Chris Adams, Senior Lead Women’s Ministry Specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources, Nashville, Tennessee since 1994, has helped pioneer women’s ministry as we know it today. Prior to her employment at LifeWay Chris led women’s ministry at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas. She is Executive Editor of Journey, a women’s devotional magazine, and compiled Women Reaching Women: Beginning and Building a Growing Women’s Ministry, Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, and Women Reaching Women in Crisis. Visit her blog at http://lifeway.com/womenreachingwomen.
(1) In your experience and study, how have women in the church been impacted by feminist thinking?
Chris: I do believe feminist thinking has impacted women in the church. We began to think we weren’t doing enough since we were encouraged to do it all and be it all. Motherhood wasn’t enough any more, neither was working outside the home. We needed more, needed to be more, needed to be everything to everyone, including ourselves.
Women do deserve equal pay for equal work as well as many other positive things that came out of this movement. But now we have division between those mothers who chose to stay home and those who chose to work outside the home, women who marry and those who stay single. We look at each other and either we do not measure up to them (since we have been taught to make a name for ourselves) or we see ourselves as more important than another.
The passage in 1 Peter that encourages us to esteem others as better than ourselves, to submit to one another, to put others needs ahead of our own is not valued by many in the feminist culture. Often feminist thinking directed us to think only about what is best for US, what will make US happy, what WE want to do, not to defer to others in submission.
We do not need to fit a mold other than what God has designed each of us to fulfill. As we disciple women, we must point them to Christ to discover who they are and what their purpose is. We need to encourage women to be all He wants them to be, at the same time we must appreciate how God gives another woman a very different way of living out her purpose. We must continually point women toward the truth in God’s Word especially when the current culture opposes truth.
(2) Why do you think gender-specific discipleship is an essential aspect of spiritual growth?
Chris: Titus 2:3-5 if very clear that older women are to teach younger women. That does not mean we cannot be discipled by the opposite sex, but women need women primarily to guide them to be women. A man cannot do this as effectively because he doesn’t fully understand women any better than women fully understand men.
Women (and men for that matter) tend to be more open with those of the same sex. It’s hard to discuss some issues in mixed groups. So because of the uniqueness and experiences of each sex that are unique to one sex or the other as well as the mandate for women to teach women, women and men need a discipleship group that is gender specific even if they are also in a mixed gender group. Or if not a group, a gender specific discipleship and/or mentoring relationship.
(3) What would be some of the benefits of having pastors/elders intentionally investing in and equipping older women to disciple younger women? (Titus 2:1, 3-5)
Chris: First of all for what it says to those leaders who often do not feel valued or supported in ministry. It says to them, we need you, you are vital to this mandate to teach women and we care enough to help you do it better. It also speaks to the body as a whole, especially to the women, of the value of women leading and serving and may help raise up more to serve in and through the church. Making it obvious (keeping it before the church) how and where women can serve and lead will open many doors of ministry in the church.