Why you should read it
To see if you need to change. It’s a moral issue and many churches aren’t properly addressing it, thereby doing harm by their avoidance.
What you should do with it
Check it against scripture. Pray. Repent as necessary. Forgive. Invite both men and women to actively participate in the discussion. Don’t back away from challenges.
I love my Christian sisters. They’re irreplaceable for my spiritual health and growth.
But I love my Christian brothers, too. I learn things from them I don’t get from my sisters. They challenge me in ways women don’t.
And they love me and protect me in ways women don’t, too. They show me another side of God’s character that I need to see.
I love to pray with both my sisters and brothers. In prayer we are at our most vulnerable and authentic, offering each other a clearer glimpse at the soul-level, deeper than we reveal in our ordinary conversations.
I don’t know about your church, but in mine, opportunities for mixed-praying rarely just happen. They are more likely to occur off-site or before/after the official gathering times.
I relate strongly to what she shares.
In chapter 1 she tells a story about working with two male colleagues. At the end of their project, preparing to leave, she says:
When I finally gained some composure, I tried to explain, “I’m crying because what we have just experienced is how it’s supposed to be.
We’re supposed to be able to work together like this, men and women in this kind of harmony, mutual respect, and partnership.”
We just stood there for a moment and prayed.
Sacred moments. I’ve had them with brothers in my Christian family, too, older brothers, younger brothers, peers. And I treasure them.
But too often we miss out on these moments because we resist working together as men and women.
Reese sees that as a need to repent.
She says women must repent...
- Of demeaning men as moronic, childlike, and clueless
- Of disrespecting men because they are not like women
- Of self-hatred and derogatory comments about other women
- Of unrealistic expectations on men to be be spiritually stronger, wiser, godlier
- Of being so “helpful” that it hinders men’s growth
- Of fear of confronting a brother that needs to be challenged
- Of inappropriate romantic fantasies of the “ideal” man
- Of bitterness from past wounds from men
- Of failure to use God-given strengths and gifts
She also calls men to repent...
- Of accepting a secular instead of sacred understanding of masculinity
- Of avoiding maturation into adulthood
- Of downplaying traditionally feminine characteristics in a man as unmasculine (compassion, sensitivity, gentleness,…)
- Of making derogatory comments toward women
- Of not encouraging women’s participation in discussions
- Of not allowing and/or assisting women in using their strengths
- Of misusing headship and authority, seeing men as superior
- Of buying into a “boys will be boys” mentality to excuse male ego/libido
- Of hesitancy to confront believing women struggling with sin
- Of suspicion of strong women as “too strong”
- Of believing stereotypes that women are too emotional to “get the job done”
Men and women learn to interact with each other every day in the work world. Christians in ministry should not be exceptions. The church, of all people, “has a responsibility to encourage this form of development in both men and women and to put it to good use for the whole community.”
Churches should lead the way, not lag behind, in helping the whole body, men and women, use their gifts to serve others and glorify the Father.
Reese suggests that women and men learn to share their faith stories with each other for greater development of godly partnerships. And learn to center on their higher purpose when they work together.
We must continue to:
ask difficult questions of Scripture and to pray about what we discover there. Christians should never be afraid to reconsider any former interpretations or to discover whole new insights in the text.
…Prayer must be a central activity.
…We must also pay attention to direction from the Spirit, both in the congregation and in the surrounding area.
Can we be more effective serving together or serving separately? It’s a question we each have to answer.
One area I wanted Reese to spend more time on is the prevention of too-intimate relationships when men and women work together. While in Christ there is no male or female (Galatians 3:28), in the flesh we still have physical desires. It’s a huge temptation, yet still, if properly bounded, it needn’t prevent appropriate work relationships. Reese did not ignore this topic, but I’d like to learn more from her.
I recommend this book be read by all who are interested in promoting healthier, spiritual, working relationships between Christian men and women. It will be released by Abilene Christian University Press in early September (thanks, ACU Press, for my preview copy).
Men and women have different gifts and roles. Not higher or lower, better or worse. Just different. Both sexes are made in the image of God. And it honors his image when they partner in godly, complementary ways.
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Table of Contents
1: A Biblical Theology of Partnership—What God designed for us
2: A Call to Repent and Reclaim—Where we need to pay attention
3: Being Together—How we can grow in partnership
4: Nurturing Partnership—Why the church must lead the way
5: Marriage as a Holy Union—Where partnership is most intimate
6: A Christian Response to It All—What God desires from us
Appendix: Overview of a Service Learning Project