In first-century, Middle Eastern culture, women were not normally allowed to become disciples of a rabbi, but Jesus was anything but normal. The Greek word for disciple, mathetes, means “learner or pupil.” Jesus’ call to follow Him as a disciple extended beyond the Twelve, whom He specially designated as apostles (Luke 6:13). Disciple was the term used for those who followed Him, and His teachings on discipleship were often given in the context of crowds of people that would have included women (Mark 8:34; Luke 14:25-35).
His conversation with not only a woman, but a Samaritan woman, turned to theology, something unheard of among traditional Jewish rabbis who would not even speak with a foreign woman, especially a Samaritan (John 4:1-27). Jesus showed compassion to women, validated their worship of Him, and affirmed their desire to learn and grow as disciples (Luke 7:36-50; 8:40-56; 10:38-42). In His interaction at the home of Martha and Mary, Jesus commended Mary for her choice to sit at His feet and listen to His teaching (Luke 10:39b). Joshua Little writes: “Jesus invites women into his presence, he equips women in mission, and he commissions women to bear witness to the faithfulness of God.” Jesus’ counter-cultural treatment of women demonstrates a desire to include them in His ministry and mission.
In the Home
The Old Testament writers placed great value on the role of women, especially within the home. God created woman to be a helper suitable for man (Gen. 2:18). The Hebrew word for helper is ezer, which is also used to describe God as the Helper of His people (Psalm 46:1; 54:4; 72:12). Susan Hunt writes: “Ezer is a strong, relational, nurturing, caring word. Woman was uniquely designed to nurture community and to extend compassion.” Women were created in God’s image to reflect His glory, equal to men in value but different in design and function (Gen. 1:27). Because women are relational, they carry great influence in their homes, for good or bad.
The writer of Proverbs encouraged women to be wise and build up rather than tear down their homes (Prov. 14:1). As co-laborers with their husbands, women are encouraged throughout Scripture by both example and instruction to be noble, trustworthy, industrious, wise, compassionate, generous, strong, dignified, and faithful (Prov. 31). Women have been entrusted by God with the responsibility to be a helper to their husbands and a discipler of their children.
The Shema in Deuteronomy 6 is the Jewish confession of faith, memorized and recited daily by faithful Jews (Matt. 22:37-38; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27). This confession includes instruction for the people of Israel—both men and women—to love God, to keep His commands within their hearts, to impress these commands on their children, and to write them on the doorframes and gates of their homes (Deut. 6:4-9). Biblical training was a foundational principle for the Jewish home. Christopher Moody states: “The ‘family’ emerges throughout Scripture as the most prevalent and powerful atmosphere for disciple-making.” Women with children have a powerful opportunity and responsibility to first make disciples within their own homes, a calling they should consider of utmost importance.
Within the body of Christ, women have also been given a vital role as disciple-makers. Paul wrote that every believer is “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). All disciples have been given gifts with which to serve the body of Christ, and all have been called to share the good news (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:11-16). The extent of that calling can best be seen as the exercise of the unique design of each gender.
In Paul’s letter to Titus, he instructs Titus to teach the men how to live godly lives and to teach the older women to train the younger women to do likewise (Titus 2:1-8). This biblical instruction is for men to disciple other men and for women to disciple other women. Voddie Baucham writes: “This means that (1) both men and women are necessary in the disciple-making process, (2), there are important boundaries to be observed, and (3) the roles of men and women are distinct.”
Women are uniquely designed to care for and encourage other women. They understand the needs of other women, especially regarding their physical bodies, their unique temperaments, and their roles as wives and mothers. Women’s ministries in the church allow women to be leaders, to use their spiritual gifts as a necessary part of the body, to teach a biblical approach to womanhood, and to encourage one another to live godly and fruitful lives (1 Cor. 12:12-27; Col. 1:9-12).
Emily Dean writes: “Women-only spaces offer a safe place for women to share life’s experiences, to grow as a Christian, and to develop the gifts that God has given to them for use in His kingdom.” Because discipleship includes the idea of accountability, intimacy and trust are vital to the relationship. This level of communication and fellowship flourishes best among those of the same gender. Women may serve in a variety of ways in the church (1 Tim. 5:9-10), but the call to make disciples is a command to all and should not be overlooked in pursuit of some “higher” calling. Making disciples is the high calling of God.
Paul’s instruction in Titus 2:1-5 gives women the biblical foundation for their role as disciple-makers:
You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.Titus 2:1-5, ESV
This passage provides both the character and the content for disciple-making among women.
