Book Review: Women, Leadership and the Bible

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I met Dr. Natalie Eastman at a retreat for writers. She nearly bubbled over with excitement for equipping women to study the Bible for themselves. She has since written a book on that topic. Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe? teaches women a five-step process for studying God’s Word and discerning answers to theological questions through this intensive study of the Bible. As an example of the process, she uses the issue of women’s leadership in the church. Dr. Eastman does not tell you what to believe on this issue, only helps you study Scripture for answers on the issue. She does include examples of women pastors in the book, but asks the reader to make their own conclusions.

Following is an interview with Natalie about her book:

womenLeadershipBibleQ: What’s the purpose of your book, Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe?

A: The term “empowerment,” it seems to me, is vastly overused these days. Yet, admittedly, that’s exactly what I’m doing through WLB and Biblical Breakthrough! Through equipping women with seminary-level tools by which they can study, understand and interpret the Bible; then, stuffing them full of confidence through constant encouragement that they can do this, I hope to empower them to change from an internal status of paralyzed and possibly ignorant (or simply the feeling that one doesn’t know much or enough) to confident, ready, and trained to engage and effectively apply God’s Word with theological reliability and biblical skill.

On an emotional level, I simply want to tell Christians, especially women, “You can do this.” This is not rocket science. Nor do these abilities rely on a special gifting of the Holy Spirit. These are learned skills. Anyone who puts their mind and effort toward the training can and will learn how to know what the Scriptures are saying, as well as what they’re not saying. They can learn how to filter through the many voices “out there” that interpret God’s Word; how to tell the difference between when someone’s giving their opinion about what God’s Word says and when they’re interpreting; and what to do with the many conflicting opinions and interpretations. It can be done. People do it every day. And you can do it with greater skill and effectiveness, while still being sensitive to and filled with God’s very presence throughout the process.

Q: What makes it different from other books on women’s issues?

A: Plenty of books espouse one position or another on women’s roles or any other issue, effectively telling women what to think and why to think that. Yet, few teach women to discern God’s messages and desires for his people through systematic, thoughtful, seminary-level analysis. Women, Leadership, and the Bible steps into that void, offering step-by-step, approachable, “non-jargonese,”methodical process of analyzing an issue on many levels: scriptural, academic, spiritual, emotional, community, and personal. The ultimate goal is to equip women (and any men who desire to read it) to thoroughly and effectively investigate God’s Word, along with filtering through various interpretations of it, and subsequently make up their own mind about an issue.

Q: How could things change if every Christian woman was to read your book? :)

A: Just IMAGINE a world in which Christian women humbly, yet skillfully study Scripture to get clarity on their hardest biblical questions! And imagine women sifting and sorting through all kinds of opinions and interpretations as they study and consider what the Bible’s text says!

True freedom and self-confidence await the woman who engages the material in Women, Leadership, and the Bible. That freedom and confidence come from knowing and understanding not only what she believes, but why she believes what she believes. She will know she has formed her own thoughts, opinions, and interpretations using reliable, tested, and grounded methods, carefully testing her own and her community’s beliefs against Scripture. It is life-changing!

If women can engage their difficult life-issues with competent biblical integrity (and they can!) rather than relying exclusively on emotions, what others say, or the last book they read’s interpretation, as I did for so long, just imagine the difference this will make in their lives, their churches and, yes, the world! Women (and men who learn these skills, too) can feel confidence before God that they are attempting to understand his Word as best they can, as they subsequently seek to follow and obey it.

Q: What benefits does Women, Leadership, and the Bible provide to women?

A. Whether or not the subject of women in church leadership roles is an “issue” in your community, a thoughtful approach to understanding the issue can help a person feel secure in their practices and help them understand the interpretations of others. That type of studied, thoughtful understanding promotes good and helpful dialogue among Christians. The method taught in WLB benefits people wanting to get to the bottom of other issues, too; for, as we all know, many other theological issues have been or will become “issues” there at some point. WLB can benefit your church or ministry in numerous ways:

  • Engages women with the Bible.
  • Encourages women toward further biblical and theological development.
  • Develops women as critical thinkers, so they can embrace their faith and service with groundedness and confidence.
  • Urges independent thought within the context of Christian community, with unity being the ultimate goal.
  • Equips women with seminary-level hermeneutical skills and tools on an introductory level and, hopefully, whets their appetites (or satisfies one!) for further and deeper biblical studies.
  • Teaches women to recognize and face internal and external influences that impact their faith and practice.
  • Encourages grace-filled dialogue and study about this and other “controversial” issues within a safe space.
  • Provides a “virtual community” for women who really want to “get to the bottom of things,” biblically speaking.

