Month: May 2013

Pastors” Conf. officers provide diverse lineup addressing leadership and family

HOUSTON—There is nothing typical about the speakers headlining the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention’s annual Pastors’ Conference, including the conference president, Gregg Matte. He believes the diversity on the program will  undergird the singularity of the message presented.

Since 1935 Southern Baptist Convention pastors have gathered to encourage and edify one another in the days prior to the denomination’s annual meeting. This year’s conference—“Launch: Taking our hearts, homes, and ministries to a higher place”—will feature pastors from the East and West coasts, international churches and laymen who can add “texture” to the program, Matte said.

Understanding that the local church is the heart of the SBC and the epicenter for outreach to a community, the conference will equip pastors in developing a crucial balance between their leadership roles at church and home while reminding them of the interconnected nature of the denomination.

Matte admitted that his own path to leadership at Houston’s First Baptist Church was not typical. With a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Texas A&M and a master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Matte founded Breakaway Ministries at his alma mater. The weekly Bible study quickly grew from 12 to 4,000 students—the largest of its kind in the nation. From there he was called to lead the Houston mega-church following the retirement of long-time pastor John Bisagno.

“There’s 50 reasons why I am not the right guy and 49 why I am,” he said of his role as pastor since 2004.

It is through the varying pathways to leadership and the myriad backgrounds that Matte wants to showcase the unity of the Pastors’ Conference theme—the requisite skills of sound preaching, church leadership and family priorities.

Matte said, “If we lead well, preach the Word well, we’re going to have a great ministry.”

But, he added, if a pastor forsakes his family while building up his church, “then we’ve lost it.”

Technology allows people to stay plugged in to work and home simultaneously. But there must be a clear demarcation between the two. Matte, who coaches his son’s baseball team, said the church is for work and the home is for family. The 24-hour tension between the two demands established boundaries and priorities.

Scheduled to speak on that issue are Bryant and Anne Wright. He is pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga., and founder of Right from the Heart Ministries.

Recognizing that the local church impacts people from cradle to grave, Matte said he is committed to equipping the local church because it is the God-ordained fountainhead from which other ministries flow. And, he added, the Southern Baptists’ strong stance on the Word of God and the great theological foundation steels his commitment to the denomination.

God “wired” him to be a teacher and leader and equipping pastors in those roles is the essence of the Pastors’ Conference. Speaking on the nuts and bolts of effective preaching and leadership are pastors who have navigated the rough seas of change and have solid ministries to show for it. Rodney Woo, pastor of International Baptist Church, Singapore, led a dying suburban church back to life. The predominantly Anglo church sat in a neighborhood that no longer looked like its members. Matte said God has brought the world to America and pastors struggle in reaching people of different ethnicities. But Woo’s leadership brought new life to Wilcrest Baptist Church near Houston. Today the thriving congregation is home to a mix of Hispanic, African, African American, Caribbean and Anglo members.

Shepherding a church through change—successfully—is the mark of a good leader, Matte said.

He sought to bring leaders from different ethnicities, ages and stages of life who will speak on the themes of leadership, solid and effective preaching and the balance between the pastorate and family. Matte said the addition of non-pastors like Gary Rosberg, co-founder of America’s Family Coach, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will add texture and creativity to the program, addressing the issues from a different frame of reference.

Eric Geiger, vice president of the Church Resources Division at LifeWay Christian Resources will speak on what churches are doing “in a macro sense.” The author of “Simple Church” and other speakers will connect pastors and their families with resources uniquely available through affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention.

“That’s what’s important to young [pastors],” Matte said.

If pastors can see the hallmarks of the denomination are theology and ministry, then they see the significance of denominational affiliation, Matte said. But, if it’s just tradition and “tipping your cap to an organization,” that’s not going to do it. The denomination was created to be a blessing to the local church but young pastors misunderstand that, he said. They switch it around in their mind—that the local church is just feeding the SBC.

Matte is convinced pastors who have not yet felt compelled to take part in the SBC Pastors’ Conference—especially young pastors—will find they’ve been missing out. The conference will help connect them to a pathway they can utilize throughout their lives and through all of their ministries.

“It gives us a connection with a pathway,” Matte said.

“Crossover Houston”: Block parties, door-to-door offer platforms for gospel witness

“It’s always effective when Southern Baptists at every level cooperate to reach people for Christ,” said Darrell Robinson, a former pastor and longtime evangelist from The Woodlands.

Continuing the tradition of cooperation in reaching out to the SBC host city, Crossover Houston is offering opportunities for intentionally sharing the gospel, featuring block parties and door-to-door evangelism.

“The SBTC is working with NAMB to provide a more traditional Crossover experience,” said Nathan Lorick, SBTC evangelism director. “This includes working with seminary students Monday-Friday, June 3-7, going door-to-door to witness. On Saturday, June 8, churches will be hosting block parties across Houston.”

NAMB is also working with Union Baptist Association in Houston to help kick off “Loving Houston,” a three-year program featuring projects such as home renovation, clean-up, demolition, outreach and prayer walking.

