Real Ministry

by Audrey on August 28th, 2013

When I was a young mother, I attended a strategic planning meeting with my husband in an exclusive hotel in the city because we were going to start a Bible study for executives and plan evangelistic outreach dinner parties.  It was as we walked to the elevator after the meeting that the wife of the ministry leader took my hand in hers and said, “Someday, when your children are all tucked away, perhaps you can have a real ministry too.”  

Her sentence bothered me.  Maybe she didn’t mean to sound condescending.  But I remember wanting to tell her that I thought I was having a ministry as I helped my husband, mothered our children, and kept house.     I had four little children and they seemed to need me.    Carl was very busy in seminary and serving as Pastor of Evangelism at a large church, and he had just been asked to head up the Executive Ministry of Cru.  I was quite content teaching the Bible to my children, leading them to Christ, having them as my little disciples and doing ministry from my kitchen sink, the playground, the supper table, and the back yard.   It never occurred to me that this wasn’t real ministry.

Had I not had deep convictions rooted in Scripture, I might have been tempted to wonder, when this woman approached me, if what I was doing at home had any ministry significance whatsoever.   And I might have been tempted to long for the days when real ministry would finally be mine.

This incident made me think.  And I began to realize that a woman like me fulfilling her God-given role at home was not really being seen as ministry according to so many in the Christian world. The only thing that seemed to matter as far as ministry was concerned was what took place outside the home.  Leaving the home, ministering to other women – really ministering to anybody other than a husband and children ~ was the only real ministry. 

But over the years, I have learned so much of the Bible through teaching it to my own children, to children at church, and children in my neighborhood.  I took theology seriously because I was instructing little lives with the truth of God’s Word.

But it seemed to me at the time that so many women didn’t really value teaching the Bible to their own children.  It wasn’t where the action was.  It wasn’t where real ministry took place.  Real ministry would happen someday when our children were all tucked away – somewhere.  Or whenever we could find a sitter and leave them behind.

What God did in my heart through those words on the elevator helped me.  I began to search out – and really study God’s Word about women in ministry.  After all I was a woman.  After all, my husband was preparing to be a pastor.  I was a wife and a mother.  What was God’s calling on the lives of women?  I wanted to understand my role in all of this.

I realized that family can always take the back seat ~ even for the sake of  ministry.  I had heard older women in fulltime outside-of-the-home ministry say, “God will take care of the children for the sake of ministry.”  
 
This seemed to be an emerging mindset as fulltime career ministries for conservative women was taking shape.  Home and family, domestic things -  things like preparing meals, cleaning, doing laundry, educating the children – all of that  – get in the way of ministry.  Those things rob you of the walk with God you could have, the ministry you could be doing, the potential your life could have.   

The mindset was growing in our American Culture, even among believers, is that we must get rid of the domestic scene to have ministry.

But when you study God’s Word, you find that He spends much time in the Scriptures instructing in these domestic issues.

After all, He is One Who made woman to be a helper suitable for her husband and called her mother  in Genesis. He is the Author of Proverbs 31 and shows us how domestic she was and that it was her husband and children who called her blessed. 

But somewhere along the way, Christian women listened to the culture and all the empowerment of women mantra and decided they’d rather have the corporate world, the real ministry world, or the girl’s club, and have all the women (and men) out there call them blessed.
Who cares what the hubs thinks, much less the children.

Yet Scripture is so clear.  God is the One Who said He wanted young widows to get married, bear children, and keep house in keeping with the role of young women.  He is the One Who described a godly older woman as someone who has brought up children and been the wife of one man among humble attributes.  He’s the One Who said He wants women to be workers at home and included a laundry list (no pun intended) of six other domestic duties in Titus 2:3-5.  And He is the One Who said the best teachers of these things are the godly older women in the church.  In fact, He actually commanded the older women to be godly and then gave the ministry of the young women to them, including the curriculum!  I think that’s a tough sell in our day of career ministry women.  Oh, the older women (and the young women) will teach alright – they’ll teach like the men – but the list in Titus?  Isn’t that a little sexist?  

