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Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon October 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Once bitten, twice shy. That pretty much describes my response to most major marketing campaigns by Christian publishers. So often I’ve found that the best books are the ones that appear with the least fuss, and that the ones carried in on the back of a major marketing wave prove to be disappointing. But not always.

Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word has been the beneficiary of some major marketing efforts. It was the talk of this year’s Gospel Coalition National Conference for Women and has been pushed heavily in the blogosphere. And I’m glad to say that it proved my skepticism wrong—it is an excellent little book.

Wilkin loves God’s Word and she loves to teach others to love it as well. Her book is designed to awaken that same love in others, and especially in other women. It is, after all, meant to call women to the Word so they can be women of the Word.

She opens biographically, telling about her growing passion for the Bible—for reading it, for knowing it, for teaching it to others. She explains that the book’s purpose is “to teach you not merely a doctrine, concept, or story line, but a study method that will allow you to open up the Bible on your own. It intends to challenge you to think and to grow, using tools accessible to all of us, whether we hold a high school diploma or a seminary degree, whether we have minutes or hours to give to it each day.”

Before she gets to a method of studying the Bible, she tells about two turnarounds she had to make in her life, where she replaced backward approaches to Bible study with better ones. The first was to allow the Bible to speak of God. She had been approaching the Bible as a book about her, a book answering the question “Who am I?” more than “Who is God?” The second turnaround was thinking that she should allow her heart, rather than her mind, to guide her study of the Bible. She let her feelings dictate what she read and how she read it instead of first allowing it to transform her mind. She wants her readers to know that they cannot love what their minds do not know.

With those foundations in place, she makes a plea for biblical literacy and follows it with a five-part method meant to bring it about. Her description of this method, along with examples of it in action, consume the bulk of the book. She teachers her readers to study with purpose, perspective, patience, process and prayer. This method is simple enough to be practical, but significant enough to lead to deep understanding, reflection, and application. She closes with some guidance for teachers and a final call to a commitment to the Word.

While I am not the target audience for the book (I don’t ever anticipate being a woman of the Word), I found it very enjoyable nonetheless. I read it at a good time in life—a time in which I am thoroughly enjoying reading God’s Word—and it fired up my love for God, and his Word, all the more.

While Wilkin’s method is sound, I also enjoyed her emphases on approaching the Bible intellectually ahead of emotionally, of training the mind to train the heart. This is a missing emphasis in too many books on reading the Scriptures and, in particular, books targeted at women. The point is not that everyone who reads the Bible ought to be an outright intellectual, but that Bible-reading cannot bypass the mind.

Women of the Word is a helpful little book that I cheerfully commend. (And, I should add, one Aileen read before I did and enjoyed every bit as much.)
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2014
Format: Paperback
Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both our Hearts and our Minds is written by Jen Wilkin, an author and Bible teacher. It is published by Crossway Books, who generously provided me with the copy free of charge which enabled me to provide this honest review.

In her book, Jen Wilkin begins by introducing the reader to her own personal testimony of learning to study the Bible and invites women, ministry workers, parents, the curious yet brave husband (after all, it is a book written with a female audience in mind ::grin::), and anyone who desires to learn to study God’s Word themselves to join her in the quest of God-focused Biblical literacy. I couldn’t help but chuckle as she describes some of the many incomplete approaches people can take to Bible reading, having been taught them personally: the Xanax approach (treating the Bible as if it exists to make us feel better), the Pinball approach (which fails to give thought to cultural, historical, or textual context), the Magic 8 Ball approach (the Bible is not intended to tell us what to do, but rather who to be), the Personal Shopper approach aka topical Bible study (helpful in integrating God’s Word practically but fail to give us a foundation understanding and prevent us from the work necessary to truly “own” God’s Word for ourselves as we study from start to finish), the Telephone Game approach (happens when we read books about the Bible instead of reading the actual Bible itself), the Jack Sprat approach (only studying books with characters, plots, or topics that we can easily identify ourselves with rather than recognizing that ALL Scripture is God-breathed and profitable). After identifying with several of these approaches, I was relieved to see that she offered hope! She continues to share a process that has helped her as well as those she teaches though the ministry of The Village Church (in Dallas, TX). The pages addressing why Biblical literacy matters are an essential read!

