In 2 Timothy 3:6, Paul warns Timothy about false teachers that will come and “creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” Literally translated, Paul says that these false teachers will capture little women or small women. Why are women pointed out in this passage? And why are they called little or weak? And how do we, in the church, make sure that there are no “little” or “weak” women among us that would be taken captive by such false teachers?
A New Book
This is the subject of a new book by Aimee Byrd titled, No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God. In her own words, Byrd says that “This is a book that aims to help the whole church by examining church initiatives for a group that makes up over half of our congregations — the women” (11). Byrd is burdened by the state of women’s ministries in the church as a whole. Particularly burdening to her is the fact that many times they are run as a sort of separate entity in the church, with relatively little no oversight or direction by the elders and pastors of the church. She says that this “separate entity” aspect is one of the biggest problems that she sees (13).
To help shed light on the issue, as well as offer instruction, encouragement, and practical suggestions on issuing a change, Byrd has written this book for both women and elders. The book is written for women to think seriously about their faith, what they believe, what the intake by way of books and bible studies, and what the purpose of their women’s ministry is. But the book is also written for elders, from the perspective of a woman, to help them think through their particular church’s women’s ministry. Therefore, at the end of each chapter is a helpful list of application questions, with at least one of those questions always directed to elders and pastors of local congregations.
“Far too many motivated women are dealing with shallow women’s studies — or, worse, just plain false teaching — in their church. One of their biggest laments is that the elders are unaware of the harm that these studies are inflicting on the women in their congregation. And the message from silence is that the women don’t really matter. False teachers know how much women matter. Christian publishers know how much women matter as a target market. While the church, above all, knows that women are not tools for deception or a commodity for the market, it can sometimes be the very place where they feel undervalued in their most important role of all — as disciples of Christ” (31).
So how Does Byrd go about laying out the problem and offering a solution?
The book is split into 4 major parts, each with a few chapters. The first part is titled “Pinpointing a Real Problem.” In these first 2 chapters, Byrd lays out the foundation for what the problem is and why there is a problem. It is in these chapters that she discusses the context of 2 Timothy 3 and the false teachers that prey on these “little women,” and why that is so.
The second part, “Examining Our Context,” moves from the problem in a general way to specifically looking at women’s ministry within the larger context of the ministry of the local church.
Part 3, titled “Working toward a Solution,” does just that. In these 2 chapters Bryd begins to move away from the problems to the solutions. In the first chapter she deals with the topic of women teaching men. Though I would find myself in disagreement with some of her particular applications in this regard, Byrd does uphold the clear teaching of complentarianism found in Scripture. Following this chapter is a chapter where she outlines her proposed solution to the problem.
Finally, Part 4, titled “Honing Our Skills,” really dives into the practical nuts and bolts of what the local church and its elders and pastors can be doing to help the women in their congregation develop skills of discernment and good theology, and work together toward the goal of “no little women” in our local congregations. In this section are some great practical suggestions on how to read a book with discernment, as well as some great examples from a variety of leading teachers (Beth Moore, Pricilla Shier, Ann Voskamp, Sarah Young, etc) where Byrd walks the reader through an excerpt from one of those teacher’s books and helps the reader exercise discernment with that particular passage.
“Our evangelical culture is one that promotes tolerance and love. But it isn’t loving to tolerate bad teaching in the church. Love requires the work of guarding the Word of the One who truly is loving. He loves us enough to be direct about holiness, sin, and the way to everlasting life. We have a responsibility to discern the teaching of those who eagerly wish to disciple others. And this includes the books that we use in the church” (87).
I was greatly encouraged, challenged, and instructed in this book concerning the problem and the solution of the state of many of our women’s ministries today. Byrd gave me many things to think about and many practical suggestions for paving the path forward in our local congregations. I believe that this book would be a great tool for anyone in any form of ministry leadership, especially for pastors and elders of local congregations. As Byrd says so well: “The elders have a responsibility to invest in the women so that they are equipped to teach what is good. Women teaching women flows from the ministry” (97). As I read this book, I found myself asking, “How am I investing in the women of our congregation so that they are equipped to teach what is good? How are we as pastors doing this?” I believe that this book will lead you to ask these and many other good questions as you evaluate your church’s ministry to women. I am thankful to Aimee Byrd’s help in this regard.
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank P&R Publishers for providing me a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.