I remember the first time I stood up to teach the Bible to a group of women in my local church. I was terrified. Yes, I studied the passage diligently and spent hours preparing pages of notes, but I wasn’t sure if my preparation was effective. Is my teaching structured well? Will the women be interested or learn anything new? Have I interpreted this passage correctly?
Many women who are asked to teach a Sunday School class, speak at a Bible study, or lead a small group experience similar fears. They often have little or no training specific to teaching Scripture and feel unequipped and insecure in their preparation. Even so, the abundance of resources available on the subject of teaching Scripture can be paralyzing for a new Bible teacher.
That’s why we need books like Empowered and Equipped: Bible Exposition for Women Who Teach the Scriptures. Julia Higgins, assistant professor of ministry to women at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, seeks to provide women with the tools they need to faithfully and effectively teach the Word of God to other women.
Empowered and Equipped: Biblical Exposition for Women Who Teach the Scriptures
Julia B. Higgins
“Jesus commissioned disciples to teach the nations, and women of the church must take his call seriously.”
Men and women alike are given the spiritual gift of teaching, yet few resources are designed specifically for women who exposit the Scriptures. In Empowered and Equipped, Julia Higgins steers women through the steps needed to faithfully interpret, apply, and teach a passage of Scripture. By examining both the principles and practices of teaching of Bible exposition, Higgins seeks to prepare women in the local church to make and mold disciples.
Should Women Teach the Bible?
First we must ask, Is a book that encourages and equips women to teach Scripture necessary or even appropriate? There’s much discussion today about whether the Bible permits women to teach at all.
In an effort to submit to Scripture’s teaching, many have unfortunately moved beyond what God’s Word prescribes to impose unbiblical restrictions on women. To argue that women shouldn’t teach Scripture in any formal setting misunderstands God’s design for discipleship. Higgins argues that all followers of Christ, including women, are included in the Great Commission and its call to teach other disciples everything Christ commanded.
Furthermore, as Higgins explains, “Some may conflate the spiritual gift of teaching with the office of pastor/elder and draw a false conclusion that only men are to exercise the gift of teaching. While qualified men are responsible to teach and oversee the local church, that does not negate the fact that both men and women are given the spiritual gift of teaching.”
All followers of Christ, including women, are included in the Great Commission and its call to teach other disciples everything Christ commanded.
Spiritual gifts, including the gift of teaching, are given for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7) and for building up the church (1 Cor. 14:12). It follows that women are not only permitted to teach in appropriate settings but are needed for the growth and maturity of the body of Christ. This pattern is exemplified in the women in Scripture who are called to teach and commended for their teaching ministries, many of which Higgins references.
In light of the biblical call for women to teach, Higgins writes,
The end of the matter is this: women should be given a context where they can teach the Word in the local church. Why? Because Christ’s church will grow and others will be discipled in the faith.
Her book, therefore, provides “a pathway for women to exercise teaching gifts in the local church,” and specifically focuses on training women to teach women.
Higgins provides an accessible yet substantial foundation for teaching Scripture. She incorporates principles and strategies from some of the most highly respected Bible teachers of our day, giving readers a well-rounded introduction to teaching Scripture without information overload.
Higgins has a high view of God’s Word and a Christ-centered approach that highlights the overarching storyline of the Bible. Readers will gain essential tools for expository teaching, learning to base the central teaching focus, supporting points, and application on the main point and structure of the text itself. Higgins even encourages this kind of verse-by-verse teaching for topical messages, so that the teacher is always communicating the text’s intended purpose rather than taking passages out of context as proof texts.
Empowered and Equipped walks teachers through the process of creating a Bible exposition, from understanding the nature of Scripture all the way to writing an expositional outline. Higgins covers a wide range of content from theoretical to practical, including information on biblical genres, basic doctrinal issues, and hermeneutics.
She spends a large portion of the book giving instruction on studying the Bible inductively, including specific strategies for observation, interpretation, generalization, and application and for how that study translates into instruction. The scope of the book makes it suitable for beginners—although they may want to work through it more slowly—as well as for those who have been studying and teaching Scripture for some time but are looking for a process to follow.
While Empowered and Equipped covers an impressive amount of ground in a surprisingly manageable page count, readers may leave with unanswered questions. For example, the book includes almost no discussion of incorporating meaningful illustrations or transitions. On other topics, such as the discussion of genre or the overview of theological doctrines, Higgins gives only brief introductions. Anything more, however, would make the book overwhelmingly dense, and readers can continue to explore these topics in more depth as they see fit.
Empowered and Equipped to Teach God’s Word
The church needs gifted women who not only speak on a short list of “female-friendly” topics stereotypical of women’s conferences or retreats but who teach the whole counsel of God for the good of the body.
The church needs gifted women who not only speak on a short list of ‘female-friendly’ topics but who teach the whole counsel of God for the good of the body.
Higgins appeals, “This call for women to be teachers of the Word arises from a place of care and concern for over half of the body, so that the church might grow in love for God and his Word, passing it along to others, so that they too might go and make disciples of all nations to the end that Christ’s commands are observed.”
As this book makes its way into the hands of more and more women who treasure the Bible and long to see it elevated and proclaimed, I pray the church will be edified and God’s glory made known. I pray the teachers it equips will grow in their love for Christ even as the women they teach develop new excitement for God’s Word. I pray that instead of feeling insecure and unprepared, women will be empowered and equipped to teach the Scriptures.