Whole Woman Conference: Know God Deeply, Love People Fully

What does it mean to care for women holistically? This was the main question addressed to the 210 attendees at The Whole Woman Conference, hosted at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) Oct. 15-16.

Caring holistically for women starts with understanding that people are made in the image of God and, as his image-bearers, they display him to a lost world. As women, we get to reflect God’s image in the way that he has distinctively created us. The creation account highlights the sameness of men and women and the unique ways they complement one another.  

“God is glorified in sameness and in difference,” said Julia Higgins, who serves as Assistant Professor of Ministry to Women and Associate Director of Graduate Program Administration. Echoing that sentiment, Kristin Kellen expressed that the complementary nature of men and women reflects the Trinity—the Godhead is equal, yet the Father, Son, and Spirit have distinct roles. Kellen serves as Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling with a focus on counseling children, teens, and families. Both she and Higgins edited “The Whole Woman,” on which the conference was based.   

The keynote speaker to kick off Friday night’s session was Tara Dew, who spoke on Deuteronomy 6. Dew is the wife of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) President Jamie Dew, holds an EdD from SEBTS, and has extensive teaching and leadership experience in educating everyone from children to adults.  

In Deuteronomy 6, the Shema states, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” and carries with it a meaning of both hearing and obeying the commands of God. Dew explained that in order to love God, one must know who God is, and this means knowing who God is throughout the pages of Scripture. Drawing from Luke 7, Dew recounted the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with a jar of expensive perfume. Jesus’ response to the woman’s lavish display of love was to say, “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little” (v. 47, CSB).   

“Does your love for God equal the amount he has forgiven you?” Dew asked the attendees Friday night, explaining, “We find time for and we spend our money on the things we love the most.”  

However, knowing and loving God does not remain a personal pursuit but an outward display of his glory to those who don’t yet know him. Just as the people of Israel were commanded to place signs on their feet and foreheads as a display of who God was, so Christians are called to speak about the Lord often and eagerly to those around them.    

Saturday morning’s session opened with teaching from Kelly King, who serves at LifeWay Christian Resources as Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training. During her session, she taught from Daniel 6 on the importance of the integrity and character of Christian women.   

“If we are going to be whole women who love others well, we must be women who love [God] with great character,” said King, noting that godly character is shaped by a desire for God, informed by the Scriptures.   

King noted that in Daniel 6, we see that Daniel’s love for the Lord was revealed in his discipline of prayer, response to authority, and his response to difficult circumstances.   

The morning continued with breakout sessions for attendees, which encompassed topics on loving the Lord with one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.   

The conference concluded with a panel discussion from some of the breakout session leaders, including Amy Whitfield, Executive Director of Communications at The Summit Church; Christy Thornton, Associate Director of Ph.D. Studies and Director of the Th.M. Program; Missie Branch, Assistant Dean of Students to Women and the Director of Graduate Life; and Leslie Hildreth, Women’s Discipleship Director at The Summit Church.   

During the panel, Branch challenged women by thinking of God’s design like a recipe. In the same way a recipe is constructed with a specific outcome in mind, so God has intentionally designed his people to be in community. She noted the need to love and participate in the Body of Christ, saying, “We don’t have the privilege to deconstruct what we didn’t construct.”  

Likewise, Hildreth challenged women to consider an important question, “What are you consciously or subconsciously allowing to shape your mind?”   

“The Whole Woman: Ministering to Her Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength,” was released on Oct. 12 and can be purchased at Amazon.com. Get your copy today, and be encouraged to love women holistically.   


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