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Veronica Neffinger

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Women have always been an integral part of a healthy church. In the Bible we find many examples of women who believed the gospel, ministered to the disciples, and fulfilled important roles in the church.

Take, for example, the mother of the Apostle Paul’s protege, Timothy. Paul notes the influence of this godly mother of Timothy, which in turn came from the influence of her godly mother:

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also,” Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:5.

Another example is that of Lydia, who was converted after hearing the gospel preached and opened her home to the disciples to be their home base while they remained in Philippi.

Yet another example is that of Priscilla. She is always mentioned alongside her husband, Aquila, and together they helped Paul in his ministry. “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them,” Paul writes in Romans 16:3.

More examples abound in the pages of the New Testament. Women clearly played an important, central role in the early Church, but over time, this role often seems to have been diminished and often women have been sidelined.

Christian author and leader Trillia Newbell explains why this needs to be remedied and provides six ways to go about doing so in her article for Christianity Today titled “Six Ways Men Can Support Women’s Discipleship.”

Instead of allowing women’s ministry to be a subset of ministry in the Church, in which the male leaders are never involved, Newbell advocates for a more integrated approach in order to create a more whole church.

“When men don’t engage in ministry to and for women, women tend to function as a parachurch ministry within the confines of a local church. And if they don’t find discipleship in their own churches, they go elsewhere,” she writes.

But perhaps male Church leaders may not know where to begin to start encouraging women’s ministry and discipleship.

Newbell offers this guidance:

1. Read discipleship books written by female authors and stay in conversation with women.

In order to better understand a woman’s experience in the church, it’s important to be familiar with the perspective of women who are in these situations. Newbell quotes Christian author Tim Challies on this issue: “Don’t read them with fear or suspicion, don’t read them to simply screen them for your wife or your congregation, but read them to learn, to grow, to know God better. Trust that God dispenses gifting, ability, and wisdom to men and women alike.”

2. Enable the older women in your church to disciple the younger women.

Male church leaders should invest in getting to know the women in their churches so they can foster helpful relationships between older and younger women. “Pastors would need to knowthe women in their congregation in order to identify women who would take up the charge and pursue the call of discipling others,” Newbell quotes Kori Porter, a Ministry Fellow with Christian Union at Princeton.

3.  Offer some discipleship courses that are integrated rather than always gender-segregated.

Although there are certainly times for men’s only and women’s only groups and events within the Church, it’s also important for men and women to grow in faith together. Newbell reminds male church leaders that many of the learning opportunities provided by the church do not need to be gender-specific.

4. Whenever possible, support women in their pursuit of theological training.

Newbell shares a personal story of when she first became a Christian as a young adult. She expressed to her pastor that she thought she would like to pursue a degree in biblical counseling. The pastor’s response: “Well, you are probably going to be a mom.” While Newbell stresses that being a mom is an important calling in life and one of her greatest joys, she finds the pastor’s response to be insufficient for the women who are being called to that kind of ministry. Instead, pastors should encourage women to study and learn more about the Bible, their faith, and how to live it out. “Having theologically trained women is just as beneficial to the church as having theologically trained men. When women are formally equipped in various areas of discipleship, it’s to everyone’s benefit,” she writes.

Both women and men are integral to the growth and health of the Church and each bring specific gifts that can benefit the Body of Christ. Ultimately, as Christ-followers, we are all pursuing the same goal.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).

To read Newbell's last two points, click here.

 
 
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/leolintang
Publication date: May 26, 2017
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com
 

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If you’ve been in the church long enough, you start to notice a strange phenomenon. Some members of your congregation may speak godly words at church, then walk out the door and act completely differently in their real lives. You might have heard these people referred to as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Put simply, they are hypocrites. 

I recently watched this phenomenon play itself out firsthand, as a woman I knew from church resorted to name-calling on Facebook after a “friend” commented with a dissenting opinion on her political post. It took me aback for a moment, as I wondered how others would know that she was a Christian when she behaved in such a manner in a public forum.  

All of us are in danger of hypocrisy because we are all sinners. It is easy to slip and fall into human habits of sin… even when we are regular church-goers. 

Jesus condemned that the religious leaders of biblical times, “... honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9)

But when we are true followers of Jesus Christ, we do not say one thing and do another. We must be on guard against this behavior in our own lives. 

