Picture this: A group of young women meet up for a Bible study. Upon arrival, each of them orders their caffeinated beverage of choice (in a mug, of course) as they scope out the coffee shop for the best table (near natural lighting, of course).
Once their Bibles, journaling Bibles and coffee mugs have been appropriately styled, they spend a few moments capturing the scene (on their iPhones, of course). They each craft a witty but religious caption, edit their photo with a few swipes of their fingers and include a few trendy hashtags to their post about community.
They sip their now-cold coffee as they peruse their journals, admiring their bullet points of Scripture and encouragement. They share a few quotes that spoke to them in the last few days, and discuss their favorite accounts to follow, their favorite authors and maybe squeeze in a little bit of almost, sort of gossip. Before they know it, their time is up and the demands of life are calling once again.
They part ways, sort of encouraged but mostly feeling justified that their time in fellowship was appropriately documented. I mean, if I post online about spending time in the Word, it counts, right? It’s a lot quicker to feel falsely validated by feigning popularity on social media than it is to dig deep and recognize my worthiness was bought by the only One who is truly worthy of praise, right?
Something is happening in our young women’s ministry and my spirit says we need to change the current narrative because we are creating a dangerous habit.
I’m afraid we are spending more time admiring the beauty of our decorated journaling Bibles than we are reading and being convicted by the Word.
I fear we are investing more moments into capturing images and captivating followers than we are simply being captivated by Christ.
We want Christianity to be pretty and aesthetically pleasing, rather than longing for our praise to be pleasing to our King.
For all of our get-togethers and all of our conferences, do we get much more out of it than an Instagram story? Are we being challenged, called on our junk and pointed to the Cross? Or are we simply being sent home with a few good quotes, some flower crowns and another journal to decorate?
When I think of Salvation, of my Savior hanging by nails on Calvary, beaten and bruised for the sin in my life, I do not think of a white backdrop, open Bible or a hot cup of coffee. I do not think of hashtags and styling photos and selecting the trendy portions of convenient pieces of Scripture to meditate on—and by meditate I mean read on someone else’s newsfeed.
I feel convicted that my life has a purpose beyond a tiny screen and the people on them.
I feel deeply compelled to love the women in my life in their hard, crap-filled seasons that leave them questioning why God allows difficulties, discipline and pain.
I see my own sin that a gracious and loving Redeemer demands that I turn away from in order to know Him more fully.
I see a life that I pray points back to that Cross at every turn and twist and moment paralyzed by the unknown.
And I see us. I pray that I do so clearly and through the lens of reality. I sense that we are a generation of women aching for connection. I see it in me. I see it in you. Sisters, we are so incredibly close to finding it—but our screens, our need for false approval and our surface-level interactions are blocking the path to real community. Maybe it’s the remnants of our younger selves, and we all just want to sit at the popular table and wear the cool clothes. Maybe we just want to fit into this shiny new brand of women’s ministry. Maybe we just need to feel that we are accepted by people in our proximity.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the wonders of sharing openly about hard seasons. I love that someone 2,000 miles away can hear truth and encouragement from the trenches as they endure the same hardships as another person brave enough to verbalize their story in a public space. I think God can use this platform for His glory—but won’t do so if the message simply points back to us.
I know, I know. “What’s the harm?”
The harm is the inner workings of the new culture we’ve inadvertently created and the messages we’ve sent to those outside of its perimeters.
Real Christian women have pretty quiet times.
Real Jesus-loving mamas read their Bibles every day, with hot coffee and have time to journal, too.
Women’s ministry is for the young, the pretty, the trendy.
If your walk with Jesus doesn’t look shiny like mine, is it even real?
Before you tell me that these underlying messages are not prevalent in our corner of the world; tell me you’ve never styled a photo of your Bible on a day you didn’t actually read it. No? I’m the only one? OK, maybe I am.
We have another generation coming right up behind us. They are looking to us to set the example, to show them what it means to be in community; to bear your soul to another human and ask them to examine it biblically. To point them to Christ and challenge them in their laziness, their idolatry, their lust and their envy. We are leading their charge with iPhones and lattes and comfortable quotes when we should be arming them for battle. We are busy painting our Bibles while the rest of the world waits to hear about the God who breathed it into existence.
We’re not far off. Just far off enough to do damage if we don’t alter our course back towards the Kingdom instead of building our own empires. I pray we create a new scenario. One where we hug longer, put our phones away and spend more time reading our Bibles than we do decorating them.
I pray we memorize more Scripture than we do quotes from people who write about it. I pray we are filled with awe and wisdom as we seek the Lord and that it overflows for the benefit of the women in our circles. I pray we are deeply known and deeply loved by them, but that in times of conflict or disagreement, we remember Whose recognition our identity comes from.
And in case you forgot—He’s pretty smitten with you. Pursues you daily. Arms you for the fight against the flesh. Rallies your spirit for battle when you’re weak and exhausted and weighed down by this world’s expectations. Redeems you from the pit when you feel you’ve surely gone too far this time. Remembers your name and calls you His own because He bought you with a price and is glad that He paid it for you to be in intimate knowledge of Him again.
Here’s to hoping we can embrace the offensive, radical nature of the Gospel. May it change us. May it compel us to live an altered life. May it draw others to redemption because the light in us is beyond compare. If nothing else, I can guarantee you this: It shines a heck of a lot brighter than the tiny screen on your iPhone.
Let’s put them away for a while and go love our people, hard.
Chelsey is an author, Christ-follower, wife, and mama in Northern Virginia, where she and her husband plan community events and love on their people. Out of her own season of struggle and sleep deprivation, The Cold Coffee Diaries was formed. When she's not changing diapers or searching for her abandoned mug of java, you can find her writing, searching for truth, and seeking God's heart for justice in local anti-trafficking efforts. thecoldcoffeediaries.com // @chelsmead // @thecoldcoffeediaries