A few days ago I had the privilege of worshipping alongside thousands of sisters-in-Christ who were ready and eager to hear gifted speakers like Kathy Keller, Nancy Guthrie, and John Piper teach them from an often forgotten book of the Bible: Nehemiah. Many of these women paced the back row of the humungous conference room with their babies–some even nursing their sweet little ones as they listened to the preaching of God’s Word. Talk about dedication and girl-power! It was truly a beautiful sight to behold and a joy to be a part of. Truly, The Gospel Coalition’s 2014 Women’s Conference exceeded all my wildest expectations.
One of the best parts about the conference was getting to meet and speak with many people I have “met” and “spoken” with online. How wonderful it was to finally put flesh and bones on the pixels I have interacted with over the past few years! One such person was the lovely Jen Wilkin whose book, Women of The Word, made a stunning debut in the massive TGCW14 book store. Within a day, every last copy had been bought up and I found myself very thankful to have an advanced reader copy safely tucked away in my bag!
The book Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds is a perfect reflection of Jen’s passion for the Word of God. As I spoke to her in person and listened to her answer Q&A questions at a late night bloggers panel, it quickly became evident how this down-to-earth, humble, funny, and passionate woman has become a well-known advocate for women’s Bible literacy: her love for God and her love for women could produce nothing less. If you don’t already follow her blog, The Beginning of Wisdom, I would encourage you to do so.
So what is Women of the Word all about? Basically, it is a step by step guide for how to study the Bible. Seems simple enough, right? You may be wondering why there is a need for such a book. Think about this: how often do you hear women say that they feel competent to study their Bibles on their own without the help of a Bible Study book (think of the many editions of Beth Moore studies that line the women’s section of Christian book stores). How many women truly experience the joy of deep Bible study, meditation, and application for themselves? How many women even try, and of the women who try, how many of them persevere to the point of experiencing the fruit of such a pursuit? Unfortunately, the skill of Bible study is not one that is common among Christian women (not that it is extremely common among Christian men either).
In Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin hopes to encourage women to get serious about Bible study and reap the rewards that will flow from a disciplined approach. Hear her heart for Bible literacy in this quote:
Someone asked me recently, after learning I was a Bible teacher, if I was a God-worshipper or a Bible-worshipper. The question didn’t come as a complete surprise. When you spend as much time as I do asking people to care about knowing their Bibles, someone is bound to ask if you have lost sight of the forest for the trees. My answer was simple: I want to be conformed to the image of God. How can I become conformed to an image that I never behold? I am not a Bible-worshipper, but I cannot truly be a God-worshipper without loving the Bible deeply and reverently. Otherwise I worship an unknown God. (Pg. 147)
Jen challenges women to move into deeper Bible literacy by first acknowledging several ways they may have or may be mishandling the Word of God. Here are three of those unhelpful approaches; see if any of them sound familiar to you:
- The “Xanax Approach”- Coming to the Bible primarily as a means of comfort for your various struggles, rather than seeking to learn all that it has to teach you. In other words: you feel fearful so you come to it looking for verses that deal with fear–no matter what context they are written in.
- The “Pinball Approach”- Blindly turning to any portion of Scripture that suits your fancy each day.
- The “Personal Shopper Approach” – Only studying topics or portions of Scripture that interest you.
These are just a few of the unhelpful methods of Bible study Jen walks her readers through as she encourages us to strive for something more substantial and more faithful to the intended message of the Bible.
So how does Jen recommend we study our Bibles? Do we need to be professional theologians with hours of study time available to us in order to reap the benefits of Bible literacy she alludes to? Women of the Word lays out a simple (though unashamedly challenging) process for studying your Bible in all seasons of life.
From the outset, Jen acknowledges that we will each go through seasons where prolonged, daily Bible study is impossible, but emphasizes that it should always be our goal to handle the Word of God correctly. Though our study of a particular book of the Bible may take longer or not go as deep during certain times of our lives, we should never give in to the temptation to give up. Rather we should always be seeking to get the most we possibly can from our Bibles.
The process Jen encourages women to engage in can be summed up in what she has titled the Five P’s of Sound Study: Study with Purpose, Study with Perspective, Study with Patience, Study with Process, and Study with Prayer. Each of these steps are interrelated and connected. Though the Five P’s may seem daunting at first, they will quickly become habitual and intuitive when put into practice.
One of the most important principles Jen emphasizes is found in the “Study with Purpose” chapter. In this chapter she teaches her readers to look for the “Big Story” each time we study a particular passage of Scripture. “Studying the Bible with purpose means keeping its overarching message in view at all times, whether we are in the Old Testament or the New, whether we are in the Minor Prophets or the Gospels.” (Pg.51) What is this Big Story? “From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is telling us about the reign and rule of God…. Each of its sixty-six books contributes to telling this Big Story–a story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.” (Pg. 50) Being able to find where the portion of Scripture you are studying fits into this Big Story will guard you from falling into the unhelpful habits of Bible study mentioned earlier. This principle alone has the potential to revolutionize every woman’s personal Bible study.
The steps that Jen Wilkin outlines in Women of the Word are challenging in the amount of effort they require (especially for those who are unaccustomed to disciplined study), but they are simply explained and modeled by Jen. Her eagerness to illuminate the beauty of solid biblical study will give courage, confidence, and zeal to even the most novice Bible student. By reading Women of the Word, women will be thoroughly equipped to study the Word of God with both their hearts and minds and will have the tools needed to grow deeper in their knowledge of him as well as in their affections for him with each passing encounter with his Word.
I highly recommend this book for anyone desiring to get deeper into the Word in an effort to know God better. It would be excellent to go through in a women’s ministry, book club, or personal discipleship setting and would make an excellent gift in addition to the ESV Study Bible for a new believer.