Learning, Teaching, Writing, and Women

As a writing major in college, I took a bunch of classes in literature and literary theory. In my junior year, I also picked up an elective called How to Read the Bible, focused on biblical scholarship. 

They turned out to be basically the same skillset: You consider the themes and structure of the text, its historical context, what else that author has written, and opinions from other scholars. Yet my literature classes were full of women, while the biblical studies class was mostly men.  

Women have the same capacity as men for deep study, informed and reasoned discussion, and presentation of learning. These talents, in both sexes, are a gift to the individual and also to the body of Christ. 

In churches like ours that follow the biblical teaching that women are not “to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12), though, it can feel like there’s no outlet for a woman to share what she has learned. 

Encouragement for women

Scripture makes at least one thing clear on the subject of women in the ministry of the church: Women’s voices are valuable and needed for the building up of the whole church. 

Women are commanded to teach

Paul, in a letter to another young pastor, instructs that “Older women … are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-5).

Women are instructed to pass on what they learn to younger women. Paul highlights the snowball effect of investing in the spiritual growth of other women: A woman benefits herself; she loves and builds up her household–and she is even granted the honor of upholding the integrity of God’s own reputation. 

Women’s voices are not only for women

Men can also benefit from the insights and wisdom of women. We’re told that “when Priscilla and Aquila heard [Apollos preaching], they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Priscilla, wife to Aquila, is included in both the hearing and the explaining. 

Priscilla knew more than the man in the pulpit. She used her godly wisdom to instruct one who was already “competent in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24), so that the gospel truth would be declared. Her contribution mattered in the kingdom of God; we find out later that Apollos’ teaching gained a large following (I Corinthians 3:4-5). Priscilla’s example demonstrates that there are appropriate avenues for a woman to instruct and even correct a man.

A need in the church

Our denomination, the PCA, has recognized that many of its churches are not encouraging women to serve to their full ability. Churches have tended to be “focused on what women cannot do rather than [on] fostering a biblically informed culture of what women are called to do” (WSMC report, Chapter 5).

The PCA commissioned the Women Serving in the Ministry of the Church (WSMC) study committee in 2016 “to pursue and equip the women of the church for every biblical role of service open to them” (WSMC report, Chapter 1). The committee submitted its report in 2017, including several recommendations to all PCA churches, detailed in Chapter 5 (pp. 58-63). 

The whole report is worth a read, to understand the value, biblical precedent, and bounds of women’s activities in the church. The thrust of the report is toward recognizing all the possible contributions women can make to the church. One opportunity that our church is pleased to offer is the WPCA blog. 

Write for the blog! 

I encourage any member to share on the blog, but this call is particularly to women. The church–our church–needs your wisdom, biblical insight, and experience. I hope the previous encouragements have eased any fears of overstepping biblical roles, but I realize there are other reasons people may hold back. 

I don’t have anything worth saying. Did the sermon strike you just so this week? Did something in your personal reading make you think? A blog doesn’t need to be a comprehensive analysis of a topic; in fact, smaller observations often make for more readable articles. I’ve found that I learn more by sitting down to write on a topic than if I simply study it for my own knowledge. 

I’m not trained in biblical scholarship. You have the Holy Spirit in you, teaching you through Scripture. There are plenty of Bible study tools out there (Knowable Word’s OIA method has been taught at our church), as well as commentaries for free online, for purchase, or for borrowing from our pastors. Study and write with prayer, and trust God to defend his truth. (Also, an editor will read your work and catch any blatant heresy.)

I’m not a writer. Writing is just thinking on paper. If you have an idea, jot down some notes and see where it goes. Ryan, as editor of the blog, or another writer can help with the writing. You could even co-write a piece with someone else to take the pressure off of you. 

Blogs are too high-tech for me. Write it by hand! I volunteer to type it up for you. Writers for the blog are not responsible for any of the techy stuff like formatting and posting articles. 

The WPCA blog exists for members of the church to share with one another what God is revealing to us. Anybody can write for the blog: men and women, pastors or lay people, the highly educated or the self-taught. We’d love to hear what God has taught you!

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Overcoming Yourself: Why You Should Step out of Your Comfort Zone

I first saw it on Facebook: “Dwelling in Scripture – Biblical Training for Women.” Sounds good.

