Renewing her faith a friend invited me to her church to celebrate her baptism. As my husband and I walked in we shook hands with fellow believers noticing nothing unusual about the church. People were friendly and inviting to our new faces and then the service began.
This Sunday morning a woman walked comfortably confident up to the podium and began to teach from the bible. While my face likely revealed shock and alarm, the faces of congregants were tracking with the teaching undisturbed by the woman pastor. What she taught that day is forever smudged because I sat caught in a moment of confusion. Why was a woman teaching? Is this biblical?
Should women be pastors of churches? As our culture continues a rapid shift, a vault of faith related questions continues to be unearthed. What does God really say about homosexuality? Is polygamy contrary to God’s marriage design? Can women lead church congregations? Questions of this nature are surging at a time when most have little time and even less training in how to form biblically sound conclusions. With a strong feminist movement the question of women in church leadership positions cannot be ignored any longer.
Picking up Dr. Natalie R. Wilson Eastman’s book Women, Leadership, and the Bible was an uncomfortable stretch for my conservative roots. I braced myself for the strong militant voice of a feminist that would steamroll my beliefs. I prepared to be told a million reasons why the church has failed over the centuries, specifically regarding the roles of women and how the church should change. But I knew in my heart I couldn’t avoid reading this book and engaging the topic any longer, I needed a biblical answer for myself. Girded up with prayer, a highlighter, sticky tabs and my trusty Molskein like any good Christian girl headed into a storm, I began to read the forward by Alice P. Matthews:
“…this is not another book telling the reader what to think about church leadership.”
I sighed relieved and relaxing as I continued to connect with Eastman as she described the birth of Women, Leadership and the Bible in the introduction. Her deep concern for Christians to learn how to critically think as a means to make sound biblical interpretations is the heart and soul of her work which is carried like a brilliant torch throughout the book.
“Often people believe things without a solid biblical basis and then act upon that faulty foundation.”
The subtitle “How Do I Know What to Believe?” would have been a more appropriate main title for Eastman’s work. Taking her theological training to the reader, Eastman uses the topic of women in Christian leadership as a practical example of teaching steps to forming a biblical conclusion on any topic. Carefully presenting the steps to form a biblically sound conclusion, Eastman provides opportunities in each chapter to practice the skills she is teaching.
Along the way, her concern for the health of the church shines through,
“What usually happens is that the church generally argues one side or the other, because they can’t stand the tension.”
Sharing ways the church can interact with topics that may otherwise be divisive, Eastman gives readers gracious ways of engaging and interacting on hot topics.
What continually radiates through Eastman’s work is her love of God’s salvation through Christ, of bridging believers and equipping anyone willing to learn, to work through any topic in a biblical manner. She doesn’t tell the reader what to believe because she wants each reader to think for herself.
With our culture rapidly changing and churches splitting, Women, Leadership and the Bible is a powerful tool for every believer’s bookshelf because, “Like a judge, you will ultimately decide the fate of each position on the spectrum, in terms of whether you’re able to embrace it biblically, after you’ve listened to all the external and internal counsel.”
I may have been braced for a fighting storm, but I found myself exploring new territory with a well-equipped guide.
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There are also many ways to connect with Dr. Eastman and her current work!