This week, in partnership with the International Society of Women in Apologetics, Apologetics315 will be featuring a series of essays from women in apologetics. This following essay has been contributed by Mary Jo Sharp, entitled: Implementing Apologetics in Women’s Ministry.
In Matthew 22:37, Jesus replies to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” His reply is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Though Jesus’ words here mean to love God with our whole being, he specifically emphasizes three aspects. The last aspect is to love God with all of our mind. Are we, as ministry leaders, providing opportunities for the women in our church to love the Lord with all their mind? Women need to be challenged in the area of growing in knowledge of the Lord.
When I speak at a women’s conference, I sometimes ask the audience to share with me how much time they spend in learning Biblical truths or in answering difficult questions about faith in God (through discussion, bible study, reading, but not including time spent at church). The average response amounts to 1% to 3% of a typical day spent thinking on and learning about truths from the Word of God. So, a majority of the day is wrapped up in secular activities. While there is nothing inherently wrong with many worldly activities, women need to keep in check the messages consumed as they go about their day. When a woman turns on the television, reads a newspaper or magazine, surfs the internet, listens to the radio, goes to the movies, goes to work, or even just goes shopping, she will most likely encounter untrue messages about the Christian faith. Some of these messages include that science is the only way we can know truth, religion is the root of all evil, and that religious people are not smart. How are we combating these false messages in our ministry to women?
It is vital to the spiritual growth of our women to address their doubts. If a woman doubts God’s existence or has never investigated her reasons for belief, she cannot reasonably be expected to grow in knowledge of God, find a study of the Word as a priority in life, or share what she believes is the truth about God with the world. However, if a woman has confidence in her belief in God, she can place her trust in God as a real being who can really affect her life.
Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
It is especially important for women to have a safe, loving environment such as a women’s ministry in which to share their doubts and ask questions. In my experience, women are more hesitant to do this in an environment in which men are present. There could be many reasons for their hesitation, but I have found – in candid moments one-on-one – that some women generally do not want to come across as “dumb” in front of their Christian brothers. These ladies will not ask very many questions in the presence of men, if any at all.1 I have also found many women do not feel it is acceptable in the church to have doubts about God. An apologetics element in our women’s ministries would help alleviate these fears while combating untruths assaulting our women’s minds, enabling them to be emboldened in their faith in God.
Three Goals for pioneering this field in women’s ministry:
1) Establish the Need
2) Create an Environment
3) Find/Create a Study
Goal #1: Establish the Need
Since this area of women’s ministry is basically new, we must first establish the need. Generally, it is a good idea to emphasize the importance of having a ready defense of our Christian beliefs so we are able to talk with anyone who asks about our faith (1 Peter 3:15). However, it is just as important to emphasize the role apologetics plays in the spiritual transformation of the life. The things a woman habitually thinks about are the things that will guide her actions.
- Our knowledge and understanding affects our actions
- What a woman understands about God will ultimately affect her trust in Him
- If she doubts God, she will live her life in accordance with her distrust of God
- b. If she trusts God, she will try to live her life in accordance with that trust (* I use “try” because of the reality of sin)
- a. She must also believe in God
- b. Romans 10:9 – That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
- c. It is very hard for someone to believe something that has no evidence or support whatsoever
- i. An apologetics study can provide the evidences and support Christians are seeking to bolster their confidence in God
- ii. Now that I have studied the defense of the faith, I find it very hard to support the theory that there is no God
- Apologetics can provide women with training that builds a solid foundation for trust in God
In the course of studying a defense of the faith, women will encounter:
- Essential Christian Doctrines – the “non-negotiables” of the faith
- Church History
- a. Why are there denominations?
- b. Is the New Testament reliable or has it been changed?
- c. Are there issues in the church and in our culture that have already been addressed by the Church?
- a. Christianity best explains the world we live in
- b. Other religions and worldviews do not have adequate explanations
* I never really got to know my Scriptures or my reasons for belief in God until I put my faith to the test out in the public realm.
Goal #2 Create an Environment
In order to teach material that will grapple with the most difficult questions women have about belief in God, ministry leaders must provide them with a safe and loving learning environment. Since the perfect environment for learning will only be found on the other side of resurrection, I suggest prepping your church in a few ways.
- Prayer for the transformation of your local body of believers
- Pray for maturity in Christ (Ephesians 4:13)
- Pray for the unity of the believers (John 17:21, 23)
- Pray for their minds to receive the truth (John 16:13; Psalm 25:4-5)
- Pray for a willingness to learn (Romans 12:2)
- Survey the body of believers for the most important topics to address
- Make a list of issues
- Distribute surveys
- Surveys can be handed out in Sunday School classes, inserted in bulletins (with a note to drop the survey in a box at the end of service), or by speaking with people one-on-one
- Prepare your heart and mind as the leader
- Be open to constructive criticism
- Be ready to question: “Why do you believe that?”
- Get excited to learn along with your women
- Show your true concern for the spiritual growth of the souls God has entrusted to your leadership
Goal #3: Find or Create a Study
Over the last three years, I have written most of my own material out of a lack of available studies for lay-level instruction. However, as apologetics continues to increase in church ministry, more studies are rapidly becoming available. Make sure to check out Apologetics 315’s recommendations. A couple of my own suggestions: The Truth Project available from Focus on the Family Ministries, The Case for Christ book or the Faith Under Fire DVD and group discussion kit by Lee Strobel, The Reason for God book and discussion guide by Timothy Keller, and Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl.
If you desire to create a study based on your survey of the women in your church, below are a few sites you can go to for research. Most of these sites will also connect you to other sites.
www.4truth.net – The apologetics website of the North American Mission Board
www.carm.org – Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
www.reclaimingthemind.org – Reclaiming the Mind Apologetics Ministry
www.bethinking.org – Be Thinking Apologetics Website (articles specified by learning level: beginner, intermediate, advanced)
www.leestrobel.com – Author Lee Strobel’s website
www.str.org – Stand to Reason’s website (Greg Koukl)
www.reasonablefaith.org – The ministry of Dr. William Lane Craig
www.confidentchristianity.com – That’s me!
www.apologetics315.com – This site
You can also create a study by finding a book on apologetics that deals with many of the topics found in the survey. Authors Paul Copan and Kenneth Samples have excellent books for treating individual topics, one per chapter, with discussion questions at the end of each chapter. Let me also encourage you to train up your women in critical thinking skills by using lay-friendly books on logic like The Fallacy Detective by Hans and Nathaniel Bluedorn. It will help them breakdown and analyze the arguments they do encounter against their faith in God.
I am excited for the possibilities that are before us to grow and learn together as the body of Christ. I have already seen an apologetics spark here in the state of Texas amongst our women’s ministries and I hope to see that fire spread!
Mary Jo Sharp Mis an aspiring author and Christian apologist. She is a Certified Apologetics Instructor with the North American Mission Board (Souther Baptist Convention). Mary Jo holds a M.A. in Christian Apologetics with honors from Biola University and holds a Bachelors Degree in Music Education from the University of Oklahoma. Find more of her resources at ConfidentChristianity.com