Women s Spiritual Gifts

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1 Women s Spiritual Gifts Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. Romans 12:4-6 This Bible study was compiled and approved by WELS Congregation and Ministry Support Group Commission on Adult Discipleship.

2 Women s Spiritual Gifts Study Leader Notes: The issue of how women can serve can generate plenty of discussion and emotion. This study is not meant to be a comprehensive study on the role of men and women, but an opportunity to discuss the way we recognize and use the gifts God places within congregations in women that desire to faithfully serve Christ. When the group is larger than seven, find ways to split them into smaller groups to discuss several of the pertinent questions (your choice) and have them report back their insights. Do your best to make sure the discussion is open and no individual dominates including you, the leader. This Bible study is not intended to cover all the passages or facets of this subject. It is intended to provide a platform for discussion or catalyst for further study. Feel free to change the questions and make them more pointed for your situation. Depending on the time and the people present you may want to delete the text from the participant s guide and have them look up the references in their own Bibles. The answers are provided as food for thought to spark more thinking on the topic not the final word or perfect application for all situations. It is not the pat answer that you seek, but growing insights into the theological foundations and practical applications for the participants church/area of ministry. Encourage open conversations for discovery of God s will for your ministries and for clarifying the importance of this for the Church at this time. Don t feel you need to rush through this topic to finish the sheet in one session. Deeper study and more personal interaction are valuable. If lively, more involved discussion is benefiting your group, consider carrying over the study to another session instead of skipping questions to reach the end. Women s Spiritual Gifts 2

3 Getting Started Traditionally in what areas have the women of our congregations been urged to serve? e.g. - Teaching children and other women, choir, kitchen, altar guild, cleaning and other maintenance. How have women s talents been displayed in their activities outside the church (employment, hobbies)? Here you find anything from housekeepers to nurses to principals, architects, mayors, human resource directors, CEOs of companies, etc. What are some challenges that arise when we talk about having women serve in gospel ministry? The world has drastically changed in the leadership by women. Even strong Christian women have been put in major responsible positions in the workforce over multi-million dollar corporations or projects. The challenge comes in figuring how to use those talents in a congregation. Reactions to women and ministry may range from they don t go together; what will others in our church body think; they really are incompatible; ministry is for men or perhaps, its about time we match them together; where do we start; ministry is what we all are involved in. What about the practice we have been following all these years? Do shifts in cultural mindsets affect how we approach the practice? In a confessional Christian church we seek to determine whether we are respecting and honoring God s will in these matters by studying his Word and praying for his wisdom. Getting Into the Word Genesis 2:18, 23: 18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh..." 1 Corinthians 11:11-12: 11 In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. 1. Evaluate what aspect of the relationship of men and women is expressed here. How should that impact how we approach this subject today? The original human team was not complete until God provided it with the woman. Adam s reaction expressed the closeness and inter-relatedness of this creation of the man and women in their support of each other and in carrying out the work God assigned to them in his world (Genesis 1:27-28). There was a team cooperating in the mission God had assigned to the crown of his creation. Today we are also Women s Spiritual Gifts 3

4 involved in his mission together. (In the pursuit of continually clarifying roles of men and women, sometimes our created interdependence fades into the background and the clear-cut separation occurs rather that respectful cooperation). Romans 12:3-6a: 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. 2. Identify some of the main elements listed in the verses from Romans that help determine how people are to serve the Lord. Our measure of faith in Christ, the kinds of spiritual gifts which God has given to each of us, our humility and sober judgment of ourselves, and ultimately our connection to Christ, our head, who binds us together to do his work on earth all these go into the attitude and activities of those in the body of Christ. 3. Discuss the similarities in the workings of the human body and the body of Christ. There are many parts. Each part has a function. Each part receives its direction from the head, which is Christ. Each part is important and has something to contribute to the whole. Each part has a specific function, which relates to the whole. Each part serves the good of the body. Each part is important to the operation of the whole. 4. With what attitude should God s people approach the subject of their own spiritual gifts within the body of Christ? (v.3) (cf. also Ephesians 5:21) There will be a large dose of humility and reality as we recognize the source of these spiritual gifts and the purpose of them. It is not about self-fulfillment but about filling out the body of Christ. The thinking on these matters will correspond with the measure of faith God has given you. (cf. Romans 12:1-2 - Our use of these gifts flows out of our response to his mercy in Christ is part of our living sacrifice is not conforming to the ways of the world but is from a heart and mind transformed to know what God s will is.) Women s Spiritual Gifts 4

5 5. What percentage of people with spiritual gifts in your congregation are women? All of God s people have spiritual gifts which are from him to serve his Church. The women as well as the men need to recognize their gifts. Here it may be valuable to look at the active membership of your congregation and what percentage are women. Typically more than 50% of our congregations are women (and often a higher percentage of them are active than the men). It is important to recognize and recount how God has blessed his church through their spiritual gifts. 6. How many of the women in your congregation are part of the universal priesthood of all believers to whom God has entrusted gospel ministry? (1 Peter 2:9, see corresponding study, B-1.) All God s redeemed people are a part of the universal priesthood of ALL believers priests who serve a vital role in declaring the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Cf. Luke 24:33-49; John 20:23 7. Explain the challenge then when it comes to women and congregational ministry. If you have women in the study, make sure you give them time to share first. If you don t, it might be beneficial to talk to them about it later. Often the approach of this subject about women in the church starts with the biblical roles of men and women and filters out other important passages. Have we revisited the biblical principle when new applications suggest themselves, or have we elevated our traditional applications to the level of principle? The challenge is for us to not take on a bunker mentality and fail to utilize the spiritual gifts of women in the name of being doctrinally correct and thus giving the impression that we are hostile to women. Have we overemphasized the don t compared to the do in the area of Christian women using their gifts to God s glory? One of the challenges is the failure to appreciate women s spiritual gifts when they are used and overlook the major contributions that they have been making. Derogatory or inconsiderate comments about women and their service have complicated the issue. Has there been an atmosphere of spoken and respectful appreciation for the women in the home and in the church? Another challenge is in understanding the relationship of men and women as God created it in the beginning without the baggage of sin, preconceived ideas and repeated abuse How is that to be reflected as redeemed children of God in Christ. Study of this subject needs more time in another setting and can not be fully covered here. We highly honor God in our acceptance of what he reveals to us in the Bible. We want to be faithful witnesses of his will in this world. We want everyone to see their part in the mission of Christ for the Women s Spiritual Gifts 5

