Women’s Ministry in the Local Church

J. Ligon Duncan, Susan Hunt Crossway, Wheaton, IL January 17, 2006

“The purpose of this book,” according to Duncan and Hunt, “is to strengthen Christ’s Church by presenting a practical theology of women’s ministry in the local church” (p. 16). The authors’ theological apologetic stands on their complementarian view of the relationship between men and women in the church and home. “The complementarian position acknowledges that God created men and women equal in being but assigned different—but equally valuable—functions in His kingdom and that this gender distinctiveness complements, or harmonizes, to fulfill His purpose” (p. 32). They build their case on a Trinitarian model of the Godhead, in which each person is equal but different in function. Their inclusion of the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood helps readers understand their position and sets the stage for the strong biblically based argument of the book.

Duncan and Hunt share a common concern for the adverse effects of egalitarianism on the body of Christ. They present compelling evidence “that gender issues are the wedge of a worldview megashift in our own times” (p. 18). Their book supports the view that godly, qualified men are to assume the positions of senior pastor and elders, and women are encouraged to serve the body of Christ in support roles and particularly but not exclusively caring for the needs of other women in the church. Duncan and Hunt are committed “to cultivating a women’s ministry in the local church that complements and supports the work of the pastors, elders, and deacons, that nurtures and equips our women for growth and service, and that promotes a comprehensive biblical view of manhood and womanhood” (p. 21).

The use of the word “covenant” throughout the book reflects the authors’ denominational affiliation (Presbyterian Church of America). But their theological position does not compromise the overall thesis that the relationship of men and women influences the direction of the local church. Dispensationalists may take exception to the inclusion of “covenant of grace” (p. 61), but Reformed theology is not used as a basis for the argument of the book. The premise of the book remains strong since men and women working in complementary relationships remains an overarching biblical principle needed in every local church no matter what its doctrinal position.

The book builds on five foundational themes taken from Paul’s pastoral letters: the Gospel, truth, sound doctrine, discipleship, and covenant. From these themes Duncan and Hunt identify five key passages, each emphasizing a different element that they feel is necessary for developing a healthy women’s ministry: 1 Timothy 2:9–15 (submission), 1 Timothy 3:11 (compassion), 1 Timothy 5 (community), Titus 2 (discipleship), and 2 Timothy 3:1–17 (Scripture). Each section offers a solid interpretation of the text, gives biblical examples of women who exemplify the meaning, and lists practical ways to carry out each element in a women’s ministry. Each chapter ends with testimonies from men and women who have implemented that principle in their own ministry experience.

The authors give five reasons why women’s ministry is important in every healthy evangelical church, and they warn of the adverse effects to marriages, families, and churches if women fail to have opportunities to meet and serve together. They also build a convincing case for the dangerous consequences churches may already face if they choose to redefine the relationship of men and women according to modern-day culture. They believe honoring and promoting a theological framework that maximizes the complementary relationship of men and women contributes “to the firmness and stability of the Church” (p. 35). The overall message of the book seeks to release women to carry out their God-ordained mission to minister in the local church in the context of a complementarian framework of church ministry.

Some may find this book too narrow because its focus tends to emphasize marriage and family in a culture that now has so many single women. Its intent is not exclusion, for mention is made of how all women, single or married, are life-givers spiritually and can each be used by God in significant ways. Women of all ages and stages need the environment offered by a biblically based women’s ministry in order to grow in their faith and develop their gifts and abilities to serve the body of Christ.

The book’s short length, easy reading style, and a companion leader’s guide make this work user-friendly for lay leaders and pastoral staff alike. Duncan and Hunt have combined their years of experience and scholarly study as a pastor and a women’s ministry leader to bring some greatly needed wisdom and insight to support the valuable contribution women make to the body of Christ.

—Joye B. Baker

October 1, 2007

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Oct-Dec 2007 vol. 164 no. 4 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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