The process she shares is what she calls the Five P’s of Sound Study: Study with Purpose, Study with Perspective, Study with Patience, Study with Process, and Study with Prayer. (She makes note to clearly state at the onset that these are not strictly linear but rather are equally necessary and interrelated.) I appreciated how she introduced each of these generally, yet transitioned into specific ways of application that made sense as she guides the reader through the book of James. Her goal is for us to be excited about seeing the Big Story of the Bible and how all the parts fit together to show us God’s redeeming plan! If the process shared made sense to me (struggling to not nod off while energetic munchkins bounce around me along with an excitable puppy) they will make sense to anyone! I’m eager to begin putting these into practice as I study and learn more about God through His Word and heartily recommend this title.

"A well-rounded approach to Bible study addresses a topic as it arises in Scripture, rather than attaching Scripture to a topic." – Jen Wilkie
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2014
Format: Paperback
Most of us are aware of the importance of the Bible - that it is the way to know God and to be transformed into His image; that it's the way to have peace and joy in the midst of trials; that for a healthy Christian life, we need to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Having a daily quiet time is Christianity 101. And yet, an astounding proportion of Christians are failing Christianity 101, struggling to read the Bible and struggling to understand what we read. Bad preaching and false teaching abound, but many Christians do not have the biblical literacy to discern truth from error. Wife, mother, speaker, teacher, and Bible study leader Jen Wilkin has written Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds to equip women to study the Bible.

Wilkin begins in Chapter 1 by sharing some of her personal story in relation to the Word of God. She highlights two things that she had gotten backwards: 1) She failed to understand that the Bible is a book about God, instead reading it as if it were all about her, who she is, what she should do; 2) She erroneously believed that her heart should guide her study, when in fact the mind should lead the heart. These errors are very prominent, and Wiklin's insights here are foundational for a right perspective on the Bible that will fuel a right handling of the Word. To further set the stage for the book, and illuminate the dire situation, in Chapter 2 Wilkin presents a case for Bible literacy. She highlighting six awful ways that we tend to read the Bible and demonstrates what is wrong with these approaches. For anyone whose primary approach to reading the Bible consist of one of these methods, Wilkins's book is a must-read.

1.The Xanax Approach treats the Bible as if it exists to make us feel better.
2.The Pinball Approach: read whatever you happen to turn to.
3.The Magic Eight Ball Approach: Ask a question, turn to the random verse, and see if the answer is "yes."
4.The Personal Shopper Approach: topical reading.
5.The Telephone Game Approach: reading books about the Bible instead of reading the Bible itself.
6.The Jack Sprat Approach: picky eating.

Then in Chapters 3-7 Wilkins devotes a chapter to each to what she calls the "Five P's of Sound Study": purpose, perspective, patience, process, and prayer. In Chapter 8 Wilkin draws everything together by demonstrating the "Five P's of Bible Study" with the Epistle of James. The book concludes with a chapter for teachers where she encourages women who might have a teaching gift and provides many helpful tips and suggestions for a budding Bible study leader. Wilkin also gives three reasons why women need women teachers.

I would have loved to see a chapter (or even a few pages) on Scripture memorization. Wilkin does mention it in passing, but I think more attention on it would have been helpful. Not only does memorization (and thereby continued meditation) bring something extra to study and Bible literacy, but it is also a way to continue taking in Scripture in seasons that do not permit rigorous in-depth study or even reading (which Wilkin mentions in chapter 5). She mentions that in those seasons of her own life, sermons and podcasts were her lifeline. I am so thankful for our incredible access to online sermons and podcasts; but how much better would it be to be able to meditate on the Scriptures previously written on your heart in seasons when you cannot spend extended time in reading and studying the Word?

The above is a very minor quibble. Women of the Word is a stellar introduction to studying the Bible well, not as an end in itself but for the purpose of knowing God and being transformed evermore into His image. It's full of biblical wisdom presented in a candid, accessible, and practical way. This book should be given to every new female believer (along with a Bible, of course!). However, though this book is written at an introductory level, it would be a mistake to think that it's only for young believers. Many long-time Christians do not know how to study the Bible, so really, this is a great book for any Christian struggling with this vital component of the Christian life and looking for help from a quick, easy read. And though this book was written for women, most of the content is gender-neutral; men can benefit from this book as well!