Think about this for a moment.  How can I teach something that I feel is so mundane, so old-fashioned, limits my personal ambition and potential, and that I really don’t believe is all that important?  Do I just ignore the passages for women?  Or do I twist them to say something they don’t say?  Do I say Paul or God didn’t understand the culture and this was written for another time?  Or do I write a book and take Scripture out of context and end up making fun of it all the while saying that was not my intention?

Other questions emerge.  As a woman teacher,  do I begin to travel all over the country (and/or world) consistently leaving my husband, children, and the domestic scene – the very place God has charged me with keeping?

See, if I do women’s ministry God’s way - rather than staying in nice hotels, traveling on a regular basis, receiving per diem, having a publishing industry push me to an adoring public, having a fan base and sold-out arenas - I will only have little fans who ask me for more than my autograph and a picture; they want me to read a story.  They want me to answer their questions and tuck them into bed at night.  They will be my groupies.

Doing ministry God’s way means a woman probably won’t have a personal assistant making her appointments and answering her correspondence unless, of course, she trains her children to do it and then they will grow up and leave her to fend for herself. No – if she wants all that, she must employ some other mothers to do those things for her so she is freed up and they can have real ministry too.

And neither will she get to leave her home for extended times of seclusion so she can hear from God and write Bible studies to tell women how to live in His presence.  Imagine that.   She’ll have to learn to hear from God and live in His presence while making sandwiches for toddlers who like peanut butter.  She’ll have to lunch with a 4-year-old who asks how stars stay in the sky rather than discuss her husband and theological matters with other women at Starbucks. 

She’ll have to settle for a relaxed wardrobe rather than Kate Spade or Prada or Marc Jacobs.  She won’t have a stage or bright lights or a worship band unless she counts her kitchen table, a few flashlights on a dark night, and kids singing.

You know, I once went to a weekend event geared to teach women how to teach the Bible.   I was a young pastor’s wife with 4 small children.  The women in our church wanted a women’s Bible study and they asked me to teach it. 

I wasn’t really sure if this was the right time of my life to be doing this but I sought the training – I wanted to do it right.  I will never forget pulling out of my driveway that Friday night (the training would begin in the evening and last all day on Saturday) and seeing my little 2-year-old crying his eyes out.  My heart ached.  But I was going to be trained for ministry. I was told my child would get over it because this was ministry and it was worth it.  When this kind of thing is done habitually, is it worth it?  Would Mary have left Jesus to be trained for ministry? Hannah chose not to go to the feast after Samuel was born and that is exactly the time she exulted God and He recorded it in Scripture for all of us to read.  Please understand,  I know and believe it is appropriate and quite all right to leave a crying child at times - even for an overnight event and on occasion for a getaway with your husband.  But don’t miss the point – in this particular instance, I believe God was showing me a much larger picture and how women’s ministry in the American church was getting out of control.  Why?

Because I have to tell you – not once at that training conference did those older women who led the training speak to me or any other of the young mothers in attendance about seasons of life, about the priority of home and family.  Not once did they challenge me about God’s very specific instructions in His Word about the high and holy ministry of home and family.  Not once.

Yet that’s exactly what God says the older women are to teach the younger women.  That laundry list in Titus doesn’t get top billing at a woman’s ministry conference.  In fact, it gets no billing.

Over the years, I have learned that none of the big name women Bible teachers help women in this area with the exception of  Nancy DeMoss.  And she’s single. Think about the irony of that.  Nancy knows the word of God.  And she teaches what so many married mothers will not touch.  It’s sad but even though so many women may not mean to, they seem to see the years of raising a family as something to get through and work around till you can get to real ministry.  It is so sad.

To further make this point, I read with dismay an article in a Christian magazine about one of the most respected women in fulltime ministry.  The article explained that she married young and started a family.  But soon, with three small children,  she felt stifled:

 "It is just being in a small home and small children, small little toys and small little words, and you just feel trapped," she recalled.  "I wasn't handling it very well. I was losing my temper. I wasn't patient. I wasn't kind. I wasn't loving. I wasn't the kind of mother ... my mother is."

She decided she needed to fix her relationship with God.  When her church didn't have a Bible study class she could attend, she started one.

