Have you wondered about the popularity of the series, “Desperate Housewives?” Surprised by the sometimes-bizarre behaviors of these affluent suburban women who seemingly have so much going for them? In their “desperation,” these women scorn purity, discipline, honesty, relationships, and are driven by emptiness. They live only for personal happiness, whatever it costs and whomever it hurts. The traditional values of home and family aren’t even on the horizon. (Is it any wonder the Muslim world is rejecting this view of a “Christian nation” and its values?)
Though not necessarily in their actions, in their emptiness I can truly relate to those “Desperate Housewives.” For them as well as for some of us from non-faith backgrounds, the question of God doesn’t seem relevant to the happiness equation. At the very least I certainly shared their underlying emptiness.
As a young married woman, with a loving and supportive husband, a darling little girl, and the freedom to stay at home to care for her; I was still restless, unsatisfied, and a frequent patron of the malls; certainly immature and greatly undisciplined. As a first generation believer, without a family role model, even with great teaching in DTS-led churches, I struggled with a lack of personal confidence; uncertain about how to balance life, uncertain what God desired for me, unsure of my role as a mother.
I remember lounging in our family room in the avocado-green easy chair, feet up, while Julie, our daughter, as pre-schooler toddled around with a wet diaper, supper dishes stacked up in the sink, clothes falling out of the hamper, reading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret and wondering why it didn’t work. I had all the right information--so I thought.
I’d read a lot about “let go and let God.” It sounded like a good idea to me, but He wasn’t doing such a great job with the housekeeping! Somehow I hadn’t connected practical living and spiritual thinking. I’d never seen it lived out in the life of an older woman. I was truly so heavenly minded that I was not much earthly good!
Then one day I called a new friend–raised in a strong believing home--and asked her to go to the mall; and she replied, “I’d love to. Let me see what God has for the day and I’ll get right back to you.” I never considered that God cared if I went to the mall or not--or that He might have something more productive for me to do. That relationship and others opened a new door--a new way to look at life: one that began to show me another way to live.
So you see why I have such a passion that our younger generation receives that kind of role model? Why I think women ministering to women is the alternative to the empty solutions proposed by the desperate housewives? Why I am so delighted that DTS is now training women to resource ministry to women in many local churches?
In one of the first exercises of our mission, Entrust’s, course, Women Serving Women, we ask the question, “What words come to your mind when you hear …”
“Women’s Ministries.” Or “Women in Ministry”?
Hopefully NOT “Desperate Housewives”!
Take a moment and reflect on that question in your own mind ….
We get all kinds of responses! If we had time, you’d give us quite a sample too!
From trouble to terrific
From questionable to quotable
From gossips to good
The tagline of our mission Entrust reads:
“Multiplying leaders for multiplying churches.”
Does this apply to women? That’s the question we often hear debated! And I believe the debate about “who is a leader” often holds us back from stepping through a door God has clearly opened--stealing the energy from the task He has given us!
Remember the scene where Jesus affirms that Mary’s choice to learn at His feet as the “better part?” He was counter cultural in His value and honor of women and their significant place in the plan of God. He saw their strategic role in the purposes of God.
You know where I’m going, right? Think with me for a moment with about this familiar passage:
Turn with me to that familiar passage in Titus 2:3-5. See if you would agree with me how strategic and biblical it is that women be effectively equipped to minister to, to lead at the least other women.
3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (NIV)
Women do make a difference! How they live and relate does make a difference! They matter to a watching world, to the church and to God.
First, consider the last phrase: “So that no one will malign the word of God.”
· In another version, “so that the word of God will not be discredited.”
Is there any doubt that “the word of God is being maligned?”
· Just last week, Yahoo claimed to debunk the miracle of Jesus’ walking on the water: someone has hypothesized that the Sea of Galilee froze over!
· Last week, I watched a man interviewed on 60 Minutes who says Jesus didn’t die on the cross…and, of course, no resurrection…and, of course, he has written a book on the “Jesus Papers,” which, of course, he cannot locate.
· Daily a cursory observation of mainstream media and popular books validates the skepticism of a watching world.
So, it does make a difference what women do!
Second, note the contrast as Paul described the character of women called to train other women--two positives, and two negatives:
I’m convinced that when women, not unlike men, are not challenged to discover and exercise their spiritual gifts and enter into God’s purposes for them, they often gravitate to other sources of superficial satisfaction (from the mall to men)--other addictions that distract them from the emptiness of life lived without reference to God.
On the other hand, when a woman is encouraged to become all that God intended, she becomes a role model for younger women of satisfied womanhood and fulfillment. She is personally satisfied and makes a significant difference in her every part of her world.
Such a woman impacted my life with her passion for Christ and her example of godly womanhood.
