By Rachel Baker, Crosswalk.com
Women, who make up nearly half of the world, and more than half of the church, have the influence and relational composition to draw others to Christ in powerful ways. To better equip women for such a task, the local church might consider educating and empowering women to use apologetic tools and, through such equipping, embolden women to reach the lost in ways that reflect the movement and impact of the early church.
The idea may be met with resistance when presenting apologetics as a tool to equip women. While arguments of over-intellectualization and combative tactics have been valid, perhaps it is time to change the narrative and overcome these concerns by developing strong strategies to prepare women to boldly share the gospel in a world that is becoming more and more secular. To do this well, we first might reflect on the current statistics on faith and worldview, and consider how developing female apologists could create a shift in these numbers.
Women’s History of Spreading the Gospel
From the birth of the Christian movement, women have held positions of influence and importance. Women supported Paul's missionary journeys, developed young theologians, and hosted home churches. Women have played a huge part in spreading the gospel message. Today, women continue spreading the gospel. Women develop others through relationships. We mother, nurture, and create safe spaces to grow in the faith. However, Christian women would benefit from additional training as the world becomes increasingly secular. We need the tools and skills to reflect a biblical worldview in our parenting, marriages, singleness, and professional and private lives.
As women face an all-new world with all-new worldviews, we must be equipped in all-new ways. Women, from the youngest who confront conversations about gender identity on a near-daily basis to those working in the marketplace attempting to apply their Christian ethic to the demands of their environment, and everyone in between, the need for comprehensive apologetic tools to be taught, implemented and practiced is deep and wide.
Embedding women's ministries with apologetic training can achieve a shift in correct and critical thinking. Critical thinking may be a powerful tool against perspectives that progressively shift away from biblical worldviews.
What the Numbers Tell Us
Understanding the numbers and statistics behind current worldviews concerning faith and religion is a foundational bedrock in the argument for active apologetics to be taught within the context of the local church and specifically within women’s ministries. Decades of data from researchers such as Barna and Pew Research Center show us something interesting regarding those who call themselves Christians and those who hold to Biblical worldviews. According to the data, 65% of Americans identify themselves as Christian (Crain).
We might pause and think, "wow, these are great numbers." However, within that 65%, how do we define Christianity? The answers here are complex as Pew's definition of Christianity for this research is quite broad. In this 65%, we might see a Christian defined as someone raised within a Christian household or context. Likewise, the 65% may include someone who agrees with "Christian values" but rejects Christian doctrine. Alternatively, within that number, we may find someone who denies the canon of scripture but "follows" Jesus.
Looking for more nuanced data, we can look at the findings of Barna Research. Barna defines someone with a biblical worldview as one that believes in absolute moral truth, the accuracy of the Bible, and the principles it teaches. These individuals perceive Satan as a real being, believe that a person cannot earn their way to salvation through works, that Jesus lived a sinless life on earth, and that God is the omniscient creator of the universe who still rules today.
However, as expressed by Barna, this broad definition leaves out the resurrection, the trinity, and basic tenets of a truly biblical worldview. Even with this broad definition, only 17% of Christians identified with this worldview. This 17% are individuals who self-identify as Christian, consider their faith necessary, and attend church regularly.
Again, definitions are essential, and we might ponder what "regularly" means—but that is a point of contemplation for another time. If only 17% of Christians—and of this 17%, let us assume that gender is distributed equally—hold to a biblical worldview, how might the local church, and specifically the women of the local church, help and correct our wayward thinking and increase these sadly not-so-shocking numbers?
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Women’s Unique Edge
Studies show that women often have a higher emotional quotient than their male counterparts, allowing them the ability to notice facial expressions, body language, and emotional responses (Hampson). Given these unique gender differences, women could be able to soften the rough edges of apologetic practices and make apologetics more practical and relational. This "softening" of apologetic tools can allow apologetics to become more of a precision tool, for example, a scalpel, than a tool to wield and attack, i.e., a sword.
In my own ministry experience, I have noticed that women have fallen into two camps concerning apologetics: either resistance or interest. Given the data and the consideration that women can connect and persuade in uniquely feminine ways, there is perhaps an opportunity to shift the narrative as it pertains to Christian persuasion, as held in the able hands of women.
