By BARBARANNE KELLY|CONTRIBUTOR
Long, long ago (1986), in a land far, far away (San Francisco), I attended the Defense Language Institute (DLI), courtesy of the U. S. Army (Reserves), for the purpose of learning the German language. Before that time, I had never taken a language course. This was in the dark ages, before learning a foreign language was required to graduate high school. As I prepared to join the Army (Reserves), I took a test which measured my aptitude for learning languages and scored rather high enough that I was encouraged to pursue it as a focus of my potential military career. As it happens, they were right, and learning German came easily to me.
As I learned this new language with my class, we went from simple greetings to ordering food in a restaurant to short conversations. One morning I woke, realizing that my dreams had been in German, which meant that I was truly internalizing this new way of speaking. I was going from merely outwardly expressing myself to thinking it inwardly. I was learning it literally inside and out. The German language students at the San Francisco branch of DLI all lived on the same floor in one building, so we had ample opportunities to practice our newly acquired language skills as we lived and worked together. Our teachers were all native speakers of German, or qualified as such. Students in the classes ahead of us were (most of the time) an encouragement to those of us coming behind as they shared what they were learning. We were living in next-to the best environment for picking up language, which is full immersion in the culture and life of native speakers.
Where am I going with this? Language. Speaking and understanding a common language enables people—even if they hail from different backgrounds—to understand one another and accomplish common goals. At the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, the people were frustrated in their evil attempt to build a tower to heaven when the Lord scrambled their languages. They could no longer understand one another, nor could they accomplish their common goal. The people were then dispersed by the Lord, “over the face of the earth.” They became to one another strangers and aliens.
From Strangers to Community
In our class Tuesday, we discussed how we are to do women’s ministry, indeed, all of church life, as partakers of the covenant of grace. Susan Hunt lays a careful framework for us to examine our ministries in the light of God’s covenant in chapter 4 of Women’s Ministry in the Local Church. Using Paul’s pastoral epistles as our biblical foundation, Susan writes, “When God bound Himself to us in covenant loyalty, He united us to His other children. We are connected to the community of believers throughout history and throughout the world.” As we talked through the characteristics of the covenant and how it influences women’s ministry, we reached the corporate aspect of covenant:
“The covenant is corporate: A women’s ministry should teach women that isolationism and independence are antithetical to the covenant way of life. Women should be taught to think biblically and live covenantally. They should be given opportunities to assume their corporate privileges and responsibilities in the covenant community.”
As we walk out the corporate implications of living and ministering under the covenant of grace, we are united together into a community. This community is created by God’s sovereign decree in restored relationship with him and with others, by his loving, merciful compassion. We find ourselves in a new multi-generational family, having been adopted into Christ, co-heirs with him and the members of his body, the church. In this community, we once again speak a common language as we labor together toward a common goal.
In our ministries we need to teach one another this common language of grace. As we pray together, as we teach one another from the Bible, and as we minister alongside one another, the “younger women” learn from the “older women” to speak in the accents of “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” As we immerse ourselves in the life of our local church we learn to speak the language like a native and we come to understand one another. And as we internalize this new language we soon begin to dream in it as well, as our hopes join with those of our covenant community and we, like our father Abraham, begin “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”
From Babel to the New Jerusalem
The gospel has gone out to all the world, and our little local church is one part of the greater body of Christ, throughout history and the world, which the Lord is sovereignly building together, brick by brick. From the scattered people who, in the darkness of their hearts, attempted to make their own way to heaven, we have been drawn forth to form a new people, coming to the Father by the only Way which he has appointed: through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sisters, let us submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, as we live together in our community of covenant grace, so that we may learn to speak, indeed, to dream together, looking to Jesus, our Head and our Cornerstone, to the glory and praise of God.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. . . . So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
 J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006),63.
 Duncan and Hunt, 64.
 Ephesians 4:2
 Hebrews 11:10
 John 14:6
 Ephesians 5:21
 Ephesians 2:13-16, 19-22