This morning I had the opportunity to teach on Titus 2:3-5. I was tasked with covering all fifteen verses in chapter two. It's really impossible to cover that many verses in 45 minutes, so I always hone in on those verses the Holy Spirit leads me to concentrate on. This morning I asked our ladies if I could speak primarily to them and dedicate the time to explaining one of the most important aspects of local church ministry, one we often neglect. Just to be fair, the ladies aren't the only ones missing the mark in training future generations. I'm constantly talking to the men in our assembly about what it looks like to really be participating in the Great Commission. Sadly we have associated "making disciples" with something that the pastors do, or we've equated it with the question "Will you go to church with me?"--like if all we do is ask that question, we are doing the Great Commission.
Paul took some extra time when writing Titus to cover a very important, often neglected, aspect of ministry in the Body. By the way, the translation in Spanish for πρεσβύτιδας ("ancianas") is a little tough on the ears. Lesly and I were having a conversation about it on the way home. If you were just etymologizing the word, you'd get something like "ancient women," which will get you in a lot of trouble! But, of course, we don't etymologize, so no problem there. The popular English translations ("older women," or "elderly women" [Mounce], or "aged women" [KJV]) can get you in some trouble too if you're not careful. I asked Lesly what she heard when she read that word in Spanish. Her answer--"Something like women over the age of sixty." I started wrestling with what I would do with this in Spanish, and I came up with "las que tienen más años," and "las que tienen menos años" for τὰς νέας in 2:4.... or, "señoras" and "señoritas."
Here is the main point though. Paul is crystal clear that the older women in the assembly should be apprenticing the younger women. He says:
"Older women, likewise, should be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not enslaved to much wine, teachers of that which is good, so that they can encourage the younger women to be lovers of their husbands, lovers of their children, sensible, pure, home-builders, kind, submitting themselves to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored" (Titus 2:3-5).I was so thankful for one of the younger women in our life group this morning. After walking through these verses, Gina spoke up. What she said was priceless. What she said was something every woman in our group needed to hear. She said she is so thankful for the ministry of her parents, especially how they taught her the Scriptures as she was growing up. The example of her mother, who also attends our group, is priceless. But Gina pointed out two things. First, not every younger woman has a mother like that. Many younger women do not have a godly older woman in their lives, for one reason or another, to shape and influence their lives and to teach them what it looks like to live for Christ. For example, there are some women in our assemblies that have moved away from their parents (e.g., for school, work, etc.). For some, their mothers may have gone to sleep in the Lord. For others, they may have never grown up in a Christian home. Second, Gina told the ladies in our group that they would be surprised how many younger women her same age are talking about how they wish an older woman would invest in their lives. Gina, thank you for sharing that! Let me explain why this is so important, and why I am so thankful she shared this.
On Thursday afternoon, I was talking about Titus 2 with my friend Denise who heads up the Biblical Women's Institute at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Denise said that one of the frequent factors she has encountered over the years for why women do not mentor younger women in the faith is because many think they have little to offer, or they think "Who would want to spend time with me?" She said lots of women ask themselves, "Who am I to think I could teach someone else about the Christian life?" Gina's point answers the question, "Who would want to spend time with me?" The answer is lots of younger women. Go visit the college class one Sunday. You don't have to be in college to go to that group. Go visit it one Sunday. Get to know the girls. Pray and ask the Lord to direct you to some of the younger women so that you can do exactly what Titus 2 is telling us to do.
There is a woman in my life that Lesly and I affectionately call MamaB. If you scroll down the blog to the graduation pictures, you'll see a picture of us together. MamaB is wearing a beautiful dress with yellow and blue flowers. Why do we call her MamaB? Well, one reason is she asked us to. But that is not the real reason why we do it. MamaB is a spiritual mother to Lesly and me. Susan Hunt wrote a book, published in 1992, called Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women. Lesly has both a godly mother and grandmother. Judith and Martha are amazing examples of what it looks like to walk with Christ and serve others. They raised Lesly well, and they continue to contribute in the spiritual growth of their daughter/granddaughter. But you know what? Lesly's 2,600 miles away from them. MamaB has been more influential in our life than words can express. We have been in her home. We've seen her sacrifice. Lesly was the recipient of email after email last year while she ministered to her father in Honduras who was battling cancer. Those emails were written not merely from a sister in the faith--they were written by a spiritual mother. MamaB has communicated more than just words to Lesly. She has allowed Lesly to see her very character, to see her faith fleshed out and lived out in the toughest of circumstances. Lesly has seen the way MamaB conducts her life...her purpose...her faithfulness...her patience...her sacrificial love...her perseverance (even in the toughest of life's trials). These two sisters are forever stitched together. Lesly will forever bear the imprint of her mother, Judith, and her grandmother, Martha. But she will always bear the imprint of another spiritual mother that God put in her life. This is what Paul is talking about.
Susan Hunt writes this in her book:
"I believe with all my heart that there is the potential for a revival of faith and virtue among women. If Christian women begin to fathom the power of our God-given capacity, develop these God-honoring characteristics, and nurture younger women, perhaps we will see the fruit of righteousness flourish in women in our decade…Jesus tells us that those who love Him will keep his commandments. What He commands us to do, He enables us to do” (Hunt, 19).
"In this command, older women are given the high calling of traditioning Biblical womanhood. This is not a ministry of minutia; it is a vital part of church life that must not be pushed to the back-burner. It would be easy for some women to quickly disqualify themselves by saying, ‘But I don’t have the gift of teaching.’ Sorry, that won’t work!” (Hunt, 45). “Whatever the degree of involvement and however the relationship works itself out, the command is clear. Older women are to encourage and equip younger women to live for God’s glory. It does not seem to me that this is optional. Titus was not told to teach those women who were interested in signing up for the course. The older women in the congregation were to be taught how to live in accordance with sound doctrine so that they could train the younger women—no exceptions” (46).Ladies, do you want to have a life that is used by God to the maximum? Do you want to have a life that is lived in submission to God's Word, one that honors and pleases him? I'm convinced that spiritual mothering is the norm. Who have you adopted in the Body? Start like Jesus did in Luke 6; pray for the Father's direction. But, you know what? It didn't take Jesus years to select those he was going to invest his life into. He spent the night in prayer and then he followed the Father's direction and selected those he was going to develop.
Don't be self-deceived. Don't be deceived either by the evil one. You can do this. Remember the most overlooked aspect of the Great Commission, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20b). If he has commanded us to do it, we can do it. It requires two things: (1) Submission to his lordship, and (2) trust that he will work through you. I promise you, submit to this teaching in the New Testament and you will leave a mark on this world and eternity to follow in the kingdom of our Lord.