attention, in part, to the brave and godly women who played a part in the Protestant Reformation. A few days ago, I shared this post on my Facebook page…

…and asked:

Is the women’s Bible study you’re attending preparing you for something like this?

Of course, when I say, “something like this,” I don’t mean only being executed for your faith. I mean something hard. Life-shattering. Devastating. The loss of your spouse. A stillbirth. Your adult child choosing the prodigal life. A terminal diagnosis. Losing your business or your job because you won’t compromise on Scripture.

And it isn’t just the big, life-altering things, either. What about “smaller” issues like humility, serving without resentment, gratitude, glorifying God instead of self, submitting to your husband, patience, and prioritizing your time in a godly way? What about daily life in general?

Praise God, many women can truthfully answer, “Yes,” to my question. Their churches are training them in the Scriptures and discipling them well so that they can face big or small issues in a godly, biblical way.

But if the best sellers shelf at LifeWay is anything to go by, far more women would have to answer, “No.” Something is wrong in women’s discipleship in the vast majority of evangelical churches. I see the product it creates every day: women who run their lives by their feelings instead of the Word of God, women who believe their own opinions and experiences over Scripture, women who attend every study, every simulcast, every conference, every women’s ministry activity, yet whose lives are devoid of the Fruit of the Spirit.

Our churches have far too many 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 3:6b-7)

And if you’re consistently getting a defective product, you’ve got to trace the problem back down the manufacturing line to find out what’s wrong and fix it so your product won’t be defective any more.

So what’s going wrong on our discipleship assembly line, and what can we do to fix it?

1.
We’re creating false converts instead of true Believers

This is the main reason we see women who can’t or won’t deal with life’s issues – big or small – in a biblical way. They can’t because they’ve never been truly saved, despite what they may claim. And the reason many of them think they’re saved – because they’ve prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, or made a commitment to…something – is that their churches have not taught them the biblical gospel.

The biblical gospel is not “Jesus is a nice accessory to add to your life to make it prettier, like a new purse or bracelet,” or “Jesus will heal you, give you the money you need, or do cool signs and wonders for you,” or “Jesus will help you accomplish your dreams,” or “You’re worthy. You’re enough. Jesus loves you.”

The biblical gospel is raw and startling and offensive: You’re not worthy because you’ve offended a holy God with your sin and rebellion. You deserve death and Hell for your crimes against the King, and there’s nothing you can do to assuage His wrath against you. It is right and good for you to feel guilty and hopeless about that. But because God is good, and worthy, and kind, and merciful, He, in the person of Jesus Christ, took the wrath and punishment you so richly deserve by suffering humiliation and dying on the cross. He endured all of that so you wouldn’t have to. Then He rose again to conquer death so you could live. So He could give you the gift of repentance and faith and credit His righteousness to your account to forgive your sin and make you right with God. You’re not enough. Jesus is enough. And praise God for that!

The Fix:

We need our pastors and teachers to fearlessly and unashamedly proclaim the hard edges of the gospel. We need to train church members to share the gospel correctly. We need to stop reassuring people living in unrepentant sin that they’re saved. If it walks like an unsaved duck and quacks like an unsaved duck, it’s most likely an unsaved duck. And that duck needs to examine herself against Scripture, maybe with the help of a mature sister in Christ, to find out where she stands with the Lord.

Basic Training: The Gospel

Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up

2.
We’re dealing drugs instead of fostering joy

If you look out across the landscape of evangelicalism today, you’ll notice the dynamic between women’s ministry and Christian woman bears an eerie resemblance to the dynamic between drug dealer and addict.

Women are hurting or bored or discontent or unsaved, so they bounce from women’s Bible study to women’s ministry activity to women’s fellowship to women’s retreat to get their next hit of Christianese-laced dopamine so they’ll feel better and maybe get a little escape from their circumstances. And Christian retailers, conferences, and often even local churches are right there to peddle the latest designer drug to women who can’t get enough.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing intrinsically bad about any of those activities. In fact, assuming they’re doctrinally sound, they can all be very good things! But if we’re using the emotional high we get from them as a substitute for biblical joy, or if we think those things are the source of joy because that’s the dime bag we’re being sold, that’s spiritually pathological.

