Furman, Gloria. Missional Motherhood: The Everyday Ministry of Motherhood in the Grand Plan of God. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016.
Motherhood is by no means an obscure topic, especially to moms. A quick online glance, and you’ll find status after status from moms concerning their kids, countless blog-posts on mothering, and innumerable lengthy discussion forums. Though moms have the best intentions at hearts, their mothering chatter can easily cause their friends without children to feel excluded. It seems as if every possible motherhood topic is dealt with, from methods of potty-training to recipes for homemade baby food to the pros and cons of household chores for kids. Nonetheless, amidst it all, something is indeed obscure, and what is often most neglected is what is most fundamental. What is motherhood? (We all use the word, but how well can we define it?) For what purposes did God institute it? What does God say about motherhood? How are Christian moms to mother their children bearing in mind the truths of the gospel?
In Missional Motherhood, Gloria Furman writes a Christological treatise of mothering in the light of God’s grand story of redemption, and she defines mothering from the missiological standpoint of the gospel.
Missional Motherhood is comprised of two main parts. Furman spends the first half of the book summarizing God’s epic plan of redemptive history throughout the Old Testament, constantly pointing to Jesus and the cross, simultaneously laying the foundations of biblical and missional motherhood. In just over 100 pages, Furman traces the truth of how God is central in all stories, including motherhood. Motherhood is from God and about God first and foremost. Therefore, Christianity surpasses every biological and social norm as a context to understand motherhood. Grounded in the bigger picture of God’s redemptive plan, mothering (in a broader sense) is God’s mission for every woman. Having been created in His image, women are to perpetuate spiritual image bearers for God’s glory, through childbearing and discipleship.
In Part 2, Furman defines missional motherhood as being centered on the person of Christ. A missional mother’s greatest privilege is to share the gospel. We can bank on Jesus’ cross-shaped model of nurture since “the first and only person who nurtured others perfectly was Jesus, the man” (127). Only with such a cruciform vision can our motherhood be corrected from a nearsighted mentality and thus be able to rely on Christ’s victory (128). Missional mothers use what God has given, his Word, Christ in us, and our everyday abilities in homemaking, and avoid the danger of the “prosperity-gospel which tells women that Jesus will give them super-knowledge for parenting, super-strength for serving, and super-abilities to fly circles around all the poor, lost moms” (154). We cling to the true gospel which reveals moms in desperate need of atonement of our sins through Christ alone (154). She reminds us that we live among people with eternal-life needing souls who need the truth of the gospel spoken to them by courageous, gospel-driven, Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, heaven-minded mothers! We live with his resurrection in mind, dying to self because we are alive in Christ, and our homes become missional tools for the spread of the gospel.
With intentional gospel clarity, Furman writes every woman’s mission statement: We exist to point people to Christ in all our mothering moments as we nurture life according to Christ’s patterns and hold to his promises (175).
In Missional Motherhood, the cross looms large on every page. This is the book’s greatest strength. As a weary mother, I found the book reinvigorating as it reeled me back to the gospel, page-after-page. Her engaging writing style weaves Scripture truths with anecdotes, personal stories, and commentary, helping the reader to becoming more intimate with the Word of God. I can’t remember any other book that camps on the example, promises, and power of Jesus in the daily-ness of motherhood as clearly, abundantly, and firmly as this book does. She upholds a richness found in the cruciform vision of the Scriptures that transforms missional mothers.
Equally revolutionizing is the pulling together of global missions and motherhood – the call to worldwide missions for every woman from the center of our homes. Mothers are invited to a grand, global mission of nurturing and making disciples for God’s glory. She argues from the Scripture standpoint that what makes mothering exceptionally Christlike is its very mission of sharing the gospel with others. Rather than thinking of motherhood simply as a role, Furman challenges the readers to view the word ‘mother’ as an action verb, synonymous to ‘nurture’ – an accumulation of caregiving, feeding, serving, teaching, discipling, cleaning, changing diapers, and more (24). Every woman’s mission is the Great Commission, making disciples of all nations (starting with our home and beyond), multiplying spiritual image-bearers who worship God and trust in Jesus through procreation and discipleship of other women. From this perspective, though not every woman is a biological mother, every woman becomes a spiritual mother as she nurtures life in the face of death.
For many of us, motherhood has long been awkwardly isolated in our minds from Christ’s Great Commission. Missional Motherhood links the two, both in general terms and with specific examples. For instance, Furman urges mothers to view their homes for what they truly are: hubs of ministry for the sharing of the gospel to our children and those around us. (As opposed to making our homes into cleanliness idols, or “projections of our image”) (115). Another example is found in how Furman frames the daily work of homemaking, activities that tend to seem redundant and never-ending, such as cleaning, dusting, cooking, bathing the kids, more cleaning, correcting behaviors, laundry, and so on. Furman names these abilities “provisions” by God to moms! They are sustenance gifted to us by an all-knowing God to help us do our mission with excellence! Where God calls us, he also equips us with each of these “good things” to fulfill his mission. (Hebrews 13:21)
I am convinced that every woman would greatly benefit from reading this book. Grab a cup of coffee and immerse yourself in this scenic view of the gospel! It will not disappoint. With gospel-centered eloquence, Gloria Furman invites all Christian women to respond to Christ’s call of making disciples of all nations by nurturing and discipling biological, adopted, and spiritual children. She shows us that missional motherhood is more about God and the good news of Jesus than it is about mothering. (And oh, how this truth comforts my soul as I mother my four children and disciple women around me!) The cross of Christ is absolutely essential to mothering and doing missional motherhood. Books like these are Christological heirlooms for teaching the next generation of women how to do missional motherhood for God’s glory and the growth of his kingdom.
Anca Martin, a mother of four, is involved in women’s ministry and international student missions at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church