I read the article with great sadness as I wondered, “Where were the godly older women in her life who could help her fix her relationship with God and show her how those years of small children, small little toys, and small little words were exactly the ministry God wanted her to have?  Where were the women who could help her and nurture her and come alongside so she could view her home and her life with small things from God’s perspective?”  This was her ministry.

I know where they were – they were listening to the call of Woman Folly -  the woman personified in Proverbs who calls out to the naïve, “Turn in here.”  So many Christian women in the ‘50s and ‘60s listened and neglected the home, the family, and turned to other gods.  Armed with college degrees, a growing women’s movement, birth control, reproductive freedom and I-don’t-need-a-man mentality; some sought careers, others sought playtime and leisure, while others were bored finding new ways of freeing themselves from responsibility.

All seemed to think home was drudgery.  So, a young woman is overwhelmed by little children?  Find childcare; let someone else raise your little intruders while you fill your life with meaning.  One such woman who decided to leave the home for a career was offended when her own father asked, “But who will take care of the children?”  Christian women found childcare all right – down at the local conservative church.  These women were encouraged by Christians who would provide a pseudo-family environment for the children who only wanted Mama.   Some of these women weren’t pursuing careers though and they weren’t out doing all the godless things – no way – they were having Bible study 24/7 while the church daycare or the schools (Christian and public) were raising the children.

SAD.

And that’s why I was so dismayed when I read yet another  article from a seminary publication, written by a pastor’s wife. The part of the article that saddened me was this:

“So suddenly I found myself with three kids and my husband gone for 10 months of the year for 10 years, and I had run out.  I had become a ministry widow.  After a bit, fortunately, I cried out to my ‘Elijah”’ – my Elijah was the wife of [ a ministry leader].
 
So I went to her, and I remember it took me a long time to swallow my pride and say, ‘I have had it, I am bankrupt; I thought I could do this but I can’t.  I’m not the good little missionary wife I thought I was.  I want my husband back.  They think I am a widow every time I go and watch the soccer games.  I can’t do it.’ I expected her to take well-worn Bible verses and hit me over the head with them, but she didn’t.”


Wow.  I’m thinking, what an opportunity for Titus 2 counsel.  A young wife and mother genuinely seeking out an older wife and mother for godly counsel about her life.  This part is good.  This is the way it should be . . . but the counsel she receives is so bad.  The seasoned, older woman says this:

“It is hard, isn’t it?”

To which the young pastor’s wife replies:

“It is over ‘hard,’ I haven’t got it.  Nothing is left.”

And herein is the worse part of the story:

“She looked at me and said, ‘Oh, yes, you have the little pot of oil, ’  Then [she] took a deep breath (and she told me afterward that she took a big risk) and said, ‘I’m going to send you a couple of Bible students tonight, and I want you to go out with the outreach team.  You have been shut up in that little lodge with three small children, you are away from everything that is happening, and you haven’t been involved in anything your heart loves.’”

I couldn’t believe it – the older woman describes the God-given sphere of a woman’s influence – a home filled with children – in this way:

·       “Shut up with three small children."
·        “Away from everything that is happening.” 
·       “Not involved in anything your heart loves.” 

How sad.  And what an unbiblical and distorted perspective.  The first time I read this reply to this then young woman, I was so very grieved.  But this explains so much.  It explains why, years later, when the young woman grew into an older woman herself, she could write the following counsel for young mothers:

“A mother needs to continue her spiritual and intellectual education. When an adult is around small children all day, she tends to think, eat, and talk like them. Adult company and stimulation helps keep her fresh and up on things.”

When I read those words, my children were much younger and still in the home.  And I remember thinking just the opposite.  I have five children and when they were young, it was their stimulation, their curiosity, their questions that kept me fresh and up on things.   I had to explain the world to them.  I didn’t feel shut up with them, nor away from everything that was happening, and they were everything my heart loved!!

And my spiritual education? Their questions alone drove me to God’s Word. Real questions such as: 

·       Who made God?
·       How do the stars stay in the sky, does God glue them?
·        What happens to our stuff when we die?
·       Will Jesus come to the ground again?
·       Before I was born, did you always want me?
·       Where was I before I was born?
·       Do dogs and cats go to heaven?
·       Why does Daddy put people in the water?
·       What does God look like?
·       Since Jesus lives in our hearts, when we eat food, does it drop on His head?
·        How did you know I was lying?

