(This writeup comes from a pastor friend of mine. He wrote this up several months ago as we discussed women’s roles in our churches. I was quite intrigued by his perspective.)
I am a pastor and I live in a man’s world.
Looking at the words I just typed, I can honestly say that I have never written them before and certainly have never spoken them out loud. Yet, as I look at my life, there is no denying the validity of this. It is time for a realization…
We live in a man’s world.
Even in my upbringing, I was surrounded by boys. I never attempted to get in touch with
my feminine side and certainly never thought much about it. I did boy stuff; I played sports, threw mud, and had sword fights with baseball bats. I was quite content with my upbringing and I believe that my parents did their best and we were better for it. I would describe family as healthy.
The family dynamic of those childhood years was our version of “normal.” I observed many things in my family and church life that I imagined were absolutely correct simply because it was all I knew.
We were heavily involved in our church. Men took the offering. Men made the announcements. Men held all the leadership positions in the church. Women were relagated to behind the scene positions. It did not bother me. I never
questioned it, and to my knowledge neither did my mother. She is more demure in personality and was always willing to serve faithfully in quieter, unseen ways.
Gender roles were never discussed other than as the accepted (and presumed obviously “biblical”):
Men lead and women follow…
(This was all I ever knew.)
As a young man, I entered into the full-time ministry, which tends to be a male dominated arena. I recently went home to visit and stopped by that church. You guessed it, men still dominate, and the church that I currently call home is also exclusively led by men. But it doesn’t seem so normal anymore and I am doing by best to figure out why that is. Perhaps you can help me.
You see, there are women in my life and that seems to be changing everything. Knowing them puts me at an interesting crossroads. I can see how my past experiences caused me to have blinders up when it came to the value of women. How could the requirement of them to be perpetually submissive cause me to overlook them? How could I possible have missed it?? I’m happy to say that it’s not the case anymore. I’m a changed man.
I am blessed with an extremely talented and very driven wife (and let’s not forget beautiful). Daily, I am an observer of the ways that she continues to grow and blossom. She is truly coming into her own in amazing ways! Constantly, I find myself looking to her for wisdom. To be honest, I don’t think that she has any idea how much I respect her and value her unique viewpoint. She never ceases to amaze me.
(It was just a few weeks ago that I challenged her to be more open in sharing things with me. I can see that she holds back, not wanting to exercise too strong an opinion, lest she unknowingly usurp. But I see it differently. I am convinced she has so many gifts to share with myself, our family, the church, and the world. I must say that I am one lucky guy and we make an incredible team! I wish she could see herself the way that I do!)
We have amazing children. Our daughter has a mind that I truly covet. She reads incessantly and retains most of it. She aces every test that she takes and consistently goes above and beyond that which is required of her. She routinely wins awards and is admired by her teachers. The Lord gave my girl a brilliant mind! She, like her
mother, has amazing gifts that are making the world a better place. I feel so blessed that they are my family.
So here is my problem: I’m afraid. It’s an unexpected fear that has crept up more and more in these last years. Ultimately, my fear is that while the world gives allowance for them to use their gifts and talents and brilliance to make it a better place, once behind church walls they will be stunted from becoming the individuals that God has designed (and called) them to be.
“Outside of the church, you are free. Within the church, you are limited.”
I gotta say it, as a husband, pastor, and father…this really bothers me.
I cannot at this point fully articulate that which needs to happen and change. I’m simply recognizing a problem. What I can say is this; Our churches must do better. We must provide opportunities for gifted women to fully thrive as image bearers of a Holy God. The responsibility of the church is to set aside the invisible shackles of tradition, not to change theology, but rather to pursue a true and biblical understanding of God’s intention for all of us regardless of gender roles.
So here I am. As I said before, I am at crossroads. I’ve been standing at the doorway of this topic for years, not ready to go through it because I knew the immediate discomfort that would follow. It was only recently that God gave me the courage to venture down the path and truly dive in, regardless of the findings.
I owe it to my wife.
I owe it to my daughter.
I owe it to my church.
I owe it to the world (women, men, and children alike) that God has called me to take this issue off the shelf, blow the dust, and figure it out to the best of my ability.
(They are so worth it!)
Honestly, aspects of this journey scare me. As I move forward, I expect to have some very uncomfortable discussions seeing as I still pastor a church led exclusively my men. I’m not afraid of finding truth; I am afraid of those who will come against my search as though it is threatening to them somehow.
