Women and Theology: Interview #2

Each week for this series I am interacting with some woman involved in Christian ministry and/or professional theology. The goal is both to encourage women to study God’s Word intently and to serve in their local churches as woman, but more so as Christians. Don’t miss last week’s interview with an aspiring theologian. This week I interviewed my lovely wife Krista Dunham on what it’s like to disciple women in our local congregation.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role in Revolution Church

Being the associate pastor’s wife, it was hard not to put pressure on myself to take on a ton of responsibility.  It is in my nature to want to do everything and do it perfectly so when we started at Revolution a year ago, I tried to take it slow the first few months to feel out where I would fit best.  When I was asked to fill in on the praise team one week I jumped on the offer. I eventually became a regular member of the group, trading every other month with, Natalie, the other female lead.  I also have made a slow start to what I hope becomes a much bigger ministry, in writing lessons for the children in our nursery. I graduated from college with a degree in early childhood education and had yet to really put it to much use.  I saw a need and it happened to be something I was trained to do…so I stepped up and gave it my best shot. But other than that, my role is the same as everyone else at Rev…to worship the God who created and loves me, grow through the encouragement and connection with the other members of our church and serve those who need it, in our church and our community.

What are some of the unique challenges you feel that you face as a female in leadership in the church?

Well, I tend to be a very timid person anyway…especially when it comes to being in charge of anything.  And decision-making has never been my strong suit either.  I have always fought against these two character flaws…I love being involved and taking action, but always shy away from stepping up and taking the lead and I easily get overwhelmed and confused when I have to make any choices.

But I guess particularly as a female, I find it hard to focus solidly on what the bible says about me being a leader while the church on a local and national level raised me to believe that women are to stay hidden and subdued and silent.  Tradition fighting against biblical truth, combined with my introverted personality and my reluctance to be in charge often convinces me to step down or avoid speaking up and taking over situations and ministries that need a leader.

Why haven’t you started a “Women’s Ministry” at Revolution?

The main reason that I haven’t started a women’s ministry is that there has actually been very little interest in having a specifically designated ministry like this.  We had a coed bible study at our house for quite a few months and due to scheduling and shifting around members in other groups, we decided it would best fit the needs of everyone for me to start leading a group that consisted entirely of young women.  This resulted in a pretty drastic concern from many of the girls because they did not want our gathering to turn into a group just like every other strictly female bible study they had attended. The tendency to only focus on “women’s issues”, avoiding theology and trading the solid meat of the Word for feel good strategies and fluffy surface level concepts had really worn on the truth-seeking young women of our church.  The uproar calmed when I was able to reassure them that we would be starting with the study of The Gospels. Unfortunately I still had a couple of girls drop out because the typical model of women’s ministry had given them a bad taste in their mouths that they could not get rid of.

While we do not officially have a “women’s ministry”, we do have a strong group of women who love the Bible and seek to encourage and uplift each other through consistent study of the Word and solid accountability.  I feel like this is what a women’s ministry should look like.  I consistently receive text messages from girls just saying, “I’m praying for you” or “You are special to me” and I try to do the same for others. I cannot speak for any other church but a designated ministry is not something our women need. What they do need is a day in and day out reminder that they are loved, and thought of and to know that the Bible is applicable to their lives every day. They don’t need to be set apart as women…disconnected, empowered and segregated from the group  but shown how to collaborate with and coexist with male, female, old, young, rich, and poor.

And on a more practical level, a women’s ministry in the traditional sense (events, book studies, retreats, etc) is not within our church’s budget. And it is unreasonable to defer any of that financial burden to our members.  Asking our women to come up with money for events, books, and other materials takes that money away from the other areas that we desire those resources to go. It also isolates the significant amount of women in our church who could not participate simply because they do not have the money to do so.

Why should more women study theology and not just typical “Women’s issues”?

Studying just “women’s issues”, even from a biblical perspective, really limits the depth of your spiritual walk.  Having such a narrow view of growth leaves a gap in not only what we think about ourselves but what we think about God as well. We are not just women, we are beings made in the image of God.

And not only that but when we focus so heavily on issues that only apply to us as women we are dumbing ourselves down.  We are capable of thinking deeper; we are capable of contemplating much more.  I have encountered too many women who, if you even mention words like “penal substitutionary atonement” automatically shut off, unwilling to go beyond what they are comfortable with.  I understand that this, on a broader level, is a human problem but women are guilty even among more intelligent circles, of handing the responsibility of knowledge over to men and trading it for a softer, easier version of the truth.

What area of theology do you feel the women in our church could most benefit from studying?

This past year of serving at Revolution has led me to a depth of study of the Bible that I have never experienced before. There were many times I felt like I was completely falling apart and the only hope I had was to cling Scripture like it was my only source of life.  During this time of falling apart, God revealed to me a problem in my life and as I encountered other women in the church I began to see that it was problem that many women have.  I had neglected to see myself as God sees me.  I saw myself as a wife and mother whose perfectionist tendencies never allowed me to feel like I was complete.  I saw myself as a friend and mentor who could never love, care for or help anyone else because I had a huge pile of problems that I could not fix.  I saw myself as a daughter and sister who had given up because I could not live up to everything that I wanted to be in my family.  But I had left out the most important piece of who I was.  I wasn’t seeing myself the way God does…through the lens of Jesus Christ. I think this is where so many other women falter as well.

When God revealed this fault to me, I began to study who I was in Christ and this is where I think so many women need to focus. Our identity in Christ…not our identity as women…is a theological point that would bring spiritual growth and healing to so many women if they would take the time to really dig in and see what the Scripture says about who we are because we are in Christ.  It is freeing to know that you are righteous through Christ, not because you are a good person but because of what he did.  It is calming to know you are loved, not because of what you do but because of who you are in Jesus.

What resources have you found especially helpful in your own studies and leadership over the years (from either men or women)?

One of my number one favorite author’s is Nancy Leigh DeMoss particularly  because she comes at issues much more neutrally than most women do. By that I mean that for the most part she focuses on issues that are relevant to Christian’s as a whole and not just women and she turns to the Bible as the definitive truth without throwing in so much emotional, feelings oriented junk. She always has a solid foundation of scripture and is not afraid to step on her reader’s toes with the absolute truth of the Bible.

The Gospel Coalition (http://thegospelcoalition.org) is a great resource for sermons, articles and book reviews. I am encouraged that the coalition has recently launched a women’s conference focusing on the gospel and the character of God.  The conference consisted of sessions on training women to teach the bible, counseling, singleness, worship, and world issues.  Go to the website and you can listen to all the sessions from this conference.

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