Okay, so my heart is so burdened right now for the women, and daughters of our churches. I am writing this from the experiences that I have seen, and the verse that I feel the Lord put on my heart this morning.
I have grown long into a church that DOES what you call “Women’s Ministry.” I have seen fancy women with wispy voices, take the pulpit to compare the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6 to fashion. I have seen them gather together to discuss finger sandwiches and tea cups and centerpieces for the next brunch or conference. I have seen them skirt over serious issues, and stay shallow and vapid mannequins of ministry.
The leaders are nothing like the lay. There is a huge discrepancy. The women in the pulpits at our women’s events are often times nothing like the women in the pews.
The lay ladies come in tired, and thirsty, and troubled in their t-shirts or discount dresses. To hear sermons on suffering given by some easy living pastor’s wife, in Burberry and Brighton.
I have seen these women preach on sexual intimacy, body image, and household obligations to women who are going through difficult marriages, who are overweight, and working over 40 hours a week. They heap on them more and more burdens. Be sexy, be thin, be perfect. Make more bricks, find more straw, and don’t complain.
I have heard women’s leaders tell groups of young married girls that they need to stay thin, or else it will be their fault if their godly husbands cheat or look at porn. I have seen one of the women whom this was spoken to, blame her extra thirty pounds when 5 years later her husband cheated.
I have heard women’s leaders tell groups of young mother, with rolls on their stomachs and lactating breasts, that breast implants make them look better in their clothes.
More straw. More bricks.
I have seen women’s ministry conferences bring in speakers that tell you the proper way to fold your bathroom towels, and organize your closets.
I have seen women’s ministries bring in exercise classes so that we can reinforce to the women that your body is to look like a temple (based on a misinterpretation of scripture).
What is going on?!
Do these women’s ministry leaders even love women?
Or do they hate women?
Do they despise fat women in K-mart jeans?
Do they get disgusted at women with stretch marks and saggy breasts, frizzy hair and outdated kitchens?
Do they not understand that some of these women spend all their time and money taking care of their families and working to pay the bills?
These women are doing the best they can.
Do they not get it, that if a woman is going to take the time to come to a Women’s Bible Study, that they need to be built up and encouraged?
Why can’t she be told, “Well done” or at least given the dignity of honesty.
Why is women’s ministry so superficial?
Why don’t we get real with each other?
I do not want to take time away from my family to go hear how to fold towels, or that spiritual armor is like putting on a special outfit.
I don’t want to be told that spiritual warfare is that voice that tells me that I need plastic surgery . . . and I have heard that taught . . . because you know what?
Spiritual warfare is a LOT more than that!
And many of us are losing the battle.
The verse on my heart is from Jeremiah 6:14 (and it is also repeated in Jeremiah 8:11).
God is judging the priests and prophets for giving the people a shallow message. For not warning them of judgment. For not spending time with God to know His Word and His message for His people. God is upset at how the “shepherds” were treating the sheep.
God says, “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14 KJV)
“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14 NIV).
“They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14 NLT)
If you would indulge me, I would like to define these words. I think they are very important.
The KJV used the word “healed” –other versions have used the phrases “dressed the wounds” and “offer superficial treatments.” In Hebrew the word is rapha, which means to heal or to cure, like a doctor would. The Lord is saying that instead of doing the work to clean out a wound and heal a person, they are just giving them a superficial band-aid.
Isn’t that what you see at many churches?
In the KJV it talks about “the hurt” of these daughters. The Hebrew word for hurt is sheber, which means breaking, fracture, crushing, breach, crash, ruin, shattering. As well as destruction, affliction, and vexation.
The Lord sees our deep pain. He sees our brokenness. And to Him it is a big deal. He is validating our pains. He is saying that what has happened to us is a crushing, a shattering. It is incapacitating, in many ways.
Of course we have hurt in our churches. We have women who are grown, who have been sexually abused as children, but never told anyone. Women who grew up in a day when families didn’t talk about abuse. We have women whose husbands are terrible hypocrites. Or whose children are prodigals. The women in our churches are suffering, many are shattered.
The pain is there, under the smiles and perfume.
The word “daughter” in Hebrew is bath. It is a polite address and it refers to all the women we know–daughter, girl, adopted daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, granddaughters, female child, cousin. It is all of us. We are all in this together.