“The SBTC and NAMB wanted to provide opportunities for people across the SBC to do intentional and direct evangelism. We felt that door-to-door evangelism and block parties were a great way to be active in sharing the gospel.”

Crossover events have been a staple of SBC evangelism efforts in host cities since their inauguration at the 1989 Las Vegas convention. The effort began in the heart of Robinson when he was pastor at Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., and a member of the SBC Executive Committee. “I suggested that for many years I had the conviction that when we do SBC in a major city, we should also plan to try to do a major evangelistic effort in the city,” Robinson said. “I suggested that we work with local churches in the area and messengers should come in early to do evangelistic projects, including door-to-door witnessing representing the local church in the area, block parties, evangelistic harvest meetings led by evangelists, etc.”

The Las Vegas event, originally called “Saturation Evangelism Project,” had a great impact, according to Robinson. “It got the attention of all of Las Vegas. The people were responsive. It was a huge success! My recall is that around 1,800 professed faith in Christ. Churches were impacted. Ultimately new churches were started.”

The success of the Las Vegas outreach led the SBC to decide to sponsor evangelism events every year during the SBC in the convention city. “Morris Chapman at the Executive Committee suggested the name Crossover, which we all liked. ‘SBC messengers would cross over to lift up the cross over the convention city,’” Robinson said.

Lifting up the cross continues to be the goal of Crossover Houston. “Our desire for Crossover is to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ,”  Lorick said.

First Baptist Church of Pearland is one of the churches excited about doing a block party as part of Crossover Houston. “We have concluded that one large block party could effectively reach several thousand over a three-hour time,” said Sonny Foraker, pastor. The block party is set to include bounce houses, a rock climbing wall, water slides for older kids, interactive games, a petting zoo and pony rides, as well as hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones. In addition, the church band will perform from a bandstand.

“The Crossover event will allow many people to participate in a fun day when their normal busy schedules would not otherwise allow them to hear, or see, that the gospel can impact their lives,” Foraker said.

Lorick believes that intentional evangelism at all the Crossover Houston events will benefit the churches sponsoring the events, as well as those who hear the gospel and share the gospel. “Our desire is to see people to be excited about sharing their faith daily in their communities,” he said. “By doing door-to-door evangelism as well as block parties, we are giving people the training, experience and opportunities to develop a burden and passion to see people come to faith in Jesus.”

Bethel Baptist Church is another church planning a Crossover Houston block party and hoping to impact its community for Christ. “Our church is located in the inner city of Houston with a predominately Hispanic community. Gangs, drugs, poverty and teen pregnancy are big issues,” Pastor Jamie Garcia said. “This block party will give our church the opportunity to display our ‘Love God, Love People’ motto.”

Northeast Houston Baptist Church is offering a five-day Backyard Bible Club in  June at more than 25 host sites in subdivisions surrounding the church. “We are  hosting four CrossOver block parties in the general vicinity of these backyard  bible club locations in order to promote the upcoming clubs, let potential attendees and their parents meet us, and of course to share the gospel,” Pastor Nathan Lino explained. “We are very excited not only for the immediate impact of the block parties, but also for the potential of giving us greater access to unchurched families two weeks later.”

Whether door-to-door, at a block party, or one-on-one, sharing the love of God is the reason to be involved in this evangelism outreach. “Crossover Houston is going to be a great time in which people from all over the SBC join together to knock on doors and host block parties,” Lorick said. We pray that God blesses these efforts and many people will come to faith in Jesus June 8 through Crossover Houston.”

There are multiple opportunities for those attending the SBC to be a part of Crossover Houston. To see a list of churches hosting block parties, visit or or email Information is also available by calling the SBTC Evangelism Office at 817-552-2500.

What do you mean by “persecution”?

This week Pastor Saeed Abedini celebrated his 33rd birthday from a prison cell deep in Iran, reportedly clinging to the promised hope from Romans 8 that persecution and death cannot separate a believer from God’s love.

Abedini, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen and Muslim-turned-Jesus follower, has been repeatedly beaten, tortured and just last month denied medical care, reportedly for internal injuries, for refusing to deny Christ. Arrested last September on one of his trips back to Iran, he’s faced death threats from authorities and recently from fellow prisoners, all while enduring separation from his wife and two sons in Idaho.

He’s not the first to suffer persecution of biblical proportions. According to the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, citing the International Journal of Missionary Research, 171,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2005 alone. How many do you know by name? I can’t name one.

Meanwhile, it seems persecution of the “soft” kind, as one website termed it, is on the rise domestically. Regularly, I get emails, fund-raising letters (often written in hyperbolic terms) and read news stories of a public school student or government employee denied his constitutional rights because some bumbling bureaucrat read a memo and got overzealous.

In most of these cases, someone forgot to tell them that the First Amendment also has something called the Free Exercise Clause.

We saw this type of politically correct overreaction in the Plano school district in the previous decade with confiscated candy cane pens and Christmas pencils, among other absurdities. There are a thousand other examples from coast to coast of such governmental clumsiness in the name of religious and ideological pluralism.

