When I first asked Lydia Brownback what brought her to Westminster Theological Seminary, my question was met with a slight pause, yet the promise of a compelling story: “God sent me there, and I’ll tell you how.” At the time, Lydia, a self-professed “baby” believer, openly admitted that she never planned on attending seminary. In fact, she spent some time pursuing different interests and graduate schools, but time and time again her options fell short. No school seemed to be the right fit. But there was one option that repeatedly presented itself, one that she probably would never have considered if it wasn’t for a monthly phone call to discuss her finances and future with a bank trustee who happened to be a Westminster graduate. “You should go to Westminster, you should go to Westminster, you should go to Westminster,” Lydia laughs, summarizing their phone calls over many months. It was from this suggestion, given by a man whom she had never met in person until years later, that the consideration of Westminster began to form. “So I got [to Westminster] two years later, and it felt like I had come home,” she concludes, later adding, “Do you see what I mean? This was all God preparing me for the life he had for me. It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
After graduating from Westminster in 1993, Lydia began writing, and eventually she became a senior editor for Crossway, working with a variety of other writers as well. Her books include Finding God in My Loneliness and two Bible studies for the Knowing the Bible series, edited by J. I. Packer, Lane T. Dennis, and Dane C. Ortlund. She also travels around the world to speak at Christian events and conferences.
When pressed to share who she is, she readily points to the Lord’s work in her life, explaining that it’s God who has given her the richest and fullest life. Through her ministry, she has been able to spiritually mother and nurture in ways that only the Lord could have chosen for her, and it is because of this ministry that she humbly concludes, “Thank you, Lord, for what you’ve called me to do. What a privilege.” Lydia’s ministry and the effects of her time at Westminster have been demonstrably fruitful, but she admits that it’s her upcoming series, which is set to come out during the summer of 2020, that excites her more than anything she has ever done before.
The Flourish Bible Study series is a monumental project, set to span ten years and 30 books of the Bible from both the Old and New Testaments. While the first study, Esther, will release this year, subsequent years will see the release of three studies per year, alternating between the Old and New Testament texts. Each book will be a ten-week, expositional workbook that challenges women to view all of Scripture in light of its redemptive-historical context. And while it will cover the traditionally popular books when it comes to women’s Bible studies, it will also provide studies for books of the Bible that typically aren’t studied in such groups, like Judges and Job. Lydia’s heart is to make each of these biblical books accessible while remaining faithful to the text.
One of the more helpful examples of what this looks like comes from her Esther study. Even though some studies of Esther like to emphasize the more sensational details of the harem or how the Christian might emulate Esther and her courage, Lydia passionately shares that “Esther is not the hero of the story. The hero of the story is the Lord, and the theme of Esther is how God is faithful to deliver his people.” With the book of Esther firmly placed in its redemptive-historical context, as with all the volumes in the series, Lydia hopes that these studies will ultimately lead women to love verse-by-verse studies of God’s Word.
It is for this reason that someone might commit ten years of their writing life to such a formidable project. Brownback states it this way: “I’m trying to help [women] fall in love with Bible reading and help them see that Jesus is in all of Scripture.” Her passion for God and high view of Scripture is palpable, but what makes this Bible study necessary and different from the resources already available? From Lydia’s perspective, the Christian publishing market has plenty of room for more biblically sound Bible study resources. And the Flourish series aims to be one of these, providing a new voice and fresh perspective for women wanting to study the Bible more closely.
Perhaps one of the most refreshing differences that this study will bring is Lydia’s desire to remain small in the eyes of the reader: “I want [women] to fall in love with expository Bible study and say, ‘Oh! That’s why this matters.’ I want them to fall in love with doing this type of study because of what Scripture says about Jesus, not with my study, but with the Bible itself.” This smallness is evidenced in the burden she feels as she’s writing. “As I’m handling the Word of God in a different way there’s just this seriousness,” she states, trailing off as if remembering the complications and weight of the writing process. Lydia’s reverence for Scripture is unmistakable, demonstrable in her previous publications, and surely to be soon evidenced in her Flourish series. She expresses that the calling she is living out now, this calling of inviting women into the story and careful study of God’s Word, began at Westminster: “It’s where God shaped me and prepared me for the life he gave me.”
Lydia readily admits that the two years she spent at Westminster were probably the most influential of her life, and thus, for her writing. It was there that she experienced a feeling of camaraderie and belonging. “And then you have these godly men, these pastors, these theologians, these teachers, who would invest in the life of a baby believer,” she says, thoughtfully considering the weight of her words. She points out that even though these seminary professors were there to train men for pulpit ministry, they invested just as much into her and the other women at the seminary as they did every other student. “We all felt special, included, and wanted there,” she states emphatically. “It changed my life; it really did.”
Though Lydia came to Westminster uncertain of her call to ministry, or of what might become of it, the effects of that call have shaped and transformed the lives of hundreds of readers and listeners. Whether about relational loneliness, personal identity, or Scripture, her writing exudes a dependence on God and his Word. And it is through this dependence that readers will repeatedly discover for themselves who God reveals he is in his Word.