Categories
Commentary Let Her Lead Life Ministry Theology

The Gift of Strong Women

My wife, Carly, is a strong woman. I knew this before we even started dating because we did ministry side-by-side as college students, especially with international students.

Sure, she was on the quieter side, but when she spoke, no one wondered where she stood on an issue.[1]

I was never threatened by Carly’s strength, her candor, her voice. At least I don’t think so. That all seemed quite normal to me because I’ve been surrounded by strong women my entire life.

My mom, my sister, both my grandmothers, my mom’s sister and sisters-in-law, my cousins (most of whom walk with Jesus). The women from our church in New York I mentioned in my last post.

All of them were strong.

Decisive. Fearless. Convicted. Dedicated.

Every single one of them.

So much for biblical womanhood.

This is Carly, too.

Throughout our marriage, Carly has been gracious and patient as I’ve learned to listen to her voice, understand her perspective, heed her warnings, take her advice, and yes, submit to her expertise or opinion often. (I’m still learning, of course. I wish I could say that I always do these things!)

Carly’s devoted to Jesus and incredibly gifted and capable. She’s passionate about serving the church and more than willing. We share similar interests, perspective on biblical issues, and even some spiritual gifts. But in terms of personality, style, demeanor, and how we process and act on information, we’re quite different. In fact, we’re pretty complementary in that way.

When it came to ministering as partners in a local church setting, however, it was somewhat of a mystery that plagued us both.

As a complementarian couple in a complementarian church, what does ministry look like together?

Or should that even be a thing?

We thought it should. Theologically, we were in a bind. What happens when the wife is strong and has spiritual gifts traditionally “reserved” for males?

So during the interim period when our local church was looking for its next lead pastor, Carly and I sensed that role was not for me. God seemed to be calling us to pursue a new ministry together.

As it turned out (terrible story telling, I know, but we have to keep this thing moving), God provided an opportunity for us to join the staff of the organization we were involved with in college–Cru.[2]

Cru, which is not a local church and exists outside the bounds of a particular church denomination, doesn’t take a theological stance on gender roles. Functionally, however, it does: women can lead in any capacity. Currently, the director of campus ministry in the U.S. is a woman.

Serving in a parachurch organization would not only give us both a chance to minister the gospel, but would allow Carly to exercise her gifts, teaching in particular, without violating our complementarian convictions in a local church (which, as I mentioned in my last post, were already crumbling).[3]

Strong women aren’t a problem to be managed or eliminated. They are a gift to the church, especially its men.

As we’ve navigated local church and parachurch ministry as a couple, I got glimpses of what Carly had seen and experienced in the male-dominated church world through her distinctive feminine eyes.

It was like Ben Stein showed up and gave me a drop of Clear Eyes to refresh my theological vision. Godly women aren’t simply called to be silent submitters to ego-fragile men. Seeing this led to thinking long and hard about how the gifts of women–especially leadership, wisdom, discernment, and teaching (those traditionally reserved for men!)–actually fit in most churches today.

As if all that wasn’t enough, God has given Carly and me two daughters who are nothing if not strong. One takes charge; the other will not back down. What’s more is that they love Jesus. They are increasing in their knowledge of the Bible and understanding of the gospel every single day.

I had to ask myself, What if they want to preach? teach? lead? What if they are mature, able, and willing to do so? What would I say to them?

Not only did these strong women prompt these important questions, they helped me see that their gifts, skills, maturity, and passions were necessary and essential in the church.

Strong women aren’t a problem to be managed or eliminated. They are a gift to the church, especially its men.

Having these strong women in my life–my wife being the foremost–opened my eyes to the major blind spots and inconsistencies in the complementarian framework I had failed to see for so long.

We’ll look at these in tomorrow’s post. Then (finally!), we’ll turn to the biblical text to see what it has to say about women in ministry and how we might consider making applications in our context today.


Notes

[1] I certainly didn’t wonder where she stood when she called me out for basically treating her like a girlfriend even though we weren’t officially dating. But that’s a story for another day.

[2] Cru is the ministry formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ.

