Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ever Heard of Wendy Alsup?

Probably not. I hadn't either until I read a three-part interview (one, two, three) with her over at Adrian Warnock's blog. Wendy serves as Deacon in Charge of Women's Theology and Training at Mars Hill in Seattle. Now every church ought to have one or two of those!!

The interview is a pretty friendly exploration of Mars Hill and Wendy's role as Deacon. A clip:

Adrian: Going back to your own role in the church, tell me what exactly does a "Deacon in Charge of Women's Theology and Training" do?

Wendy: Originally, I was asked to take over our Practical Theology for Women course. It started more as a women's forum, but has evolved to an eight-week study of the character and attributes of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and how knowing Him equips us for the practical issues of life. The first lesson is "What is Theology and Why Should I Care?" which is an important question for women to ask themselves. I have been stunned over the years by the number of Christian (or at least churched) women who think theology is irrelevant to them. Many think theology is just a bunch of dead men debating Latin phrases. My goal in the Practical Theology for Women class was not to dumb down the deep things of the Word, but to present them in a way that they are accessible to someone who is not schooled in theological phraseology. We've podcast a condensed version of the class, and it's available on our main church website (pardon the shameless plug).

My responsibilities at church have grown, and now I help organize most of the teaching events for women. I try to keep my ear to the ground to understand the "felt needs" of women at church. But then I try (with other godly women in the church) to figure out what the needs reflect about our view of the Gospel and the character of God. We then organize each teaching event with the foundation of knowing the God of the Bible and stripping away the God of our imagination, showing how knowing the truth of God's character rightly addresses the felt problem.

Adrian: How did you come to join the Mars Hill staff? Were you appointed straight from a theological seminary, or did you have other experience before you got this role?

Wendy: I have a minor in Bible from a Christian college. But, honestly, the vast majority of my theological knowledge has been taught me through the church—not necessarily just Sunday sermons, but through contact with the Body, sitting over coffee debating limited atone-ment, dispensationalism, or what have you. I've learned so much just by talking to the right people who direct me to read the right people. It's not that I don't value seminary training. But it's not accessible to the average church member, so surely that's not the most effective way to raise up leaders in the church. My husband has no seminary training whatsoever, but he is a constant source of wisdom to me as I prepare each lesson I teach.

There is a difference in studying theology and getting theological degrees. The first is absolutely necessary and the second is sometimes helpful. There are a number of staff and members at Mars Hill with degrees and/or pursuing degrees. But there are many, many more intent on learning their theology. In fact, I consider that the norm at Mars Hill.

Mars Hill takes seriously their responsibility to train up leaders from within the church. When I first got to Mars Hill, I was really rebuked by the number of relatively new Christians (maybe two to three years in the faith) who could run circles around me in their knowledge of the Word. I recently had dinner with a lady who was saved as a corporate career woman living with an abusive boyfriend. She had been saved maybe two years at the time, her life beautifully transformed, and in the middle of dinner she asked me my views on covenant versus dispensational theology. I thought, "What in the world?!" I had probably been saved twenty years before I ever cracked a book on that one.

Check out the three-parter and counting.


Anonymous said...

This is good. Mars Hill has just impressed me. I need to forward this to my wife to encourage her. Thanks!

Adrian Warnock said...

Thanks for the link. The forth and final part is now up. An honor to realise you were reading. You might be interested in a piece I have written in response to Piper on affirmative action for pastors. Should be up within a couple of hours of me posting this comment.

God bless you in all you are doing in the kindgom.