The author of several Bible studies designed especially for women, Melissa Spoelstra is the wife of Charis Fellowship pastor, Sean Spoelstra. She speaks as part of the Aspire Women’s Tour in approximately 30 cities across the country each year. At home, she’s part of the women’s speaking team at Grace Fellowship, Pickerington, Ohio (Keith Minier, senior pastor), under the leadership of Anita Kennedy. She enjoys working with younger women and helping them develop their teaching gifts with practical help and feedback.
Tell me about your faith walk. How did you come to know Jesus?
I came to know Jesus when I was nine years old. I was raised in the church but the main message I got was to “be good.” I tried really hard to do that. A Sunday school teacher helped me understand that the Gospel wasn’t about trying but about trusting. She explained that no one was good enough—that is why Jesus had to die for our sins. Romans 5:8 is one of my favorite verses—“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)
What led you to writing Bible studies?
In reading through the Scriptures one year, I noticed that the book of Numbers had a lot to say about complaining and contentment. I wanted to study it with the women in my Bible study, but there wasn’t a women’s study written on Numbers, so I wrote one. A few years later, a similar scenario brought about my second study written from Jeremiah on the topic of hope. Eventually, I felt led by God to continue writing and publishing my work so that it would be available to a broader audience who might also want to delve into inspired biblical books that received less attention.
When you begin to work on a new study, what is your focus? Do you have a particular audience/woman in mind?
As I study the Scripture, I seek to approach it curiously by asking what people in the original audience would have been thinking and experiencing. Lifting up the biblical principles from that audience, I then consider problems people today are having or questions they are asking related to the text. I try to think of the women I know who are struggling with singleness, infertility, parenting, marriage, physical pain, emotional struggles, and all the many brands of brokenness we encounter.
What makes your studies unique?
Many incredible authors seek to expound God’s Word in a thorough and relevant way. I feel called to help women interpret and apply God’s powerful Scriptures so that their theology can meet their reality in a helpful way. Perhaps one way my studies are unique is that they address areas of the Bible that are not frequently written about.
What advice do you have for women who feel led to teach and write, particularly in our complementarian Fellowship?
Follow God through every door He opens with all your prayer, energy, and creativity. As the Lord leads, be willing to take risks, seek training, receive criticism, and never take your eyes off Jesus. Check yourself for pride regularly and give those you respect around you permission to point it out when they see it in your life. Being a woman with the gift of teaching can be complicated and controversial, but it is also very rewarding when we remember that we really only have an audience of One.
Tell us about your husband and family.
My husband serves as the campus pastor at Grace Fellowship in Pickerington, Ohio. He is funny and full of wonder. I tend to be more serious, and he pulls my stick out of the mud regularly with his spontaneity and love of laughter. He is my biggest cheerleader. I know I would not be doing what I am right now without his encouragement and support. We have four awesome children. Zach is 23 and will graduate from college in May with a chemical engineering degree. Abby is 19 and studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Ill. She is thrilled to study in Israel all of next semester, and I’m trying not to be jealous since I’ve never been to the Holy Land! Sara is her twin sister (so also 19) and she is studying nursing in Cincinnati, Ohio. Our youngest, Rachel, is 17 and is in a junior in high school.
Melissa’s books with Abingdon Press include:
- Romans – Good News that Changes Everything (2019)
- Elijah – Spiritual Stamina in Every Season (2018)
- 30 Days of Prayer for Spiritual Stamina (2018)
- Numbers – Learning Contentment in a Culture of More (2017)
- 1 Corinthians – Living Love when we Disagree (2016)
- Joseph – The Journey to Forgiveness – Allowing God to Heal Life’s Hurts (2015)
- Jeremiah – Daring to Hope – Intentional Living in an Unstable Word (2014)
- Total Family Makeover: 8 Practical Steps to Making Disciples at Home (2016)
- Total Christmas Makeover (2017)
Learn more about Melissa and her work at melissaspoelstra.com.
What projects are you working on? What’s in your future?
I’ve just turned in the manuscript for a new Bible study that will be released in August of 2020. It is on the Names of God. Because I believe that knowing God intimately through studying His Word is vital, this particular study has been such a joy. God reveals His character through His many names. No one word can capture our infinite, divine God. I spent two weeks on the “El” names of God (Elohim, El Shaddai, El Elyon, etc.), then two weeks on the Yahweh names (Yahweh Shalom, Yireh, Nissi, etc.). One week was spent on the Father and the Holy Spirit. (Abba, Adonai, Teacher, Comforter, etc.). The final week explores the names of Jesus (Savior, Redeemer, Messiah, etc.)! I’m so excited for the taping of the video segments in Nashville on March 4. Here is a link to the audience sign-up signupgenius.com/go/8050c4ca8a92ca31-videotaping12. I’d love the have some Charis Fellowship faces in the audience!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The issue of women in ministry has come to the forefront in many conversations—especially in the public arena. I have been grieved by the venom spewed by the proponents of opposing views on both ends of the theological spectrum. I believe this is a time to pray, study Scripture fervently, and then seek unity as much as possible. The enemy wants to divide us, but God’s Word reveals that His heart is multiplication. This is an area where I believe we must guard against becoming Pharisaical. Jesus warned the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-24, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” When it comes to debating issues of women’s roles—let us be careful not to strain a gnat but swallow a camel. Our theology regarding women’s roles is important, but let’s be careful not to throw the more important matters like justice, mercy, and faithfulness in the process!