We are watching our own military to see what becomes of apparent tension over how “evangelism” is somehow distinguished from “proselytizing,” who can do either, when they can do it, how they can do it, etc.

When it comes to handling the religious aspects of the First Amendment, our government entities are the proverbial bull in the china closet, leaving a mess with the slightest provocation.

It’s maddening, head scratching. But is it persecution?

And if so, should I feel guilty for citing the candy cane pen case in the same breath as Pastor Saeed or the 171,000 aforementioned martyrs or the Sudanese Christians who were threatened of being “buried alive” by government interrogators?

Guilt is not needed here. Perspective is, though. Call it harassment. Call it pre-persecution or persecution light. It’s not always directed at Christians with malice, though it’s almost always Christians who are in the crosshairs.

Being perceived as the favored religion in a politically correct, hypersensitive climate has its drawbacks. More often than not, stupidity is the reason for First Amendment encroachments. But malice exists. And if history is an indicator, it could get more blatant.

A teacher asked to remove a Bible from her desk or a federal ruling that disallows religious symbolism at a war memorial is not exactly the same thing as what Saeed is going through.

On the other hand, the beneficiaries of American liberty live abroad as well. Human rights groups, missionary enterprises, and government diplomats exercise positive pressure around the world because human dignity and freedom of conscience are valued in America. We are still an exceptional influence, for now.

If we lose that distinctive, the world suffers. We are only a force for good abroad if we are a force for good at home also. This is the payoff when Christian lawyers go at it with government judges over constitutional encroachments of religious expression. The so-called first freedom undergirds all the others. Everyone, not just religious folks, benefits from this.

One definition of Christian persecution, from a missionary watchdog group called Release International, defines it as such: “A situation where Christians are repetitively, persistently and systematically inflicted with grave or serious suffering or harm and deprived of (or significantly threatened with deprival of) their basic human rights because of a difference that comes from being a Christian that the persecutor will not tolerate.”

Clearly, this definition has cases like Pastor Saeed’s in mind. And we’re not there just yet.

So let’s be measured in our talk about persecution, lest we find ourselves faced with public yawns when the fiery furnace really heats up. In the high-stakes contention for religious liberty, credibility is crucial.

Motherhood: Calling, career or ministry?

As stay-at-home mothers increasingly become the exception, some women are interpreting Paul’s Titus 2:5 prescription for women to serve as homemakers as a call to ministry.

In honor of Mother’s, the TEXAN asked several women to weigh in on the role of motherhood as a calling, career or ministry.

Jenna Lorick said she believes motherhood is all three. Lorick is the mother of four children, ages 16 months to 8 years, the youngest of which joined their family through adoption.

“Just the other day I was talking with my boys about going to college someday,” Lorick said. “They asked why college was important, and I told them that it is hard to get a job without going to college.  They all wanted to know if I had been. When I told them ‘yes,’ they were quick to ask why I didn’t have a job!

“With a smile I reminded them that I do have a job. My job for now is to take care of them and our home. I did spend a few years working outside of the home when we only had two children, and let me just say, it was like having two careers.”

But Lorick, wife of SBTC Evangelism Director Nathan Lorick, said that motherhood is also a calling—otherwise she’d be tempted to give up on difficult days.

“Motherhood is full of some wonderful moments, but it is also full of a lot of mundane moments … never-ending laundry, disciplining and redirection over the same offense countless times in a single day … It is easy to get discouraged without the reminder that God has called me to be the mother of these four little ones. He has entrusted them to me for a short time and on the days when I don’t feel up to that calling, he reminds me that he is the God who equips those he calls.”

A ministry of prayer
Above all, Lorick views motherhood as a ministry. “I see my sweet little crew as my Jerusalem. The first and foremost place that I am to be a witness for my Savior is in my own home with my family.”

Lorick said one of her favorite ministries as a mother is the ministry of prayer.

“I have the privilege of lifting up my little crew to the Father at any time for any reason,” she said, adding that she loves to pray Psalm 86:11-12 for them. “It is my prayer that my children will serve him and praise him with hearts that are not divided, hearts that are totally his.”

A few summers ago, Lorick said she began praying for her oldest son’s salvation. A few weeks after she began intentionally praying, he made a profession of faith.  

“I know that the majority of the prayers I pray for my children will not be answered this quickly and there will be some that I may never see answered in my lifetime, but I do know that I serve a God who hears the prayers of his people.”

A ministry of teaching & evangelism
Eleven years ago, Nivedita Burris left India to move to the United States. Educated as a civil engineer and pursuing a career in information technology, Burris never imagined herself as a homemaker. Today, she is a stay-at-home mother of two (ages 6 and 4) by day, and international food blogger by night. 

“I view motherhood primarily as ministry which blossomed from a calling,” said Burris, a member of a church plant in Boerne called Currey Creek Baptist Church.

