Rich Resources: Women Dig In
I just keep meeting them. I keep meeting women intent on digging into Scripture together and living it out with seriousness and joy. Most recently in Fullerton, California . . . Belfast, Northern Ireland . . . Colorado Springs . . . Jakarta, Indonesia . . . I just keep meeting amazing groups of women young and old who are getting on with the work of becoming women of the Word. Yes, we can rue together the trends that have pointed women in the direction of froth and froufrou rather than substantive growth—and yet the tone I'm finding is one not of looking back or around but of looking ahead. And the resources for moving ahead are rich.
Christian women are finding and using a myriad of resources to help in their digging and growing. Of course we start where we live, with the local church and the leaders and teachers God provides there to guide his people. An increasing number of women are attending seminary or taking seminary courses—but many cannot or would not choose that route. We're drawn these days to the virtual world, where admittedly we're tempted to spend more time sending out our own words than taking in wise ones. But wise words are there for us in abundance.
Part of TGC's women's initiatives involves letting women know about the rich resources just on this website, all freely available. Not just every conference plenary and workshop session but a whole treasury of writings and sermons are right there for all the people of the church. We know many women have used the recorded sessions from TGC's 2012 National Women's Conference in various ways; we're glad to be offering the workshops for the 2014 National Women's Conference in themed tracks, so that they will be even more useful and accessible. The women I recently met at a convention in Belfast were so delighted to discover and discuss all these resources, and some of them had resources to share with me. We're rich indeed, these days.
Another noteworthy resource comes from The Charles Simeon Trust, a ministry dedicated to expositional Bible preaching and teaching within the church. I serve on this ministry's board of directors and have been thrilled to see the growth of their workshops around the country. But it's their online offering I'd like to highlight here—The Simeon Course on Biblical Exposition—which is growing by leaps and bounds since its launch in 2009, with overwhelmingly positive feedback. This online course is dedicated to helping preachers, elders, lay leaders, Bible study leaders, interns, seminarians, or the interested layperson get better at studying and teaching God's Word.
All Simeon Trust curricula are available to both men and women, but there is a track specifically designed for women (including women teachers on video) for the course in literary genre. A great place to start, this track aims to give students the tools and confidence for studying and teaching from any biblical genre: OT narrative, epistles, Hebrew wisdom/poetry, prophetic literature, apocalyptic literature, and Gospel/Acts. In each of the six units, students are guided in textual work, prepared to offer and interact around their own presentations, and provided with study sheets to accompany online videos (some instructions and some model expositions).
It is encouraging to see The Charles Simeon Trust's aim to help train men and women. Joel Miles, director of training, says the reason for the creation of the women's track is simple:
We want to see women teach the Bible to one another; we want to help women lead expositional Bible studies; we want to see women who can handle God's Word well. Many would agree with us concerning the Bible's teaching of complementarian leadership, but in light of that conviction are asking, "Now what?" Too often women have been tasked with leading and teaching roles but not offered training to lead and teach well. We want to help change that.
These courses are reasonably priced; many churches have helped various groups within their congregations follow a course together. The goal is to help build up the church through aiding pastors' and church members' ability to study and speak the Word. I recently heard from someone who works with women's ministries in her church and who is leading a group through Simeon Trust's women's track in literary genre. She originally invited 10 women to study with her, and each of those women brought others along . . . ending with a group of 30, divided into four small groups. These are busy women, so they're taking the course at their own pace, meeting every other week—and having a great time growing together:
We happen to be finishing up Old Testament narrative right now, learning from excellent instruction to see all the little stories as part of the big story of God's purpose to bring all things together in Christ. As we've begun to dig into what we previously would have considered very familiar Bible stories (Samuel's birth, Naaman's healing, Esther's appeal to King Xerxes), we are beginning to see the amazing shape and depth in these biblical accounts. The stories themselves are dramatic, but the way they are woven together to form part of a bigger story makes the author and main character of that bigger story all the more glorious in my eyes. It makes me want to know him more and help others do the same. . . . Taking a course like this involves work, but it is definitely the most joyful and rewarding hard work I have ever done! (Valori Maresco, Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland)
Starting with our local church leaders and stretching virtually across the globe, rich resources are there for us all; I've focused on only a few. Many women are involved in all kinds of digging in to the Bible—perhaps joining the growing number of Christians doing one-to-one Bible reading with searching friends or new believers, using the clear and helpful materials available as guides. (For example, see One-to-One Bible Reading by David Helm.) Our main resource, of course, is the Bible itself, which we must read and learn to read. Out of the fellowship of such reading and digging grows deep and personal ministry of all kinds.
As women pursue such Word work, not only do they grow individually, but the growth they encourage in each other becomes centered and increasingly grounded in the biblical gospel. A strong context of encouragement develops where women are teaching one another the Word and helping each other see what it looks like to follow that Word in the various pathways of life. That encouragement spreads, as Word-centered women are increasingly equipped to spur on those around them profitably and biblically—and to participate wisely in their different contexts of fellowship and study and family and work and witness. The aim is not just the good of women; the aim is the gospel-centered health and growth of the church.
Such Word-based ministry keeps on growing in many places worldwide. Wherever we are, we believing women should encourage such growth, indeed not just for our own well-being but ultimately for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We're rich in resources to use and share. We live at a time when the gospel is spreading fast among the nations. Let's grow together in the Word with the aim of spreading the glory of Jesus right around us in our churches and all around us in our communities and in the church as it grows across the globe.