Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Guaranteed Trouble: Women in Ministry

I'm taking up a topic today that is guaranteed trouble.  If you like me and want to continue to do so, you should probably stop reading right now and preserve whatever friendship we have.  There's a good chance I'll offend both sides, not by splitting the middle but by thinking about the future.

Offensive to my more moderate friends:

I'm a general complementarian, meaning I believe that while the genders are equal before God, He has given men and women distinct roles (though not functions).  I think that's rooted in Creation, probably in the Trinity, and outlined in plain language in Ephesians 5 and other places.

One of the distinct roles God has given men to play is to bring humble and spiritual leadership to the two entities that matter most in the world:  the home and the church.  Wives get to...wait for it...submit to the godly leadership of their husbands because the wives love and trust Jesus so much.  In the church, everyone gets to...one more time...submit to the godly leadership of the male leaders (aka elders/pastors, etc.) of the church.  Please insert all caveats here about how the leadership must be godly, etc.

Uniquely, I think the pastor of a church should be male.  And as a corollary, I also think the primary spokesman to the church should be as well.  That seems to be the primary prescribed role of the pastoral position in the New Testament.

Please throw your stones at my church address rather than home.  I think the church has better insurance and a lower deductible.

Offensive to my more conservative friends:

In an effort to keep male leaders as the leaders, I think we've gone overboard.  I was in a conversation with a guy the other day who, as a pastor, decided that any male over 13 in his church shouldn't be taught by a female.  Ever.  I asked him if his wife ever co-preached (as the Queen has done with me on occasion and may do again in the very near future) as part of a marriage series, etc.  He answered in the affirmative, but was quick to point out that he was preaching and she was illustrating.  Uhm...

I then asked if one of the elders at his church had a wife who came up to him with a word from the Lord from the Bible for the congregation, would he let her speak?  Nope.  But he couldn't square that with 1 Corinthians 11 and the women prophesying.  That part is a little inconvenient, I know.

Here's what I said, and the actual point of this post.

I've watched this for 20 years now.  Going to the seminary I did, we were dead in the middle of this debate and I was generally on the other side of my classmates and professors.  I survived and have continued to watch this issue in the church.

I'm worried about the future for our men, but not in the way others are.  I know that women shaped me growing up.  I had a female youth minister and female Sunday School teachers, but strangely I don't think it was setting me up for "the acceptance of women elders" as my aforementioned conversation partner argued.  He thought men would get weaker because of the influence of women in the church.

Quite the opposite.  I think men get stronger.

I know I did.

In an effort to help men lead, not only are we pushing gifted women to the sidelines but just might be raising up a generation of men who have not been shaped by the men AND women of the church.  The fruit of our decisions today will ripen in the next 10-15 years.

How that plays out in any given local church context is a worthwhile strategy session and/or debate.  Three of the most gifted teachers at our church are women.  But they're also the most humble, thoughtful, respectful, and...wait for it...submissive women I know - first to God, then to their husbands, then to church leadership.  They have no agenda (unlike the vast majority of the women I went to seminary with).

Don't lose the point in the illustration and subjectivity.  Women are needed (by men!) in the church, and not just in the kitchen, behind the piano, in the nursery, or on the front row of the choir.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

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