BW Reads: The Role of Women in the Church

Ryrie, Charles. The Role of Women in the Church. 2nd ed. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2011.

What can a woman do in the church? What roles are we permitted to have? What does God say about serving in this century and in the past? How did Jesus interact with women in ministry? These questions and more are brilliantly examined in Charles Ryrie’s book The Role of Women in the Church.

If you’re looking for a resource that you can go to about divorce, marriage, singleness, a woman’s service within the church and women’s historical involvement within the church then this book is impeccable. The three sections of this book uniquely address these issues, and demonstrate the author’s heart for a women’s involvement in the church. While the truth that Ryrie speaks may be difficult for our modern ears to hear, they are necessary to anyone who wants a biblically sound ministry for women.

The Role of Women in the Church will make you hungry for more and inspire you to dive into God’s Word.

The author emphasizes the women in the life and ministry of Jesus. He gives multiple examples demonstrating how Jesus regarded the women around Him:

  • He opened the doors to intimate affinity with Himself, and sex constituted no barrier to this intimacy (42).
  • He taught women privately and publicly (43).
  • He did not only acknowledge and appreciate a woman’s intellectual capacity but also her spiritual capabilities (45).

“He ministered to men; but the women ministered to Him.” (55).

One of the most beautifully written works that I have ever encountered is the chapter focusing on the women who ministered to Jesus. You’ll want to get out your highlighter and get ready for a discussion that will encourage any woman who is ministering to other women. This chapter was such a personal encouragement, that I was moved to prayer and thanksgiving for the calling that God has placed on my life. The author reminds the reader that women were the first to find Jesus’ tomb empty and that they are the ones who told everyone of His resurrection (59), which is something that most believers are aware of, but the new thought that Ryrie brought forward was that these women were given this privilege in the midst of just doing what they were called to do. It was a woman’s “job” to minister to the physical needs. They went to the tomb to be faithful to the calling on their lives and they were blessed for it.

“Women were honored with the news of the resurrection first simply because they were being faithful to womanly duties.” (60)

Along with the chapters focusing on the women in the life of Jesus, The Role of Women in the Church also addresses applicable truths regarding women’s roles. Ryrie devotes a chapter to “The Domestic Status of Women,” (95) discussing what God says about marriage and celibacy. Chapter eight’s, The Place of Women in Church Life in particular gives truths about some of the most prevalent arguments going on within the church as the author looks in depth at subordination (117), silence (120), widows (130) and deaconesses (137).  The thoughts presented in this chapter are dissected using the lens required of all students of the Word – using scripture as the commentary on scripture. The final four chapters in the book highlight women who were serving in different church eras, places and situations. Ryrie blends biblical truth and history to give the reader a resource that they can come back to time and time again.

Dorothy Patterson, First Lady of Southwestern Seminary and Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies, summed up Ryrie’s book when she said, “The volume is set apart primarily because of its thoroughly digested reasoning and study that comes forth in a very concise and balanced presentation of the hope that is within every woman’s heart, i.e., that indeed there is a place of service for each of us in the kingdom of Christ.”(xii)

The Role of Women in the Church beautifully reinforces the call of women’s ministry within the church and defines the boundaries of those ministries.  God has called women to be set apart from men. God has called women to specific and important ministries within the church.

“Blessed are thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast made me according to thy will…who has made me a woman, to win hearts for thee by motherly love or wifely devotion; to lead souls to thee, by daughter’s care or sisterly tenderness and loyalty.” (13)