Women are Co-Workers in Christ
There are often questions and debates that surround the work of women within a local congregation. The focus is usually over the question regarding how much public teaching and leadership women are authorized to do in the presence of men (see 1 Tim 2:11-12; 1 Cor 14:33-25). We might develop faulty assumptions and expectations about whether those who do not lead as much in public ways can “do anything” at all. Bear in mind that even a large percentage of men rarely do much in the way of public leadership. Most men do not preach and teach publicly, but all can still do valuable work. The work of the Lord is not about public visibility.
Here is what we need to understand: women are co-workers in the Lord just as much as any man, and we all need to lift up one another in the work of the Lord. The Lord’s work is not all about who can preach in a pulpit. I believe we do a disservice to the concept of being workers for the Lord when we relegate the important work to public acts of leadership that happen within a very small window of time each week, as if those 2 to 4 hours of the week are what comprise all the significant works and service that are supposed to happen by God’s people. That’s not even close. The greatest work is not being done by the most visible people, and there are many women who would never want their names called (I’m tempted anyway). They aren’t looking for attention, yet they keep working in ways that go above and beyond typical expectations. How can we measure the value of this?
Paul considered several women to be his co-workers. For example, Paul spoke of Euodia and Syntyche as women “who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil 4:2-3). Paul wrote of “Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae,” and that she was to be welcomed “in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints,” to be helped in “whatever she may need … for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well” (Rom 16:1-2). Priscilla is named as “fellow worker” in Christ along with her husband Aquila (vv. 3-4). To the Romans, Paul spoke of “Mary, who has worked hard for you” (v. 6), and mentions others (vv. 7-15). People do not need to be in some officially recognized position or office in order to contribute great value to God’s work. They weren’t preachers, but they were just as much workers.
Paul credited the faith of Timothy to Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice (2 Tim 1:5). We read of Tabitha (Dorcas), who was “full of good works and acts of charity” (Acts 9:36). When she died, they called for Peter, and “All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them” (v. 39). She was then raised up so that many would believe. We could go on about the recognition given to great women of God in the Scriptures. It’s a perspective we all need because our focus, again, tends to be more on the public leadership side of the work.
Think of the amount of work that goes on for classes (children’s classes, ladies’ classes, writing materials), Lord’s Supper preparation, cleaning and prep, keeping order in and around all that happens in our facilities, pulling together the information to keep us up to date, writing out announcements, answering emails, general organization, ordering materials, edification, helping to bring food to those in need, and the amount of work put in by mothers training their children (which is kingdom work), etc. It’s an endless process.
The point is that there is a great deal of nitty-gritty work that is going on at levels we do not often see or even know about, and I’ll assert that the larger percentage of that is being done by the women in our congregation. They remind me that I need to get busy if I want to keep up. Do you know who is doing all of this work? In some cases we may never know, but it gets done anyway by busy hands that keep pushing ahead with focus. The work being done is critical, and the women here are vital and irreplaceable in the work they are doing.
Paul saw women as co-workers in the Lord. Men, do we? Are we showing appreciation for their work? What they do has tremendous importance for the work that goes on daily, not just relative to a few brief hours a week. May God bless them!
These are the women who emulate the woman of wisdom in Proverbs 31, who do not “eat the bread of idleness” (v. 27). Their works will praise them in the gates, and we, especially the men, need to hold up their hands. We work together. We need one another. May God help us to see the tremendous benefit of all who labor in the Lord.