Below is an overview of a teaching I did recently at a Women’s Brunch at my church. It is always fun for me to get to speak to my own church family and encourage them with something from God’s Word! The theme of our event was “CONNECTING”. Our key passage was Titus chapter two.
Over the past few weeks, Pastor Shannon has been teaching out of Titus and he recently covered chapter 2. It's a chapter that I camp out in quite often because of the branch of my counseling ministry that focuses on what I call "Biblical Mentoring" that is born out of that chapter in Scripture.
One of my biggest ministry passions is for intergenerational ministry and bridging the generation gap in the body of Christ.
What I do besides being a mentor myself is to teach a course for women that equips you to mentor women, including the younger generations, by developing deep relationships with one another. Any time you want to know more about that, just pick up my brochures on the foyer table or better yet, ask me! (And for those reading this on the blog, just browse around the website for more information.)
I'm not going to talk too much about mentoring here today, but it's a good starting point because of the implications of Titus 2. There are specific verses in that chapter that are just for women but let’s look at the entire chapter.
Titus 2: You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.
If you keep those Titus 2 verses 3-5 for women in context of the entire chapter, you see some things that have a lot to do with how we make connections with each other as women.
Titus 2 IS a charge to the older women to teach the younger women.
I also want to mention what this passage is NOT. It is NOT a to-do list or something you have to accomplish perfectly in order to be ok in God's eyes. Not at all. You “being ok” with God is not dependent on what you do. It is dependent on what Christ already did. We absolutely don't have to be perfect at any of this to achieve God's approval. If you are a believer, you are already approved of 100%, so you can stop striving. This is not about striving, but it is about enjoying Christ and representing Him in your relationships with others in His family.
As much as the context in Titus 2 IS about the older teaching the younger, there is more in the passage than just that. I think we are ok with applying some of the principles in Titus 2 to all of our woman to woman relationships. That is what I want to do today.
The passage has some things to say about the older teaching the younger some specific things. Those things are part of a woman's ROLES that needed to be addressed in that cultural context and they also apply to our cultural context.
Having said that, don't read this and say that it is saying that women can only be housewives or stay home moms, or have to be married for that matter. These particular roles were mentioned in Titus because of what was going on in the church at that time. Nowhere does it say that those are women's ONLY roles. For our purposes here, just remember that women are free in Christ to fulfill ALL sorts of roles. Married, single, mom, working woman, stay home mom, woman in ministry, and many more possibilities.
What we are addressing today is how that in any role that you are in, connecting doctrine to your role is what matters most. So think about it like this: It is in the context of our roles that doctrine gets passed to the next generations. That can happen in woman to woman relationships at home, at work, in the neighborhood, at church. Let me expand on that a bit.
Our roles are what we do, and who we are in life - what God calls us to and what we choose as a lifestyle. Doctrine is what we believe about God's Word. Consider the most essential of all doctrines: salvation. The Gospel. It is the Gospel most of all that needs to be connected to your roles. So it is also in the same context that doctrine, The Gospel above all, should be the focus of all of our relationships. Our roles matter. In those roles, we are encouraged many places in scripture to connect and relate to one another, woman to woman.
In fact why would there be so many "one another, each other and one to another" passages in Scripture if we weren't supposed to connect and build relationships together?
In your roles, it is important how you live. Those are the things others see in you and they enter in to your relationships with all ages of women. For example, one of my roles is a counselor. That permeates all of my relationships, because being a counselor is a big part of me. In that role as I relate to women, the Gospel is front and center. It is the same with you in your roles....wife, mom, friend, worker, teacher, whatever. In those roles as you relate to women, doctrine, the Gospel, should permeate those relationships.
I realize that there are challenges to all of this:
You are too busy.
You are too shy.
You are too insecure.
You are not equipped to handle the messy stuff.
You don't need friends.
You don't like being around women.
There are no women's groups to join.
You are too tired, stressed, overwhelmed to build relationships.
You probably have your own list you could add to all that.
But let's address those challenges with some really practical ideas. You really can't keep your excuses. Scripture doesn't excuse you, so neither can I. You HAVE to move past the excuses and start connecting with others, especially in our church family. Titus 2 along with all the one-anothers of Scripture are clear on this. So, what to do about it?
Here are some things that I've come up with that I think will help. These are all things I have purposed to do myself, and no they are not all easy and no I do not enjoy them every single time. And no, not every connection has ended up in a solid friendship. But I want to be serious about connecting to the body of Christ. Not for me. Not even primarily for you! But for Jesus. For the gospel.