In 1952, a single English woman arrived in Southern California as a result of the communist takeover in China, where she had been serving with the China Inland Mission as a missionary, training women in the Bible at a seminary for women. With her heart heavy for her beloved Chinese, A. Wetherell Johnson reluctantly responded to a request by several American women to teach them the Bible. From that small beginning with one satisfied woman developed what is now an international bible-teaching and training ministry reaching over 200,000 people worldwide--Bible Study Fellowship, BSF International.
And what led Miss J (as we affectionately termed her) to believe that women could be equipped to teach and train others (besides our passage of Titus 2)?
A. Miss J’s experience. She labored to speak and write Mandarin Chinese. She would prepare a brief message and deliver it. Her “simply Bible woman” who translated it for her would speak for 30 to 45 minutes, and women would respond in numbers to the message. She was persuaded that if ordinary Chinese Bible women dependent upon the Spirit of God could teach other women; so could ordinary American women be trained to teach the Bible.
B. I became one of her “ordinary American bible women” for almost 25 years of my life. Her example, her confidence in me, and her training enabled me to discover the joy of leading and training other women. I began that journey from Desperate Housewife to the joy of discovering servanthood.
C. Miss J, herself seminary trained, was committed, as you are here at DTS, to serious training of women to be effective in leading other women. She resisted “spoon feeding” as she called it. Each week our discussion leaders prepared “homiletics” on the passage being studied. When women complained about “why” they needed to do this extra work to simply facilitate their groups, she would respond that God was always preparing them for future ministry.
D. Seeing lives touched by yours is deeply, richly satisfying. There is no substitute for seeing God work in the lives of others as you make yourself available. And, as you know from your studies, discovering God in the Scriptures changes your life.
E. When you think of it, about the time a woman completes child rearing days, God would have you begin to invest in the next generation more completely.
In the past six years I witnessed this same transformation repeated in our recent project with the Baptist Union of Russia, where we had the privilege over the past six years to train twenty-one amazing Russian Women from cities across that vast land of eleven time zones to train other women in ministry.
God providentially and previously equipped our faculty for the project; many of whom you know; Jeanne Hendricks, Joye Baker, Mary Dean, Lynn Etta Manning, Gail Seidel, Dianne Miller, and others. As we traveled together several times a year we watched God transform shy and hesitant Russian women into teachers and trainers themselves.
They came to us with their heads bowed, uncertain, lacking confidence. We watched as they grew confident in God’s power in them, as their shoulders lifted, and their heads raised, and God transformed their character. We saw them get excited to discover they could study the Bible for themselves, using a course designed around Prof. Hendricks’ Living by the Book.
Today, these twenty-one women, in teams of three, are training an additional one hundred five women in seven regional centers, replicating their training. And their one hundred five women in teams of three have scattered to twenty-four new locations to train an additional three hundred sixty women touching over one hundred towns and villages in Russia!
During our training, Peter Mischevich, a DTS graduate and now Vice President of the Baptist Union in Russia, asked me at breakfast in Moscow a provocative question:
“What would you like for me to communicate to our Union pastors regarding women?”
My answer to Peter and to all men who have asked me that question over the years, and especially to you men here at DTS who are preparing for the pastorate is this,
“I’m looking for Titus pastors--men who take seriously Paul’s exhortation to Titus regarding the equipping of older women to train and equip the younger women.”
My passion--my concern—is that you would step into this clearly commanded and immense job God entrusted to us. Consider that at least 50% of most churches are women. In Russia, 70% to 80% of churches are women. To fail to fully train and utilize them makes women one of the most underutilized resources available to the kingdom.
So, where does that take you and me today, with this open door?
Women, you WILL make a difference in the way the world views the Word of God. When you model satisfied and significant lives, demonstrating love and commitment in your key relationships, purity in your character, and discipline in your responsibilities, people will sit up and take notice! They will ask how you have come to be satisfied. Your lives will validate the truth of biblical living. Our lives will impact the watching world.
Men, as Pastors, many of you soon to graduate, you will have the privilege of opening the door for spiritual transformation of your women as you intentionally provide them an opportunity to be trained. You can be the Titus pastor, creating opportunities for your women.
As husbands, present or future, you can, as mine certainly did, encourage and enable your wife to identify and develop her gifts and free her to take her place in the purposes of God. This will sometimes be a sacrifice, but your affirmation, your support, and your confidence will make all the difference.
As DTS and other seminaries graduate more women to serve in these staff roles, the resources available to local churches are growing as well. I believe that while strategic ministry to and by women may have begun in the parachurch movement, the vision has now been caught by the local church. In that environment, even more effective ministry can be developed. Providing a place on your staff for this enhances the process.
I’ve shared a lot of my story, because I’ve discovered I’m not unique, here in America or around the world. Women are eager to see their lives make a difference--to live out God’s call to become all that God designed them to be. It is my prayer that each of you will commit to do your part in providing an environment for the transformation of Desperate Housewives into Dedicated Servants.