May

17

2012

Kathleen Nielson|10:00 PM CT

Learn the Bible to Teach the Bible

We give thanks to God for great gospel ministry happening across the ocean in the UK. Carrie Sandom, who lives near London and recently published Different by Design: God's Blueprint for Men and Women, embodies this encouraging movement and gives us a first-hand account. Anticipating Carrie's role as a plenary speaker for TGC's fast-approaching women's conference, I hope you'll be delighted as I was to get to know her a bit better before you meet her in Orlando.

She serves generously in a number of contexts, including ministries that train up biblically literate women who can then lead others in learning the good news of the Scriptures. That's clearly Carrie's heart, which you'll read here and hear for yourself next month. It's a heart for the Word, but also for the process of personally mentoring others in the Word, as believers lovingly did for her. Carrie shows how these two parts always work together. She has a lot to teach us that we can then teach others.

How did God find you and bring you along your path of ministry?

I grew up in a church-going family but didn't come to know the Lord personally until I was a teenager. My maternal grandparents and youth leaders were major influences and showed me what living for the Lord Jesus means in practice. They prayed for me and kept urging me to turn to Christ for the forgiveness of my sins---which I did, finally, on a youth weekend away. The church I attended had a good discipleship program, and I was nurtured by two youth leaders who met with me and five other teenagers every Saturday afternoon for more than three years! We looked at the Bible together, and they taught me so much. I'm very grateful to the Lord for their commitment, their example, and their prayers.

As for how I got into Bible teaching ministry, I trained as a teacher and taught math in a high school for a while, but my real passion was the Bible class I ran after school for 11- to 16-year-olds. After a couple years my pastor approached me and suggested I should go to Bible college and learn how to teach the Bible more formally. It took him two to three years to persuade me, but I eventually went to Oxford and studied there for three years, thinking that I would return to teaching in a high school afterward. Needless to say, the Lord had other plans and for the last 20 years has opened up various opportunities for me to teach the Bible to women of different ages and stages---mostly in local church contexts.

What might you be found doing on your day off?

I love reading whodunnits but rarely guess who has actually committed the crime before all is revealed at the end of the book! I enjoy watching football (soccer!) and support Chelsea FC---possibly the best football team in London (at least)---and love walking the coastal paths around the UK, preferable with a friend so we can have a good catch up as we walk.

What are the different components of your ministry? How would you sum up the joys and the challenges of what you do?

There are three components to my ministry. Most of the time I am based at a church in Tunbridge Wells, 25 miles south of London, where I teach the Bible to women of all ages in small group and one-to-one contexts. One day a week I teach and train women students at the Cornhill Training Course in London, and roughly three times a year I am involved in running and speaking at Proclamation Trust conferences for other women in ministry.

The joys and challenges of what I do are closely related. It is always thrilling to see the Word of God at work in the lives of the women I have the privilege of teaching---whether through bringing them to new life at the very start of their journey with the Lord, or by transforming them more and more into his likeness through all the highs and lows of life in this broken world. The challenges come when people resist the Lord's call upon their lives, or walk away from him because the pleasures of this life seem more attractive. I guess it's inevitable for some women, but seeing them walk away because of the promise of a satisfying relationship with an unbeliever is especially hard.

How would you describe the cultural climate in which you minister?  

We have all the usual challenges of living in a postmodern, multicultural society where tolerance is the name of the game. In practice this means that Britain is becoming increasingly secular and intolerant of anyone who holds firm convictions about anything! The government is currently trying to pass legislation that redefines marriage so as to include same-sex partnerships. This would have been unthinkable even ten years ago, which gives you some idea of how quickly things are changing. The Church of England is also seeking to pass legislation allowing for women bishops, not on any theological grounds, but merely because women should be able to do anything men can do. Sadly, the church, as well as society, is becoming more and more biblically illiterate.

Why did you write Different by Design: God's Blueprint for Men and Women, and how would you sum up its message?

A few years ago, I spoke at the London Women's Convention from Genesis 1-3 about the role of men and women in the family, and where it all went wrong. Shortly afterward I was asked to write a book that would look more broadly at the role of men and men in the family, society, and the church---and how the steady feminization of our culture has moved us further away from the biblical ideal. The book traces the pattern of God's design from Genesis to Revelation and shows how God himself provides the template for our design. If we are to enjoy relationships as he intended, we need to understand why he made men and women equal before him and yet distinct---and how each needs to play his or her part in maintaining the created order. Ultimately, restoration is only possible through the Lord Jesus himself. We will not be able to enjoy healthy and lasting relationships with one another until we are first reconciled with our loving heavenly Father.

We're so glad you're part of TGC's inaugural women's conference! What are you looking forward to in your part, and in the conference as a whole?  

I am thrilled to be part of this women's conference and think it will be a very strategic few days. I'm grateful for the opportunity to teach the Bible in a number of contexts and especially to get women thinking about how they can study it for themselves and then teach it to others. We live in difficult times, and the growing tide of secularism is having a devastating effect on both sides of the Atlantic. We need to lift up our heads and our hearts and allow the God of the Bible to re-envision and inspire us. Without him we can do nothing. With him we can share in his sovereign plans and purposes that stretch beyond our wildest imaginings and into eternity! I am praying that we will all deepen our love for the God who has rescued us through his Son and then commit ourselves to serving him wholeheartedly in the various contexts where he has put us.

Kathleen Nielson serves as director of women's initiatives for The Gospel Coalition. She holds MA and PhD degrees in literature from Vanderbilt University and a BA from Wheaton College. Author of the Living Word Bible studies, she speaks often at women's conferences and loves working with women in studying the Bible. She shares a heart for students with her husband, Niel, president of Covenant College from 2002 to 2012 and now leading an enterprise developing resources for Christian schools around the world.

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