[3] “Parachurch” is a term used for ministry organizations that are not a local church. Even a seminary or publishing company associated with a denomination would be considered a “parachurch.” The prefix “para” comes from the Greek word para meaning “alongside” or “beside.” A parachurch ministry, at least in theory, is designed to function alongside or in cooperation with local churches. Still, we continued to wonder: if women weren’t allowed to teach men in a church setting, why should they be able to in a parachurch/campus ministry setting? It’s interesting to note that this idea seems to be unique to Protestants, however. The Roman Catholic Church, it seems to me, considers their seminaries, schools, hospitals, humanitarian ministries, etc. part and parcel of their mission. Read more here and here.

Categories
Ministry

Biblical Leadership and Those to Look Upon

Where Are All the Dudes
Part 3: Biblical Leadership and Those to Look Upon

Guest Post by Rylan Reed

In church the other day I was talking with a couple guys that were sitting next to me.  I asked them two questions after the service.  The first was, “Why do you come to church?”  The other was, “Why do you think most men don’t come to church?”  Their answers were intriguing.  Mark said that the reason for him going to church was to get refilled with the word of God and to have quality time with other believers.

Both men, on the question about why some men don’t come to church,  pointed towards the same reasons, namely, man’s ego and pride that pushes him away from the church.  The “I can do it on my own without any help” mentality causes men to not want to be corrected or rebuked.  They even mentioned the fact that God used women in a lot of ways to be leaders, like Rehab hiding the spies in Joshua 2, Esther saving the Israelites from total destruction in the book of Esther, and Mary the mother of Jesus who brought Him into this world in Mathew, Mark, Luke, John.  (Obviously, it’s natural for a woman to birth a child, but it’s no less significant that God used a teenage virgin to bring in the Savior of the world.)

Two other Christian brothers of mine (James and Andrew) and I are doing a three part series of where are all the men in Church today.  This is the third and final post.  We aren’t theologians with all the answers, but only sinners saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and are trying each and everyday to be the man that God wants us to be in this world.  In the first part (linked above), James shared about the fall of Adam and us, and how we can strive to live Godly lives.  Andrew shared about today’s culture and how many different views there are of who a masculine man is and what he should look like.  What I want to share in this third part is who we can look to as biblical leaders and how we can use their examples to use in our lives, with how we lead our families, and how we help lead in the church.

There are so many godly men in the Bible that were used in amazing ways. Some who right off the bat knew what was needed from them, and others that would not even go towards the thing that God was wanting them to do until He stepped in and brought on a circumstance that opened their eyes to what He was asking.  Caleb and Joshua come to mind as being those that follow hard after God.  In Numbers 13, Caleb and Joshua were two of the twelve spies that were sent into the land of Canaan too check out the surroundings and see if the Israelites could conquer the land.  In 13:27-14:9, the 10 out of 12 spies as well as Caleb and Joshua spoke of what they saw

27 And they told them, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large…30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it. 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are…7 [Joshua and Caleb] said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the lord is with us; do not fear them.

The other ten spies gave a bad report when they came back from spying on the land of Canaan, not believing in God to overcome their enemies and give them what was rightfully theirs.  The people believed them and became scared, wanting to go back to Egypt, where Moses just brought them out of with help from God.  Only Caleb and Joshua believed that God’s power could get them to where they needed to be.

Nehemiah is an interesting story surrounding the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem.  Drew Josephs, who wrote a book entitled The Top 100 Men of the Bible, talks a little on what Nehemiah had to go through to get done what the lord wanted.

Though Nehemiah held a prestigious position in the Babylonian court, he wasn’t happy. As long as his people in Jerusalem lived in danger, this exiled Jew’s heart remained with them…While Nehemiah waited on King Artaxerxes I, his sorrow became apparent. Powerful Kings weren’t used to their cupbearers looking as if they were about to dilute the wine with tears. But when Artaxerxes heard of Nehemiah’s problem, he supported his desire to help Judah. In a few minutes, Nehemiah had permission to go to his homeland, provision for his journey, and authorization to get building materials.

