Last week Jen Hatmaker, a popular writer who claims Christianity as her belief system, came out in full support of homosexual marriage. As a response. LifeWay, arguably America’s largest Christian bookseller, stopped selling Hatmaker’s books.
Also last week, virally popular blogger, recently divorced Glennon Doyle Melton, who claims Christianity as her belief system, came out as gay, announcing that she was dating a female soccer player.
So what? one may say. Who are these women anyway? There is a bigger story behind the Hatmaker debacle. Christianity Today published an article by Kate Shellnutt titled The Bigger Story Behind Jen Hatmaker. In it, we read:
Titles by Bible teachers Lysa TerKeurst, Priscilla Shirer, and Beth Moore regularly outsell new releases from pastors such as Max Lucado and T. D. Jakes, according to rankings from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Bloggers such as Hatmaker and Ann Voskamp—with books popular enough to land on The New York Times bestseller lists—have triple as many Facebook followers as the biggest congregations in the biggest denomination in the country.
And we know the demographic that largely uses Facebook: women. And these ‘Bible teachers’ are influencing your girls, wives, women, sisters…etc. Worse, these ‘Bible teachers’ are not associated with any church. Pastor, do you ask the women in your flock who they are reading? You should.
Hannah Anderson was quoted in Shellnutt’s CT article because she has recently discussed this very issue in her podcast. Two women exchanged emails in a deeper follow up. Shellnutt asked Anderson the following- “What do you see as some of the pros and cons of having so much momentum around women’s ministry at a national level?” and Anderson’s answer is sobering,
Consider how few female evangelical leaders are visibly attached to an institution such as a church, seminary, or non-profit that did not grow up around their personality. Name a male leader like Rick Warren and you immediately think of Saddleback Church. Say Beth Moore or Ann Voskamp or Jen Hatmaker and most of us will draw a blank about which local church these women affiliate with. This is not to say that they aren’t connected, but their local church isn’t a visible or central a component to their public ministry. Hannah Anderson blog
I don’t lay the blame for the emergence of extra-church false teacher female ministries totally at the feet of the local church, nor do I agree that it’s because women ‘can’t find space’ at their church as mentioned below. Or, maybe it is, the discontented women who want leadership roles and step outside their church tor form organizations that will allow them to do that, such as Jennie Allen of IF:Gathering, and Christine Caine of Propel.
However, the fact is, if you think about the most popular national women’s ministries, they’re led by women who don’t seem attached to their own local church.
Being distanced from ecclesiastical institutions also means women’s ministry inadvertently becomes shaped by market forces. Nationally known female spiritual leaders are by-and-large entrepreneurs and most often, out of necessity. Because women struggle to find space in the established Church, they end up creating their own institutions, whether as collectives or around themselves. The latter is both fed by and feeds evangelical celebrity culture.
I recommend the article by Hannah Anderson linked just above. It’s extremely well-written and laser focused on the issue of para-church female-led ministries being influenced by merchandising and that the reason they are so influenced is that they are unhitched from a church.
Here are some quotes from both the articles and elsewhere on the topic:
National women leaders should be a reference point, but not a replacement for female leadership at the local church level. ~ Jen Wilkin
The scenario is usually about a group of well-intentioned women studying a popular book that is marketed for women’s ministry groups, and it is full of bad doctrine. But the author is extremely likable, she has done many good deeds in the name of the Lord, and frankly, the women in the group are now invested. They are offended that someone is questioning what they think has been an edifying study. ~ Aimee Byrd
I’ve always said that if Jesus came back the first place he’d go today would be the Christian Bookseller’s Association…” RC Sproul, sermon “The Cleansing of the Temple”
For years, you’ve sold books by prosperity preachers and false prophets such as Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, John Hagee, and Jesse Duplantis. I’ve seen their books in your store.They were there today. For years, men and women have come into your store looking for spiritual bread and you’ve sold them the leaven of very men who devour houses. Prosperity preachers sell a false gospel and false hope to people who don’t have a whole lot. You help them. ~ Seth Dunn, in An Open Letter to a local Christian bookseller in his town.