6 Church. As we carefully study God s Word, we find other passages dealing with the relationship of men and women. Have we promoted lay ministry while at the same time artificially narrowed the range of gifts we want our female laypeople to use? The challenge is in energizing the women in their activity as part of the priesthood of believers, employing their spiritual gifts as well as understanding and respecting the relationship God wills between men and women. 1 Corinthians 11:3 3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God (cf. also 1 Timothy 2:11-13 in application). 8. Who ultimately is the head of our gospel ministry and of the relationship of man and women? Indicate how that impacts this discussion. Jesus Christ is our head. It is Jesus who sets the direction of the church and is our ultimate leader. Decisions that are being made are to start with his will in mind and reflect his mission for us. In our relationship as men and women it needs to be obvious that we all are serving him and that our hearts reflect his. Jesus needs to be the focal point. 9. What part of the Corinthian passage further impacts how we use the spiritual gifts of men and women in gospel ministry? A principle that emerges is the head of the woman is man. The passage leads us to ask hard questions in order to understand God s will in the matter of headship expressed between Christ and God, and how that is reflected in our earthly relationships. Some applications to the early church are found in the Bible. Much is also left to our Christian judgment trained by Scriptures in light of our connection with Christ and his mission. The principle remains unchanged. Applications can change depending upon circumstances. Ex: The matter of women s head coverings in church (1 Corinthians 11:5-10) based on cultural expressions that demonstrate an honoring of the principles of Scripture. (Note this study is NOT intended to be a clarifying study of roles of men and women. If needed, such an extended, challenging, in-depth study could be added into your study curriculum. Separate studies will be made available on that challenging issue.) Women s Spiritual Gifts 6

7 10. List areas of responsibilities women have traditionally NOT been involved in the church. Ushers, candle lighters, treasurer, financial secretary, elder, president of the congregation, Sunday school superintendent, lector, etc. (It is commonly understood in our approach to Scripture that the position of pastor envelops ministry elements that fit the responsibilities of head that is ascribed for the men). 11. In what ways could you begin to have the women with appropriate gifts carry out some of these? Think through how things could be structured so that the principle of the head is not violated. E.g. - Treasurer that doesn t exercise final authority; Sunday School superintendent whose position description is that of coordinator. Discuss many other possibilities. Consider the mission of the full body of Christ and apply what God intends with the passages on headship. Ask, Does her service in this capacity uphold the spirit of that principle and exhibit the cooperative activity of the body of Christ? 12. Read 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 and apply it to this discussion. An insight into what is permissible in our New Testament freedom does not necessarily mean a right to do it. There needs to be a humble recognition of the greater picture and impact. You may need to consider the culture of the congregation the community the fellowship of Christians in the manner you put your faith into practice so that God s mission for us is advanced rather than marginalized in our focus. 13. Look at 1 Corinthians 10:31. What is one of our main goals? In all we do it is not about self-fulfillment or claiming rights, but giving glory to God in how we live for him, even in the small things. 14. What may we lose by not using women s gifts in ways determined to be appropriate according to Scripture? Lack of consideration of this matter may frustrate women who are blocked from appropriately serving where their passion and gifts lie. The excitement of living in the gospel freedom can turn into a seeming atmosphere of law and rules. Much of what a congregation is gifted to do may be hindered and God s mission through us bogged down. On the other hand not grappling with God s will in this matter may also cause confusion and frustration when people set precedents that ignore God s will. (Women, realize there is more than one way to use your gifts and impact others in your daily life too! Spiritual gifts are not just intended for use only within a church organization) Women s Spiritual Gifts 7

8 15. What beneficial attitudes will make a difference as congregations approach this difficult subject? (cf. 1 John 1:7-9; Proverbs 31:26-31) Repentance is appropriate where we have approached this subject with wrong attitudes and actions. Responding with forgiveness is also important. Let respect be shown for the tremendous impact women have in gospel ministry and show appreciation for the many ways they contribute to the important aspects of Christ s work on earth. Summarize Summarize what you learned and discussed about using women s spiritual gifts. Share Share personal examples of women you know who impacted the mission of church in a meaningful and God-pleasing way with their spiritual gifts. Challenge Is respect for women evident in the way you do things? Do you express appreciation for the impact women have on the stability and mission of the congregation? Do you provide plenty of opportunities for women to be suitable helpers in your decisionmaking process? Do we encourage women to see how they can use their spiritual gifts most fully not only in the congregation, but also in the family and community? Women s Spiritual Gifts 8

9 Is your organizational structure unnecessarily holding women from contributing to the mission of the congregation in a meaningful way? Are there ways that leadership could be restructured to involve women in a way that impacts the gospel ministry? Is this a difficult issue for us? Is further patient study and listening needed on the relationship of men and women? Prayer Consider where we have poorly represented God s love in these matters. Pray for wisdom in these matters so that the full body of Christ might be encouraged in carrying out his mission. Include thanks for the many women who have served their Lord faithfully. Women s Spiritual Gifts 9

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