Word-filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and serving the church
Edited by Gloria Furman and Kathleen Nielson
Crossway, Wheaton, 2015
Word-filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and serving the church is one of the latest releases from The Gospel Coalition’s growing number of excellent books. Ten women contribute (including Nancy Guthrie, Carrie Sandom and Claire Smith), along with a number of others who are interviewed. These women all identify as complementarian and are involved in a variety of ministries across the globe. Despite the variety among the women contributing, what is common to each one is the strongly held belief that the word of God is to be central for all women’s ministry, and that the central place for this ministry is in the context of the local church.
I think the greatest strength of Word-filled Women’s Ministry is that it takes the word of God seriously, and it takes the importance of women understanding and sharing God’s word with others seriously. It teaches and reminds women, no matter who we are, that we have been saved for a purpose; that we are Spirit-filled and gifted by God to use those gifts to edify the church and reach those who don’t trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour; and that we edify and reach others by sharing God’s word with them. The book’s argument is that “Profitable ministry among women is grounded in God’s Word, grows in the context of God’s people, and aims for the glory of Christ” (p. 13), and certainly each of the chapters begins to unpack what that means and what it looks like on the ground.
Word-filled Women’s Ministry has many other strong points, including these:
- it is aimed at the average Christian woman (though I would also encourage the average Christian man to read it, including pastors)
- it is written at a popular level
- the contributors demonstrate that they understand what many women are thinking, feeling, and have experienced about issues surrounding the ministries of women—therefore many women will easily identify with the content and find it fruitful and beneficial
- the focus is on God’s word and so therefore the glory of Christ
- the authors recognise the need to see women trained in ministry—no matter who they are and what ministries they’re involved in—and that this training takes a variety of shapes and forms.
Although this book a helpful resource for all Christians, it will be of particular help to those heading up women’s ministries in their churches, whether they’re just starting out or wanting to rethink what they’re doing. It’s a helpful corrective against the views of some that emphasize women’s events too much at the expense of God’s word.
It’s also an encouragement for all of us to keep plodding away at sharing God’s word:
The work of ministry among women will matter forever because “in the Lord [our] labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58). (p. 244)
This is so important to remember, as so much of ministry is not measurable. At times we can doubt if Bible study is really worth it, and feel discouraged. Much of women’s ministry is also behind the scenes, and the only way we’re going to continue in ministry is if we believe that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour and that he’s coming back to judge. In fact, we can only keep believing that truth if we’re continuing to feed on God’s word. As we share it with others we become more convinced of that great truth ourselves!
Word-filled Women’s Ministry is a wonderful book for women to read together, and for this reason I think the book would be enhanced by some discussion questions at the end of each chapter. I could imagine, for example, a committee that oversees the women’s ministry at a church, or two women meeting to read the book together, finding such discussion questions very beneficial. To have more contributors who are single would also have been good. I think the book would also be strengthened by including a whole chapter on women listening to God’s word through sermons—addressing not only the how and why, but also how we as women can shape what sort of sermons we and others hear, and our part in helping others in our local church apply what they’ve heard preached.
Word-filled Women’s Ministry is a great resource that I would encourage you to read. I hope God uses this book to change many women’s ministries around the world to have God’s word at the centre, so that Christians are edified, people are saved, and Jesus Christ is glorified!
Jane Tooher serves on the faculty of Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, where she lectures in Ministry. Jane is also the Director of the Priscilla & Aquila Centre, a centre that aims to encourage women in ministry in partnership with men.