Those of us with a Facebook account know the inner battle of the Facebook newsfeed. We scroll through it and see everything from fitness quotes to friends starting business’s…tasty recipes to pictures of cute children…memes for LGBTQ advocates to passionate Donald Trump supporters rallying for votes.
At least that’s what mine looks like.
We all find ourselves sifting through the good and bad, making decisions on what silly stuff to engage and what things to quietly ignore. Most of the time if I disagree, I usually stay pretty quiet. I’ve never found Facebook to be a good place for civil dialogue.
However yesterday I saw a friend post a video entitled, “7 Reasons Men Should Not Be Pastors”, and my interest was peaked.
The video is flipping the common question “Can women really lead in the church?” and asking the same question of men. This is of course funny because men don’t have this question asked of them, but women do. The very premise is making a clear point.
For those of us with convictions one way or another in regards to women in ministry leadership, we know this conversation can get heated. But I have zero desire for that, as I’ve always maintained that it is a secondary issue that does not change the gospel. And the gospel is what ultimately unifies us.
However I’ve been around the block long enough to know that this topic is extremely important. The culture around us has been shifting for decades and the church ought to have thoughtful, bible-based answers for these kinds of questions regarding gender roles and gender identity. Never has it been more important to scour the Scripture for guidance on these matters. And all of it begins with our general understanding of male and female roles in the church and home. This is not a discussion about what women are permitted to do out in the world, as their seem to be no role’s off-limits scripturally in that context (aside from anything sinful – obviously).
For that reason I think it is important enough to engage with this video, as it is clearly trying to make a very big point about the church.
This topic is both enormous and nuanced, so bear with me as I’m not tackling the whole thing here. But just the points the video brings up.
At the very heart of the video there seems to be a great frustration for women to hear the word “no”. But never once is scripture spoken about in the video. These ladies are talking about the church, but devoid of any reasonable engagement with what the scripture says to inform the church on these matters. Which for me, makes the video pack much less punch.
However with that said, if women are actually being told these excuses for their exclusions from certain kinds of ministry then I understand their irritation. Most of the reasons spoken about are just silly and do not represent the complementarian’s theological stance.
If women are being told they can’t lead because they are too pretty and may be a distraction, or because they are too emotional, or because they get cranky once a month or because their children will keep them from effective work, then these are theologically lacking men speaking from personal chauvinistic preferences devoid of scriptural conviction. And let me encourage all women to ignore such men. Scripture does not disqualify women for any of these reasons, and so, neither should men.
Now let me deal with the only three points of the video I believe are worth looking closer at. Starting with these two statements:
“Men can still be involved in the church – they just don’t need to be ordained” and “Jesus was betrayed by a man, how can a man be trusted to lead?”
Summed up, the first statement is asking the question, why can’t women be ordained? And the second statement is saying women should not be punished for Eve’s sin in the same way that men are not punished for Judas’ sin.
So why don’t we look at a piece of Scripture that deals with both statements. 1 Timothy 2:12-14 says,
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
This text is a controversial one and is often explained away by asserting that at the time there were some particularly loud-mouthed women in the church who were being disruptive. Therefore, Paul is just addressing them. But this assertion has not been historically proven. It is more likely that Paul is differentiating roles for men and women in the church. This text seems to be speaking about how the governance and teaching of the church is the role of a man. And these two functions are the distinguishing factors between elders and deacons. This is not Paul telling women to shut up. Let’s get that straight. In the context of this entire letter to Timothy, Paul is helping his young mentoree Timothy with the difficult task of church governance. For this reason ordination for women would not be permitted in scripture, as the role of Elder is one of governance and teaching. Two things that is not included in the role of women in the church.
God has placed that extreme responsibility on men as part of their role. Does this mean God loves men more than women? Ask yourself the same question. Do you love your first child more than the rest, just because they were born first? Nope. Probably not. They just happened to be born in that order.
You may be wondering then why Paul brings Eve’s sin into the picture. Paul refers to the creation account to remind the church of what happened in the beginning. Adam ignored his role of protector and leader, then Eve stepped in the leadership role. We all know how that turned out. And comparing it to Judas’ sin is like apples and oranges. The first sin was the cause of all sin for the rest of history. Including Judas’ betrayal, which would have never happened if our first parents hadn’t sinned in the garden.
Paul brings up the garden because this is where God created gender roles. And when God made it, it was good. It was perfect and beautiful. And as soon as those roles switched, everything became unbalanced. It is of huge importance that we return to Eden when seeking to understand the way God created us.
Now lets move on to the last statement…
The children’s ministry is always in need of male leadership
Side note: Yes, it most certainly does!!! But that’s not the point trying to be made in the video.
I understand that women who feel the call to leadership are tired of being told to exercise those gifts in children’s ministry. But my question for them is…why? Let me be clear that complementarians do not believe that children’s ministry is the only place women can participate. In fact there are endless opportunities for women to do ministry. And true complementarians desire greatly to train and encourage women to do extremely important ministry. As John Piper said “Nobody (male or female) should be sitting at home watching soaps or ball games, while the world burns.” Women need to engage themselves in all kinds of ministry. We are desperately needed in a world that is burning.
But that isn’t the point, is it. Because it’s not really about the opportunities available to us. It’s actually more about the glory those ministries grant us. What glory is given to a woman in the children’s wing? Not as much as the guy standing on stage. Right?
And, I believe, that is the rub.
So often our frustrations with our role is the apparent lack of lime-light that comes with it. And I am boldly willing to suggest that our pride is the root of our frustration.
Along side cultural sway, of course. Because as the video says, “Its 2016! Support women in the church.”
To which I say…Yes! Support women in the church! Equip and encourage them. Utilize their God-given gifts and abilities! But let’s do all of that with fear and trembling at the Word of God. And not take our que’s from the culture of 2016.
Every Word of the Bible is Spirit-inspired, God-breathed, infallible and profitable for teaching…even the Words that we really don’t like. But when the church acts as it should within the beautiful roles that our good Father ordained in the garden – when we see it not abused, but embraced in all its goodness; we honor God. And we show our humility to His Word.
And my prayer is that women will lead the way in this kind of love and reverence to our Lord.