- Baptist Beacon
First-Person: What the church must provide women in today’s culture
by Jen Oshman
Surveys measuring the mental health and emotional well-being of women and girls in the United States unanimously reflect a concerning trend. By all accounts, happiness and contentment are markedly down, while stress, anxiety, and depression are way up – and this was true prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Women seeking relief have myriad options – exercise class, book club, therapy, girls’ nights out, an afternoon at the spa, a day in nature, a long soak in the tub, medication. And depending on the heart behind each of these self-care strategies, they may improve a woman’s well-being.
Our churches, though, have a unique and powerful opportunity to serve women and girls in this cultural moment. As discouragement and disillusionment threaten to take hold, women’s ministries can hold out a particular kind of hope – a hope that’s truth-filled, soul-deep, and all-satisfying.
As church leaders, we must make the best use of our time (Ephesians 5:16, Colossians 4:5). God ordained you and me for this specific moment in our specific contexts so that we each might seek Him and find Him (Acts 17:26). So then, how might we put the God who made us and died to save us on display for the women in our churches and communities to seek and savor Him?
We must ask ourselves if we’re offering a distinctly Christian hope to our women. Do we point women to the Giver of Life, or do our programs and gatherings resemble what might be offered at the local library, Mormon ward, or secular self-help class?
The well-being of women in our communities is on the line, and we, the church, have an opportunity to be a porch light in a dark night. Let’s not shrink back but rather, boldly shine. Here are three components to include in your women’s ministry to ensure you’re offering explicitly Christian hope and truth to your women.
The Word of God
This one may seem obvious, but many women’s ministries forego the Bible in an attempt to be relevant or seeker-friendly. Especially in this cultural moment when many see God’s Word as oppressive or on the wrong side of history, it can be tempting to make it secondary or to save it for later. But we who belong to the Lord know eternal life, mercy, and beauty are found in those pages. Let’s not shy away from God’s living and good Word. Let us say with the apostle Peter, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68, CSB).
This is no small thing: we have the words of eternal life. With the Word of God as our foundation, our women’s ministries will offer true life. Hebrews tells us the Bible is living and active and can help us know our own thoughts and intentions (Hebrews 4:12). James says the Bible serves as a kind of mirror for us (James 1:22-24). We look to it to see where we might be corrected and transformed so that we can be doers of the Word. We need the Word so that we won’t be conformed to this age, but instead have renewed minds to know God’s will (Romans 12:2). In this age of self-focus and discouragement, the Bible lifts our eyes up, off ourselves and our temporary cultural landscape, and onto our God and His sovereignty, kindness, and eternal glory.
The gospel of Jesus
In an age that teaches women they must define themselves, help themselves, and depend only on themselves, the Gospel of grace is oxygen to a suffocating generation. The deepest need of every woman attending our ministries is to receive the grace and mercy of Jesus. We must constantly remind ourselves and our women that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. Because of His great mercy and love for us, Jesus traded us our sin for His righteousness – our death for His eternal life. We’ve been given the most scandalous and generous gift in all of history.
What a relief. What a joy. What a Savior! In our flesh, we tend to believe we must conjure up our own acceptance, or that we’re beyond God’s acceptance. This age tells women, “It’s all on you.” But Jesus says, “No, it’s all on me. I paid the price. You’re forgiven. You’re mine.”
Let us, therefore, make sure He’s always on full display – that His grace permeates our atmosphere, that His mercy is center stage. Do our messages and event calendars promote works-righteousness or a call to rest in Jesus, who is full of grace and truth (John 1:14)? Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). If our ministries are going to be truly life-giving, we must constantly rehearse the gospel to one another. It’s Jesus alone who sets the women in your church free (John 8:32, 36).
The people of God, led by the Spirit of God
In our individualistic and self-reliant age, we bear witness to an epidemic of loneliness. Our gatherings as the people of God are a strong antidote to the sickness of isolation. Simply inviting women in to be seen and heard, embraced in warmth and welcome, is potentially life-changing. But let’s practice a particular kind of hospitality in women’s ministry – welcoming one another to gather not only with each other but with our sovereign God as well.
As we who belong to the Lord gather, our Lord gathers with us. Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), is in our midst. Jesus told His disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13, CSB). And so it is for you and me. The Holy Spirit lives inside us and guides us. By His guidance, we encourage and admonish one another; we remind each other of God’s goodness and power during turbulent times. The Holy Spirit is our counselor and our helper. When we gather, He is there, speaking truth to each of us as we speak it to one another. May our gatherings not be marked by worldly advice, but rather unity in prayer, seeking the Lord, and building up one another in Him.
Women in our communities bring real and heavy burdens with them when they walk through our church doors. We have so much more to offer than the coping strategies of our age. Women’s ministries established in the Word, rooted in the Gospel, and full of God’s people led by God’s Spirit offer life. In this generation, may our women’s ministries “shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15b-16a, CSB). We have true, eternal, and unshakable life – let’s offer nothing less.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jen Oshman is an author and has worked in women’s ministry for two decades as a missionary and pastor’s wife.