“Before I became a mother, I was very career-focused.  I had worked hard to go from a small-town Indian girl to stand independent, doing a job that I wanted, in the country I’d always dreamed of living in. I didn’t want to give up my career so easily,” she told the TEXAN, noting that her perspective changed at the birth of her daughter.

“Being a mother is a beautiful blessing,” Burris said, adding that before she came to Christ the hardships of Indian women often veiled the significance of motherhood for her.

“After reading the stories of Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah and Elizabeth in the Bible, I realized that all these women were grieving for the lack of offspring. Having a child was not only a blessing to them but it brought a blessing to the world,” she explained. “Ruth’s obedience changed the world; she continues to inspire me. I believe that motherhood … can be the conduit to bless many beyond yourself.”

Burris said she hopes that her main ministry of motherhood is to teach her children to bless others—primarily by instilling in them obedience to the Great Commission.

“Having a birth family in India who still awaits the grace of Christ, the call of the Great Commission is personal to me. Living thousands of miles away from them, it gives a new meaning to heart connection,” Burris said. “I use technology to keep up with my family in India. When our kids Skype with their grandparents on the other side of the world, I use that experience and visual to tell them that God gave us the gospel to bring his family together from around the world.”

In her own home, Burris connects the ministry of homemaking with the gospel through cooking. Her blog,, teaches mothers how they can inspire a love for missions in their children by cooking global cuisine and then praying for missionaries in those regions.

“Moms are in a unique and advantageous position to be an ambassador of Christ,” Burris said. “Something as simple as a play date or sharing a meal together presents the opportunity of discipleship and a deeper relationship with another person. Our children can be a witness to Christ in their everyday walk of life.”

A ministry of preparation
When her husband died at 42, Karen Collett discovered nothing can prepare a mother for losing a husband and parenting partner. As a widowed mother of three, Collett was forced to step into new and unfamiliar roles.

“Losing a spouse did hit hard, and I felt it impacted my ministry. Maybe the right word is it changed my ministry as a mother,” said Collett, who serves as women’s auxiliary coordinator at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “When Dana died, I felt the weight alone of what I used to share with my hubby.

“Having family time and prayer time went straight to the forefront. My ministry during this time was to make sure the girls knew the Lord was in charge. He had a plan—we needed to follow.”

Above all, Collett believes motherhood is a ministry of preparing children for kingdom work.

“I believe God’s purpose for our lives is to bring others to him. Our lives, our actions, our thoughts, our hearts—all need to point to Jesus,” she said, reflecting on her now-grown children and her five grandchildren. “I felt my role was to develop my girls for kingdom work. My hope is that we gave them consistent love and values that shared how important they were to us—true gifts from the Lord.

“Our goal was to teach them to relate to others, to love others, to respect others, to love Jesus—all with love and strength given to them by the Lord.”

Today, Collett said the blessings of preparing her children for kingdom work include watching her daughters manage their own homes and raise her grandchildren.

“All three daughters have warm homes, and they love opening their homes to others. I love seeing their gifts of hospitality. Watching my daughters’ families develop and grow makes me realize how important my role is to pray for them, to encourage them. It makes a difference.”

A ministry of sacrifice
Jessalyn Hutto, writer and mother of three boys ages 4 down to 4 months, believes motherhood is both a ministry and a calling.

“I view motherhood primarily as a calling in that it is the Lord who blesses the womb and gives the gift of children to those he chooses. This doesn’t mean I am naturally gifted with the character qualities necessary for effective mothering, or that I have the abundance of resources needed for the task but rather that the Lord, through his infinite wisdom, has called me to care for the children he has entrusted to my husband and me,” said Hutto, who founded the website to help women apply Scripture to everyday life. 

As a contributor to Karis, the newly formed women’s channel of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website ( Hutto said motherhood is above all a ministry of sacrifice.

“I see my calling as a mother to be a ministry in two different ways. First, it is a ministry in the sense that it demands self-sacrifice. Every mother feels the weight of this ministry as she experiences countless sleepless nights caring for a fussy, nursing baby or as she sacrificially shuttles children around to various activities,” she said.

While her husband attends Southwestern Seminary, Hutto manages their home, cares for their three children and is beginning to homeschool their eldest.

“Having children and being a full-time homemaker has meant tremendous financial sacrifices on my husband’s and my part. We live in a small home, only have one family vehicle, and spend very little money on non-essentials,” she said. “For my husband, it has meant taking seminary much slower and watching many of his contemporaries graduate and go on to pastoral ministry sooner than he is able to. Though difficult, these are sacrifices we have been happy to make knowing that the eternal rewards far outweigh the temporal sacrifices.”

Hutto, a member of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, said she also believes motherhood is a Great Commission ministry.

“As mothers, our primary mission field is our children. We have a responsibility to raise our children in the knowledge and discipline of the Lord which requires time, creativity, effort and commitment,” she said. “As in all things we are called to bring glory to our heavenly father, and the most important way we can do this with our children is through sharing the gospel with them and purposefully discipling them in the ways of the Lord.”

For Hutto and many others, the sacrifice of motherhood is worth it.