Like I said, I still live in a man’s world, but now I can see why that it’s not quite so simple.
To be frank, most guys do not know that many of the women in our churches
feel like their gifts are not being utilized properly. These amazing and Godly women are too respectful to speak up! I have thought and vocalized to my wife that churches must change or I may be forced to change churches. So how this all fleshes out…
I don’t know.
This is a very early chapter in the book.
Here is where I am at, for now:
My goal is not create a ministry that is defined by egalitarianism or complimentarianism but rather to be in one that is truly biblical. To this end I have avoided finding myself in a theology camp. I pastor a non-denominational church and I do not define myself as a Calvinist or an Arminian. Rather, I am a Bible believing Christian. My question is not what did John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius think but what does the Bible say. I have no desire to fit a mold if that mold is not simply found in the Bible. I don’t care how they interpreted it. I care how it reads today, with cultural context, plainly, as a whole rather than the parts that make it up. What does God really want from our church, His Bride?
Here’s what I do KNOW to be true:
*Men without women cannot properly reflect the image of God. Creation was not declared
“good” and “very good” until after women were created.
*Because men and women were both created to reflect the image of our God they have equal and inherent value.
*Jesus did not shy away from having women sit as closely as possible while He taught. He called this, “the better thing” than serving. He valued their knowledge.
*When Jesus died on the cross, He did not just die for men. He died for all mankind. This
again shows the inherent value of both sexes in the eyes of our God.
*When Jesus rose from the dead, He first appeared to women. He told them to make the
announcement to the men. They preached the first Easter sermon. The first “He is risen”
message was not by a male pastor in a pulpit, but it sounded like nonsense to the disciples. Was this the fault of the women, or the disciples? Who was a truer disciple (“Christ Follower”) in those crucial moments?
*When the church of Acts began to explode, men and women BOTH came to Christ and BOTH spoke, prophesied, and prayed publicly.
*The Holy Spirit in dwells in men and women equally, and occurs at the point of salvation.
*In Romans 16, a woman is listed as being a deacon.
*In the book of Acts we find a woman referenced as a respected Apostle.
*Women and men alike stood and prophesied and prayed in the church of Corinth.
So here is my issue, as a person who is seeking to facilitate the usefulness of individuals within the Kingdom of God; I wholeheartedly believe that Spiritual gifts are readily made available to all who are in Christ, and when they are listed, there is no delineation in Romans 12 or 1 Corinthians 12 on which gender received which gift. What it means is that there’s no such thing as male gifts and female gifts, yet we are operating our churches as though it is properly laid out when the few verses offered are contradictory and confusing! I struggle to find sufficient evidence of her disqualification as a result of her gender.
Galatians 3:28 tells us that there is no hierarchy in the family of God. Everyone is equal. Everyone can identify with and actively participate in Christ.
Here’s the nitty gritty… Complementarian or Egalitarian?
Let’s just pretend for a moment that I did not mention all of the above Scripture references and briefly look at two passages that routinely come up with those who operate out of the paradigm that is often called complementarian. (Those on the other end should be careful on how they dialogue with those in this camp.)
Their desire is not to silence women. The ultimate goal that they hold is to be Biblical. For
that, they must not be faulted. One must divorce their mind of an us versus them mentality. Both sides do bring up valid points with specific scripture verses to support. Yet, after much study, experience teaches me that both sides are not nearly as Biblical as they claim! Again, allow me to caution you not to align yourself with a cause, but rather with careful and unbiased interpretation of the text.
The Scriptures that often come to the forefront of this argument are found in 1 Corinthians 14 and in 1 Timothy 2. Before examining these Scriptures I wish to front load with a statement:
We must be consistent in our exegesis.
Again we must not place a higher authority on a position than we place on the Scriptures.
A question worth asking is why don’t most Christians exercise the principles of male
dominated governance in any other area of their life but in the church? Jesus promoted
value and freedom among the outcasts and devalued society. He ministered to women
consistently. Did He extend freedom with an asterisk?
And so I will continue to study and observe and ask those key questions that God does not seem to allow my conscience to put back on that dusty shelf. I would encourage my other brothers in the position of Pastorate to ask themselves such questions and to consider what might happen to our churches, and to the world if women knew their potential in Christ, and if we, as shepherds, unleashed them.
Your co-laborer in Christ,
your anonymous pastor friend