Dear Pastor or Ministry Leader,
As we start the New Year, consider a two-pronged resolution for 2016 toward the women in your church.
- I will be involved in discipling the women in my church.
- I will disciple women and encourage other discipleship efforts to have The Necessary Thing as their foundation.
What is The Necessary Thing? Jesus gives us insight on this with His interaction with Mary and Martha in Luke 10.
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
I am struck by the way Jesus phrases this last sentence. Mary has chosen the good thing, and He notes that this good thing can not be taken away from her. He is speaking with two women who don’t have a lot of earthly security. In that culture, you could literally lose everything in a moment. Who knows what their family had already lost through the Roman occupation. Did their parents lose their jobs? Neither Lazarus, Mary, or Martha seem to have spouses. Had they lost those along with their parents along the way? In a culture that devalued women, Mary might even lose her rights over her own body. From what we know of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, the Jews in that entire area eventually would indeed lose everything, even their temple, in the years ahead.
But Jesus notes that this transference of knowledge and doctrine from Jesus to Mary in that moment will not be taken away from her. As she sits at Jesus’ feet, Mary is getting the most important thing. She is receiving the investment from Jesus with the greatest potential for return. Of all the things Jesus does in His earthly ministry, it seems that His teaching of His disciples and explaining the Bible to them was the single most transformative work (outside of His death and resurrection). More than His miracles, it was His teaching that was the essence of His discipleship. He set His disciples at His feet, and He taught them. Whatever persecution they faced in the future that cost them homes, money, or even their lives, the doctrine they learned at Jesus’ feet could not be taken away from them.
Today, our various situations are rarely this bleak. But for many, there are deep struggles. Many women in particular navigate lives in which they are not the power holders, lives in which they stand to lose a great deal if things go downward. Many women did not cultivate a career path. They may have gotten a degree, but they slowed down their careers to raise children, becoming dependent on their husband’s income. When a husband dies or leaves, they lose more than just a spouse. We may want to help women minimize such a loss, and churches certainly should walk with women in such a situation to help them reach stability again. But don’t forget that there is an investment in the discipleship of women that can’t be taken away from them no matter what downward turn their life circumstances take.
A woman may attend your church for a short period of time, but what she learns of the Bible during that time to her will not be lost.
A woman may lose her health, but your teaching of the Bible to her will not be lost.
A woman may lose her financial security, but what she has learned of the Bible will remain with her always.
Our ministries to women need to understand their felt needs and walk with women through physical and financial struggle. But those things need to run parallel, not in place of, our teaching of the Word of God. Because as Jesus poignantly pointed out to Martha, no negative circumstance can rob a woman of that provision for her soul.
Pastors and ministry leaders, please commit to purposefully, strategically, and regularly investing in the women in your ministries with the Word of God. We need to teach the Bible, equipping women to understand it on their own. Because that is the thing that can’t be taken from them. Frankly, a lot of the traditional women’s Bible studies in evangelical churches do NOT do this. Pastors and elders, I hope you will actually open one or two of the studies your churches plan to do with women and seriously consider whether that study accurately handles the Word of God. We have some recommendations here and here and plan to add more in the future.
by Wendy Alsup