Book Review - Women's Ministry in the Local Church
Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, authored by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, is a practical book that seeks to provide guidance on how and why a church can and should have an effective women’s ministry. It is a timely book, arriving at a point when the church is in need of this type of biblical guidance. The role of women in the church has been an area of great dispute of late, though thankfully, it seems that Scripture will prevail. However many evangelical women, and even those who may appear to be mature Christians, are functional feminists because, as the authors point out, “the world’s paradigm for womanhood is the only one they have heard.” The church has much ground to make up.
Within this book Duncan and Hunt construct a framework of theology through which a local church will be able to implement a ministry that honors God’s plan and purpose for the church. Rather than moving against or beside the church, the ministry will become one with the church, supporting and complementing other ministries while encouraging and edifying women. According to the authors, the purpose of this book is to strengthen Christ’s church by presenting a practical theology of women’s ministry in the local church. The book answers five questions that are fundamental to a successful, biblical ministry for and by women:
- Why should a church have a women’s ministry - what is the biblical apologetic?
- Who is responsible for the women’s ministry in a church?
- How does a women’s ministry relate to the other ministries in a church?
- What are the tasks of a women’s ministry?
- How does a church implement a biblical approach to women’s ministry?
The book presents a covenantal and complementarian approach to womanhood and to women’s ministry in the church. “There is nothing more beautiful, satisfying, delightful, and God-glorifying than when men and women live and work together in complementarity.” Duncan provides five things he feels that each church needs to do in connection with a practical embrace of biblical womanhood:
- We need to cultivate godly, feminine, Christian women.
- We need to promote healthy Christian marriages.
- We need to promote godly, monogamous, heterosexual marriages.
- We need to cultivate among our Christian women a joyous embrace of godly, healthy, Christian, male spiritual leadership in the church.
- We need to help Christian women appreciate the manifold areas of service that are open to them in the church and to equip them distinctively as women to fulfill their ministry.
In discussing these areas of service Hunt points out that the primary question should not be what is permissible but what is needful for women to do. And that is the focus of the book: What can women do to fulfill their unique calling and to serve the Lord with their giftedness? The heart of the book is an examination of five reasons why women’s ministry is important to every healthy evangelical church. These reasons are:
- Submission: Through it we have the opportunity to address helpfully the issue of the nature of manhood and womanhood, an issue that is very much at the heart of the cultural transition that we find ourselves in right now.
- Compassion: The Bible teaches so much and so clearly on manhood and womanhood. A church that wants to be biblical will want to make sure the women of the congregation embrace and implement this teaching.
- Community: When biblical manhood and womanhood are denied or altered or unpracticed, that results in disasters for marriages, families, and churches. Women’s ministry provides a safe and secure environment where these issues can be addressed.
- Discipleship: We ought to have an intentional, deliberate approach to female (and male) discipleship because men and women are different, and these differences need to be recognized, taken into account, and addressed in the course of Christian discipleship.
- Scripture: The denial or twisting of the Bible’s clear teaching on manhood and womanhood is one of the central ways that biblical authority is being undermined in our times. Women’s ministry provides a forum to understand issues of biblical authority.
While this is not a book I would be likely to buy of my own accord, I am grateful that it was supplied to me and I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed it. On the Reformation21 Blog Philip Ryken recently endorsed the book by saying, “I am not aware of any other resource that so effectively gives a biblical rationale for women’s ministry without distorting the overall shape of the local church — putting women’s ministry in its proper context.” I agree with that statement and, like Dr. Ryken, and glad to recommend this book to pastors, elders or anyone who might be involved in women’s ministry.