Women and missions involves the role of women in fulfilling the mission of God as they are sent among the peoples of the world with the message of Jesus. Of course a connection exists between women and the local church and the topic of women and missions, but these subjects are not synonymous. The focus here is in the context of missions efforts.
A working definition of missions
Missions is the activity of God’s people going among all the peoples of the world for the sake of proclaiming the good news about Jesus, which involves a process and goal of making indigenous disciples.
Jesus communicates a desire for his people to make disciples of every people of the world in his final commissioning statements, such as Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8. Paul describes the logical procedure of how God uses his people for his mission in Romans 10:13-15: God’s people are sent out from their local church to proclaim the good news about Jesus to others who hear, believe, and call upon God’s gracious gift of salvation.
I think the “process” of missions may be simplified to 4 stages:
- Engage – meet, relate to, and communicate with the target people
- Evangelize – share the good news about Jesus, relating who Jesus is and what he has done for them and for yourself in an understandable and relevant manner
- Disciple – make followers, hearers and doers of the Word of God
- Form & Develop Church – flowing from disciple-making, the group of disciples is formed into a developing/maturing local body of Jesus’ followers, away from whom the missionary transitions
Of course, each step of this process is more complex than presented, but the complexity of each step of the process provides practical opportunities for people to get involved in missions.
As we answer “What is missions?,” we may wonder “How can women be involved in the various aspects of missions?” considering the related topic of a woman’s role in the church. Understanding a basic strategic framework for missions provides a foundation for discovering the involvement of women in missions.
3 Different approaches to the subject of women and missions:
1) Theological – Begins with certain doctrines about church, ministry, leadership, or other related theological convictions, and then determines gender-based directives for God’s people in ministry
2) Practical/Pragmatic – Simply utilizes the personnel resources available, which may create points of theological compromise or rationalizing, such as if making allowances for women to do something because they happen to be the only ones present
3) Missions Strategy-oriented – Provides a framework of missions activity which can be fulfilled according to the needs of the mission field and the personnel available, as well as in accordance with one’s theological convictions
Below are a few practical examples of how this missions strategy-oriented approach answers the incorporation of women in missions. (These are not exhaustive ideas but are provided as a simplified introduction of practical examples.)
- Women Engage – Women may meet, relate to, and communicate with other peoples, although contextual aspects might determine what ways these activities should take place. For example, some people groups might have strict coed rules.
Where are the women of the target people living: washing, cooking, working at home or in the fields? Go there among these women to meet them, get to know them, befriend them, and engage in each others’ lives. Where are coed interactions with the people permissible and profitable for building relationships and communication? These instances might be as teacher-student in an ESL class or simply in family/home situations. Or these coed relationships might be far more restricted or even far more open.
- Women Evangelize – Women may share the good news of Jesus to people, although certain contexts might have specific ways that this communication/proclamation should occur.
Intentionally and naturally share with others about your relationship with God, God’s people, your concerns and prayers and direction from God’s Word. If your relationship is a normal part and priority of your life, then some simple intentionality to share this in conversation with others should follow. This conversational intentionality is a skill that can be developed and honed in different contexts, cultures, settings, personalities, and other variables.
- Women Disciple – Women may make disciples, especially think of the disciple-making implications in a church body of the instructions in Paul’s letter to Titus mentioning the older and younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Also of note in the New Testament is Priscilla’s involvement in missions at Corinth and Ephesus [see more about Priscilla below].
- Women Form & Develop Church – Women may inform, guide, advise the disciples as they for m into a local church body with their own elders/leadership. Woman-to-woman disciple-making and church forming/developing may be assumed, yet another example from the New Testament shows the dynamics of a woman partnering in disciple-making and church life activities of missions: Priscilla (for examples see Acts 18:2-3, 18-19, 25-26; 1 Corinthians 16:19). Priscilla and her husband Aquila were involved notably in the missions in Corinth and Ephesus. Although details are not supplied to prescribe any particular activity for a woman in missions, Luke and Paul make specific mention of her in connection to missions efforts in these two significant cities, which should take seriously and contemplate.
The attempt is to think of women and missions based upon a framework of missions strategy, which missionaries may follow in accordance with their theological and practical contexts. Discussing missions as a distinct activity separate from a local church gathering facilitates a conversation for women to find critical involvement in missions work across the world.