Defending the Faith: Apologetics in Women’s Ministry by Mary Jo Sharp
Normally when the subject of Women’s Ministry comes up I don’t find myself thinking about apologetics. No, this has nothing to do with the capability of women, but usually I see women’s ministry as a dedicated number of women serving the needs of the congregation from anything to making meals to planning prayer meetings. Yet, apologetics if it is to be done right is for every believer. Mary Jo Sharp’s new book entitled Defending the Faith is just the book to provide encouragement to those women seeking to grow in their understanding of the Christian faith. Rather than provide a training manual on how to dismantle arguments and tackle objections, Mary’s book is more designed to provide encouragement for women to engage in knowing why they believe in God, how believing affects how we live, and how to be a catalyst for women to engage in apologetics in the church.
The first chapter, Reasons for Knowing Why You Believe in God focuses in on an area that is very important, namely honesty. Mary writes, “Being open and honest with others about belief in God came to me more naturally after I was open and honest with myself. Once I was confident with my own decision to believe in God, I was much less apprehensive about talking with others about their views” (26). Asking the questions, what do I believe and why do I believe certain tenets about the Christian faith because it forces us to examine our beliefs and the foundations our beliefs stand upon. Often, people from other backgrounds accuse Christians of not being honest because they either not confident in what they believe or fumble around for an answer they truly haven’t investigated. Mary makes the point in the chapter that saying, “I don’t know,” can often be one of the best things a Christian can do because it reveals an honest heart and a willingness to come back with an answer after further study. Furthermore, honesty in our lives and others forges a strong bond in relationships. As you are honest with yourself, your beliefs and others, walls of dishonesty and deceit are able to fall.
In this same chapter, Mary points out something that cannot be missed. She writes, “When we seek to extend the gospel to people or engage them in dialogue about God, we should see them as people instead of as projects. This really is true of any environment the church wishes to create, whether it is a worship setting, a small group, an evangelistic event, or other activity. People are not a means to an end, and especially not a statistical end. People are an end in themselves” (31). I’ve been in the situation in which you want to share the gospel call so badly that you pass over anything the person you are talking about is saying. You want the end result instead of a relationship. In other words, you want the person you are talking with about God, Jesus and faith to come over for coffee next time you see them at the supermarket and not feel intimated by you. I think a robust theology centered on people made in the image of God and molded with dignity no matter their situation goes a long way in seeing people for the relationship rather than the statistic. Lastly, you want the person to move toward a community of believers, the church, in which they feel just as much a part of as their own family.
The last chapter on What You Can Do in Women’s Ministry provides some steps for women to create a environment for learning and living apologetics in their lives. I think Mary Jo goes out of her way to indicate that apologetics is not a philosophical system one is buying into but a natural way of life that can be cultivated for every believer. Getting the whole church involved, especially those in leadership is key for developing an apologetics ministry.
This is a really good book aimed at calling women to develop a life of apologetics. As a man, I found some really convincing discussion about the need for apologetics in the church and in my own life as well. I highly commend this book to anyone desiring a more robust relationship with Christ and wanting to engage in apologetics in a female context.
Thanks to Kregel Ministry Publications for the review copy of this book in exchange for review.