*I received a free copy in exchange for an unbiased review*
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Good basic introduction to Bible study. But if you want to dig deeper make sure to go on and read more in-depth books on how to study the Bible like Howard Hendricks' Living By the Book, Kay Arthur's How to Study Your Bible, Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God's Word by Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach, Irving Jensen's Independent Bible Study &/or Robertson McQuilkin's Understanding and Applying the Bible.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2014
Format: Paperback
This book is really clear, but I found another book that goes deeper but is still totally accessible - Natalie Eastman's Women, Leadership, and the Bible. It's a book that takes women's roles as an example to teach Bible study, but isn't just another book telling us what to believe! Both of these books are great, and both teach a system. I encourage everyone to get one or both!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2014
Format: Paperback
I once had the privilege to meet with a reasonably well-known man who edits Bible study curriculum. My chief questions for him were: What is your vision for publishing Bible curriculum? Why do you think we need more curriculum, instead of simply greater Bible literacy? How do you avoid creating a dependence with your subscribers, such that they turn to you and your materials instead of going directly to God's Word?

Now, I may have caught this fellow on a bad day. And our appointment was cut a little short due to factors outside of his control. So I don't want to blast him for a single conversation. But I must admit I was terribly disappointed that he had nothing for me better than, "The curriculum helps people."

I pestered him with follow-up questions. Helps them with what? Helps them how? Why must we produce more and more curriculum that only decreases people's confidence in their ability to read the unmediated text of Scripture? But he confessed to having no answers for me.

A Very Different Answer

Some time later, I came across a guest post by Jen Wilkin about this very problem: training Christians (especially Christian women) to rely on commentary and Christian books more than the Book of books. I couldn't be any more delighted by her thesis.

I explored Ms. Wilkin's website and discovered that she, too, wrote her own Bible study curriculum. I couldn't see how that practice fit with the point of her article, so I contacted her directly to ask her the same questions I had asked the first gentleman. Her answer was far less pragmatic than his and came pregnant with a compelling vision:

"I write curricula with the intent of training women how to use the tools...At the beginning of each of my studies I tell the women that, while I hope they will learn the book of the Bible we are studying, my greater hope is that they will better know how to handle their Bibles on their own once we are finished.

"Eventually, I hope my women will rely on a curriculum less and less, having learned by repeated use how to ask good questions and honor the learning process on their own."

Here was something I could get excited about. I couldn't wait to get my hands on Wilkin's new book Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both our Hearts and our Minds, and Crossway was willing to provide me with a complementary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I could not fault her intentions; would she be able to deliver on them?

Money Moments

I'm happy to say Wilkin does, in fact, deliver. Her little book is a powerhouse of training, inspiring and equipping ordinary people to study God's Word. I benefitted greatly from this book, even though Wilkin's target audience is Christian women. The only time I felt like she wasn't speaking to me was in the last chapter where she gives counsel for women who teach women's Bible studies.

Here are some of the many highlights that stuck with me:

- Right thinking will lead to right feeling, not vice versa. Too many of us get this backwards.
- "If Bible literacy is our goal, we need an honest evaluation of what we are currently doing to achieve it." I'm addicted to what Wilkin calls the "Xanax approach" to the Bible: I feel guilty if my time in Scripture doesn't make me feel better in some way.
- The Bible tells one Big Story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. We'll understand each passage best when we see how it connects to this larger story arc.
- Finding historical background is not merely an intellectual exercise. Good Bible study depends upon it. And it can be fun!
- The desire for instant gratification is mortally dangerous to our Bible study. Sometimes we get nothing at all from a single reading session. We need to have more patience over time to see the benefits.
- "It is good for us to earnestly attempt interpretation on our own before we read the interpretations of others. And this means we must wait to consult commentaries, study Bibles, podcasts, blogs, and paraphrases for interpretive help until we have taken our best shot at interpreting on our own."

Some Caution

I have two minor differences with the book worthy of comment.

