Women Leading Women: The Biblical Model for the Church. By Jaye Martin and Terri Stovall. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008. 256 pages. Hardcover, $29.99.
Whatever happened to those wallflower, Southern Baptist women whose talents and gifts are thwarted by their submission to and suppression by men? At least, that is how women who would agree with the statement in the Baptist Faith and Message that “a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ” have been caricatured by the national media. Martin and Stovall must not have gotten the memo!
This long overdue book is written by two highly accomplished and obviously talented women who are demonstrating leadership among women both in the local church and in the Southern Baptist Convention, leadership that is in tune with the clear Scriptural teachings on the roles of men and women and the priority of the local church.
Jaye Martin serves as the Director of Women’s Programs at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where she currently is a candidate for the Doctor of Education. She also holds a masters degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Jaye served with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention as the Women’s Evangelism Strategist, developing NAMB’s HeartCall, an evangelism training program specifically targeted to women. She first served in women’s ministry at First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, where she lives with her husband, Dana, who is an attorney, and with whom she has one daughter, Kelli.
Terri Stovall currently serves as the Dean of Women’s Programs and Associate Professor of Women’s Ministries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before joining the faculty of Southwestern, she served Southern Baptist churches in education and women’s ministries, most recently at Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, where she is still a member. Terri first entered full-time ministry as BSU Campus Evangelism Coordinator in Tyler, Texas before coming to Southwestern where she earned her Master of Arts in Religious Education and Doctor of Philosophy. She lives in Arlington with her husband, Jay, who is a general contractor.
The authors’ stated purpose for the book is “to paint a picture of what women’s ministry should look like based upon Scripture” (xiii–xiv). They painted quite a picture.
Dividing the picture into four parts, Martin and Stovall articulate first the biblical foundation for women’s ministry in the church. In one of the most encouraging chapters of the book, women are viewed through the eyes of God and shown to be precious and significant in His sight. God’s plan for women is then revealed, and in a discussion of the biblical paradigm for women’s ministry, such ministry is described as being “about reaching, making disciples, and ministering to women and their families. It is a ministry that is best led by women serving under the authority of a local church” (42).
Second, the principles for women leading women are laid out. Godly leadership is defined by the authors as “following Christ so closely that you know how to lead and you do it in such a way that you model Christ by your every word and action while influencing others to do the same” (50). Building upon this understanding, the reader learns important keys to leading as a godly woman and serving with men.
Third, the tasks essential to women leading women (reaching women for Christ, nurturing women in their faith, involving women in kingdom service, engaging the next generation, and supporting the church family) are isolated and described. The authors emphasize important realities and lead women again and again to God’s Word. For example, in discussing the application of the biblical teaching of Titus 2, that older, more mature women should be teaching younger women in the church, the authors remind us that “The relationship between the older and the younger is just as much a part of teaching process as is the content” (126). Pointing to a key understanding for all of us members of local churches, both men and women, the authors assert, “Supporting the church means that we don’t do our ministry; we do the ministry of the church” (158).
Fourth, Stovall and Martin elucidate the how-to of women’s ministry, fixing the reader’s attention upon strategic planning, enlisting a team, living through change and conflict, and maintaining excellence in women’s ministry. Foundational to this discussion is the authors’ statement that “GOD-CENTERED strategic planning is a disciplined, intentional effort to develop and follow a method to accomplish God’s objective for His church in order to meet the enemy under conditions that give us the advantage” (177). And while the authors deal forthrightly with issues like conflict in the church, they also provide hope that “No matter what method or set of rules or stages is used, God is always there with much more insight to the problem than the leader has and stands ready to give insight and His presence in the midst of difficult situations” (219).
Like the four parts of the book described above, the book itself can be described in ministering to and challenging women in four ways: leadership, ministry, a Bible study of women and for women, and the nature and work of the church.
Women Leading Women fills a large hole in the church leadership literature and should be welcomed by churches and by both women and men alike. The book fleshes out many of the biblical teachings concerning the significance and the role of women as Christians and as leaders in the local church, teachings that have been articulated Scripturally and theologically but that have gone wanting for greater explanation and application in the life of the assembly we call the local church.
This book is not just for women. Men, especially church leaders, will profit from reading this book. Many key connections are made between church ministries and the Scriptures that apply to all ministries, and the unique understanding of women’s ministries articulated in these pages is essential to all who will work with and oversee the service of women in and to the church.
Two improvements are suggested for the future. First, a few parts of the book could be augmented with more direct references to biblical passages and references. This small deficiency probably results from the brevity of the work. Second, if space is not available to add to the third and fourth parts of the book, the tasks and the how-to, the authors should consider a second book focused directly upon those vital matters.
Women Leading Women is an excellent work to be read by anyone even remotely interested in seeing the local church be who God has laid out for it to be. Those of us who read it will want to share it with others.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary