In a society seeking to downplay gender distinctions, how do evangelical Christians uphold biblical gender differences when we evangelise? What are our differences and what does it mean for men and women to evangelise as ‘male’ and ‘female’?
We are created as male and female
Genesis 1 provides us with a rich foundation when answering these questions. The symphony of the creation account testifies loud and clear that our genders are both God ordained and intrinsically good.
‘Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”
…So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them’ (Gen:1:26-27).
Both men and women are made in the image of God and are therefore of equal worth before him. Yet, while bearing his image equally, we also bear it distinctively. God created two genders. We’re worth the same, but we’re not the same.
Gender distinctions were God’s idea right from the start. But what exactly are our differences?
Well, most obviously, our differences are biological. We know from a simple glance in the mirror that men tend to have physical dominance. This is reflected in the curse God lays on Adam in Genesis 3. His curse relates primarily to his physical dominance and thus is tailored to his work of tending the ground.
The biological makeup of a woman displays how God designed her with the unique ability to nurture life in her own body. This is reflected in the curse God lays upon Eve. Her curse corresponds to relationships, those with her children and the husband from whom God formed her.
Genesis shows that our God-given genders display themselves in our physical differences and our relational dispositions. Despite us first seeing these differences in the context of the fall, the differences themselves are instituted before the fall. They are part of God’s good design of male and female.
These distinctions continue to be affirmed throughout the New Testament, encouraging us that they are as necessary now as they were on the day we were first formed. We must then work hard at maximising the uniqueness of our genders in the way we do evangelism.
The fact is, our gender affects the way we experience the world. We go forth each day as embodied males and females and encounter the world and one another differently as a result. It should come as no surprise that men and women often encounter the gospel differently. Of course, we need to guard against being reductive here. We cannot reduce our God-given design to a set of ‘pink’ methods for evangelism to women and ‘blue’ methods for evangelism to men. And yet, gender distinctions are real and precious, and there are differences in our genders which we should harness in evangelism.
Personal evangelism among women
We need women doing personal evangelism because women connect with one another uniquely. That women are more relationally driven transcends culture and time. Women often possess the unique gift of being able to read one another and connect on a deep level quickly. We tend to seek by enquiry, which means that evangelistic courses appeal more to women than men. Therefore it’s essential that we have women helping to run such courses, as their God-given capacities to connect can prove incredibly fruitful.
It’s also essential that we have women exercising gifts in one-to-one evangelism because there are contexts within which it’s simply inappropriate for men to share the gospel. For example, in outreach to Muslim women, or when sharing the gospel with women suffering from domestic abuse, a Christian woman will not only be trusted more quickly, but is likely to be more fruitful, due to the gifts that run within her gender. We need Christian women to reach feminist groups who may instinctively distrust a man. Our ability to connect with one another uniquely brings distinct opportunities that only women can harness.
The question for us to consider then is this: have the women in our churches been encouraged to employ their God-given relational gifts in evangelism? We need encouragement in this, and we need training to be able to boldly harness our relational capacities as women because the fact is most women don’t think of themselves as evangelists.
Public evangelism among women
We need women doing public evangelism because women hear and respond to one another uniquely. Possibly the biggest reason most Christian women don’t consider themselves evangelists is that they don’t see other women doing evangelism publicly. We tend to emulate what we see, and if the women in your church only ever see a man teaching the Bible and speaking evangelistically, they are unlikely to think they can do it, even in a different context. Is it any wonder that the United Kingdom so sorely lacks female public evangelists?
The church needs a women’s unique perspective in public evangelism because non-Christian women are more likely to respond to a female than a male. This is because we hear and respond to one another uniquely as women, just as men do with men.
From the illustrations we choose, to the tone of our voices, our personal testimonies and shared felt needs, a female public evangelist can connect with women listeners in a fundamentally powerful way. This is exactly as God intends it. So are we harnessing the gifts God has given to the women in our churches to maximise our local reach in mission?
Hearing the gospel commended to us publicly by someone of our own gender is a unique treasure. A woman is likely to feel more at ease listening to another woman. She’s more likely to go up and ask questions if the speaker shares her gender. There is a wealth of opportunity here; we need only harness it.
As we’ve seen then, men and women are both equal and different. The contexts within which we use our evangelistic gifts may vary due to our convictions, but if men and women are worth the same before God, then it follows that our gifts are worth the same and this should be reflected in how they’re identified, encouraged and trained in the local church.
Ultimately, of course, all our efforts to train and grow are fruitless if we do not submit them to God and plead for his help in reaching the lost. It’s the Lord who opens the heart, none other. But in his kindness, God uses us, men and women, designed and gifted within our own genders for his great glory in mission.