1. Oversimplification. Wilkin covers a lot of ground with a very low word count. This fact occasionally leads her to oversimplify unhelpfully. For example, her discussion of literary genres contains little nuance and, without caution, may set some on false trails: "Historical narrative uses language to give a factual retelling of events. It intends to be taken at face value...Wisdom literature uses language to communicate principles that are generally true, though not universally true. Reading a proverb as a promise can lead to heartache and doubt."

2. Cross-references. Wilkin puts more stock in cross-references than I'm comfortable with. She includes the looking up of cross-references as a critical step in interpretation, but again I think this approach can at times generate more smoke than light. The original readers of James didn't have access to Paul's letters to help interpret James's letter (Paul's letters weren't even written yet!). I believe it's more important for us to understand James in his own right first before we begin the work of connecting his ideas to the rest of Scripture. Accessing cross-references too soon can actually take us down the wrong track and cause us to miss the point at hand.

Conclusion

My minor differences shouldn't dampen enthusiasm for the book. I'm happy to recommend it to you. I learned from Wilkin's ability to communicate complex ideas in simple language. And she made a compelling case for the need of more women teaching women in the church. Women teachers have something to offer Christ's body that no men can provide.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2014
Format: Paperback
Studying the Bible is important part of knowing and falling more in love with Jesus. Often, however, how to study the Bible is a daunting task. There are so many methods out there- many that draw our attention to searching the Scriptures to discover more of ourselves. Instead of searching for ourselves, Jen starts by tuning our attention to searching for what we can learn about God first, understanding the text next (what the author's intent was as well as the meaning) and lastly, learning how to be a doer of what we learn and not only a hearer. I appreciate her focus that there "can be no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God." She offers a simple plan for searching the Scriptures with this aim in mind. She offers examples as well to aid in understanding how these steps can be accomplished. She ends the book with a chapter geared toward women leading Bible studies. As a woman who leads women's studies, I am grateful for the encouragement as well as for the wisdom she offers. Jen Wilkin helps you to not only know how to study the Scriptures well, but also how to search to apply the Scriptures to one's life. I highly recommend this book for any woman who desires to grow in her study of the Bible! This book was sent to me by Crossway for my honest review.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2014
Format: Paperback
- - My wife Carly was kind enough to read and review a recent release from Crossway by Jen Wilkin, a Bible teacher and author from Dallas.. - -

Jen Wilkin is an author and Bible teacher who attends the Dallas mega-church The Village. In this new book intended to help women in their study of Scripture, Jen reveals her own struggle with being raised in church yet being biblically ignorant. This gives the book such a real and personable feel. No one wants to learn from someone who claims they have it all together! Her personal stories are easy to relate to and help the reader understand the information in the book. The chapters are quick and easy to read, but contain vital content for becoming more biblically literate.

In the opening pages, Jen talks about the mountain of Biblical illiteracy many Christians face (chs. 1-2). And she says that this mountain must be moved one spoonful at a time. Yes! But just by the end of the introduction, I was ready to put on my work boots and start digging!

The highlight of the book comes in chapter 6 where Jen talks about the process of study. Her very practical process does seem a bit daunting and time consuming (especially to this stay at home mom of two toddlers!) but our generation is biblically illiterate and starving for a reason. We assume we don’t have time to study the Bible in depth so we give ourselves 5 minutes a day to “read the Bible” which really just means reading the verse of the day that we have texted to us while we’re brushing our teeth. The biggest take-away for me–the one line that stood out–was when she wrote, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” I think I shouted “Amen!” out loud at that point. If we want to know and love God deeply, we must know and love his Word. You must spend time studying God’s word if you want to know and love him!

If you gain nothing else from this book (believe me, though, you will gain more than this), you will gain a hunger to know God’s word deeply, and be mastered and changed by it.

So, I highly recommend this book to new and mature believers alike. I would love to see women’s ministries in churches read this book before launching into Bible and book studies which are helpful, but may not teach women to study the Bible for themselves. It’s easy to read and engaging even for people who don’t usually read non-fiction.

