Posted in theology

Women’s ministries then and now

By Elizabeth Prata

Lois and Eunice were Timothy’s mom and grandmom. They were lauded for teaching Timothy the Jewish scriptures well, and raising him as an obedient son of God. He was ready for the Gospel message when it came. We know where that ended up! Timothy became a pastor.

What if Lois and Eunice said one day “We believe in the passion, purpose, and potential of every woman everywhere. Let’s start a guild to activate every woman to make an impact in her world for the Kingdom”. And, what if, forsaking teaching the boy, Lois and Eunice cast their eyes on the wider world, abandoned their sphere of influence at home and instead struck off to focus on women everywhere ‘make an impact’? No Timothy, true son of Paul and pastor to many. The Lord developed spheres of influence and roles for each demographic, including women for a reason. The Lord puts us where we are for a reason.

Priscilla and Aquila were a couple who believed, and were knowledgeable enough of the scriptures to take Apollos aside to teach Apollos the fuller picture of salvation. (Acts 18:26). Given her name, Priscilla was likely from a distinguished Roman family. She is always paired with husband Aquila each time she is mentioned. Imagine if she came home one day and said to Aquila that the ‘Lord’ had given her a massive understanding of scripture and an ability to teach (men included) and now He ‘wants’ her to go forth from Corinth and found an organization that will unleash a movement to promote healing and reconciliation around the world? “You can handle the tentmaking for a while, right? And the kids? I’m heading to Egypt to promote healing and reconciliation around the world.” What if Prisca had gone off earlier and missed the opportunity to teach Apollos with her husband? The Lord puts us where we are for a reason.

Dorcas was a sewist living in Joppa. She was beloved in her sphere for doing good works. But one day she decided that wasn’t enough. She added many other tasks to her resume. In addition to sewist, she added writer, photographer, designer, author, CEO of a Guild, Conference Fundraiser, Conference speaker, and world traveling Justice Activist. Oh, And mom. And wife. She left the sewing circle she’d founded to travel to Africa to teach women there how to sew. But she commissioned an artist to draw a picture of her being interviewed by a leading person in the city to send back to her sewing circle so they could see that she speaks of Jesus in that distant continent and be proud of her.

Lydia was a convert, an early convert. She had a lucrative business selling purple and a large enough house to host early church gatherings. But one day, she decided that wasn’t enough. She wanted a larger ministry. She perceived the ‘Lord’ gave her all these monetary means so that she could go to Alexandria, Rome, Ephesus, etc. and teach because, after all, “I am living proof.” She traveled far and wide every other weekend as ‘living proof’ while her two living daughters were small – they ate a lot of takeout. Oh well.

What am I saying? I look at modern women’s ministry mission statements, taglines and activity because they reveal a lot about the heart of the women who create them. What I did above is I’d translated modern day women’s ministry taglines and activities applied them to known New Testament women who were noted for their ministry. I’d inserted Lois and Eunice into Christine Caine’s tagline of Propel Women. Isn’t it silly to think of Lois and Eunice launching off into a ministry that promised to “activate every woman?” And what about ‘activating’ Timothy? Doesn’t he count?

Propel Women: Founder Christine Caine believes in…women. “Propel believes in the passion, purpose, and potential of every woman everywhere. Propel exists to activate every woman to make an impact in her world for the Kingdom.”

Priscilla’s decision to unleash a movement to promote healing and reconciliation around the world was from the mission statement of Jennie Allen’s IF:Gathering. Most of the modern day celebrity women with ministries that are famous and platformed are wives and moms. Isn’t it funny to think of Corinthian-dwelling Priscilla coming home one day to announce to husband Aquila that she’s going to focus on promoting reconciliation and healing around the world? And leave her husband to travel to other cities doing this healing and reconciling? And he could do the house stuff and raise the kids?

