July 27, 2008

The "Desperate" Women of Evangelicalism

Housewives we all are not, but according to Stephen Arterburn, well-know Christian counselor and founder of the Women of Faith conference movement, we are a desperate, needy bunch.

In an interview posted by Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe (July 25, 2008) in the Articles of Faith blog, Arterburn was asked if the Women of Faith conferences serve as method of evangelism. He replied, "I call it an inspirational conference. We're trying to inspire women that are in big trouble to hang on. We try to inspire them to live the life that God intended them to live."

Does the fact that around 400,000 women each year attend these conferences provide validity to his assertion that these women are in "big trouble?" Or perhaps this is one of the most dominant movements within the evangelical community that vasts amounts of women have access to.

Whatever motivates women to attend, it is clear that within the subculture of women's ministry, women have been convinced that they are in "big trouble." Motivational and self-help books dominate the women's section in Christian bookstores, women's ministries focus in on her need for encouragement and support, and if I were to take a survey, I'm confident that counseling programs would represent the bulk of advanced degrees held by women's ministry leaders.

It might be that women are in constant need of these self-help resources (books, conferences, etc.) because they are actually in need of something deeper will take them through the difficult times. The therapeutic culture of the church functions such that a solid theology is secondary to addressing the day to day issues we face. In other words, knowing God becomes a response to our "big trouble" instead of preparation for loving God and living in general. When relationships are pursued primarily for what one can get out of it, the relationship suffers.

Though well intentioned, I am concerned that Arterburn's comment and this therapeutic culture of women's ministry perpetuates an attitude of helplessness among Christian women. We ought to envision a ministry that develops women in such a way that their spiritual maturity, their relationship with God, is her ultimate resource in times of need. An anemic women's ministry will always need to be therapeutic. A theologically healthy ministry will produce disciples who naturally replicate and find their needs met at the feet of Jesus, and naturally among one another as Titus 2 models. This isn't to devalue counseling as I know how important it is, but the ministry to women in the church must first be Cross-centered. Knowing God makes it possible for women to help themselves.

1 comment:

Joy said...

we're all in trouble. women are just more open to admitting it and asking for help. men are more stubborn and proud.