After reading only a few chapters (and hi-lighting every other line), I arranged for a friend to read it with me and we meet and talk about it weekly. It’s been helpful for us to digest together and keep each other accountable in our study of Scripture.

Thank you, Jen, for writing this very practical and helpful tool that I hope and pray will be used to bring about spiritual renewal and Biblical literacy among Christians today!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I can’t recall the last time I devoured a book in one evening, but that’s what happened with Women of the Word. I’m sure the reason is Jen Wilkin’s laser focus on the topics that (after my family) are most important to me — knowing the Bible and teaching the Bible. I found the book to be immediately relevant and useful, not only in my teaching ministry, but also in my personal study.

Be advised that Jen Wilkin is not putting forth something that is earth-shatteringly new. If she were, you shouldn’t read the book, because, truly, the only way to know, understand, and apply the Bible is to, well . . . read it. This is what makes Women of the Word intensely practical: Jen Wilkin acknowledges that studying the Bible takes time, that it is possible the reader will not understand it immediately, and that it requires significant effort. She also makes an airtight case for the fact that reading and studying the Bible is worth all the effort one expends!

Most people come to the Bible with two wrong assumptions: (1)It’s all about me; (2)I want God to speak to my heart. Women of the Word argues for a one hundred eighty degree change of focus: (1)Let the Bible speak of God; (2)Let the mind transform the heart.

After a thorough argument for Biblical literacy, Jen Wilkin sets forth a very helpful guideline for achieving that very thing.

1. Study with Purpose — View all of Scripture in light of the big-picture redemptive story arc that transcends all the “small stories.”

2. Study with Perspective — Understand the author, his context, his audience, his purpose, and his style/genre.

3. Study with Patience — Allow yourself to sit in the uncomfortable seat of “I don’t know,” before consulting commentaries.

4. Study with Process — Ask yourself three questions: What does it say? What does it mean? What is God saying to me about change?

5. Study with Prayer — Always. Pray about purpose; pray about perspective; pray for patience; make prayer part of the process. Always.

The author proceeds to demonstrate this approach with a study of James 1, and then concludes with an entire chapter of helpful guidelines for teachers. I found this to be the most valuable section of the book (and the reason I stayed up past my bedtime!), because it felt like sitting down with someone who loves to teach and hearing her heart.

I am very excited about applying the concepts of this book, and, specifically, have been challenged to hold off on the commentaries, make better use of cross references, and to start providing printed pages of the text to my class so we can mark them up together. Goal for the near future: writing weekly homework questions to guide my students’ reading assignment.

Women of the Word will continue to serve as a reference for me, and I recommend it to teachers and learners who want to sharpen their ability to hear God speak to them from His Word.

Disclosure: I received this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2014
Format: Paperback
In the first few pages of her book I was hooked. Statements like, "Women, in particular, are leaving the church in unprecedented numbers." Or, "When women grow increasingly lax in their pursuit of Bible literacy, everyone in their circle of influence is affected." Why? They weren't reading the Bible with their minds as well as their hearts. We have to have an equal balance of objective (truth) and subjective (feelings) in our relationship with God.

Throughout the next chapters Jen went through why Bible literacy is important, steps and questions to study your Bible, and how to pull it all together.

At first, I was a little overwhelmed with her process of studying the Bible. There was a general theme and smaller themes, 3 questions to ask yourself, and then five things that pertained to the text you were reading. Plus continually reading the same text over and over for a period of time.

However, as I got further into the book it made more sense. Imagine that! It was a new way for me to study the Bible. Things for me to look for that I may have never realized before.

Jen Wilkin challenged me to know God better and to be more Bible literate. Who doesn't want that? Consider any relationship you hold dear, is there anything you wouldn't do to build on that relationship? What if not knowing the most important person in your life well affected everyone else? Is there anything you wouldn't do to know them better or love them more? The answer is no. It should be the same in our pursuit of God.

As a result, I have renewed perspective on my personal Bible study and quiet time. Right now, I'm going through Genesis 1-11 again. After that I plan on doing Genesis 12-50. Plus, I get the added bonus of sharing with my husband and daughter new truths as I learn them! I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to study the Word deeper and know more about God.

*Crossway provided me a complimentary copy of this book for my review.*
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