If:Gathering: Jennie Allen funded IF:Gathering in 2013. The name was born from a question the founder posed, “IF God is real…then what?” One of their foundational, significant activities according to IRS statement is “To gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.” Wow. It’s a lot of work to gather an entire generation of women and teach them to live out their purpose. And what purpose would that be? To doubt God exists? Their mission is to “Unleash a movement to promote healing and reconciliation around the world.” Healing FROM what? Reconciliation TO what?

What if Lydia had gotten it in her head that this was her mission in life? No nascent church in Philippi, they had nowhere to meet.

The hypothetical Dorcas was a sewist, and that is also what Raechel Myers of She Reads Truth calls herself…in addition to all the other things listed, which I found on Raechel’s website. The commissioning a picture was a reference to Myers having left her husband and children on one of her frequent trips away from home, to be interviewed for a show, and sending the photo back to her family through the laptop so the young kids could see Mommy on the flat screen speaking of Jesus in another city and be proud of her. I am not making this up.

Living Proof: Beth Moore’s ministry has a primary purpose to “Disseminate religious teachings through public speaking engagements and various forms of media” and that purpose has remained fairly consistent over years of declaring so in IRS tax returns. But I’ve always been curious as to why she named the ministry “Living Proof” in the first place. Perhaps it’s named after herself as mentioned here? Or here? “I’m living proof” seems a bit narcissistic to me. Shouldn’t the focus be on Jesus? I think so.

Ministry taglines and mission statements say a lot. I think of Julie Roys and her statement that her work will be “Restoring the church.”

The Roys Report: Self-stated church reporter Julie Roys’ main activity is ‘Restoring the church’. She named the website after herself. Is it hubris to state that your work will restore the church? I think so. Jesus restores the church.

Going Beyond: Priscilla Shirer’s name for her ministry always puzzled me. Going beyond what? Her IRS tax return states the non-profit corporation’s “vision is teaching women through the expository teaching of the Word of God.” All well and good. Except for the part about teaching women to hear God’s voice. But I’m still puzzled. Going beyond what? Going beyond scripture apparently…

Of course this is not an exhaustive list and not meant to be a broad brush. It’s simply a sampling of how some of these popular ministries are positioning themselves and stating their mission. The LORD has said that all his children have a mission, to go and make disciples and to teach them to follow His commandments, and to baptize. (Matthew 28:19).

To various demographics (children, youths, young men in the faith, elder men in the faith, widows, young women, etc) He gave additional commands. For women, our primary orientation is the home. It isn’t to be a gadabout, it isn’t to start global movements, it isn’t to leave the hubby and kids behind so she can be a conference speaker. Yet these and other women’s ministries state their mission is just that, or function so.

Why are their eyes on the world instead of the home? I find that taking the words or actions of some of these modern people and comparing them to the Bible’s women helps re-orient me to what’s proper and what’s not. I cannot envision Lydia, Priscilla, Dorcas, Eunice or Lois doing the things that these celebrity women do, and still receive the same praise we read of them in the Bible. They were lauded because their primary orientation was the home. They were praised because they were content in the roles God gave them, and you see the roles were varied! They did good works in their city, they raised their children, they were closely partnered with their husbands, they were hospitable…

I hope and pray that the women in my sphere are content with the roles God gives them. I was raised to want fame and accolades, and I still battle that, working every day to squash my pride and remain content in my own sphere. I know it’s hard and sometimes we think we don’t make an impact for the kingdom unless we are doing BIG things. But Eliza Spurgeon did a ‘big’ thing, raising Charles in the ways of the LORD. So did Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan, supporting him all the way. So did Prisca, Lydia, Dorcas, Eunice, Lois…and you can too.

Ladies, pray for contentment in the role God has given you, whether single, married, widow, young or old. His wisdom is perfect and nothing we say or do in His name goes unnoticed. Because after all, we only really have an audience of One.

Author:

Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

3 thoughts on “Women’s ministries then and now

  1. Wow…..Elizabeth you have mined hundreds of gems through the years….emeralds, rubies, sapphires etc., but this a DIAMOND! Brilliant, perfectly cut and sparkling! There is no more to say but thank God for your gift !

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