This requires that the women who have a biblical worldview—no matter their age— who are active in their local churches to bravely take up the burden of sharing biblical worldviews with others. As we begin to understand the need more clearly, engage in the mission, and ultimately draw others into biblical worldviews, perhaps we may see a shift in those numbers reported by Pew and Barna over time.
If apologetics must be presented as a sword, let it be a double-edged sword as described by the author of Hebrews, one which pierces to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Let this sword be light enough to be wielded by the ready arms of equipped women. Perhaps even this sword is small enough to be concealed and sharp enough to heal. Perhaps this sword is in fact, a scalpel.
Redefining Women's Ministry
We may identify the need for women to be trained theologically and practically to give a good reason for the gospel; however, implementing a strategy to equip them successfully may be met with resistance from the very people who need these strategies the most— women themselves. The face of women's ministries has dramatically changed over the last decade. While connection (faith built through relationships with others) has long been a foundational element of such ministries—as it continues to be to this day—the desire to develop theologically has increased amongst younger generations.
Not only does gender play into our interest and need for tactics such as apologetics, but so does age. Young people today are leaving the church in droves. A recent Barna study cites doubt as a primary factor for the mass exodus of young people from church attendance.
Hinging on these stats, we might consider: If women are to play a role in having deep and meaningful conversations about faith, we need to do away with “social club” gatherings and focus on spiritual formation and the development of biblical worldviews within the ministries we serve and attend. Considering the topic of doubt in young people, now more than ever, women—of all ages—need to be trained to think deeply and critically about the world in which we live. We need to develop the skills to respond to doubt within ourselves and our community (young people included), defend the faith, and clearly and concisely teach the gospel. This equipping draws women toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Women may bristle against such calling to educate, equip, and hopefully mobilize. However, we might ask, “Have western Christian women just gotten too comfortable in their ministry contexts?” Perhaps Christians as a whole suffer from a sort of spiritual amnesia, forgetting the lengths gone to for each of us to enjoy the religious freedoms we experience today.
Alternatively, perhaps the mere 17% of individuals who cling to a biblical worldview find themselves, or herself, overwhelmed by the demands of the 83% who call themselves Christians yet lack biblical worldviews. Nevertheless, apathy or amnesia are unacceptable if the women of the local church are to respond to an increasingly secular world with a good reason for hope in Christ. This action will require bravery and fortitude that our cultural comfort begs us to forget or fail to cultivate altogether.
For women's ministries to accept and embrace apologetic tools within their local churches, we must first understand the need for the women we serve to be equipped with the right tools to acknowledge and respond to doubt, discuss biblical worldview, and lovingly hold up a mirror to Christians who look more like the culture than Christ.
The numbers are clear and, to some, may be frightening, but rather than recoiling from the mission at hand (the Great Commission), Christian women might become more faithful servants of Christ, striving to reach their families, peers, colleagues, and communities. Through a soft and gentle approach, women might use their apologetic training with precision. Drawing from their ability to disciple with care and compassion and equipped with the many tools that apologetics provides, the women of these ministries will have the ability to reach others far and wide.
Hampson, E., van Anders, S. M., & Mullin, L. I. (2006). A female advantage in the recognition of emotional facial expressions: Test of an evolutionary hypothesis. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27, 401-416.
Natasha Crain, Faithfully Different: Regaining Biblical Clarity in a Secular Culture (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2022), 23.
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Rachel Baker is the author of Deconstructed, a Bible study guide for anyone who feels overwhelmed or ill-equipped to study the word of God. She is a pastor’s wife and director of women’s ministries, who believes in leading through vulnerability and authenticity. She is a cheerleader, encourager, and sometimes drill-sergeant. She serves the local church alongside her husband, Kile, in Northern Nevada. They have two amazing kiddos and three dogs. Rachel is fueled by coffee, tacos, and copious amounts of cheese. For more on her and her resources to build your marriage, see her website: www.rachelcheriebaker.com or connect with her on Instagram at @hellorachelbaker.