A few weeks ago, popular author and speaker Jen Hatmaker shared her support of gay marriage, and the conversations that have followed raise some important issues regarding women’s discipleship, both inside and outside the local church. Here are two questions to consider in light of recent headlines:
#1: What is your source and measure of truth?
I like Jen Hatmaker. I read one of her books and laughed until I cried. She is witty, honest, and relatable. She is also thoughtful and substantive and involved in important cultural conversations. But we have to see through her winsome personality and clever Instagram posts and evaluate her teaching in light of God’s Word. Unfortunately, what often happens is we solidify our loyalty to a person and welcome her unchecked into our hearts and minds. This is true of so many writers and speakers who identify as Christian. If they mention God or we find them in the Christian section of the bookstore, we may be tempted to welcome their counsel without testing it. If our minds are not being renewed by the truth of Scripture, we are susceptible to false teaching–to finding ourselves fans of human beings instead of faithful followers of Christ.
Perhaps the larger problem is that we often turn to these books instead of to Scripture. How many of you have sat in a circle of women and admitted that you all struggle to spend time in the Word? What happens next? Someone says, “Let’s read this book together.” (I’m just as guilty of this!) Books feel more achievable than doing the hard work of digging into the Word. And certainly there are great books that can help us grow in our desire and understanding of God’s Word. But, also, we can do hard things! Let’s not settle for fluffy Christian women’s bestsellers when we could be feasting on the Word of God. Let’s put these authors and speakers in their proper place in our lives. Let’s be so rooted in the truths of God’s Word that we can read with discernment and be as iron sharpening iron for one another.
Are you a woman of the Word? Is Scripture your measure of truth? Do you read with discernment, testing your input against the truth of God’s Word?
#2: What is your source of discipleship?
Perhaps the broader issue that has come about since Hatmaker’s comments is the question of where Christian women are going for their discipleship. It’s an exciting time in history, where technology allows for international connection and women (as well as men) have the opportunity to use their God-given gifts to build up not just the local church but the global church. But there are at least two problems with these larger platforms: 1) they can be shaped by market factors, where what sells is more important than what is true, and 2) they are divorced from a local context, where the process of learning, growing, and faithfully living is unobserved.
In Titus 2, Paul calls the older women to teach the younger women what is good, to model for them a faithful life that flows out of belief in the gospel. The whole letter points to the inextricable link between belief in sound doctrine and a life devoted to good works.
So first we have to ask, does what we’re reading reflect sound doctrine? This returns us to our previous question: what is our measure of truth? This doesn’t mean we can only read Christian books, or only Christian books we 100% agree with, but are we applying a proper filter to what we read?
It is possible and good to teach and learn sound doctrine from a platform–through a book, blog, social media post, conference, Bible study lesson, or Sunday morning sermon. But then we have to ask, “How does this connect to real life?” If that teaching is not tested, sharpened, and lived out in the context of a local community, is it truly beneficial?
My point is not to say we shouldn’t read books. I love books and rarely leave a conversation without recommending one. But to those of us reading all.the.books. (or blogs or podcasts or whatever): Are we in danger of learning everything from men and women whose lives we never see? And are we in danger of pointing to famous authors and speakers instead of inviting people into our daily lives, modeling for them both our obedience and our repentance when we fail? Do we see the local church as the primary place where God has called us to engage with our gifts? Do we see ourselves as both teachers and learners within our local context, regardless of our age or stage of life?
Women’s Discipleship at River City
Many of these parachurch ministries for women have emerged because women have not found their place within the local church. They don’t know how to engage with their gifts, how to pursue discipleship, how to participate in biblical community, or perhaps they have felt unwelcome in these spheres. If this has been your experience, I’m sorry. I’m grateful to serve in a church where our elders value women and welcome our contribution to the life of the church. I invite you to join a Missional Community, to participate in our women’s discipleship opportunities, to share with us the ways you would like to contribute using your gifts. And if you want to grab a cup of coffee with a woman at River City and chat about how you can be more integrated into life here, I would love to help connect you.
For further reading on Hatmaker’s comments, this post from Rosaria Butterfield in response is incredibly helpful.