Called To Ladies Ministry
Vickie Kraft & Gwynne Johnson
Since scripture confirms that Christian women in general are qualified for ministry, to what specific biblical ministry are women called? And what specific criteria further identify the woman called to that ministry?
Let’s consider together a definitive passage, Titus 2:1-7, where Paul instructs the young pastor Titus in various aspects of his pastoral work.
You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Likewise, 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. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to 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.
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.
Paul the apostle was writing to a young pastor, Titus, whom he had left on the island of Crete. Paul evangelized and started small churches on Crete, and he left Titus with the responsibility to firmly establish those young churches so they would continue to expand and flourish.
However, there were serious problems in Crete, typical of any pagan society the gospel penetrates. First, they lacked role models to demonstrate what godly people were like. “In New Testament times, life in Crete had sunk to a deplorable moral level. The dishonesty, gluttony, and laziness of its people were proverbial.” No one was able to demonstrate what a godly husband and father looked like or to model how a Christian woman, wife, or mother should act.
Many young women coming to Christ today have not been reared in godly homes. Their parents may have been nominally Christian or attended church, but they did not demonstrate the reality of Christ in their daily routines. These young women truly don’t know what a godly woman, wife or mother looks like, and they desperately need that model. No one can model a godly Christian woman, except whom? A godly Christian woman!
The second problem we find in Titus 1:10. False teachers were deceiving and confusing people to the extent that Paul says in verse 16, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.” We encounter this same problem today. More people now claim to be evangelical Christians in America than ever before, and yet we impact society even less. Christianity is losing its influence and its power because it has lost its distinctiveness. Sometimes it is difficult to discern the difference between believers and unbelievers. Therefore, as in the Crete of Paul’s day, we have a need for proper role modeling.
As in Crete, we today have false teaching, and plenty of it. Without a biblical perspective, many women become confused, deceived, and dissatisfied. The biblical remedy of Titus 2 provides the antidote for false teaching and wrong behavior.
Sound teaching is the first element of that remedy. In Titus 2:1, Paul instructs Titus to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” In the Greek, the word sound means “healthy.” In other words, the false teachings so rampant were sick and diseased. Paul starts with teaching. So often we attempt to change conduct without first appealing to the mind and will. But God begins with right teaching. Important as this is, however, right teaching reveals just one side of the coin.
Modeling correct behavior by godly people provides the second element of the remedy. Role models are needed that reflect the life of Jesus Christ. Christians must be distinguishable from unbelievers. Christian women must know what living out the life of Christ looks like in the flesh. God through Paul instructs Titus to teach the older men, the younger men, and the older women, as well, so as to set an excellent example for them. But when the Lord, through Paul, speaks of the teaching and training of the younger women, His instructions to Titus change. Titus is to prepare the older women to teach and model for the younger women a godly lifestyle.
Why have a woman-to-woman ministry?
In a day of increasing moral failure among the pastorate, the wisdom of woman-to-woman ministry is obvious. Surveys indicate that as many as 90 percent of moral failures in the pastorate begin in counseling women. Women, by contrast, have the freedom to follow up other women to encourage them in personal matters. If women are allowed to do the job God assigned to them, perhaps temptation toward immorality can be averted in the pastor’s study.
However, numerous other reasons abound to demonstrate women’s effectiveness in ministry to women. Who but another woman can fully understand all the differing aspects of pregnancy and childbearing, postpartum blues, and PMS? Women understand the cabin fever that often attacks in the preschool years that I call “a season of little feet.” Another woman understands the mind weariness and isolation that can result from chasing energetic little ones who communicate primarily in one-syllable words and liberally spread sticky peanut butter and purple jelly on floors and walls.
Another woman can lift the spirits of a disappointed young wife who is discovering that her knick in shining armor leaves rust spots in the bathroom and socks on the floor. The older woman can help the young wife gain perspective, laugh at her circumstances, and dispel the fantasy that any knight comes rustproof in a fallen world. An older woman can encourage that younger woman to persist in love and hold on to her patience in her developing marriage. Another woman can share her own life experience as she learned how to balance the differing and demanding aspects of managing a home, loving a man, and rearing growing children.
A wise older woman becomes a resource in the case of sexual harassment or even abuse. She can be available to listen to, believe in, and intercede on behalf of a young woman trapped in a dangerous or abusive situation. She will be able to assist her in finding help and support from the leadership of the church or community. A godly older woman points the younger woman to the only one who will never disappoint her and is completely trustworthy in any and all of life’s situations. She will instruct her from the Bible and from her own personal life about the journey of coming to know Him better.
What are the older women to model for the younger women?
Jesus pinpointed loving God and loving others as the core reality of life. Therefore, we can expect that the lives of the older women He desires to train younger women will reflect His priorities. Titus 2:1-7 (quoted earlier) describes the older woman God is calling to minister to younger women. It reveals the kind of woman God wants every younger woman to emulate. A study of the qualities demonstrated by these older women communicates the quality of their relationship with God and how they respond in significant relationships with others.
Reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. (Titus 2:3)
The first phrase, “reverent in the way they live,” summarizes the kind of positive relationship with God the older woman demonstrates as well as how she will spend her time. The word translated “reverent” as used in the Greek language described a pagan priestess serving in the temple of her god. It carried the connotation of a full-time service of worship. Grasping that definition of reverent helps us to correct the misconception that life compartmentalizes into the sacred and secular. Rather, we understand that God desires women who view all of life as sacred and view themselves as serving God just as truly when they are preparing well-balanced, nutritious meals for an active family as when they are studying or teaching a Sunday school class. A woman such as this pursues a personal relationship with God with a deep passion. She values all of life equally, from the carpool to the corporation. She understands that God desires to be part of every activity, and that He needs women representing Him in every walk of life. Her personal commitment to Christ is an obvious qualification.
The second phrase, “not to be slanderers,” reveals that relationships should not be built on gossip and slander. Relationships built on gossip become superficial relationships that counterfeit intimacy but do not lead to greater love of others or to a greater love and dependence upon God. Indeed, such relationships divert the heart form a passionate pursuit of God and divide individuals from one another. Paul warned of these superficial relationships when he spoke of the danger of young widows getting “into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to” (1 Timothy 5:13). That is why the ability to keep confidences is imperative if an older woman is
to minister effectively to a younger woman.
As younger women share confidences, seeking God’s perspective on the problems they have encountered, much information is communicated that would be very damaging if repeated and some of it may be shocking. It is important for the woman counseling a younger woman to be unshockable. The younger woman needs to feel loved and accepted as she communicates what is on her heart. That does not mean the one who listens must compromise and accept the young woman’s sins. That is why this older woman needs a close relationship with God and good knowledge of what God’s Word teaches about moral living. But these younger women do need wise love and support if they are to choose and turn from sinful choices and move toward God.
This idea of trustworthiness is also a protection for relationships. The word slanderer is taken from the root word diabolus, or devil. Satan for centuries has used broken confidences, especially among women, to divide believers. A woman rooted personally in a deep relationship with God will not have the overwhelming need to pass on juicy tidbits simply to enhance her own popularity, and consequently her personal relationships will be protected.
The third descriptive phrase, “or addicted to much wine,” adds another insight about this godly older woman. The specific Greek terms mean to be a drunkard. This phrase indicates how not to cope with life and the challenges of daily living. God does not want us to avoid life and relationships by excepting from them through drink. Escaping reality deadens the heart rather than developing character. I think that we could broaden the concept of addictive behaviors to include any kind of chemical dependence as well as other escape behaviors, such as soap operas, shopping, or extreme busyness. If we have not learned how to face life, depending on the Lord and His strength, rather than running from it, we will have little constructive counsel to share with another woman.
A young friend of mine was addicted to romance novels. She loved to read and spent hours each week reading fictional accounts of beautiful, romantic love affairs in which the fictional heroine was rescued from mundane routine by the handsome and often wealthy hero who carried her off to “happily ever after.” Susan began to notice that she was tempted to compare her faithful and hardworking (if somewhat unromantic) husband most unfavorably to these fictitious heroes. After discussing this growing addiction and praying with an older woman, she chose to put aside a seemingly harmless pastime and instead invest that time in the study of the Scriptures. Her reading turned to biographies of men and women of God through the centuries. Her marriage improved.
If women ought not settle for superficial relationships or avoid relationships through escape or addiction, what positive instruction can we glean from the Scriptures? I believe that instruction comes in the phrase “teach what is good.” This command suggests that, in addition to a passionate pursuit of God, an older woman will invest her life in quality relationships, especially with younger women, transmitting to the next generation the valuable lessons she has learned from God. By the time a woman begins to reach midlife, her own family responsibilities are changing. Her children may be away at school or married. She enjoys more time to invest in the lives of younger women. Interestingly, younger women will often listen to an older woman in this relationship even when they would not listen to their own mothers. In a similar way, midlife women find younger women eager to learn from them, even when their own daughters might not.
The word translated “good” means morally good, noble, or attractive. That assumes that the teacher understands what is good. I believe that understanding what is good requires a working knowledge of God’s Word. It is important not only to know what the Bible says specifically but also to understand what it says in principle. Many of life’s problems are not addressed verbatim in the Bible, but clear biblical principles can be found that speak to current decisions. The older woman who has grown to know God and the Bible can share those principles with a younger woman as no one else can.
The above article, “Called to Ladies Ministry,” is written by Vickie Kraft and Gwynne Johnson. The article was excerpted from Kraft & Johnsons’ Women Mentoring Women.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.