I read their purpose statement:

  • To help women to independently study the Bible within the context of redemptive history.
  • To encourage women to receive the inspiration and power of God’s Word.
  • To help women to grow in their relationship with and knowledge of God.

Even better. Where do I sign up? The page stated that they would send you a passage to study before you arrived. That seemed different, but interesting. I was sure it would enhance whatever the speaker would be teaching us.

As promised, about two weeks before the conference, I received an email to inform me of my passage to study: James 1:2-18. I read through it and decided that, though familiar, it would be beneficial to work through it carefully. Then I noticed the fine print:

“Prior to the training you will be given a scripture passage to meditate on and to use to prepare a 5-minute presentation during the group time at the event.  You will also be given preparation materials to assist you in working on your assigned passage.”

WHAT? I thought I was attending to learn HOW to do this, not to actually get up in front of people and do it myself.

It wasn’t really fine print–I just hadn’t read the whole page carefully. I panicked somewhat, but not enough to keep me from putting it off until the following week, which is typical for me.

The following week I was sick. All week. Which is not typical for me. I was sick enough that I didn’t do much of anything that week. However, from time to time I’d glance at the passage and write down a few words. James 1:2: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” Ha. Ha. The irony of my assignment was not lost on me.

As the week progressed, I was doubting I would even make it to the conference because of my illness, but I continued reading and jotting.

The day of the conference I woke up feeling slightly better, maybe even well enough to attend. I arrived that evening, located my table (we were seated with our small group), and cautiously ate a few bites of my dinner while chatting with my table mates. We sang a few songs, then went right to our assigned rooms for our small groups. All fairly typical conference stuff, right?

After the leader gave a brief introduction of how the small group format would work, the first presenter read her passage, then wrote her central idea on the board. Writing a central idea was part of our assignment. It was defined as a biblical truth about God, a simple sentence, and God-centered. It should not be a summary. The group then spent time dissecting her central idea, making sure each phrase was God-centered and not man-centered.

I glanced down at what I had written as the central idea for my own passage. Even though the sentence began with the word “God,” it was very man-centered. But I felt justified! This passage is full of directives: “consider,” “ask,” “ask in faith,” “let no one say,” “do not be deceived.” How could I write a central idea that is not even a little bit man-centered? I was starting to get annoyed.

As the evening progressed, I found myself getting more irritated as what I thought were perfectly good central ideas were taken apart, analyzed, and re-written.

Back at the hotel room, I decided I wasn’t going to obsess over it or change anything – I would just present it as is. I called Don and subjected him to an in-depth rant. He politely listened, but offered no counsel.

After a fitful night of sleep (I’d been struggling with insomnia for weeks), I woke up at 4 a.m., wide awake. I couldn’t stop thinking about the concept of making my central idea God-centered. I looked again at what I had written: “God uses trials and testing of our faith to strengthen us; we are blessed when we look intently into His Word.” It was all wrong. I considered when it was my turn to present, going up to the board, writing my central idea, then immediately drawing a red line through the whole thing. Except the word “God”—that’s good. That can stay. I got out my Bible and read through the passage again. Then I went back to the beginning of the passage and tried to focus particularly on any characteristics of God. I was still in denial, thinking my central idea was very good and convinced that any changes would leave out important concepts.

I prayed, and as I wrestled through the verses, God’s character shone through: “God, who gives to all generously,” “the Lord has promised,” “He Himself does not tempt anyone,” “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” I was seeing a familiar passage with fresh eyes – eyes that had previously predetermined what they saw, but were now slowly being opened to a different way of thinking. I was astounded. My irritation was fading and being replaced by thankfulness.

I completely changed my central idea: “God generously gives His wisdom and goodness through trials.” The leader said she was excited that I had “wrestled” through the passage. I found I enjoyed sharing what I had learned and appreciated the group’s addition of two words to the beginning of my central idea: “Our unchanging God…” We had all started as kindred spirits in our anxiety about presenting to strangers, but ended up enjoying each other as sisters in Christ and in our study of God’s Word.

Do you hesitate at the thought of going to a conference? Or maybe there’s something else that makes you think, “I can’t do that.” Ask God to show Himself and His character to you. Don’t forget that Jesus has already done the heavy lifting for you. Ask Him to change you. You may still feel intimidated, but go forward anyway.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

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