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Volume 7, Issue 5: Femina

Women in Ministry

Nancy Wilson

Scripture encourages older women to teach younger women to be husband-lovers and children-lovers (Tit. 2:3-4). In the twentieth century, given modern media and transportation, etc., what does this look like? Are there any limits to ministry a woman may have to other women? What are the dangers and blessings associated with teaching women?

First of all, notice the nature of the teaching in the Titus passageit is to be very home-centered. This is not narrow; it gives women a very broad spectrum of subject matter that can be covered. Teaching women to be "into husbands" and "into kids" must include many topics, ranging from personal holiness to methods of education. Just about any aspect of the faith taught in Scripture can be useful to the wife and mother. Any Bible-centered study could be used as a real tool, for a good Christian woman will be a good wife and mother.
But what else do we learn in Scripture? What other principles are laid out for Christian women that can come to bear on this subject of women in ministry? Today we have women in the Christian world who write books, edit women's magazines, travel on speaking tours, have radio or television shows, lead seminars, etc. If the teaching itself is biblical and Christ-centered, is it automatically to be assumed that the ministry is biblical and Christ-centered?
The first question to ask and answer is, "Who is this woman's husband?" Next we must ask many subsidiary questions. Is she fulfilling her ministry to him? Is he her priority? Is she helping him? Is her house in order? Is he leading her in this ministry? Is her identity as a Christian woman centered around her relationship to her husband?
If the answer to any of these is "no," then her ministry is likely independent of her husband, and it is much like a separate career; but because it is "Christian," it is somehow seen as a valid ministry. In contrast, because Scripture clearly teaches that the husband is the head of the wife, a Christian woman in ministry should clearly be seen as under her husband's visible headship. In other words, her ministry should be visibly connected to him.
This can be a real help to him, for her teaching can be a complement to his work. He can protect her from becoming too committed to ministry outside the home; he can see objectively whether she is keeping her priorities straight; he knows how she is doing spiritually and whether she is even qualified to teach. He can protect her from many temptations and lead her in her ministry to other women. This protection is a blessing. When people listen to or read her teaching, it is organically connected to the head God has placed over her. This is obviously difficult if husband is always across the country, or if his name is merely listed in the book with the other "credits" in the fine print.
Scripture teaches that a wife is specially created by God to be a helper to her husband. When a woman in ministry becomes successful, independent of her husband, many temptations will accompany such success. She will be tempted to put her "ministry" ahead of her first calling as a wife and mother. She will be tempted to find more satisfaction and gratification in her "ministry" than in her calling to be a wife. Then comes the temptation to accept more and more speaking engagements, to like the financial independence, to work harder outside the home, get used to being successful apart from her husband, and to become more independent of him.
In some cases, husbands' careers are considered inferior because they are not as lucrative, so the husbands quit their jobs to manage their wives' "ministries." This is so backwards. How can we expect God to bless a ministry that is in essence run by wives and supported by husbands? This is especially tragic when the career is Christian in name and the teaching is about being a "home-centered" wife.
Women have often been vulnerable to deception, and frequently they are self -deceived. The woman who sacrifices her own home, while teaching other women to be respectful and submissive wives, has been deceived and is deceiving others. This eventually becomes apparent when we read about the divorce. She has torn down her own house with her own hands.
By the time she recognizes the trap she is in, it is often too late. To quit and go home would be a public scandal; to openly confess sin would be humiliating; to ask for help would be to admit weakness; to fold up the ministry might put other women (or men) associated with the ministry out of a job. Then she realizes the cost is too great, so she continues to live the lie.
The church today needs godly teaching for younger women. It must come from godly older women. But godly older women need to be submissive to Scripture and submissive to their husbands first. Then, in a husband-centered context, they are protected from the hazards and temptations of the "ministry."

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