The following piece, written by Pastor John Chester of Piedmont Bible Church and Parking Space 23, is published on Michelle Lesley’s blog. One piece of advice he offers to pastors who desire to build healthy women’s ministries is “Be willing to veto a book, a curriculum, or even a topic that the women’s Bible study wants to use.” Pastors must also be willing to take the blame for the veto. Here’s more great advice:
It is no secret that I am not a fan of discernment ministries, and that I think the concept of Biblical discernment is grossly misunderstood by many. But that in no way means that I don’t think telling truth from error and sound theology from errant (or even heretical) theology is unimportant.
And nowhere is it more important than in women’s ministry. The reason I say that is simple, more than 50% of the people in our churches are either women or they are growing into women. According to The Pew Research Center 55% of those attending Evangelical churches are women.
Yet women’s ministry is often not thought of much by us pastors, I think because we view “women’s ministry” as a thing or program, rather than ministry to women who make up more than half of the congregation we are charged to shepherd. And so we spin it off to someone else or put it on our benign neglect list so that we can concentrate on “more important” things. But nothing is more important than the souls of the women of the church. And practically speaking, any error introduced in a women’s Bible study will work its way through whole families and infect the whole church.
With that in mind, let me offer some tips to guard against error in your church’s women’s ministry.
Preach The Bible
The pulpit sets the tone for the church and everything that the church does, or at least it should. The good news is that even the smallest church with the least talented preacher can have a strong pulpit, because the strength of the pulpit depends on what is preached, not the preacher. What the church needs is a healthy dose of Bible. And by a healthy dose, I mean all that should be preached is the Bible.
It is the Scripture that is inspired and the Word of God that is living and active, and it is the word of God that makes your pulpit strong, not your ability. No one needs your ten tips on having a more productive quiet time or your five steps toward a healthy marriage even if you sprinkle them with a few verses. The people the Lord has entrusted to you need to hear from Him, not you. Your job as a preacher is to decrease while the whole counsel of God is declared. By all means, illustrate, explain, introduce, conclude and apply the text, just stick to the text!
Why this is so important for women’s ministry and guarding the women of your church from error is that it will trickle down in to the church’s Bible studies. If on Sunday (and whenever else you preach) the women of the church get a strong dose of God’s truth, they are going to be better able to spot error and less susceptible to it. And when they see that you have a high view of Scripture, they will develop a high view of Scripture too. When they see you are a Berean who evaluates everything in light of what Scripture says, they will be more likely too as well.
And as a corollary, when you’re preaching the Bible, use it as an opportunity to teach the church, women included, how to think about and interpret the Bible. I’m not saying that the pulpit is a place for a discourse on the grammatico-historic hermeneutic, but it is a place to (often) say things like “this would have meant to the original readers” or “context determines meaning” or “Whenever you see a ‘therefore,’ ask yourself, ‘What is the ‘therefore’ there for?’.” These may be throwaway phrases to you, but they teach the congregation, including the women, how to approach Scripture.
This seems very basic but it needs to be said, you need to know what is going on, what is being taught and what materials are being used. And you need to read any material being used in any class or study. Read, not skim, not look up on the internet, not ask your seminary alumni group on Facebook, but actually read. Need I remind you that you will give an account for how you cared for the souls the Lord entrusts to you? When you stand before God to give an account, “Well, I Googled it,” is not going to be good enough.
You need to pay attention to what is popular in the world of women’s ministry too. The women in your church buy and read more books than the men. Pay attention to what is out there, and don’t be afraid to address any errors that are gaining traction in “churchianity”.
Check out Berean Research’s White Paper on DISCERNMENT