March 16, 2009

Women's Ministry: Spiritual Anemia Requires Spiritual Meat

Recently, I wrote a piece for the GFL blog that was titled "Does 'Complementarian' Equal Anemic Women's Ministry?" I'm thrilled with the comments it has received and the encouragement it has provided to women who want to bring a certain degree seriousness to their call to ministry. I cannot count the times that I meet women who, with me, joyfully identify with the complementarian perspective, but wonder how they can bring more meat to the table of women's ministry when it is overflowing with so much dessert. The answer to that question is going to depend on the kind of support that exists in the local church and the willingness to work together toward the same purpose and goal that is God-centered and gospel-driven.

I was honored to discover that the folks at the Council for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood thought my commentary had a sense of good "direction," but I'm sad that they responded to an article that simply was not the one I wrote. If you have not read my commentary, please read it before you continue reading here. In fact, read Brent Nelson's as well, then come back.

Welcome back!

In What Makes for a Strong Women's Ministry?, Brett Nelson writes that my commentary "wafts an air of chronological snobbery" in response to this statement I make in the GFL commentary:
These are women who want to fulfill the Titus 2 mandate, to mentor and minister to other women, who want to play a significant role in Christian education, but also want to escape the culture of women’s ministry that they inherited from their grandmothers.
I am unclear how this is "chronological snobbery," and Brent Nelson is unclear as well, because he follows up my statement with his own question.
what is it about their grandmothers' culture of women's ministry that must be escaped from just because it was two generations back?
He rightly states that every generation has their blind spots, and that every generation has something to teach each other. I couldn't agree more! But my own commentary does provide an answer his question. As you have already read, I point out many examples of fluff n' stuff we have inherited from previous generations of women's ministry that are becoming obstacles to discipleship and in developing future women's leaders. Perhaps it was short-sided of me to not pay tribute to the legacy of women from the past, but that wasn't the purpose of the commentary. Brent Nelson is right to point out that it hasn't all been fluff n' stuff, but he commits a logical error by suggesting the desire for escape is based on ageism.

In developing his argument, Brent Nelson asks yet another rhetorical question,
Are those who reject their grandmothers' kind of women's ministry sure of what they reject?
Well, that was the point of my commentary, and it was long enough and specific enough for that detail to be located by the reader. Yes, we are sure! We, the silent critical mass mentioned at the beginning of my commentary, reject the fluff n' stuff that inhibits discipleship and takes up our time in needless event planning. I certainly should offer a caveat here, not all event planning is needless and many of the activities serve as instruments for discipleship. It is when women's ministry becomes event-driven and programmatically set in stone that we lose opportunities for discipleship and actually keep women away. But then again, that was detailed in my commentary.

In something of an answer to his own rhetorical questions, Brent Nelson rightly states that
some who led women's ministries in the 1950's may have lived the scriptural ideals of ‘self-control, purity, working in the home and submission to their own husbands' far better than some today.

The real danger here is not my disappointment with the fluff n' stuff of women's ministry, but the belief that there is little wrong with the intensity of the traditions that have been inherited, the poor examples of biblical interpretation offered by some women's ministry leaders, the weak materials marketed by Christian publishers who know that women represent a large majority of church attendance, the self-esteem/self-centered therapeutic methodology that is said to be God-centered, and the unwillingness to see women's ministry for the significant role it can play in the advancement of God's Kingdom. But then again, if women's ministry is primarily about fellowship with discipleship flowing out of that, then perhaps my view that it can play a role in advancing God's Kingdom is unwarranted.


T. Michael Cart said...

Your treatise is nothing short of thorough and enlightening. Your approach to this important topic is refreshing. I especially agree with your call for women's ministry to be, essentially, proactive. Truthfully, men's ministry could use a little of that too.

Sarah J. Flashing said...

Thanks so much for your comment. I hope you were able to read my original post and that which was posted at CBMW. I agree that ministry to both men and women needs to move toward more proactivity, the only reason I don't mention men's ministry is because it doesn't have the historical baggage of women's ministry. But thanks so much for your positive comment and I'm now following your blog and ministry as well!

Anonymous said...

It was certainly interesting for me to read that blog. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything connected to them. I would like to read more on that blog soon.

Best wishes
Jeph Normic