Nehemiah, wanting to restore the city of Jerusalem because of its fallen walls, got plenty of oposition from his own people as well as the outsiders that were around him.  Following God’s heart, he decides to take on the great challenge of protecting the city as well as the men who would work on the walls day and night from those who would try and destroy them again.  He was a man of God who worked til the completion of both the city and the hearts of the people in it, helping turn their hearts back to God.

The life of Joseph is another one that comes with hardships and trials, but his faith in God through everything brings him to a place where he is able to help his family as well as the whole country that he was put in charge of.  From being Jacob’s most beloved son, to having his brothers sell him into captivity, to him running through the ranks in Egypt, Joseph continually sought the LORD.  From starting out under the captain of the guard Potiphar, to being accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife, being thrown in the prison where he was used by God to see dreams that answered what the Pharaoh was questioning, to being made second in command over all the people, Joseph was truly a biblical man.  Through all of this, he still knew that God was in front of him guiding his foot steps.  Genesis 41:39-41 says,

39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”

David was man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14).  Acts 12:22 says, “And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who will do all my will’”  David wasn’t the biggest or strongest of his brothers, he wasn’t really that important, being a shepherd boy, but God used him to take down the biggest enemy of his day, Goliath, with only a few rocks and a sling.  Afterward, David was put in charge of the Army and was later run off by king Saul himself. Through times of hiding, and even in opportunities to kill Saul, David chose to trust in God to put things into their rightful place.  In time David became the king and ruled for years. He wasn’t perfect, but God used his good and bad to make history and to showcase His glory.  Drew Josephs, again states,

When we read of David’s life, we begin to understand that our lives are not made up of compartments. We cannot keep our work life in one bow and family life in another.  When David sinned  in his personal life, it affected his rule. When he was faithful, everyone benefited. Our lives need that consistency that glorifies God.  Though David had some major life failures, God made him one of the most powerful Kings in Israel and brought the Messiah from his line. Though any man fails, God does not desert him — that is true for us as it was for David.

Barnabas, in the New Testament, was a different kind of leader, in the way that he encouraged those around him and forgave those that might have faltered trying to work with him.  He was coined the “Son of Encouragement” and his kindness brought others closer to knowing the Savior.  “Saul, the former persecutor of the church who became known as Paul, benefited from Barnabas’s warmheartedness. When everyone else in the church worried about whether Saul’s conversion was genuine, Barnabas collected the new convert and brought him to the apostles.  The Son of Encouragement must also have been a risk taker for his Lord, because if he had been wrong about Saul, Barnabas would have been bringing enemy number one into the church,” Josephs writes in his book.  Peter and John the apostle with his brother James, were the closest friends to Jesus out of the 12 disciples.  Its interesting how rough those three were for being Jesus’ closest friends. Again I turn to Josephs, as he so poignantly shares about these three men:

(James) “Perhaps success is why the sons of Zebedee were used to having things their own way: They certainly had commanding personalities. When the disciples met a man who was driving demons out in the Master’s name, John planned to stop him in his tracks. After all, the stranger wasn’t one of them.  Later, when a small village didn’t take kindly to having Jesus and His twelve disciples take shelter with them, James and John wanted to call down fire on these people. The brothers’ fiery tempers earned them the nickname from Jesus: Boanerges, which means “Sons of Thunder.” (Peter) “He might seem the least likely man to become an apostle of Jesus. Rough-hewn, hard working, and relatively uneducated, Simon, son of Jonah, was a no-nonsense kind of man. He may have been a bit coarse and vulgar, too.”

Jesus picked these men, even though they might have been a little rough around the edges, to experience the greatness of the Most High and through time become humble in spirit and be used in reaching those they were around for Christ.  There are other Godly men that I could mention:  Gideon who fought with 300 men; Samson who’s strength was used for God and then was his final downfall; others like Abraham, Elijah, John the Baptist, Moses, Noah, Samuel, and Paul.  Jesus Christ was the only man ever on earth that was complete perfect and we need to look to Him first for learning and guidance.  He should be our first example.  Josephs said it best:

Learn from these men, be inspired by them, and avoid their mistakes. Scripture has recorded their lives to help us. May they challenge your faith and help it grow.

. . .

Other Posts in this Series
Adam’s Fall and Mine
Biblical Masculinity and a Culture of Lies