We love this new study by Gloria Furman for several reasons. First, Missional Motherhood is all about God’s mission in the world, big picture. As women who nurture, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind. We are part of God’s mission while we wipe noses and disciple young women. Second, we love Missional Motherhood because mothering is a verb. We mother even if we have no children living in our homes. We nurture and disciple those around us. We’re excited for you to do this Bible study to learn how you’re not “just a mom”—no one is!
Check out this excerpt from the study below and click here to buy the study or read a sample session.
We need to know about God’s creation design and His new creation work in our lives through the gospel. We’re pressing in to the Bible to see a distinctly Christian perspective of motherhood.
To illustrate our need to view motherhood through a distinctly Christian perspective, I want to tell you about two of my friends. Janet* left her home country to find work, and now she works twelve-hour shifts, six days a week at the laundry shop downstairs. She lives in a one-bedroom apartment with fifteen other women. They’ve all moved to this city for the same purpose: to earn money in order to send it home to feed hungry mouths, to build homes, and to care for aging parents. Amy* lives in our building, and her family fled their home country just in time before their dictator was removed from power and executed. She is thankful to live in this peaceable country with her family, and she is elated that her kids can attend school without fear. I’ll never forget the morning we heard that President Obama had been re-elected. I was visiting with Amy when the news was announced on her TV. She turned to me and said, “Congratulations on your country’s peaceful election. Everyone can vote without being slaughtered on the way.”
My friends do not know Jesus (yet). Though they feel some incentive to live for the next world, the particular afterlife they are hoping for does not exist. Day in and day out, they’re just living for another day and another way to provide for the ones they love. This is a noble mission. But the mission of their sacrificial nurturing work would be radically reoriented if they understood that Christ is the Creator of motherhood. Motherhood is for His purposes in the world. The goal of motherhood is to exalt Him.
It is Christ’s image that we are to embody as we plant the fields, judge the cases, fly the planes, organize the data, paint the paintings, feed the hungry, sweep the kitchen, pave the roads, diaper the babies, build the cities … and resist evil. As we embody Christ’s image, we point to Him. In the minutes it took you to read those few paragraphs above, billions of image bearers received God’s common grace as they walked through their days. Some woke up to a new day in which the sun has risen, again. Some fell asleep under a sky filled with stars, smog, monsoon rain, or dust, again.
Just one of the ways we glorify God as His dependent creatures is to praise Him even as we suffer. Suffering is a characteristic of this distinctly Christian nurturing that we’re talking about. Only women who are born again in Jesus can nurture life in the face of death and in the face of their own death (as He did), while giving glory to God.
When we image Christ in this way, what we are doing is supernatural ministry. We die to self for His will and His purpose to be accomplished. You may think you are laboring to give birth to that baby, or filling out that adoption paperwork, or counseling the young lady at work by the sweat of your brow. But however sweaty your nurturing work may be (and mothering others can be sweaty work!), it is the Spirit of God who works through you.
The reality of suffering leads us to question ourselves. We all tend to want to walk on the sunnier, less rocky side of the path. We think that our work is invalid or not worthwhile when we are met with hardships or difficulties. Also, the presence of suffering comes into conflict with our desire to be validated and approved in our everyday ministry of motherhood. Personally, there are times when I have felt insecure about the things I do (and don’t do) for my kids, my lost neighbors, and the ladies who are my fellow church members. If a mothering task or responsibility is hard for me to do for whatever reason, then I prefer to do anything but that!
Actually, in those circumstances what I really want to do is whatever I think will get me some recognition—from my husband, kids, or whomever is watching.
These issues are addressed throughout Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, which is a heart-felt missionary support letter. Paul wants his readers to see how God Himself is the One who has commended him to minister to them. The apostle longs for the people to support his faithful ministry to even more Gentiles. In the letter, Paul was not sinfully asking to be praised by the people he served; he was describing to them the joy they would have as they affirmed his gospel ministry. Paul wasn’t confused as to what he ought to be doing; he explained the nature and goal of his service. He shared this out of his love for the people. This love resembles that of a discerning and selfless mother who sees what is good for her kids and wants her kids to embrace that good.
God’s design for our mothering, discipling work is outward to bless others and God-ward to give Him glory. Our mothering and discipling are not inward endeavors where we work to amass approval and recognition for ourselves from our kids, husband, the church, or the world. God gets the glory and we receive comfort from Him. As we go about the good work God has designed for us (and designed us for), we suffer many afflictions. It is out of the comfort we receive from Christ that we mother and disciple others.
*Names have been changed.