“As a stay-at-home mother, I have the opportunity and privilege to be the single greatest influence on my little children’s lives. This reality is both exciting and terrifying because I can either take advantage of the abundance of time we have together or waste it,” she said. “I am not responsible for saving them, only the Holy Spirit can awaken their hearts to new life, but God has given me the incredible responsibility of sharing the good news of the gospel with them and of training them in the ways of righteousness.”

Christian Homemakers Handbook equips women to live out God-designed purpose

What influences have helped to define the 21st-century woman? How would a handbook, designed to equip women for the responsibilities of motherhood and managing a home, be received in today’s society? In 2009, the “Perceptions of Homemaking Study” was distributed internationally as a survey designed to gauge the 21st-century woman’s knowledge and ability to successfully carry out the skills pertaining to the management of the home.

While the survey was met with an enthusiastic response, the results also revealed a concern from women 35 years and older that women younger than themselves were not receiving the knowledge and skills needed for managing a home that the former generation had acquired. According to Titus 2:3-5, older women play a critical role in passing down these practical skills of homemaking to the next generation of women through their example and personal instruction. Editor Pat Ennis states, “Only when the younger and older women partner together to fulfill this biblical mandate will the Christian home be recovered.”

The scriptural basis for God’s unique design for women is also being taught less and less in evangelical circles, she explained. Ennis states that in teaching a character-based home economics class, she has found new students to be “increasingly unaware of God’s special instructions to women.”

Likewise, co-editor Dorothy Patterson sadly acknowledges how society has suffered “from the advancement of feminism into the heart of the family.”

While the feminist movement at its onset observed true injustices against women, Candi Finch states, “Its interpretation of how to solve these problems is incorrect because feminists abandon God and his plan for humanity.” The need for a resource for the next generation of women that is both biblically based and practical became the inspiration for “The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook.”

The new release from Crossway is a collaborative effort featuring 22  authors and 40 chapters that provide both a biblical foundation and practical instruction on skills related to managing a home. Before fully utilizing the practical aspects of the book, authors address in the second part of the handbook God’s view of the sanctity of life. Through passages like Deuteronomy 6:7-8, authors explain the important role God gives parents to teach their children how to love and follow him. Patterson states, “Rearing the next generation is an awesome task … motherhood should encompass a lifetime investment.” Additional topics addressed in this section reinforce the great value God places on every human life.

Part three of the handbook is devoted to foundational principles for parenting. Twenty-first century women often struggle with a perceived expectation that they must do it all, the writers conclude. They feel pressure to balance a professional job with raising children, participate in community service, manage their home and make it to the local gym. Without time to rest or play the demands of life can leave women feeling overwhelmed and unfulfilled. In order to benefit fully from the practical instruction featured in this resource, it is important for women to first evaluate attitudes, priorities and influences that shape their current priorities and practices against the priorities and values of God’s Word.

Patterson states, “In the quest to be all you are meant to be, you must not forget who you are meant to be and what you are meant to do!”

“The Practical Aspects of Establishing a Home” are addressed in part four beginning with a chapter on life management skills. Rhonda Kelley encourages women to “focus on knowing God first” and to “invest energy in work that has eternal benefits.” She also provides a helpful suggestion for maintaining balance. Kelley and her husband have identified six life areas: spiritual, mental, physical, family, financial and social. They set specific goals for each and annually establish and reevaluate their priorities concerning these goals. The next chapter in this section entitled, “Nest Building 101: Setting Up a Household,” emphasizes the importance of having a biblical framework for the purpose of the home. Aspects of safety, furnishing a home, organizing important documents and stocking a pantry are also mentioned. Other practical topics regarding establishing a home covered in subsequent chapters include: relocating a household, smart cleaning routines, working from home, home decorating and money management. 

“The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook” devotes two chapters, written by Mary K. Mohler, to the home as an evangelistic and discipleship tool entitled, “Biblical Hospitality” and “Making Your Kitchen a Springboard for Ministry.”

Mohler describes hospitality as a selfless way to care for others, allowing them to get to know you beyond a surface level and “abandoning the sinful tendency to be self-absorbed.” The neighborhood, the context in which a woman lives, is a natural mission field. Practicing biblical hospitality and deepening friendships in the context of your home provides natural opportunities to share your faith and personal testimony of knowing Christ.

While women today may recognize the value of investing their time and resources in the pursuit of making a home, many still struggle to practically live out this role. This is due in part to factors like individual personality, lack of positive role models and even challenging issues faced in parenting. Each woman is a product of God’s unique design. Her personality, strengths, weakness, skills and abilities impact her approach to homemaking. As a tool, the handbook includes insights and practical tips in a wide range of areas related to homemaking, proving an opportunity to equip women in an area in which they do not feel particularly strong.

As a resource for pastors and women’s ministry leaders, “The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook” can be utilized to encourage and equip women to live out their God-designed purpose. For use in a small group setting, each chapter ends with suggestions for putting the principles into practice. In a discipleship context, this resource is an excellent tool for equipping more mature women in their mentorship of younger women. Without adequate examples and positive reinforcement in society the 21st-century Christian woman is in great need of the practical instruction gained from “The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook” and it will serve as a treasured guide for women of all ages for years to come.