The Fix:

Real, biblical, satiating joy doesn’t come from an outward activity. It comes from the inner working, shaping, and sanctification of the Holy Spirit – a concept we’ve got to get across to Christian women. Joy comes from gazing at Creation, the cross, the communion of the saints, and remembering – celebrating – all Christ has done, and will continue to do, for us and in us. Joy comes from repentance and forgiveness from sin. Joy comes from worshiping in spirit and in truth. Joy comes from unity with the brethren. Joy isn’t a temporary injection of happiness, it’s a congenital spiritual trait.

3.
We’re parking women in evangelical daycare
instead of giving them spiritual mothers

In most churches, “women’s discipleship” means the church has purchased a divangelista’s DVD and workbook package, and provided a room set up with chairs, a DVD player and monitor, and a woman to “facilitate” the class. It’s the spiritual equivalent of glorified babysitting. The kids might have some fun, be entertained, and enjoy spending time with their friends, but it’s not the same thing as having a mom.

Mom tucks you in at night. Mom listens to your stories. Mom makes you eat your vegetables. Mom kisses your bo-bos. Mom disciplines you when you’ve disobeyed. Mom pours her life into you. Mom is there.

That Christian celebrity on the screen doesn’t even know the women of your church exist. She doesn’t know their names. She can’t comfort them when they’re sad or rejoice with them in their blessings or advise them when they need counsel. And yet, by continually feeding women a diet of celebrity studies, we teach them to idolize and become disciples of this woman they’ll never meet. They’ll never watch her serve in their church. They’ll never observe her walk through trials. They’ll never be able to pour their heart out to her over a cup of coffee or feel her arms in a warm embrace.

Christian women don’t need evangelical daycare, they need spiritual moms.

The Fix:

I know this is going to sound like a bombshell to a lot of people, but you can have a strong, healthy, thriving women’s discipleship ecology in your church without ever setting foot in a Christian bookstore. Without DVDs. Without curricula and workbooks. Because women’s discipleship isn’t about parking them in front of a TV and hoping they get something out of it.

What we need is older women who are trained to teach the Bible and show other women how to study it on their own. Real life, flesh and blood, in-your-own-church spiritual moms who don’t have perfect hair and makeup and designer clothes or sparkle with charisma. Women with a few miles on them who know what it’s like to be broke or have a rebellious child or battle cancer or fight for their marriage, and can walk day by day with other women through their trials. Women who are spiritually mature and can set an example for their spiritual daughters of repentance, evangelism, servanthood, humility, prayer, and kindness. You know, the kind of women Titus 2:3-5 talks about?

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word

Women and False Teachers: Why Men Don’t Get It, and Why It’s Imperative That They Do

4.
We’re teaching idolatry of self
instead of slavery to Christ

I don’t agree with that.” “That’s just your interpretation.” “That teacher you’re calling a heretic has helped me so much!” “I don’t care what the Bible says, I like/dislike ___.”

IIIMememe. Sometimes it’s because they’re false converts. Sometimes it’s because that’s what the divangelista on the DVD is teaching them. Often, it’s a combination of both. Somewhere down the assembly line, we’re ratcheting up women’s self-esteem with how wonderful they are, that they’re God’s masterpiece, His princess, the pinnacle of awesomeness. By making them disciples of the celebrity they’re watching on the screen, we teach them to value worldly success and fame rather than humility, suffering, and serving. We appeal to women’s fleshly emotions, coddle their self-centered feelings, and in a total misunderstanding of Christian unity, validate their unbiblical opinions and experiences to make sure there’s no controversy or hurt feelings. Is it any wonder we have an abundance of Christian women for whom self reigns supreme? Who think their truth is the truth?

The Fix:

It’s totally natural for self to sit on the throne of an unsaved woman’s heart. If that’s the cause of her self-idolatry, the only solution is the gospel and God opening her heart to receive it.

