In various cultural contexts over the years, New Testament churches have been accused of male dominance and chauvinism. This perception is often justified with caustic comments such as, “There is nothing meaningful for the sisters to do. They can’t pray, preach, or even give out a hymn.” Others have expressed similar sentiments. “In the local church, we enter, we sit, we cover our heads and we keep silent. We serve in the kitchen, clean the toilets, babysit the kids, and in some places, we aren’t even allowed to teach Sunday school.” What role does today’s contemporary Christian woman have in the local church?
First of all, since we desire to be Biblically sound in our convictions, let’s look at Scripture. Who are those women indelibly engraved on the pages of the gospels? What is spoken of them? What contribution did they make to Jesus’ ministry? As we scan the rest of the New Testament, it’s fascinating to see the importance God places on the role of women to advance His cause on earth.
At the beginning, after a whole list of affirming statements from our Creator, we are abruptly faced with the reality, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” God promised to make a helper for Adam. Before Adam ever laid eyes on how beautiful God made his rib, he knew this about Eve, “She is a helper suitable for me.” We learn throughout Scripture the vital “helper” role that women have played in human history.
Who would negate the privilege that Elisabeth had of bringing into this world and training up the greatest of prophets, John Baptist? Was Mary not overcome with awe as she held God incarnate in her arms? Did the Lord Jesus not appreciate and validate the helpfulness of women in his life? Women helped finance his ministry (Luke 8:1-3). The Samaritan woman brought the whole city to Jesus with a simple, “come and see” invitation (John 4). Martha often refreshed Him with warm hospitality in her home as Mary sat at his feet intently listening to His every word (Luke 10:38-39). Others worshiped Him as they washed and kissed His feet and another anointed His head with very costly spikenard. (Luke 7; Mark 14). Did you notice that each was occupied with Christ? Generally speaking, there was nothing supernatural about their actions. They did what they could, when they could. The judgmental glances, the expressions of disgust, and the sharp critical words never deterred their sacrificial service for Christ. It was Christ Himself who defended each one and validated the acts of kindness. Christ gently explained to Martha the priority of spiritual exercise over physical activity. He helped the Pharisee understand that the one who has been forgiven much loves much. He defended Mary’s devotional act when the chorus of critical disciples condemned her. Our Savior deeply appreciated each kind act of sacrificial love.
What about the women recorded in Acts who were persevering in united prayer with the apostles and disciples? They were filled with the Holy Spirit just as the men were. What about the women who were persecuted and incarcerated for the gospel’s sake? What about the women who, with their husbands and families scattered abroad, continued to gossip the gospel? John Mark’s mom, Mary, showed such courage in opening her home for an all night prayer meeting in a city hostile to Christianity. Have we contemplated Priscilla who, together with Aquila, explained the way of the Lord more perfectly to an eloquent man? And what about Timothy’s mother, Eunice, full of authentic faith, who raised her boy for the Lord even when her husband was not a believer? The list continues. They were helpers, not seeking glory or prominence, just aiming to aid the gospel work with the unique means each one had.
Did any of these aforementioned women travel some arduous journey seeking to discover which unique spiritual gift the Holy Spirit had mysteriously placed deep within their soul? Perhaps they simply recognized their divinely appointed role of helper, and did just that. They helped! They found purpose and meaning in the sphere allotted to them; they embraced their calling. They were courageous and compassionate women of conviction. Some were single moms, like Mary, John Mark’s mother. Some were in difficult relationships, like Eunice, Timothy’s mom. Some were immigrants, like Lydia or single, like Phoebe. It’s likely that some were divorced, like the Samaritan woman. Some were widows, like Dorcas and others unnamed, like the elect lady and her children. Some were older, like Elizabeth, or young virgins, like Mary. Each one had the mindset of Mary who confessed, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV).
It’s now 2016. Your cultural context is different, but the Creator’s purpose for you is the same. Women are helpers. There is a desperate need for spiritual women to rise up and help – help spiritually. Help the victims of sexual, physical, emotional, or even spiritual abuse overcome their past and heal in Christ. Help the countless women who struggle with regrets over a promiscuous past or a heartwrenching abortion. Who will hold a broken, betrayed wife in her arms and help her pick up the pieces of a ruined relationship? Who are the contemporary Christian women of today’s generation courageous enough to become personally vulnerable to effectively teach younger women that loving your husband is more than cooking and cleaning. It involves being engaged emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Who are the experienced wise women of today who are able to draw alongside and give timely encouragement to frustrated new moms, exhausted by the judgmental glances they receive? Are you? Are you willing to try a new recipe with spiritual ingredients, engaging in a deeper level of confidential conversation with a precious soul whose heart is heavy? Dear reader, if this sounds too messy for your neat, organized life, you might call upon the Lord to bring revival to your assembly. After all, the world is hurting. Sin ravages lives. People are searching today for reality and meaning. God is looking for Christian women to authentically live the gospel in their communities.
If you were expecting a questionnaire consisting of 100 multiple choice questions to help you discern your specific mysterious spiritual gift, you’re likely disappointed with what you’ve just read. Being a helper flies in the face of today’s mantra urging women to find themselves. Please reconsider your concept of spiritual gifts, and just get ready to help. Help your neighbor, your co-worker, other moms in your kid’s play group. Volunteer at your child’s school, develop friendships with the wives of your employees. How well do you know the families of the Sunday school children? Have you ever gathered to pray out loud with other women, calling upon God for the salvation of your children, revival in your assembly, unity, and vision for the oversight? What about investing time in a women’s Bible study and coffee hour as you seek to cultivate a genuine love for the Scriptures in others? Could you assist with the Moms and Tots program in your area? What’s required for a few of you to visit the women’s prison on a weekly basis? Is there an older couple close to you who would appreciate a meal? Would the aged sisters appreciate a visit in their care home? Would you sing with them or hold hands and pray together? The list could go on. Knowing and exercising your spiritual gifts might have a lot to do with what you already do every day. You already are loving your children unconditionally. Your spirit fills with thankfulness as your exhausted body bends over to kiss a little forehead good night. You are valuable. Your calling impacts future generations. You’ve been entrusted with a vital, unique role that only you can fill. Go ahead, glance upward. You’ll catch His eye. He is appreciating you.