—Merri Brown is a native Texan now living in Boston where her husband is a church planter.

Southwestern women”s programs teach specific and distinct roles in the home and church

Editor’s Note: Candi Finch serves as assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In this article she describes the basic approach to preparing women for ministry in the home and the church.

Southwestern Seminary is a great place to be a woman. We have the largest women’s programs faculty of any evangelical seminary and offer specialized concentrations and degrees at the certificate, college, master and doctorate levels for women preparing for ministry who want to know what the Bible says specifically about women and to women. We want to think intelligently about what God says about biblical womanhood, a concept that is often grossly misunderstood in our contemporary culture.

So, biblical womanhood—what does that really mean?

I had a student ask me that when she signed up for a class I teach called “Biblical Theology of Womanhood.” She understandably wanted to know what we would be studying for the whole semester as we worked from Genesis to Revelation because another student (who hadn’t taken the course) had discouraged her because she “heard” we didn’t believe women should be involved in ministry. (Ugh … I    hate being misrepresented!)

So, to start off, let me share a few things we don’t teach in our programs (based on a few things people have erroneously said):

  • We don’t teach that women are less valuable, less intelligent or less important in God’s plan. In fact, I think our women’s programs students are some of the sharpest women I have ever met.
  • We don’t teach that women should not be involved in ministry, though we do believe there are some passages in Scripture that give specific guidelines to women involved in ministry.
  • We don’t teach that women should not be thoroughly trained and equipped for ministry. We encourage women to study hard to be prepared for whatever area of ministry God may be calling them. We believe there is incredible value in equipping women who know how to intelligently handle God’s Word and apply it in our contemporary culture in woman-to-woman ministry.
  • We don’t teach that the only way to honor God as a woman is by being a wife and mom, though we do believe that being a wife and a mother is a high calling, which unfortunately is often ridiculed in today’s world. Though I did not get my degrees in homemaking, I do see the value for any woman who wants to be better trained in this area just as I do for the woman who wants to be better trained in missions, theology, girls’ ministry, counseling, teaching, women’s ministry, archaeology or any other sphere of ministry.

OK, now that we have that out of the way, what do we teach? What is really going on behind the doors of our women’s programs classes?

Our basic approach to women in ministry is that we believe that God has created men and women in equal worth and value and that he has some specific and distinct roles for men and women in the home and church.

This understanding of gender roles is often called complementarianism (I know, it’s a mouthful.). It may be helpful to define a couple of terms in understanding our approach to biblical womanhood.

Coming to Terms with “The Terms”
Complementarianism: Equal yet distinct—The Bible teaches that men and women are both created in the image of God (equal in essence) and that God has distinct, yet complementary roles or functions for men and women, especially in the home and church. This position is the one that we hold.

Egalitarianism: No distinction in roles —The Bible teaches that men and women are both created in the image of God (equal in essence) and that God has no distinction of roles or functions for men and women in the home or church. Some Bible-believing evangelicals and some of my good friends hold this position, but I believe that this position is incorrect based on some biblical passages. (Keep reading for the specifics.)

Equality: This word is thrown around a lot, but it is important to understand what people mean when they say it. Many people think that for things to be equal they must be the same. So, if men and women are truly equal, many egalitarians believe they must have the same roles or functions. However, I believe the Bible teaches that something can be equal in value and worth yet have distinctions. An example of this is that each member of the Trinity is equally God, but God the Father has some roles distinct from God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and vice versa. Each member of the Trinity is equally God and equal in value yet distinct in some of their functions. Another example is found in 1 Corinthians 12 regarding spiritual gifts. Every Christian is equally part of the body of Christ, but each has distinct gifts to serve that body.

Presupposition: I had never heard this word until I came to seminary, but it is really important because it describes what you believe ahead of time before you start trying to understand the Bible. Are there any ground rules you follow when trying to understand Scripture? For me and my colleagues at Southwestern, we believe the Bible is without error and contradictions because it is the Word of God. That guides us as we try to interpret difficult passages.

Scriptures to Study
If you want to get a good idea about why we believe and teach certain truths about gender roles, spend some time studying the following passages:

Genesis 1-3: These three chapters are foundational—you won’t understand what God is doing in the rest of the Bible if you don’t understand his unique plan at creation for man and woman.

Galatians 3:28: This verse is often used to argue that there are no longer distinctions in roles. However, if that were the case, then Paul (who wrote this verse) contradicts himself when he articulates role distinctions in other passages like the ones noted below. This verse actually teaches that each person comes to salvation the same way—through the cross of Christ.

Marriage Passages (Colossians 3:18-19, Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Peter 3:1-7): These passages teach that there are distinctions in roles for a husband and wife in a marriage. Ephesians 5:22-33 is especially important because it explains why God designed it this way—it is so a marriage could communicate the truth about how Christ relates to believers. Each Christian marriage is intended to be a witnessing tool.

