By Trillia Newbell
Her motto is “no fluff, no bricks, just good news” but it took time for Elyse Fitzpatrick to come to this desire for ministry and for life. At 62 and after 40 years of walking with the Lord, Elyse has not exhausted all that there is to learn about Christ and the gospel. Today, we get to learn from her many years of learning, listening, and studying God’s Word.
What do you see as one of today’s leading struggles for women?
Fitzpatrick: I think that women need to be trained in hermeneutics—they need to know how to read the Bible, how to see the story of redemption throughout, and to know what it is that has been given to them in the gospel. Rather than deep theology, women are given secret steps to self-perfection and silly tea parties rather than the Word of God which will free them to make them strong. They are told that they need to do everything nearly perfectly or they and their family will suffer. I want them to learn to rest in the grace of Christ.
Part of the problem is that women buy ten times more Amish romance fiction than Bible study books. I was recently told that statistic and it’s one of the saddest stats I’ve heard in years. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with reading fiction. I have personally read through all of the classics and always have at least one fiction book going…that’s not the point. The point is that women aren’t buying books that help them study the Bible. That’s the saddest thing for me because when a woman fills her heart with Christian “romance” fiction (or even books about “how to be a better you”) she’s impoverishing her soul.
Why do you think this is?
Fitzpatrick: I think the problem comes from several places: First of all the men in seminary may not be trained to speak to the needs of women or to speak theology to women in ways that speak to their lives. Women need to know why these theological propositions matter to them when they don’t have enough money to buys socks for their kids.
I think that men are basically uncomfortable with the thought of speaking to a group of women, so they either ignore them or turn their women’s ministry (if they have one) over to the women. While that’s not bad, not a lot of women are trained to think theologically so they just get whatever is popular and helps women to have fun or give them practical steps to being better women.
The problem lies with publishing houses as well. Publishers are generally not comfortable publishing strongly theological books by women because they think they won’t sell and of course, a lot of times they don’t sell well—either because women haven’t been taught to see the need and blessings of good theology and because they are practical in their application. Women love theology if they can connect the principles they are learning to their daily life.
How do you encourage women who might struggle in this way?
Fitzpatrick: Don’t be afraid of theology…to stretch your mind. Don’t be afraid of trying to read books that are hard. And spend a lot of time reading women who love theology.
You write and speak a lot about the grace. Was there an aha moment when you realized, this, this is the gospel?
Yes…I think that there was a time when I resisted this message but I had good friends who were continuing to speak the message of grace to me. They made me read [Tim] Keller and listen to grace-centered sermons. And then, while I was o the road to writing Because He Loves Me (a strongly theological book) I had epiphany after epiphany. And then once I was on this road the message just became stronger and stronger in my heart.
If you were to sit down with your younger self, what would you tell her?
Fitzpatrick: Don’t be so afraid. You can relax and rest in Christ’s love for you. He’ll keep it all together for you. You’re free to love and be loved. You’re not nearly as important as you think you are. Enjoy yourself.
Are you currently working on any projects that you can share publicly?
Fitzpatrick: Found In Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ is coming out in October, so I’m preparing to get the word out about that. I’ve got some other ideas rattling around in my mind and heart but I don’t think I’m ready to talk about those yet. I wrote three books in 1.5 years, so I’m not feeling the need to make any great push just yet.
There are a lot of messages out there. What is the message that you hope women today will remember?
Fitzpatrick: It’s not all up to you! Jesus has got this. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are righteous.
What is one way you believe women can help women?
Fitzpatrick: By encouraging them to look away from themselves and how they are doing and look to Christ who loves them, understands them and will keep them all the way home.
Find out more about Elyse and her books at her website http://www.elysefitzpatrick.com/.
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