Q: Do any other resources exist to help women take this material further?

A: Yes! So glad you asked! This summer, July 9, 2015, in fact, The Verity Initiative LLC (Dr. Eastman’s overarching LLC) is launching Biblical Breakthrough! An Online Coaching Program with Dr. Natalie Eastman (BB!). This internet-based training program takes people who want to work through their questions concerning women’s roles in church leadership step-by-step through weekly videos, all of which are free! Two further levels of deeper training opportunities are also available at nominal monthly pricing on a subscription basis. In the future, “generic” courses of study as well as courses of study into specific theological questions (i.e. human sexuality, baptism, etc.) will also be offered that take people through the same method in the book, but they will be able to investigate whatever issue/topic on which they have questions and/or for which they need answers.

Also, Dr. Eastman has a mailing list, through which people can receive The Verity Initiative’s monthly newsletter, “Dig Deep!” You can register at this link:

https://ig183.infusionsoft.com/app/form/wlb-excerpt-request

When you join the list through this link, Dr. Eastman will send you a fairly extensive excerpt of the book – a “sneak peek” – as a way of saying thank you for joining the list. This will be delivered directly to your email inbox of your registered email address. Feel free to share that registration link with anyone you believe may be interested in WLB, BB!, or Dr. Eastman.

If you want to buy a signed copy of the book you can do so here.

If you want to buy the book on Amazon click here.

NatalieEastmanDR. NATALIE R. WILSON EASTMAN (M.Div. ‘02, D.Min. ’05–Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is a freelance writer, editor, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild. She has served as a full-time youth minister to girls and women; Bible study teacher; worship leader and team developer; missionary to east Asia; and retreat and event teacher/speaker. She lives in Delaware, OH, with her husband and three young children. Links to her blogs may be found at natalieeastman.com, and her training and coaching at biblicalbreakthrough.com.

Connect with Natalie:

Twitter: Natalie_Wilson
FB: https://www.facebook.com/natalierweastman
FB: https://www.facebook.com/womenleadershipbible
G+: https://plus.google.com/+NatalieEastmanTVI/

God’s Love Letter to You

God's love letter to you. Click here to discover His relentless love.

The Bible isn’t always an easy book to read. At times it seems like a long list of dos and don’ts. Sometimes it reads like a rather dry history book. Some parts read like a racy novel. Other chapters seem like an action movie with plenty of violence.

So when you hear that God’s Word is His love letter to you, you might raise an eyebrow or stifle a laugh.

But it’s true. All the way through God’s Word He has woven His theme of love.  Take a look at the book of 1 Kings which is full of tales of unfaithful rulers and tyrants. Even there in 1 Kings 8:23 we find:

O God, God of Israel, there is no God like you in the skies above or on the earth below who unswervingly keeps covenant with his servants and relentlessly loves them as they sincerely live in obedience to your way.

There is no God like ours who relentlessly loves.

Who continually treasures us.

Who constantly pursues our hearts.

Take a minute and let that settle into your heart.

Breathe in and allow that truth to seep into your soul.

God relentlessly loves you. He will never stop. There is nothing you can do that will change His constant, persistent, unchanging, unyielding, unfailing love. You can mess up and He will be there with arms open. You can fall down and Jesus will gently pick you up. You can be too busy to notice the Father’s loving care, but even then He will be there right beside you ready to hold your hand.

This week in your Bible reading, look for reminders of the Savior’s love. Read God’s love letter to you and find evidence of His care in every book in the Bible.

Our God relentlessly loves.

relentlessly loves

Question: How does contemplating God’s relentless love change your day?

Joy in God’s Word: Lectio Divina Part Two

Lectio Divina sounds mysterious. Here is a demonstration of this new-ancient way of reading Scripture.

Lectio Divina.

Sounds mysterious, right?

Actually Lectio Divina means Divine Reading and is an ancient way to study God’s Word. I shared about the details of the method a couple of days ago, but I thought it might be helpful to see an example of the method. Take a few moments and try this way of listening to God for yourself. I have chosen Ephesians 3:14-21 for the reading today.