Intellectual education? I had to search out answers to their very real questions such as:

·       Why did the people leave England?
·       What does infinity mean? I love you infinity times, mommy.
·       Tell me about the Alamo.
·       Explain long division again.
·       Why do people kill babies in their tummies?
·       How did the first people get chicken pox?
·       Why do I have to get shots?
·       Why does the spider’s egg sac look like a paper bag?
·       How come . . . why . . .when . . .

Maybe I was weird, but I was never bothered by being around small children most of the time.  Sure, it was nice when I enjoyed time with friends and dates with my husband.  And I looked forward to their nap times when I could have a little down time.   But I loved being with my children.  I loved the challenge of thinking, eating, and talking with them.  Training them.  Loving them.  Inspiring them. Hanging out with them.  The discipline, the challenge, the activity – hard, yes.  Refreshing, more so.

And to be honest, I would rather think, eat, and talk like a lot of children I know ~ childlike wonder, trust, dependence, hope, excitement, ~ rather than some of the adults I know ~ sarcastic, cranky, cynical, distrust, moody, depressed.   It’s so nice to be around children who haven’t learned sarcasm.

Jesus’ words ring in my head ~ “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  And  “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

But didn’t I know that adult company and stimulation helps keep me fresh and up on things?
Really though, what is it that I need to be up on that I can’t be up on if I spend most of my time with my children? I should be up on the world and teach my children about the world. But I can say that as I have mothered and now grandmothered these past 30+ years,  it is and has been through the teaching and instruction of my children and now grandchildren, both intellectually and spiritually, that has kept me fresh and up on things.

You just can’t get any fresher than answering the questions of children.  Haven't you been stumped by their questions?

But see, this condescending view of children isn’t just the mindset of a select few believers.  This is the mindset of thousands of Christian women.  I’ve gotten so many invitations to big ministry events for women leaders and NOT ONCE do they teach how to teach and counsel women in the roles for women God has outlined in Scripture.    It’s too controversial.  It makes women feel judged. And hey - there are so many egalitarians out there.  We don't want to offend.

You know, God never speaks negatively of children in the Scripture.  He never says that children shut you up, keep you away from all that is happening, and keep you from being involved in anything your heart loves.  Never, not once.  You search all of Scripture and you’ll never find that kind of thought.  In fact, you’ll find just the opposite.  See, God says that children are fruit of the womb, blessings, rewards, arrows in the hand of a warrior.  Oh, Christians will affirm that truth with their lips – but their hearts are very far from it.  It’s no wonder God says that young women need to be taught to love their children. 

Imagine if a young woman named Mary, from another time in history, could come today and ask these same women for perspective during the long days of mothering.  Would they have said, “You have been shut up in that stable with a small baby, away from everything that is happening, and not involved in anything your heart loves?”  Would they have encouraged her to seek adult interaction?  Would they have indulged her sense of feeling stifled and trapped?  Would they have told her to start a Bible Study and put her child in the Synagogue daycare?  Would they have encouraged Mary to find fulfillment somewhere else other than where God had placed her?

I doubt it.  But it’s happening all over our nation.  Women in ministry are giving lousy advice, by their lifestyles and their words, to the next generation.  If you’re a young mother – better watch out.  And you'll have to decide where your heart really is and what it longs for.  You want the affirmation of all the women out there or do you want to be faithful in the difficult nobody-sees-it world of home?  Who do you want to call you blessed?

It’s a good thing Mary had Elizabeth.  And it’s a good thing Mary knew the Word of God – His word alone quiets the frustrations of a young mother and causes her soul to exult in Him. 

And nowadays – that’s all  we have.  

If you're a young  woman reading this, please don't get distracted.  You only have a window of time to be faithful as your children are growing up.    This is real ministry.



