The following is from a devotional offered at the ARPWM Executive Committee Meeting in August 2011, presented by Tracey Smith. Tracey is a member of First Gastonia ARP Church and treasurer of ARP Women’s Ministries.
By Tracey Smith
“Why women’s ministries?” Are we doing this because it has always been done? First there was Women’s Synodical Union; now we are ARP Women’s Ministries. Are we just getting together periodically, having meetings? What justifies our existence?
Why do we go to the trouble of traveling great distances by car and plane to sit at this table? And why are we requesting financial support from the women of the denomination for Women’s Ministries? Can someone else do what we are doing? Are we smarter or do we have better ideas than Synod or CEM or any other entity in the denomination? If we were to quit and just stop meeting, would it make any difference?
I believe the answer to “Why Women’s Ministries?” is because God designed it. He designed women’s ministry because (1) women need mentoring, and (2) women need friendship. The mentoring model is presented in Titus 2:3-5. Pondering this passage about spiritual mothering, I thought that God, through Paul, was telling Titus, “You are not to mentor the young women. That’s not your job. You are to teach the older women, and then they are to mentor the younger women.”
Titus was specifically told to men- tor the younger men, but not the younger women. I thought that was interesting and logical for two reasons. First, it would avoid putting Titus in difficult situations with younger women. I have no idea how old Titus was, but it was apparently as wise then as it is today to be aware of inherent dangers in the counseling setting. Second, is he even capable of mentoring the younger women? Does he have the ability to do that? Vive la difference—men and women are different. We are equal before God, but we are different.
Therefore, can Titus effectively mentor the young women, or is this truly the job of women? In her book, Keep a Quiet Heart (pp 178-182), Elizabeth Elliott shares about her spiritual mothers and what a difference they made in her life. Would Elizabeth Elliott’s ministry have made such an impact without the benefit of her spiritual mothers? Would she have been so effective in her ministry and her life if it had not been for her spiritual mothers?
The second reason for God’s design is friendship. Women need deep, spiritual, unconditional, loving friendships. The July 2011 issue of Tabletalk contained an article by Noel Piper, wife of well-known pastor and author John Piper. In the article, Noel writes: Over the years when my husband and I have tried to untangle some of the snarls in my life, sometimes he’s ventured to ask, ‘Noel, don’t you think it might help to have some women around you to offer other perspectives, and to pray for you, and maybe give some helpful suggestions?’ I knew he must be right because King Solomon said the same thing, and his wisdom was so phenomenal it left the Queen of Sheba breathless.
Noel cites numerous Scripture passages about friendship and how important it is, and then she writes, So my mouth said to my husband, ‘That’s a wise idea.’ But my heart cringed at the thought of letting people close enough to poke around in my weaknesses, my mistakes, my faults, and my inadequacies… I ought to be able to manage all this, I thought…but no matter how much I tried, things didn’t get better. I felt more and more depressed. Then came the day in the counselor’s office when he said, ‘Tell me the names of four or five godly women that you know…and ask each woman if she can commit to be here with you at our appointments starting the next time. Their wisdom will be part of our conversation. And they will be a support to you in the days between appointments’…
In the days to come, as these friends opened themselves to me, my heart warmed to them and I felt more and more freedom with them. We came to trust each other with the tender places of our hearts. This next statement from Noel really struck me: I was 60 years old when this story began—when I was forced to have friends. I am ashamed that, until then, I could have remained so ignorant of what God intended friendship to be. At the same time, I am filled with gratitude that God didn’t leave me alone…I thank God for the women he gave me when I needed to receive friendship. I pray that God will shape my heart to give friendship like they do…(pp 20-23)
Also striking was the fact that John Piper, with all of his spiritual knowledge and resources, knew he could not meet his wife’s need. He acknowledged this by saying, “Noel, don’t you think you need some other women around you?” Then she goes to the counselor, only to hear the same thing. The counselor also recognized he could not counsel her through whatever life entanglements she was experiencing—that she needed wom-n around her to be her friends. And so I thought, wow! That is women’s ministry!
While mentoring and friendship are important for women in their spiritual development and simply living life in a fallen world, there is another reason to pursue them that goes beyond our personal need. That reason is also found in Titus 2, where it says we’re not doing this just for the edification of the younger women, but “that no one will malign the word of God.”
Our purpose for women’s ministry is twofold—yes, it’s for our personal edification and spiritual growth, but more importantly, it is so the word of God might not be maligned. When Christians—people who say they believe the Word—aren’t obeying the word, they dishonor God’s word. Many people looking on from the outside have mocked God and His Word because they see the disobedience and the sinfulness of those who call themselves Christians. We need the accountability that mentoring and friendship provide. We need women’s ministry.
Reading over the ARPWM Vision Statement, I saw that we are right on target with these purposes. My prayer now is that God would give us the wisdom to put hands and feet to what we’ve written in that statement.