I have learned that there is only one way to start connecting - it is:
Stop waiting for all your ducks to be in a row. You will never accomplish that. This is not about one more thing on your to-do list, but it is your ministry to one another.
Christ IN you makes it possible, because of the Gospel, to get over ourselves and be intentional about connecting with others.
How do you do it? Here are some things to STOP:
1. stop complaining about how disconnected you feel at church.
2. stop blaming the church for being unfriendly or not meeting your needs.
3. stop waiting for a formal women's group to start the way you think it should
4. stop making it more about yourself than others.
5. stop using the excuses about how much you don't click with women
6. stop complaining about how nobody encourages you or notices you.
7. stop comparing yourself to other women
8. stop gossiping about other women.
And here are some things to START:
1. Start seeing women in our midst through God’s eyes. We all have issues, no one is worse or better than the other. Those that you compare or judge are the very ones who may need you in their lives.
2. Start praying for the women of the Harbor. For the years that I led women's ministry, I made sure to pray for every woman in this church by name every week. I'm not bragging! I am just saying that if I can do that, so can you. Or just pray for one or two that God has put on your heart! Can you imagine if every single woman attending The Harbor was being prayed for specifically, by name, ongoing?! I would be so encouraged by that, wouldn't you?
3. Start encouraging women. Send emails, notes, facebook posts. Not just to your friends, but to those you don't know as well, too. And maybe even to those you don't like. If you prayed for someone, tell them once in awhile!
4. Start to embrace the differences you see in other women. Diversity is not a bad thing, it is a beautiful part of God's amazing creation! Get to know women who are different from you.
5. Just do it. You don't need a specific women's event to build relationships. We don't need to do this kind of large event often so that you can connect with women. This is a good place to focus on our relationships, but no close friendships are going to happen just by being here today.
They also don't really happen at church on Sundays. You have to go beyond that - that is more true to the biblical definition of “church" because church is the people, not a place or a time.
In the context of wherever you serve or participate in church, you have many opportunities. What ministry are you serving in? What other women are there? Just start talking with them. Ask them about their lives.
Tell them about yours. Being intentional means being present. It's the only option if you want to build relationships. Every Sunday morning there are announcements about things that are all opportunities for you. You see each other every Sunday morning - why not acknowledge others?
6. Start to go beyond your circle. It’s easy to stick with the same safe friendships, and good discipleship can be happening there. BUT Titus 2 challenges us to something different than comfort zones.
Once you have made that initial connection, do something with it. Invite for coffee, lunch, or friend on Facebook and interact there. It can be one other woman older, younger or the same age, or a few women, really! Do whatever fits. There are no cookie cutter ideas here.
Once you make a good connection, move past superficial contact and look at God's Word together. Pray together. Do a gospel-based Bible study together. There are so many possibilities there.
The church does not have to do this for you, you can do this for yourself by just inviting a friend of two to get to know each other. You do not need a church leader to make this happen.
You only need yourself and one other woman and your Bibles.
All those starts really are summed up with one statement. It is this:
BE THE ONE.
Stop waiting for someone else to initiate a relationship. Be the one.
We say this other phrase all the time, but it's so true: it's not about YOU.
It's not about you, but it's not even really about others!
It's about the Gospel.
The relationships we have together are to reflect the Gospel. They were not created for our enjoyment, pleasure and fulfillment (although those can be byproducts of them). They were created for the sake of spreading the Good News. Maybe if we understood this, and if the Gospel became our motivation for relationships, maybe we would not complain so much about being disconnected from others.
Maybe we would realize our relationships are not even about US. Maybe we would reflect Jesus to others in the context of our relationships as women. This idea of women connecting with other women is serious stuff - it is actually for the SAKE OF THE GOSPEL.
Maybe we should view this as more than friendship building. It is, in reality and in context of Scripture, a Gospel ministry. It's a means of grace, commissioned to us by God.
So my parting comment to you is actually a question for self-reflection out of verses 11-14, which are among the most concise explanation of gospel-centered living found in the Bible.
By embracing God's Word, and having your heart profoundly affected by The Gospel, you will desire to change from "what can this relationship do for me" to "God is honored when we step outside of ourselves and reflect the Gospel as We intentionally build relationships with his people."
What honestly motivates you when you seek to build relationships? Is it for you, is it for the other person, or is it primarily for the sake of the Gospel?