But we’re doing genuinely regenerated Christian women no favors when we inundate them with homages to self. We already love ourselves too much. We don’t need the church encouraging that, we need the church to help us fight that. And the number one way the church can do that is to stop being afraid.

Stop being afraid of controversy. Stop being afraid to call the names of false teachers who are harming women. Stop being afraid to call sin, sin. Stop being afraid of hurting women’s feelings with biblical truth. Stop being afraid to correct unbiblical theology and opinions. Stop being afraid of an unscriptural definition of disunity and learn what good Christian factions are. Stop being afraid. Fear is not a Fruit of the Spirit nor an appropriate attribute of the church.

Teach women the biblical construct of being slaves of Christ, their good, kind, and merciful Master. Teach them that they are not entitled to any opinions other than their Master’s. They may not hold beliefs contrary to their Master’s Word. They may not think, feel, speak, or act in ways that displease their Master. They are to obey all that their Master has commanded them in His Word. He is the Master. He calls the shots. We are the slaves. We obey.

Basic Training: The Bible is Our Authority

Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, and the Authority of God’s Word

 

There are so many ways we’re getting women’s discipleship wrong. These four points are just the tip of the proverbial ice berg. We’ve made women’s discipleship a pretty, pink tea party instead of the hard, bloody, call to die that it actually is.

Why aren’t supposedly Christian women prepared to die for Christ? We haven’t prepared them to live for Christ.

And yet…we can! There is hope! We can fearlessly teach women the whole gospel, the whole counsel of God. We can rehab spiritual euphoria addicts and reorient them to biblical joy. We can ditch the DVDs and divangelistas and give women the Christian mothers in their local churches whom they so desperately need. We can devalue self-idolatry and shape and sharpen slaves of Christ.

We can. And it’s guaranteed to work, too. All we have to do is start trusting and obeying God’s Word over man’s methods, and we’ll be getting women’s discipleship right.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can we get women to WANT to come to Bible study?

Originally published March 19, 2018

 

My church is blessed to have two strong ladies’ Bible study leaders – one during the week for those who are available and one on Saturday for those who cannot attend during the week – who have the discernment to choose biblical content, study, and lead scripturally sound discussion. My prayer is that more women in my church would have the desire to attend these Bible studies, not only learning and growing spiritually but also for fellowship with each other and drawing closer to each other. If you have any ideas for actually getting women to want to study God’s word with other women I would love to hear them.

Been there, done that. I once taught a women’s Bible study class that consistently had only one to two women in it. I think our maximum attendance was one day when we had a whopping…four. The other women of the church chose to attend the “fluffier” classes that were being offered, and many just didn’t attend at all.

There could be any number of spiritual and practical reasons women aren’t attending your (or another reader’s) Bible studies.

☞ People are extraordinarily busy these days, especially women. Jam-packed schedules are probably the main reason for your low attendance. I’ll be honest, if I worked a full time job outside the home as well as taking care of my home and family, I’d be very unlikely to attend any Bible study class besides Sunday School. I’d want to devote that time to my family or to rest.

☞ Perhaps there are more false converts in your church than you’re aware of. People who aren’t saved are not new creatures in Christ and are devoid of the Holy Spirit, so they have no organic desire to spend time in God’s Word or with God’s people beyond the minimal amount required to fulfill whatever fleshly agenda brings them to church in the first place. There’s no human way to give them the desire to attend Bible study. Only God can accomplish that by saving them.

☞ If you go to a doctrinally sound church, your ladies may feel like they get plenty of good Bible study already and what they really want is unstructured fellowship time. See my article All Word and No Play: The Importance of Fun and Fellowship in the Doctrinally Sound Church.

☞ There may be something about the teaching style or the materials, that – even though they’re doctrinally sound – are rubbing people the wrong way. Maybe the teacher lectures and your ladies want more discussion. Maybe she talks over their heads in a very academic style. Maybe the materials are too expensive or there’s something about the book that is off-putting. Maybe your church only does “canned” (workbook, DVD, etc.) studies and what your ladies really want is to study books of the Bible, or vice versa.