Set an Example
First, older women are to be an example to younger women (1 Cor. 11:1). Melissa B. Kruger states: “Essentially, the mentoring relationship is one in which a younger woman is tethered to a more mature believer for a season so that she might grow firm in her faith and be equipped for ministry.” A woman who is a little further along in her spiritual journey has more experience and more knowledge to impart to a younger believer. While age is not necessarily a factor in discipling someone else, spiritual maturity is. One cannot teach by example unless she is growing her own faith. The more mature disciple must be seeking God through His Word and prayer and growing spiritually so that she can “teach what is good” (Titus 2:3b).
Just as Jesus walked with His disciples and lived in community with them (Mark 3:14), women need to walk alongside other women and demonstrate a biblical worldview in their daily lives. Dean writes; “Implementing biblical principles for discipling women means that at the heart, women are seeking to follow and teach these directives.” The discipleship relationship is less a program and more a way of life, as two women or a small group of women gather around God and His Word, to pray, to grow, and to hold one another accountable to His commands.
Spiritual maturity is a necessary component, not because the spiritual mentor must be perfect, but because she must point not to herself but to Christ. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth states: “The biblical model of older women living out the gospel and training younger women to do the same is vital for all of us to thrive.” The principle of older women discipling younger women is not only biblical but extremely practical and demonstrates the Bible’s relevance to daily life.
Walk in Godliness
Second, Paul contends that spiritual mothers should be characterized by godliness (Titus 2:3). They are to be reverent in the way they live. Reverence implies godly behavior, which Paul specifies as self-control in speech and actions. His directive to Timothy regarding women begins with the word likewise, suggesting that his instructions for the character of older men also apply to women: “Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and endurance” (Titus 2:2). Godliness is the overflow of a life lived in the Spirit and not the flesh (Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:16-26). Paul gives these same instructions to all believers who are encouraged to live in a manner worthy of the calling (Eph. 4:17-5:18; Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:10). Hunt contends that “if our practice is inconsistent with our profession, we bring dishonor to that which we have professed.”
These qualifications are similar to the description of a godly woman in Proverbs 31. While the Proverbs 31 woman is often seen as an intimidating and impossible example to many women, her description is not a standard to meet but an ideal to seek. She is “a woman who fears the LORD” and brings good and blessing to her family (Prov. 31:12, 15, 21, 27, 30). As a woman grows in her relationship with God, she learns to cooperate with the leading of the Holy Spirit as He seeks to transform her into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). Wogelmuth writes: When older women and younger women support each other in living out God’s transforming love, the entire body of Christ grows more beautiful.” Spiritual maturity and godliness are the characteristics of a woman who fears the Lord and makes disciples within her home and among the women of her community.
Are you making disciples for Christ? Join us next week for the content and the context for making disciples.
 Michael J. Wilkins, “Unique Discipleship to a Unique Master: Discipleship in the Gospel according to Mark,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 8, no. 3 (2004): 58.
 Strong’s G3101.
 Joshua Little, “A New Family: Jesus and the Coming of the Kingdom Reorient the Role of Women in God’s Mission,” Priscilla Papers 34, no. 1 (2020): 16.
 Little, “A New Family,” 18.
 Susan Hunt, Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women, 2nd ed. 1993, Reprint (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 16.
 Earl S. Kalland and Kenneth L. Barker, Notes on Deuteronomy, in The NIV Study Bible, ed. Kenneth L. Barker (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 254.
 Christopher Moody, Disciple-Making Disciples: A Practical Theology of the Church (Franklin, TN: Carpenter’s Son Publishing, 2021), 68.
 Voddie Baucham, Jr., “Equipping the Generations: A Three Pronged Approach to Discipleship,” Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 2, no. 1 (2011): 76.
 Emily Dean, “The Strategic Importance of Ministry to Women Programs in Theological Education,” Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry 17, no. 1 (2020): 78.
 Emily Dean, Women Leading Well: Stewarding the Gift of Ministry Leadership (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2023), 26.
 Melissa B. Kruger, Growing Together: Taking Mentoring beyond Small Talk and Prayer Requests (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 19.
 Emily Dean, “Implementing Biblical Principles for Discipling Women,” Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry 18, no. 2 (Fall 2021): 232.
 Kandi Gallaty, Disciple Her: Using the Word, Work, & Wonder of God to Invest in Women (Nashville: B&H Books, 2019), 4-5.
 Nancy DeMoss Woglemuth, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together (Chicago: Moody, 2017), 20.