Russell and Duenes

Should Housewives Do Outside Evangelism?

with 2 comments

My wife and I have discussed the topic of evangelism with some regularity, yet as we were talking about it today, I got to thinking: What did evangelism look like for a puritan wife with numerous children in 17th and 18th century America? Take Sarah Edwards, Jonathan Edwards’ wife. She had eleven children to raise, and her husband was sometimes working up to thirteen hours a day. He may not have been typical, but doubtless most men in New England at that time were spending long hours on the job, particularly if they were farming. Does anyone imagine that Sarah Edwards was doing a lot of “evangelistic activities” outside the home? Further, most everyone in the towns would have considered themselves Christians. I would gather that the only real “pagans” around would be the Natives, and I don’t imagine that your average housewife was doing a lot of evangelism among them.

So what kind of evangelism would these housewives be doing? Would they be doing a lot of it outside the home? Would they be handing out tracts? Would they be trying to engage “unbelievers” in the public places and spaces? Or would they be primarily invested in training their children to grow up in the Lord?

I raise this issue not because I think housewives today need an excuse not to evangelize their neighbors, but rather, to put evangelism for housewives in some historical context. Evangelism looks different in different eras and places. Further, it seems to me that the training up of the next generation in godliness was historically thought of as a very, very important job for mothers. And I think that our views of what constitutes “evangelism” these days can become rather reductionistic. To me, the most important evangelism my wife and I will do will be toward our children. Paul seems to echo this sentiment in his exhortation to young widows. He says that “they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander (1 Tim. 5:13-14). Of course Paul’s advice is now routinely discarded as “oppressive” to women. Working outside the home, I have more opportunities for evangelism in that context than does my wife, and this is as I would expect it to be for a mother of two toddlers. I think it’s great if mothers have outside relationships with non-Christians with whom they can share their faith, but I don’t know if mothers historically always had such relationships, and I don’t think they would be primary in any context.

I would love to see more mothers give the lion’s share of their attention to discipling their own children, teaching them to obey Christ in everything, including the reaching of the nations with the gospel. But I think it’s asking a lot to say that housewives should be doing the same kind of outside evangelism as others.


Written by Michael Duenes

May 31, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

2 Responses

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  1. I think you raise many good points. Just a few thoughts..
    Today is a different era than centuries ago, and I think in today’s world we come into contact with many non-believers. While I feel that raising my two toddlers is definitely a primary focus in my life, I think that I would be remiss if I didn’t take advantage of opportunities to see friends and be intentional in living life together. If I were only focused on my own family I would miss the opportunities that come to share God’s love with non-believing friends when things are tough. Life gets messier (not as convenient or free-of-others-worries, etc) when we make intentional time to spend with others, but through keeping a regular line of communication open with others outside of our family unit, we will run into many opportunities to “evangelize” through giving an answer for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).

    I think it’s important to take a minute to think about what we talk about when we are “evangelizing.” Maybe others are gifted in talking to the multitudes or passing out tracks, but for myself, I view evangelism as something that occurs slowly in my sphere of influence (I don’t focus on people that I’m not in some sort of natural relationship with already). I have made the mistake in the past of focusing on the sin in others’ lives, or in sharing the gospel “all at once”, or at making people feel that they need to make a decision, when in fact they are just at the beginning phase of considering the idea of God. So…now I just tend to listen a lot, invite them over for dinner even if I’d rather just have a quiet night at home. It’s amazing how even if “nothing” happens in terms of evangelism, the love that is established in just having a meal together helps lay a foundation for deeper conversations later. I’m in no rush to get everything out in one sitting anymore. I just want to live my life with my family, amidst non-believers, who at one point in the future will run into bumps in life where they realize that the philosophy that they’ve been living by isn’t enough.

    Anyway, I think I have opinions on this subjet only because I’ve thought a lot about it after growing up as a MK and now being a housewife and having to come to an understanding of what my purpose is in His kingdom. It’s not always fun (because I’m mostly an introvert), but it has been rewarding to have a home open to non-believers and believers alike and see how God can provide the little opportunities for a housewife to have a ministry through food and conversation.


    May 31, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    • Thanks, Sally. Wise words, and I agree wholeheartedly. My wife’s an introvert, too, so she knows what you’re saying. I think you reiterated my point in saying that times and eras affect how we do evangelism. Being modern urbanites, housewives definitely have natural relationships with non-believers, and that’s good. No family should simply be an entity unto itself, as you say. I’m glad to see how God is guiding you in this, and may your tribe increase. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.



      May 31, 2010 at 10:43 pm

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