Women from 19 states and hundreds of churches came together for Abide 2022, “Women of the Word,” at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, Feb. 4-5, to hear Jen Wilkin, popular Bible study author and speaker.
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. “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; Elizabeth Luter, wife of former SBC President Fred Luter, and others.
In Friday’s evening plenary, Jen Wilkin said spending time with scripture should transform believers' lives, but that the biblical illiteracy she encounters within the church shows something is amiss.
“Are we interacting with scripture in a way that is compounding our understanding and fueling our sanctification?” Wilkin asked the audience. “Are we being transformed?”
Wilkin 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 Saturday morning, 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,” Wilkin 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.
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.”
A fellowship with traditional New Orleans “King Cake” and a New Orleans Jazz Band followed the Friday evening service to celebrate Wilkin’s birthday, Feb. 4.
Tara Dew, the Saturday afternoon plenary speaker, 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,” Tara Dew 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.
Dean noted that the quickly 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 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.”
In her Saturday breakout session, Kathy Litton told of losing her pastor-husband in a car accident almost 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 Litton joined after her husband’s death 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.”
Breakout speakers also addressed: Building your women’s ministry on the word; Communicating God’s word; Praying God’s word; Studying God's word on your own; and The Secret Life of a Ministry Wife.
Next year’s Abide conference, Feb. 3-4, 2023 features Kelly Minter, Bible study author, speaker, and musician. For information, visit www.PrepareHer.com.