I wish you could meet Lorie. Lorie’s life is complicated by the ongoing difficulties that come with multiple sclerosis.
But that doesn’t keep her from counseling several women on a weekly basis. Her unrelenting joy in the promises of God helps her to bring about gospel growth in other women. Lorie pours into others what others have helped pour into her: the practice of bringing the Scriptures to bear on all aspects of life.
This is just one example of the kind of ministry that a well-equipped woman can have. It’s a ministry which is a necessary piece in the puzzle that is the local church.
In order to help pastors equip the women in their churches for ministry, this article will speak to three issues: 1) Why is equipping women for ministry important? 2) What kind of a church will best equip women for ministry? 3) And how do you equip women for ministry?
WHY IS EQUIPPING WOMEN FOR MINISTRY IMPORTANT?
First, why is equipping women for ministry important?
1. It is part of your calling (Colossians 1:28).
As pastors, we are right to insist on the biblical guidelines that reserve the office of elder for men, and we should therefore be concerned about the character and theological acumen of our men. However, we must also intentionally minister to women so they can mature and provide gospel help to the body in order to present every man and woman complete in Christ.
2. It promotes the reputation of Christ (Titus 2:3-5).
The reason Paul instructs Titus to exhort older women to minister to younger women is so “that the word of God may not be reviled.” The reputation of Christ is jeopardized when our roles and relationships in the home do not reflect the gospel that we preach. Therefore, women must be taught to apply the gospel to their situations and then help other women do the same.
3. Women are desperately needed for ministry.
The ministry of our churches is woefully incomplete without women. Our churches need women who love gutsy theology, gritty service, and the rigors of gospel counseling. This is especially so because there are some situations, particularly in ministering to other women, in which women will generally be far more effective than men.
WHAT KIND OF A CHURCH WILL BEST EQUIP WOMEN FOR MINISTRY?
The second question I want to address is, what kind of a church will best equip women for ministry?
Effective ministry of any kind starts with honoring the Scriptures through faithful expositional preaching. Women who regularly experience the powerful effect of the Word and who are fed and invigorated by a diet of solid food (Heb. 5:13-14) are not only skilled in handling the “word of righteousness,” but their appetite is trained for more and more substantive material. As a result, they will have the discernment to expose the instability of an experientially based life (and books). They will also resonate with biblically based counsel.
Women who are skilled in the word benefit the health of their families and the whole church. However, if you are not equipping men, these women will grow frustrated. Women want to be passionate about the gospel, and they thrive when they are surrounded by men who set the pace.
Finally, the church should honor and champion women who labor side by side in the gospel (Phil. 4.3). Part of the reason Paul wrote Philippians was his desire to see Euodia and Syntyche back into fellowship with each other and in the trenches of ministry.
To summarize, the kind of church that will best equip women for ministry is a church that feeds on expositional preaching, that equips men for ministry, and that honors and champions women who labor for the sake of the gospel.
HOW DO YOU EQUIP WOMEN FOR MINISTRY?
Finally, how do you equip women for ministry? Here are some practical encouragements for pastors.
1. Pray for the women in your church.
Our necessary personal focus on training men may unintentionally lead us to overlook our women. God uses our prayers to bring about growth and keep opportunities and concerns before us.
2. Identify women of good character and train them to minister to other women.
One way to train women for ministry is to offer Bible studies for women with the expectation that each attendee be willing to take another woman through the study after the class is completed. As other women in the congregation need counsel and encouragement, you will have a team of women ready to help.
While similar struggles will naturally bind women together, many will want to go beyond sharing similar experiences to mutually drawing refreshment from the waters of the Word.
More intentional training can be done through studies that are specifically designed for this purpose such as Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul Tripp. Other training is provided through the annual conference on biblical counseling sponsored by the National Association of Nouthetic Counseling, and Peacemaker Ministries offers excellent seminars on conflict resolution.
3. Use women in counseling.
I am a much better marriage counselor when my wife is involved. She picks up on so many things that I tend to overlook. Our teamwork in this area is an opportunity for her to use her gifts to build up the body.
There are many other women in our church who are skilled in counseling and have helped to create a culture in which it is expected that all women will grow in understanding and applying the gospel to their lives.
4. Commend women who embody gutsy theology and effective ministry.
Your church probably has a Phoebe who sets the pace for others (Rom. 16:1-2). So, as Paul does to the Romans, commend such women to your church. Flavor your sermons with illustrations of women in your church family and in church history. Find good books written by women that address issues for other women and point out good books written by women that are beneficial for the church at large. Nancy Pearcy’s work Total Truth is great example of this.
5. Champion godly women at funerals.
Services for saints are an opportunity to praise evidences of grace, but services for scoundrels can serve this purpose as well. One woman in my church was married to a miserable and hateful man for many years. He finally died. At his funeral, I did not even attempt to say anything good about him, but rather held up the character of his wife whose faithfulness and care reflected the gospel under some of the most adverse conditions.
Women who are growing in the gospel through effective ministry get a front row seat to what God is doing in the church. Their encouragement and persistence helps a ministry flourish. If you’re a pastor, you should prayerfully and carefully consider how you can equip women for ministry in the local church.
Robert "Bob" Johnson is the pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville, Michigan.
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