Posted in Biblical Womanhood, Ministry, Mothering    Tagged with no tags


4 Comments

Anonymous - August 27th, 2013 at 9:14 PM
Thank you so much for writing this! I am a young mother that has so often felt so conflicted by the voices of the culture, many within the church, and even my own mother. So many have told me that by staying at home with my children I am "wasting my talents." Even a pastor of a conservative church sort of scolded me recently for being unwilling to accept a full-time children's ministry position in the church, telling me that I would never find a better situation than having my kids in the daycare that I was responsible for overseeing. I felt very torn and conflicted as we were experiencing a financially challenging time as my husband looked/looks for a new place of ministry or at least a secular position that would pay the bills. But my heart longs to be at home with my children, and somehow God has always provided a way and we have never gone without. I am so grateful! I often find myself trying to make exscuses or talk down this calling that I feel to be at home with my children, because as you mentioned in the post there is a fear of offending others and even mothers that are serving in full-time ministry outside the home. Thank you for your boldness in encouraging young mothers like me.
Harriet - August 28th, 2013 at 2:22 AM
This is what older women are supposed to be teaching to younger women. Thank you!
Rebecca - August 28th, 2013 at 2:08 PM
This touched my heart! As a first time expectant mother, God used these words to remind me that my heart's desire is not selfish, it is HIS desire for the ministry of mothering and being a godly wife. If you had asked me even 5 years ago if I planned on being at home with my children and serving my husband as a wife at home, I would have giggled. I have been very focused on my career serving children with special needs, and always assumed that would be my ministry, but as soon as God blessed us with the understanding that a baby is on the way, my heart changed, and so has my husband's. I'm looking forward to the Mothering From the Heart marathon next week! As a new member, learning about the women's ministry at CBC is more confirmation that this church is where God wants me. Blessings to you!
Theresa - August 29th, 2013 at 9:12 PM
Yes, yes, yes. I have never been so blessed by an article. Thank you. I remember being young, just getting married and having some of our children. We were dual active Marines and were required to have a letter stating who would take our children should we be called away. I thought-absolutely not. I don't trust anyone that much to leave them with them for weeks or months on end. They are mine. God gave them to me. So I got out after my first term.

Yet, when I got out, I still sent my 2 young children to daycare. And went to work at Navy Federal. Gerald worked Monday through Friday, I worked Tuesday through Saturday. But hey, I was having fun. My kids were doing fine. Then along came number 3. The bank didn't pay me enough to send all three to daycare. Well, it would do that and nothing else. So, I stepped away from that job. And pulled my kids from daycare.

Then my oldest started school. Yes, this is it. My kids can go to school and I can keep the house clean, the dishes and the laundry caught up, dinners on the table. This is just what I need. My friends tried to convince me to homeschool, that I was already doing it with my 3 year old. Nope, my kids need to go to school so I can perform my duties around the house. She continued to try to convince me. I thought she was crazy. There's no way I could actually, truly school them. Never mind that the three year old knew all the planets in order, with the asteroid belt, which were inner and which were outer planets just from reading Magic Schoolbus and making a poster. That was just for fun. Never mind that he was asking for homework like his big brother so I would photocopy Dexter's homework before he did it so we would have some "homework" to do. No there's no way I could do that and still keep up with dinners and housework.

So we moved to Pensacola. Where, for various reasons, the school system was just "the absolute worst in the world" Thank you, God, for my butt kicking. (Bear in mind this is only the second system we had been in-so not exactly proven fact or anything). I signed my kids up for school the next year anyway-just in case. Went to a ladies' meeting they were having at our church. Ended up sitting next to a woman who was homeschooling her children. (Of all the women's meetings I attended this was the ONLY women's meeting she was at too.) Thank you, God, for being the perfect great choreographer. She invited me to see what she did, what curriculum she used etc. She invited a stranger into her home to encourage and walk with her! Thank you Dawn Hunter. She gave me the best practical starting advice I have ever heard-start with an all-in-one program...get your feet wet and then branch out.

I am now still homeschooling, when others thought I would have let go. It is not always easy. I am not always patient. There are always rough days, and there are golden days. But for all of my mistakes I would not go and change my choice to stay home. I love being "cooped up" with my children. I love helping them learn. I love getting to see all their firsts. I love knowing that they get to hear about God daily. I love being able to see them and know where I need specific help and prayer. My problem is I want to fix it all. I can't. But God can. I tell them that all the time. And I hope and pray for all my mistakes that my children grow up loving God.

Thank you again for reminding me why I (finally) chose to stay home and what a huge blessing it is.

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