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Spring 2004 · Vol. 33 No. 1 · pp. 116–118 

Book Review

Preaching That Speaks to Women

Alice P. Matthews. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003. 188 pages.

Reviewed by Nadine Friesen

“The central task of preaching is to enable listeners to love the Lord with all their hearts, with all their souls, with all their minds, and with all their strength, and their neighbor as themselves (Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:5),” states Alice Mathews as she addresses the challenges and uniqueness of communicating biblical truth to one’s entire audience—particularly women (46). With an extensive academic background in women’s studies and personal experience as pastor’s wife, missionary, seminary dean, and teacher, as well as one who has listened to volumes of sermons, she is well qualified to speak to the issues involved.

Her assumption is that gender tendencies and differences influence the way Scripture is heard and applied. While the book highlights {117} gender differences which can exist, Matthews also encourages readers to remember that differences within groups of people can be as significant as differences between groups.

The impact of gender in various areas is discussed, including moral development and judgment, stress management, perceptions of self, communication patterns, epistemology. Matthews uses examples and research results from multiple studies to demonstrate how men and women may perceive ideas presented in sermons in differing ways. A chapter is given to exploring modernism and postmodernism and the impact they have on present-day listeners, particularly women. Another focuses on the variety of ways that women know and relate to God and gives specific suggestions to help preachers connect with those various styles. Other significant issues addressed by Mathews include the different ways in which men and women tend to lead and perceive leadership and power. The discussion refers to examples from Jesus’ life and others in Scripture.

A clearer understanding of women and the ways in which to best speak to their hearts, souls, and minds is encouraged through the attention given to varying roles and expectations of women such as singleness and infertility.

The final chapter is formed around six questions Mathews addresses to those who preach. The questions invite consideration of one’s approach to the entire audience. Are either women or men stereotyped? Are both viewed as whole beings and given mutual respect? Are they recognized for their achievements? Does language exclude women when talking about humanity as a whole? Does it describe men and women on equal terms?

Some readers may feel bogged down by the detail of research that is incorporated in the book. That information, however, adds substance to the content and the author’s conclusions. Each chapter concludes with specific suggestions on how to relate preaching to the issues addressed within that chapter, a summary of key points, and questions to ponder that enable the reader to interact with the content.

Overall, the book is an important read for those who preach and influence people in knowing God. It is a call to better understand one’s entire audience, to be alert to gender differences and tendencies, and to carefully communicate in a way that speaks to all. It is also a call for preachers to examine their own stereotypes and perceptions that can distort the truth of the Word and mislead those who listen and seek to love the Lord with all their hearts, souls, and minds. {118}

Nadine Friesen
Editorial Assistant for the Christian Leader
Hillsboro, Kansas

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