Preparation (Silencio): Before you read, take a moment to close your eyes and become aware of God’s presence with you. Let God know you are ready to hear from Him.

Read (Lectio): Slowly read the passage, pausing between phrases and sentences. Ask God to show you a specific word or phrase He is speaking to your heart today.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

When I recently read this passage, the word that God highlighted for me was “home.” I love this passage and know it well. I expected that the word God would choose for me would be “wide,” or “long,” or “high” from verse 18, but the word that I felt the biggest emotional response to was “home.”

Reflect (Meditatio): Read the passage again while asking yourself: What in my life needs that specific word or phrase right now?

I wondered why God wanted me to think about “home.” As I read the passage again, I realized that home is where you feel most loved and accepted (or at least that is how home should be). Even though I know that God loves and accepts me just as I am, I still often feel the need to perform. I don’t feel I deserve His love unless I’ve done something worthy of it.

Respond (Oratio): Read the passage one more time, listening for your heart’s response. What emotions bubble up when you read that word: love, joy, sorrow, grief, conviction? Be totally honest with yourself and God.

When I read the passage one more time, I first felt God’s sadness that I was still in a performance mode. But then I felt His comfort and peace. I felt a release of all the trying and striving. It was as if God was asking me to sit down in a big, cozy armchair right next to Him and simply enjoy being with Him.

Rest (Contemplatio): Take time to rest in God’s love for you and the words He has spoken. This is a time of surrender and rest in God’s loving hands.

During this time I asked God to help me feel at home in His presence. I continued that mental picture of sitting next to Him in a time of rest.

Resolve (Incarnatio): This step means to incarnate–live out–the Word of God. Write down the word or phrase given to you or think of an image of the word that you can carry with you throughout the day.

I resolved to carry that image of being at home with God throughout the day. Whenever I started to go back into my “try harder” mode, I pictured sitting in that cozy chair right next to a heavenly Father who loves me.

A couple of weeks ago I was with a wonderful group of women where we all participated in Lectio Divina with this passage. Each one of us received a different message very personalized to our needs. I would be interested in learning what word or phrase God spoke to you from Ephesians 3:14-21. Please take a moment to share. (If you are reading this in your email, click here to get to my website to leave a comment.)

Question: What word or phrase did God speak to you today in Ephesians 3:14-21?

Joy in God’s Word: Lectio Divina

If you're looking for an ancient-new way to read Scripture and hear God's voice try lectio divina.

Meditation. Prayer. God’s Word.

These are the elements of Lectio Divina, an ancient way to study the Bible.

It sounds very mysterious, but is actually a simple way to hear God’s voice in Scripture.

I have used Lectio Divina before, but recently learned a slightly different way to use this method. Today I’m sharing these steps that have helped me connect with God’s voice in a new way.

To begin, choose a short passage of Scripture (six to eight verses). It can be a part of your regular reading plan or a passage you choose specifically for this purpose.

Preparation (Silencio): Before you read, take a moment to close your eyes and become aware of God’s presence with you. Let God know you are willing to hear from Him.

Read (Lectio): Slowly read the passage you have chosen, pausing between phrases and sentences. Ask God to show you which word or phrase He is speaking to your heart today. Repeat that word or phrase softly, pondering it as a special message from One who loves you.

Reflect (Meditatio): Read the passage again while asking yourself: What in my life needs that specific word or phrase right now? Think about how that word impacts your life.

Respond (Oratio): Read the passage one more time, listening for your heart’s response. What emotions bubble up when you read that word: love, joy, sorrow, grief, conviction? Be totally honest with yourself and God.

Rest (Contemplatio): Take time to rest in God’s love for you and the words He has spoken. This is a time of surrender and rest in God’s loving hands.

Resolve (Incarnatio): This step means to incarnate–live out–the Word of God. Write down the word or phrase given to you or think of an image of the word that you can carry with you throughout the day. In quiet moments, bring back the word or image and continue to ask God what significance that word has for you. Thank Him for speaking to you through His Word.

What was new for me in this version of Lectio Divina was the listening for a specific word. I found this completely fascinating because each time I did this, the word that leaped off the page into my heart was never the one I expected. And yet it was the one that I most needed. Through that word God spoke to my deepest needs, even though before I read the passage, I might not have noticed that was my deepest need.

I pray that you will take a few minutes to try this simple method of finding joy in God’s Word.

Question: Try Lectio Divina today. Please share the passage you read and the word God gave you.