“Are we interacting with Scripture in a way that is compounding our understanding and fueling our sanctification? Are we being transformed?” asked Jen Wilkin, popular Bible study author and speaker, during the Abide 2022, “Women of the Word” conference.
Women from 19 states and hundreds of churches came together for the event, which was held at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, to hear Wilkin and other speakers. Tara Dew, wife of NOBTS and Leavell College President Jamie Dew and director of the NOBTS ministry wives certificate program, welcomed the audience of 1200 women.
“Our heart is that we would be women who abide in Christ,” Dew said during the Feb. 4-5 event. “Women who know Him, love Him.”
Leading the Saturday breakout sessions were Kelly King, manager of Lifeway’s magazines and devotional publishing and women’s ministry training; Kathy Litton, wife of SBC President Ed Litton; and Elizabeth Luter, wife of former SBC President Fred Luter, and others.
Believers must engage ‘Scripture’
During her message, Wilkin said spending time with Scripture should transform believers’ lives, but that the biblical illiteracy she encounters within the church shows something is amiss. She recounted examples of believers’ unfamiliarity with Scripture and told of a pastor’s wife who once confided in her but misquoted and misunderstood a well-known passage to express dismay over suffering.
“We have a problem,” Wilkin explained. For Scripture to transform lives, believers must engage Scripture effectively, she said.
Wilkin outlined the first seven ineffective Bible study methods, including the “Magic Eight-Ball Approach” that looks for quick answers regarding the future, the “Picker Eater Approach” that studies only short biblical books, and the “Pinball Approach,” which ricochets from one verse to another.
“The heart cannot love what the head does not know,” Wilkin explained. “If we want to feel deeply about God, we must think deeply about God.”
In her follow-up plenary message, Wilkin offered a better approach for Bible study that begins by understanding that the Bible is “not about me” or about making believers “feel better.”
“The Bible is a book about God,” she said. “Read it first for what it says about Him.”
Thoughtful Bible study should involve a “cohesive understanding” of Scripture that considers context, style, genre, history and overview of the book as a whole, Wilkin explained. A proper approach looks for the original meaning to the original audience by an author “inspired by the Holy Spirit,” Wilkin said.
Approaching Scripture with focus, prayer
Most importantly, Wilkin added, the Bible must be approached with focus and prayer.
“There are a thousand voices vying for your attention. What if you fix your eyes on that which transcends?” Wilkin said. “This will transform you into the image-bearer you are meant to be.”
Tara Dew, one of the plenary speakers, drew from Luke 10:38-42 to remind women to remain focused on Jesus in Bible study and ministry and encouraged them to go home and teach others what they had learned.
“May God give you a burning passion in your heart to share what you have learned this weekend so that we can go and make disciples of all nations,” she said.
Other breakout sessions leaders included Stephanie Lyon, NOBTS and Leavell College women’s life coordinator; Diane Nix, director and founder of Contagious Joy4 Him; Kathy Steele, NOBTS professor of counseling and former IMB missionary and Emily Dean, assistant professor of ministry to women, occupying the newly established Barbara O’Chester Chair of Ministry to Women.
‘Hungry for theological depth’
Dean noted that the sold-out crowd signaled that women were “ready to connect with each other again after the pandemic” and “hungry for theological depth.” Abide 2021 was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“They were so excited just to be together and experience-rich Biblical teaching,” Dean said. “Women want to be faithful stewards of God’s word, and they are eager to connect with opportunities to grow in their understanding of Scripture.”
During a breakout session, Kathy Litton told of losing her pastor-husband in a car accident nearly 20 years ago and the upheaval of life that followed. As she struggled to put life back together, Scripture she had memorized previously “anchored” her faith, Litton said.
Co-workers at the office where Litton worked during that time recognized her as the pastor’s wife whose husband had died tragically, Litton explained. At her exit interview four years later, the manager commented, “I find you to be a believable person of faith,” Litton recounted.
“Our faith is a testimony to an unbelieving world,” Litton said, adding “even when that faith is feeble.”
Next year’s Abide conference, Feb. 3-4, 2023 features Kelly Minter, Bible study author, speaker and musician. For information, visit www.PrepareHer.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Marilyn Stewart, and was originally published by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.