Ministry Passages (1 Timothy 2:8-15, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, Titus 2:3-5): These passages show that women should be involved in ministry, and the only boundaries given to women is that they should not teach men or have authority over men in the church.

Things to Keep in Mind
I understand why many women and men have trouble embracing a complementarian understanding of gender roles. Abuses by people of faith regarding gender roles in the home and church make it hard to want to follow these teachings. However, I encourage you not to base your beliefs on the bad examples and abuses of sinful people; search the Scriptures yourself to see what God really says.

Also, this issue is deeply personal for women and men. It is sometimes hard to even have a discussion about gender roles with someone who holds a different position because both sides end up talking past each other and offering the worst examples of each belief system as the stereotype. That is not helpful. And, it does not honor the Lord. No matter what your conviction, we all need to represent another Christian’s beliefs accurately.

Further Study
If you are interested in learning more about Southwestern’s approach to gender roles, a good, concise introductory book is Alexander Strauch’s book “Men and Women: Equal Yet Different.” Or, if you want to look at some commentaries that examine the passages mentioned above and others related to gender roles, check out the “Women’s Evangelical Commentary” (there is one on the Old Testament and one on the New Testament).

Changing of the guard preserves priority of homemaking for generations

I am many things—child of God, wife, mother, writer, and blogger. My role as a homemaker facilitates all of these priorities.

In fact, I come from a long line of homemakers. For generations, the women in my family have chosen to arrange their priorities around their families and their homes. It is a role of which I am very proud and grateful to those who preceded me for the sacrifice the homemaking priority required.

My great-grandmother’s introduction to homemaking began at the age of 9 when she willingly shouldered the responsibilities of caring for three siblings after the death of her mother. Standing as the true Proverbs 31 woman, my great-grandmother picked the cotton fields of Blossom, Texas, to buy a winter coat for her daughter. It was only after her daughter’s marriage that she took a dry cleaning job on Haskell Avenue in downtown Dallas.

My grandmother was a homemaker too. Before marrying, she worked in Dallas at the Murray Gin Company making bombs for World War II. When my mother entered college, my grandmother took a job outside the home, filling catalog orders for another Dallas-based company.

My mother graduated with a bachelor’s degree in library science at the height of the feminist movement in America. But when my oldest sister was born, Mom made the unpopular choice to quit her job as the general librarian at the Mesquite Public Library. At the time she earned more than my father, who was employed at a bank.

From our earliest memories, it is our mothers who teach us what ministry looks like—how to serve and orient our lives around others, and the painful sacrifices that are sometimes required.

Paul describes one ministry of motherhood in Titus 2:5 when he admonishes wives to be homemakers. Paul uses the Greek word oikourgos, which means “working at home” or “caring for the house.”

My own mother taught me what the ministry of working at home meant—cheerfully putting another’s interests before her own. Sadly, fewer mothers are passing along that generational vision to their daughters and those who do often pass down the logistics of home management without the keen eye for finding joy in everyday activities.

The late Edith Schaeffer believed homemaking was a hidden art—an art form that satisfied and fulfilled oneself and others. Facebook’s female Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg believes homemaking is drudgery. One woman saw the miraculous in the mundane, the other inequality in the minutia.

In her recent book “Lean-in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” Sandberg urges women to “lean-in” to their careers for the betterment of all women.

Like feminists before her, Sandberg believes homemaking lowers the “expectations of what women can achieve.” And by choosing to focus on their families, women are not “demonstrating courage to reach for more opportunities, sit at more tables, and believe more in themselves.”

Not surprisingly, modern homemakers are being relieved of their duty, the cost of which is revealed in the meaning of the word itself.

In the Byzantine text, Titus 2:5’s rendering of homemaker is oikouros from the root “keeping watch.” The Alexandrian/Western text uses the aforementioned form oikourgos (“home worker” or “caring for the house.”)

The main difference between these two words is the absence of a gamma (the letter g), a variance that Southeastern Seminary’s Maurice Robinson, senior professor of New Testament, said offers no real theological differences.

“…Even if some people might want to draw a fine line between ‘staying at home’ and ‘working at home’; I think both seem to indicate ‘managing the affairs of the home,’” said Robinson, a co-editor of the 2005 Byzantine Text, in an interview with the TEXAN.

Taken together, both oikouros and oikourgos demonstrate the importance of the homemaking task—one as an industrious worker, the other as a guardian. Neither nuance sounds inconsequential to me.

Last month, feminists around the world were sent aflutter when Susan Patton (a feminist pioneer at Princeton) advised female students at the historic institution to get married young.

Keli Goff, among other like-minded feminists, responded to Patton in an op-ed piece for The Guardian titled “Female Ivy League graduates have a duty to stay in the workforce.” It ran with the subtitle: “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a full-time mother, but you don’t need an elite degree to do it.” Goff points an angry finger at educated women who choose to stay at home, calling their degrees a “wasted opportunity.”

