Women Discipling Women to Engage Culture
Some Christian women struggle to see how tense cultural issues matter to their everyday lives. But it is increasingly difficult to avoid these cultural debates.
For example, the young mom may not care about LGBTQ issues — until she takes her children to the playground, finds herself in conversation with a parent of her child’s playmate and discovers the parent is in a homosexual marriage. Suddenly, the issue is very relevant at an everyday gathering place, the playground.
Or, the woman who is a teacher may not think that immigration reform is relevant to her — until she has an immigrant student suffering from anxiety because he fears that his parents might be deported.
At that moment, cultural issues are no longer just “issues” but tangible faces, real people.
Yet, when attempting to engage these issues and the people most directly influenced by them, some women feel inadequate or intimidated. They struggle to have confidence to understand and engage culturally tense issues from a theological conviction.
There can be several reasons for this lack of confidence. Some women have not received higher education. Others know little about particular issues. Sometimes, moms of young children are so consumed with diapers, meal times and t-ball games that they have little room for organized study and discussion. Yet, women bring a unique voice to cultural issues that our churches and society need. But, they must first be discipled to do so.
A few years ago, I recognized my own need to have “iron-sharpening” relationships with other women to help me better engage difficult cultural issues. I decided to meet regularly with a few ladies from various backgrounds and in vastly different career fields. Every single one of these women brings a unique perspective, a thoughtful question and insightful encouragement to our time together.
Thankfully, you do not need to start a formal program to have these relationships for yourself. Though programs have their helpful place in teaching and edifying the church, there are four simple ways to disciple women — whether they are single, married, career, stay-at-home, academically driven or academically intimidated — to be theologically informed about culturally relevant issues in everyday life.
1. Teach Her to be Devoted to God’s Word
If a woman seeks to engage any of these tense cultural issues and the people affected most by them, she must first be devoted to meditating on God’s Word both privately and corporately, as is the case for every believer. The Scriptures are our deepest well of knowledge and truth to draw our theology from, so they should be our first resource to form convictions.
Meditation on God’s Word privately means spending time alone as a student being tutored by the Word through the Spirit. Meditation on God’s Word corporately means being instructed by the teaching of the Word from one’s pastor and church. This is not a passive action; rather, it is actively listening like the Jews in Berea:
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. (Acts 17:11-12)
Engaging difficult cultural issues should begin first by eagerly receiving and examining the Word.
2. Teach Her to Get Insight
After meditating on the Word, women can read books, journals or articles as a gateway to receiving a broader perspective on an issue. For example, reading the faith-journey of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith, gives insight into the joys and hardships of ministering to members of the LGBTQ community.
Likewise, instead of relying on one news outlet to stay current on issues, read three distinctively different outlets to gain comparative perspectives. The point here is not to read mass amounts of information, but to read for understanding. There are at least two sides to every issue, and there are often many more than that, so it is important to heed Proverbs 4:7:
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
Not all women are avid readers and the thought of reading a book or news articles may be intimidating. Women can be creative with their resources and their time. Podcasts and online sermons are also helpful tools for women to use to gain understanding. They can even listen to these while shopping for groceries, working out or during kids’ naptimes.
3. Teach Her to Fellowship and Share Knowledge
Deep and important insights are gained by studying the Word and seeking understanding. This insight, however, is not meant to be hoarded but shared. It is essential for women to have regular fellowship with other believing women with the intention of discussing a culturally relevant issue. This can be as simple as a conversation about a book or an article over coffee or while sitting on the back deck.
Having spent time under the instruction of God’s Word and creatively gaining insight on these culturally charged issues, women need to engage in conversation with other believers who can help challenge their thinking on the issue and their theology as well. This does require intentionality, forcing depth and substance in conversation.
4. Teach Her to be Accountable
Finally, women need to have these conversations with fellow believers for the sake of accountability for their thoughts and actions. It would be better for a woman to say something heretical in the presence of her Christian brothers and sisters who will lovingly rebuke her in kindness, rather than repeat something heretical to an unbeliever and lead him or her astray.
Priscilla and Aquila modeled excellent brotherly love toward Appollos in this way:
He began to speak boldly, in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 18:26, emphasis added)
Priscilla and Aquila were quick to realize that Appollos lacked knowledge and understanding about the way of God. They didn’t rebuke his passion or fervor, but they held him accountable to the gospel he was preaching and gave him the insight he needed to carry out his public ministry — or, to put it in today’s terms, to engage culture. Providing women with opportunities to be sharpened by other believers gives them the encouragement they need to speak boldly with grace — especially for women who lack confidence to engage tense cultural issues.
Women, often called gatekeepers who monitor what comes in and goes out of the home, need to be theologically informed and culturally aware in order to fill the void of the uniquely female, Christian voice in society. This does not require a commitment to a class or a formal program. It requires time in the Word, a love for wisdom and insight, regular fellowship with other believers and intentional accountability for one’s thoughts and actions when wading through these murky cultural waters. On the playground, in the classroom or in the grocery story, these practical steps encourage our sisters to be more confident in “the way of God” and less intimidated by “the way of the world.”