The word “slightly” in Hebrew is qalal. It means to treat it lightly, to minimize, to act like it isn’t a big deal. It also means to show contempt or dishonor.
I have seen this. I have seen how women “higher up” in leadership form cliques with other fancy “important” women. And they reserve their tables at their brunches and they don’t associate with the woman who had a tooth missing, or talk long and genuinely to everyone else.
I have seen them gossip and make fun of people for how they look. I have seen them play games and act catty as they struggle to claim their positions in ministry. I have seen them smile with their lips and glare at people with their eyes.
And the word in Hebrew for “saying” is ‘amar. It means to speak, to promise, to avow, to speak proudly, to boast, command, to answer.
What is being said, promised, avowed?
They promise peace. Shalowm. Completeness, soundness, welfare, peace, safety, health, welfare, quiet, prosperity, contentment, friendship. It is all there in the concordance. Strong’s Number H7999. You can look it up.
They promise peace and prosperity, but they do nothing to actually help you find it. It isn’t found in superficial band-aids.
What are these superficial band-aids? Lies.
Health and wealth. Beauty. Friendship. Luxury.
I have seen it. Unfortunately.
And I wonder what these women must think?
Do they envy, and long for the Barbie life? Or do they see through it and shake their heads?
I wonder what would happen if one day, we showed up for a Bible Study, and the wispy voiced women were told to sit down to listen. And the K-mart coupon clipper was asked to get in the pulpit. What wisdom would spring forth?
Would they listen, to her? Or turn up their noses?
What if she was very plain, unfashionable or overweight. What is her hair was grey and her wrinkles were visible in the back of the chapel?
What if she didn’t tell funny stories or share some of her more innocent failures, trying to relate to us?
What if she was real.
What if she shared Christ.
What if she shared her ugly truth, of fallen mediocrity and Christ’s glory in the midst of it all. How would women’s ministry be different?
How would women’s ministry be different if we picked the godliest women, the deepest women, the women who evangelize and witness, and minister to the needy–to speak to us? Despite how they look, or how relevant and trendy they are? Regardless of what the YOUNG PEOPLE thought about it.
What if we didn’t blame women for the sins of men?
What if we didn’t blame the 14 year old girl who was sexually abused by her step-dad? What if we didn’t quietly send her away to distant family, as he passed out bulletins at the door of the chapel?
What if we didn’t tell the woman who was sexually abused so terribly that she has PTSD, that if she doesn’t make her body her husbands sexual property, that she would be responsible for his pornography addiction?
What if we let men be responsible for their own sins?
What if we let women be who they are?
What if we loved them no matter what, and asked men to do the same?
What if we stopped being so shallow, and glossing over the deep chasms of pain in the eyes of our congregations and decided to get our hands dirty?
A physician has to get involved. A physician has to put on some gloves and open up and clean out the wounds. He has to open it up. Clean out the dirt or puss. Wash it with water or antiseptic. He needs to soothe it with oil or salve. He needs to bind up the fractures, sew skin back together, and wrap up the injury to protect it from further pain and infection. This process is difficult and it hurts. This process is personal.
A physician doesn’t just stand up on a stage in a hospital and tell his patients funny stories about when he stubbed his toe and how it got better. He has to take his time on an individual level to minister to each person.
So what can we do?
I think we must begin by humbling ourselves. By identifying with the people instead of thinking we are special. I think it will be when we allow ourselves to get messy and get real. When we stop thinking that we need to be perfect outwardly, instead of holy inwardly.
We need to bring Jesus back into our meetings.
We need to let our women sit once again at His feet.
Because He has so much to say to them.
Things that actually matter.
Encouragement and Healing.
He has true love and acceptance, and realistic advice.
He never told them to be thin. He never told them to be fashionable.
It is not wrong . . . but it is not religion.
I just don’t see this as Biblical. When I read the book of Acts, I don’t see anything that at all resembles what many of us call modern women’s ministry.
People just prayed, studied the word, and evangelized.
Isn’t Christianity that simple?
Set your women free!
Let us just encourage them in prayer, study of the word, and evangelism–the things that really matter–for all eternity.