The following was originally posted by Angie Brown on Discerning Daughters (November 28, 2016).
Jenn Martin is a speaker, women’s ministry consultant and gospel-centered life coach. She currently serves as the Director of FEB Central Women’s Ministry and through her personal ministry Live Simple, Declutter with Purpose. Her heart’s desire is to experience, reflect and express the hope of Jesus through time spent in his Word, in prayer and in belonging to the body. Jenn leads intimate leadership retreats and loves to see women using their giftedness while intentionally investing in others. You can connect with Jenn here.
(1) In your experience and study, how have women in the church been impacted by feminist thinking?
Jenn: I am persuaded that the answer to the three questions: does feminist thinking affect the church, should women engage in discipleship relationships with other women to affect their spiritual growth, and is there benefit to pastoral leadership investing in a women’s ministry leader is…yes, yes and yes; but even greater is the need for discernment and wisdom among women in the church.
Over the years, the feminist movement has strived to show that women have the ability to learn and do all that man can do. The women’s rights agenda has been persuasive to a point that our current Prime Minister finds it of value to deem himself a feminist.
Today we live in an age where information can be found at the click of a button or the swipe of a screen catering to limited knowledge, independent thinking and opinion laced in tolerance often with agenda. This information age is where ambition and accomplishment may be observed and acknowledged, but where soul-fatigue and a lack of discernment runs rampant.
Feminist thinking that works to increase equality roots back to Genesis 2 where Adam and Eve took action in an attempt to make themselves ‘better than’ or ‘independent from’ God.
The fall of God’s creation was because man chose what they felt was best or in their right, even though they were deceivingly influenced and persuaded by evil thinking and self-sufficiency by the serpent. Adam and Eve choose themselves over God. They choose their own rights rather than God’s design. God’s way was rejected because they listened to the created rather than the Creator. All the while, man and woman were designed and created in God’s image with gender distinct roles, but because of a desire to think independently sin separated them from this ideal.
(2) Why do you think gender-specific discipleship is an essential aspect of spiritual growth?
Jenn: Today, women within the church are sensitive to the things of God. They are willing to immerse themselves in Bible study, small group, and be challenged in conversation and thinking. But too many women are quick to look to outside sources often guised as Christian authors offering advice to life and leadership as their source of reference and truth leaving many women quick to quote popular Bible study authors but unable to quote the biblical source. Many are easily influenced by other people’s experience of God in the name of the latest Christian blog, media post, inspiring thought or quote, where emotions are stirred and experience is heightened, but as a result, leaving many women inwardly wondering why their time with God doesn’t measure up, sustain their day, or satisfy the longings buried deep within their hearts. Many women long to be changed, long to have purpose and understand their calling, are hungering and thirsting but few are hungering and thirsting wholeheartedly after biblical truth and as a result are left living unsatisfied, temporarily distracted or deceivingly fulfilled. Mixed in with a woman’s own pressures to preform, compare and do; women are left with a weary perspective of a God who expects far too much and ultimately does not satisfy. These are women living unsatisfied within the church where they can become their own worst enemy—weak, distracted and undiscerned—having no clue of how God longs to see them live or lead others within the body of Christ.
Yes, women need to be taught, women need to be led and women need to be cautioned where caution is due. Just like Paul needed to warn Timothy that there will be many weak-willed women who will be susceptible to, influenced and captured by spiritual things often not seen in scripture, but feeling very spiritual. “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning, never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6-7).
Paul said it, we’re living it!
Women are full of passion and purpose and long to know truth, but too many women have settled for scripture as a supplement to fuel their spiritual lives rather than scripture as the source that should shape their biblical conviction and devotion. Few are willing to do the hard work involved in seeking what scripture teaches and discover biblical wisdom. While many are battling the distraction of the day, lured by their own thinking or popular opinion, vulnerable to portions of the truth all aimed to satisfy and distort the unity of the church.
Wisdom and discernment needs to be encouraged and taught.
Women need to be open and willing to receive instruction and discernment.
(3) What would be some of the benefits of having pastors/elders intentionally investing in and equipping older women to disciple younger women? (Titus 2:1, 3-5)
Jenn: Pastoral authority is vital to affect biblical change in the area of ministry to women. Pastoral leadership can lead, guide and direct women in leadership positions to recognize what they have been resourced with and who they have been entrusted to.
Passing on the principles seen in Acts 20 and 1 Peter 5, although written to the elder, to be good stewards of their ministry efforts is a vital lesson. Genesis 3:15 tells us that women battle with control. Teaching women to understand stewardship rather than ownership would be of tremendous influence. Helping women to stop looking for their identity horizontally and rather vertically points them to Jesus, challenging them to understand that they are qualified and equipped to live out God’s calling on their lives (2 Thessalonians 1:10-11). Acts 20:28 encourages leaders to pay attention to themselves and pay attention to those entrusted to their care. Staying close to Jesus through the Word and in prayer is foundational to a woman’s leadership and needs to be taught.
Time and time again, while working with women in leadership roles it becomes apparent that their number one battle is devotion to these things! Pastoral leadership can help women not “lord over those” they have been positioned to lead and encourage (1 Peter 5), but rather to lead by example and help define what that should look like, specifically for women. Helping women understand the principles seen in Genesis 3:15 is also foundational to helping women understand the bigger battle they face, both for man and woman.
Act 2:42 calls us to live devoted to God’s Word, to prayer and to one another. Women function carrying many roles. Leadership can help simplify a women’s pursuit of spiritual growth by teaching foundational principles like these that matter.
- Pastoral leadership can direct women to approach God’s Word accurately, for the purpose of personal growth and for the opportunity of leading Bible study or intentional workshops for women.
- Pastoral leadership can teach women to look to the prayers of God’s Word in effort to pray biblically and teach others to pray. When understood, our devotion and need for fellowship is freeing for women who often tend to, even within the church, protect themselves, shy away from others for fear of being hurt, and choose to live in isolation and have forgotten or never experience oneness within the body.
- Pastoral leadership can train up the woman in leadership by teaching biblical concepts like understanding spiritual gifts, calling, identity, or the power of the Holy Spirit available to us.
- Pastoral leadership can model and teach effective accountability and leadership in an effort to help women not feel the need to lead alone, lead volunteers, and develop effective communication. Women will also benefit by understanding the overall direction and vision of the church and be encouraged to fall under its authority and intent. Then, women’s ministry efforts can complement and align. There is nothing more dangerous than an autonomous women’s ministry within the church.
Furthermore, pastoral leadership may be the only voice that aims to protect a woman who has stepped up in a leadership role, unlike many of her peers, but still feels the need to ‘do it all’. Wise leadership will show women the need to establish boundaries, to learn to say no to areas they don’t need to do, to keep margin in their lives, to prioritize their marriage and family and stay the course.
There are numerous opportunities and reasons for women to gather together. And, while so many women, of all ages, may be lost in hurry, family commitments and outside responsibilities, many women live in pursuit of truth and wisdom, longing to be a part of change and willing to invest themselves in good. Well led women in ministry can help value women within the church by cultivating environments where women can gather together to learn, be free to ask questions, where they feel safe enough to be heard, but where truth will be shared, biblical wisdom will be taught and biblical convictions will be developed because the source of challenge will be saturated in scripture, influenced by pastoral leadership that is willing to lead and truth willing to be heard and applied.
With God’s grace may we be open to biblical wisdom, the leadership of those in authority over us and the willingness to give up our right to any of it!