I started the book with the highest of expectations. Subtitled “Equipping all women in the household of God,” No Little Women by Aimee Byrd addressed a topic I care deeply about. Like Byrd, I am frustrated by the lack of depth in many books, curriculums, and events targeting women. Why do women’s retreats nearly always focus on women’s issues? Why are there more Christian books available to women than ever before while less and less of substance is said? And how come church leadership expects so little competence from women in areas of theology and doctrine? These are the types of questions that nettle me, and in Aimee Byrd I found a kindred spirit – at least in terms of mutual frustration and a desire for something better.
This book brought up points I had never considered, presented options that seemed viable, and made a strong case for the importance of women learning and teaching well. As a whole, No Little Women motivated me to be more intentional in my own study and in creating resources for women that are solidly biblical and undiluted. However, the book also made claims I disagreed with, went on tangents that smelled of rants, and left me with at least as many questions as I started with. My assessment in a nutshell: definitely a mixed bag.
A Few Hesitations
Many of my hesitations with this book are not related to the actual content. I felt that the book bogged down in the middle and that chapters didn’t lead to clear conclusions. Additionally, the author writes to both women and church leaders, making it easy to focus on what other people should be doing rather than seeing our own responsibility. For example, it was easy for me to latch on to the instructions to church leaders and think that if only they would follow her advice and give better guidance and credibility to women’s ministries, then women would be better equipped. I suspect leaders could likewise conclude that if only the women in their congregations cared about theology or paid attention during sermons, then women would be better equipped.
In one chapter, she writes, “I would rather read from someone who has clear doctrinal distinctives that are different from mine but who is still seeking unity based on a serious reading of God’s Word.”1 She prefers this over writers who are vague and indirect on all matters of doctrine in order to market their book to the largest possible audience. I want to agree with her on this point, although I confess I found her own doctrinal statements jarring as I went through the book. For example, she declares that prophecy has ceased2, that women should teach men in para-church events (though not through the office of an ordained leader)3, and that we cannot recognize the Holy Spirit’s leading except in retrospect.4 I am also unsure what to think of Byrd’s very high view of the ordained office in the church, a view which permeates much of the book.5
What I Appreciated
All hesitations aside, I am glad I read No Little Women. Byrd has a genuine concern that women be equipped to handle the Word of God well and not be led astray by false teaching. She offers concrete suggestions for pastors on how to encourage and build up the women of their congregations and specific advice for women on how to discern truth from error and grow in knowledge. As a woman who enjoys learning and desires to think deeply, I identify with much of what she shares. “We … have some wonderful resources for learning more about our roles as wives and mothers, as well as about topics such as homemaking and feminism. But there is more to a woman than women’s issues, and we shouldn’t limit ourselves to those identities.”6 Statements like this receive my hearty amen.
Christian women have been targeted with huge quantities of books and resources, and I share Byrd’s concern that many of these at least dilute the truth if they don’t distort or even destroy it. I appreciate her bravery in pointing out serious theological errors in very popular women’s books.
Who Should Read this Book
This book definitely bears a needed message for the church today, and many would benefit from reading it. Pastors and church leaders would do well to heed Byrd’s message to them. Women shouldn’t be left to themselves; leaders need to be shepherding their whole flock. Women who lead studies or Sunday school, read a lot, or simply want to be discerning will also appreciate the insights shared in this book. Unfortunately, women who aren’t serious about their faith or who are easily swept away by the popularity or charisma of well-known Christian authors and speakers will probably find this book either dull or offensive. Although it would be wonderful if this book was written to persuade these types of women, that’s not the intended audience. I wouldn’t hand this book to a friend who I think is treading shaky theological ground. However, what this book does, it does well – giving practical advice to both men and women who are concerned about all women being equipped to rightly handle truth and stand alongside the men of the church as allies.
|Heather Lehman maintains that one can love both the country and the city; she is living proof. She loves hiking in the mountains, exploring cities, browsing international grocery stores, tutoring immigrants in English, and tending plants. After growing up on a produce farm and spending a few years in New York City, she’s made her home with her groom who currently lives in a university town in Indiana. She feels strongly about welcoming immigrants, living responsibly, and communicating Christ.|
1Byrd, Aimee. No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God. Published by P&R Publishing. 2016. p. 235
2Ibid p. 182
3Ibid p. 156
4Ibid p. 236
5Ibid chapter 4
6Ibid p. 62