In a blog post, pastor and author Tim Challies writes that people who merely pretend to be godly should be warned of five things: 

1. Hypocrisy angers God. 

Challies writes, “God hates hypocrisy and hypocrites… because hypocrisy misuses religion, taking advantage of its laws and decrees for self-advancement.  The hypocrite wants religion—even the Christian faith—only for the advantages he gains from it.”

God’s laws are the only laws that Christians should be preaching. When we twist these around too meet our own desires, it angers God. 

2. Hypocrisy is self-delusion. 

“Many hypocrites deceive themselves, thinking that their hypocritical deeds are evidence of true godliness or, even worse, that they have the ability to merit God’s favor,” Challies says. 

Acting hypocritically ultimately hurts yourself because you lose favor with God. Don’t believe that hypocrisy is okay if it’s not hurting anyone. It is hurting someone: you. 

3. Hypocrisy is offensive to God and man. 

“Unbelievers hate the hypocrite because he makes himself appear godly; God hates him because he merely looks godly,” writes Challies. 

No one finds hypocrisy to be an attractive quality. Not God, not the world. You don’t want to become everyone’s enemy. 

4. Hypocrisy is pointless. 

Challies says, “The hypocrite may labor hard in this life, but as soon as he dies he will lose absolutely everything. The only reward he will be able to enjoy will be in this life since he will certainly be condemned in death.”

What is the point in pretending to godly when it ends in eternal damnation? Sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). Genuine believers who have accepted Christ will. 

5. Hypocrisy brings no comfort in death. 

“People who have only painted over their depravity with a thin veneer of counterfeit holiness will find themselves without hope and without comfort upon their deathbed,” writes Challies. 

A life of false Christianity is not one of happiness. A life lived in holiness is what one can look back on without regrets. 

How can the hypocrite save himself from a live of sin? Scripture says clearly: Repent. 

Tim Challies writes, “... there is hope for the hypocrite and the words of Paul should ring in the ears of the hypocrite: ‘Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?’ (Romans 2:4). Those who turn to Christ in repentance and faith will be cleansed of every sin, including this one.” 

And if you are living a holy life, what can you do to keep hypocrites from making you stumble in your own faith? 

Crosswalk.com contributor Debbie McDaniel writes, “The best way to expose the false lies of the enemy is to know the Truth of the One voice who matters most. Know the real and you'll know what is false… As we keep pressing in to know God, who is real, who is Truth, and we set our minds on His Word, spending time there, meditating on it, eventually we become very trained in detecting the ‘fake.’" 

 

Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/IngramPublishing

All of us have dreams. Growing up, you probably imagined yourself becoming an astronaut or a cowboy, or maybe a ballerina. As we get older, these goals tend to change shape into something deeper and more personal. We dream about marriage, family, and a rewarding career. We dream about seeing the world, writing a book, or performing on stage. Even something as common as owning a house or becoming a parent can occupy a special place in our heart. But what happens when we have to let these dreams go?

When I was a teenager, I dreamed of getting married and having a big family like the one I was raised in. Today I am 30 and single, and I’ve learned some dreams cannot be met, only mourned. I’m not the only one either. Over at Relevant Magazine, Shara Lewis has penned a truly beautiful feature about finding God amidst broken dreams. In particular, Lewis reflects how sometimes the Lord asks us to walk away from our personal hopes in order to find contentment in him. She writes,

“Contentment is learned. And like most things that do not come naturally and we have to learn, contentment is hard. Finding contentment in whatever circumstance is learned. And I would argue that it’s something that, through discipline, must be continually learned every day for the rest of our lives. And gracious contentment is something that is empowered by the strength supplied by Christ. And true contentment is ultimately only found in Christ. Through Christ who strengthens, we can grieve our dreams. We can grieve our losses. Trusting all the while in His unchanging character.”

“And through Christ who strengthens, we can take hold of a new dream.”

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we planned it. Maybe, like me, you’re still searching for someone to build a family with. Perhaps you found that person, but they were taken from you unexpectedly. Perhaps you’re still yearning to accomplish that lifelong goal before it inches farther away, or maybe each day has become a battle against illness, depression, and uncertainty. Regardless, God calls us all to move forward in faithfulness.

There is a powerful verse in the book of Ecclesiastes which reads as follows,

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-12

Many dreams fade. Some we are called away from, others we must mourn. Still, whatever circumstance Christians find themselves in, we can rest in the knowledge that God is present and he mourns with us. All things happen in their own time, according to his will. Whether or not our dreams come true, we will only find contentment with him.

 

*Ryan Duncan is an Editor at Crosswalk.com

**Published 5/24/2017

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