☞ Hopefully this isn’t the case, but if there are factions in your church, someone could be surreptitiously – out of jealousy, sowing discord, or other reasons – discouraging the women from attending.

☞ The logistics of the class might be inconvenient for some. Do you offer child care for those who need it? Is the class held on a convenient day of the week and time of day? Is your church and the room you’re using for the class accessible to women with disabilities? 

These are just a few things that came to mind. Some of them may have to do with the class or the teacher. Others have more to do with the women themselves. What can you do to encourage more women to attend?

✔ Pray – and be ready to be in it for the long haul – that God will change hearts and give the women of your church a greater desire for His Word. In the end, God is the only One who knows all of the reasons women aren’t attending Bible study, and He is the only One with the power to transform them and overcome those reasons. Pray fervently and trust Him.

✔ If you’re truly stumped as to why women aren’t attending Bible study, ask them. You could do so face to face, individually, or, with your pastor’s permission, send out an anonymous survey (you’ll probably get a better response this way) asking things like, “Is the lecture style teaching we offer a fit for you?” or “Would you be able to attend if we offered child care?”, and also leave space to write in comments. (Naturally, you would not be asking things like whether or not you should water down the theology of the class, but if you can remove a practical barrier to attendance, why wouldn’t you?)

✔ Ask your pastor for advice. He knows the heartbeat of your congregation and will probably have some valuable counsel and suggestions.

✔ Be willing to try something different in the class. If you’ve only ever done workbook studies, do a study of a book of the Bible. Maybe a Saturday class isn’t convenient for a lot of people but a Sunday class would be. “I Shall Not be Moved” is for the theology of the class, not the logistics of it.

✔ Be willing to try something different than the class. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to do discipleship. Bible studies are awesome, but how about taking a semester off and doing some one on one Titus 2 mentoring instead? Or some unstructured “let’s just sit and chat” fellowships or ladies’ night outs? Or a prayer group? Or some outreach projects? If your ladies are already getting good preaching in the worship service and good teaching in Sunday School, it’s OK to try a discipleship method other than a Bible study class.

✔ Are you doing enough publicity well in advance of the class? You should start a minimum of 3-4 weeks before the class begins, and you should blitz with a variety of media: verbal announcements in multiple worship services, announce it in the church bulletin, newsletter, web site, and social media pages, have Sunday School classes announce it, send out a church-wide e-mail, put up fliers around the church, and encourage the ladies who are already attending the classes to personally, individually invite other women.

✔ If your pastor is OK with it, consider having one of the women who has been a faithful member of the class give a testimony (during the worship service, in the church newsletter, or wherever appropriate) about how the class has helped and blessed her, the relationships she has built through the class, etc.

In the end, the old saying is true: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” You may bend over backwards and pray your kneecaps off and you may still have a small attendance. That’s OK. That’s on God. All you are responsible for is to pray, trust and obey Him, and be faithful to Him where He has planted you. God doesn’t measure your success by how many women attend, but by your faithfulness to Him.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Podcast Appearances

The B.A.R. Podcast Guest Appearance: Michelle Lesley

Chatting with Dawain Atkinson, host of The B.A.R. (Biblical And Reformed) Podcast was like talking to an old friend. What a sweet brother in Christ. The B.A.R. has a unique, interview-only format, so it’s the place to go to discover doctrinally sound pastors, teachers, authors, podcasters, ministries, and even musicians who are producing quality biblical content and resources. And check out The B.A.R. Network for great podcasts like Just Thinking, Truth+Fire, and more!

Listen in as Dawain and I chat about women’s discipleship, the importance of the local church, and my podcast with Amy Spreeman, A Word Fitly Spoken.

 

You can subscribe to The B.A.R Podcast on a variety of podcast platforms. And be sure to give The B.A.R a follow on Facebook and Twitter.

My resources mentioned or touched on in the interview (You can find most of these in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.):

Searching for a new church?

Bible Studies

Discernment

Popular False Teachers and Unbiblical Trends

A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Need a speaker for a women’s conference or church event? Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!