“That degree could have gone to a woman who does want to spend her entire life using it to advance the cause of women—or others in need of advancement—not simply advancing the lives of her own family at home, which is a noble cause, but not one requiring an elite degree,” she writes.

If Goff had her way the “next frontier of the admissions should revolve around asking people to declare what they actually plan to do with their degrees.” Her suggested admissions policy would bar some women from higher education—an odd move considering women like Susan Patton fought hard for admission to Ivy League schools not too long ago.

My mother wasn’t educated at an Ivy League school, but she poured her education into mothering her daughters nonetheless.

Before the dawn of Pinterest, my mother created her own card catalog out of a shoebox. Inside were hundreds of hand-written index cards bearing a variety of children’s book titles, their Dewey decimal numbers, and book summaries—organized by book genre. The shoebox, which was pulled out every summer to formulate reading lists for my two sisters and me, became a running joke in our family. Today, however, it is a family heirloom.

That shoebox represents to me a mother who put her classical education to creative use by educating her children on worldviews, cultures, and great literature long before the classical model of education ever became popular.

For my mother it would have been absurd for her to set about “advancing the cause of women” without first advancing the cause of the women living under her own roof.

In fact, most feminists would be surprised to discover that my mother opted out of the professional life not once but twice in her lifetime. When I was in high school, my father was laid off after a company merger. Because of the commitment my parents made to honor God’s prescription for wives to “guard their homes,” my mother chose not to pursue full-time work.

When I think of this sacrifice, the implications of which were financially serious, I get a painful lump in my throat. At the risk of her reputation as a “sensible” woman, she chose to cling fiercely to God’s promise of provision for our family.

While researching this piece, I asked my mother if she encountered any pushback over her decision to stay at home while my father looked for a new job. Yes, she said, but only from people in the church.

It is a sad day indeed when our nation’s guardians are being pushed from their watch posts on a regular basis. But it’s a catastrophic event when the family of God tears down those remaining women who are brave enough to run counter to the world for the sake of their families. There are, after all, very few left.

I pray that our churches find intentional ways to build up all mothers who are making tough sacrifices for their children—whether it’s the stay-at-home mom who puts her career on hold or the single/divorced mother who sacrifices luxuries the modern world declares as must-haves.

My great-grandmother was one such woman. When she found herself divorced at the end of the Great Depression, she made ends meet by watching children after school as well as keeping house and cooking for a family friend. My pride in my homemaking heritage is derived in part from my great-grandmother’s heroic response to difficult circumstances, but it also stems from the gracious posture she took against those who looked down their noses at her during a time when divorce carried a terrible stigma—inside the church and out.

When I see my great-grandmother, I do not see a woman who viewed her life situation as drudgery from which she needed emancipation. I see a woman who resolutely set her face toward the future by giving her heart to fully minister to loved ones in the present.

Last week my great-grandmother would have been 114 years old. Since her death, she has passed her post of “home guardian” to many mothers in my family. And while I often struggle to keep in step with her sacrificial spirit, I am forever grateful for the trenches she dug in preparation for my service.

UPDATE: Controversial lawyer meets with military over “religious tolerance” material

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been updated to correct erroneous information that Mr. Weinstein was “hired” or contracted by the military. Instead, according to Baptist Press, Weinstein requested and was granted a meeting with Pentagon officials.) 

It will be interesting to watch the Pentagon over the coming months. The military has heard the concerns of about Christian evangelism from an anti-Christian evangelism activist Mikey Weinstein about policies regarding “religious,” ahem, “tolerance.”

Reportedly, Weinstein, who served in the Reagan administration, has compared sharing the Christian gospel with spiritual rape and refers in his biography on his organization’s website to “far-right militant radical evangelical religious fundamentalists” that threaten military cohesion and liberty.

And you thought the militant Islamists were the bad guys. Silly you.

While most evangelicals are worried about losing their freedom to dissent from what the larger culture believes is fine, Weinstein seems convinced it’s those John 3:16-sharing Christians who are the “monsters”—his word.

In fairness, he seems to be particularly concerned with Christian Reconstructionism — a position that should be problematic for any thinking Baptist because we are not theocrats—and people who believe in dispensational eschatology, a perfectly orthodox position. It’s not clear that Weinstein understands the difference between a Christian Reconstructionist who favors a theocracy and a garden-variety Baptist who desires to tell his shipmate or a fellow soldier about the claims of the gospel.

What is truly sad is that someone as apparently intelligent as Weinstein, an Air Force Academy graduate and a successful lawyer, is so off-the-rails in his fear that someone might hear something that offends them.

Coercion for religious or other purposes is unacceptable, but free expression is quite another. I have no right to not be offended—especially in the military. I do have a right to not be coerced. But who is really doing that?

I have rarely met Christians who were overbearing or obnoxious in sharing their faith. Such people exist, but they are rare. More often, we say nothing. What Weinstein seems to want is a muting of the Christian message. The military must safeguard religious liberty while also preventing any coercion.

We respect our government, but there are some things we can’t do and remain obedient to Christ. Hopefully, the Pentagon will continue respecting the religious liberty of its men and women in uniform.