Top 10

Top 10 Articles of 2019

I always enjoy the annual “year in review” articles and TV shows that run in abundance in late December, so I thought I’d contribute my own. Several Mailbag articles were among this year’s most popular, so I decided to make two separate lists, the Top 10 Mailbag Articles of 2019, and the top 10 non-Mailbag articles of 2019. Here are my ten most popular non-Mailbag blog articles from 2019:

Answering the Opposition:
Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections

There are also occasional comments and messages from women who are disciples of the false teachers I warn against, who take me to task for doing so. The same unscriptural accusations are raised again and again against me and against others who take a biblical stand against false teachers and false doctrine. Here, in no particular order, are the most frequently raised objections to my discernment work and my answers to them…


 10 Biblically Sound Blogs and Podcasts by Christian Women

False teachers. You can’t throw a rock out the window these days without hitting one. But are there any “good guys” out there who are getting it right? Discipleship, Bible study,and theological issues bloggers who rightly divide God’s word? You bet…


Christine Caine: Have No Regard for the Offerings of Caine

Unfortunately, Christine’s teachings and some of her actions do not meet even these basic biblical standards, and it is my sad duty to recommend that you not sit under her teaching for the following reasons…


 A Few Good Men: 10 Doctrinally Sound Male Teachers

Let me introduce you to a few of my favorite male authors of Bible studies
and other great Christian books and resources…


An Open Letter to Beth Moore – Timeline of Events

Since the discussion of the events and commentary surrounding the open letter have mostly taken place on Twitter, and many who have an interest in these events and comments are not Twitter users, this article is intended to be a timeline outlining the sequence of events, beginning with the publication of the open letter.


Living Proof You Should Follow Beth (No) Moore

For these reasons it is my sad duty to recommend that you not follow Beth Moore or receive any teaching from her or anyone connected to Living Proof Ministries.


Guest Post: Why I Left Elevation Church

I was part of Elevation Church for about six years. At the time, I thought it was the greatest church on Earth..


Going Beyond Scripture:
Why It’s Time to Say Good-Bye to Priscilla Shirer and Going Beyond Ministries

Should she repent in these areas in which she has broken Scripture and align herself with biblical principles, she would have no bigger fan than I, and I would rejoice to be able to point Christian women to her as a doctrinally sound resource. Until that time, however, it saddens me to have to recommend that Christian women not follow Priscilla Shirer or any materials or activities from Going Beyond Ministries for the following reasons…


 An Open Letter to Beth Moore

We as female Bible teachers ourselves write this letter to you in hopes of receiving clarification of your views on an important issue: homosexuality.


Leaving Lysa:
Why You Shouldn’t Be Following Lysa TerKeurst or Proverbs 31 Ministries

For these reasons, plus her habitual mishandling of Scripture, unfortunately, I must recommend that women not follow, support, or receive teaching from Lysa TerKeurst or Proverbs 31 Ministries(including any writers or speakers affiliated with Proverbs 31 Ministries)…


What was YOUR favorite article of 2019?

Podcast Appearances

Tulips & Honey Podcast Guest Appearance: Women’s Discipleship

 

Amy Spreeman (my co-host at A Word Fitly Spoken) and I had a super fun time interviewing on the Tulips & Honey podcast with Lauren and Emily. Listen in (and watch!) as we chat about women’s discipleship, older women mentoring younger women, the importance of the local church, and most importantly – where Amy and I each land on pineapple on pizza (spoiler alert – we are not in unity! :0)). We will upload the audio of the recording above to A Word Fitly Spoken’s podcast platforms and website next week in case you’d rather listen than watch.

You can subscribe to the Tulips & Honey podcast on a variety of podcast platforms. Be sure to check out their YouTube channel too, and give Tulips & Honey a follow on Facebook and Twitter.

My articles mentioned or touched on in the interview:

Rock Your Role

Rock Your Role: Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian

Women and False Teachers: Why Men Don’t Get It, and Why It’s Imperative That They Do

Searching for a new church?, Biblical Counseling, and Bible Studies tabs are at the top of this page.


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Need a speaker for a women’s conference or church event? Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!