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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.

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Theology

C is for Christocentric

How do you read the Bible? To find rules to obey, to discover spiritual insights for your life path, or memorize answers for doctrinal debate?  Dane Ortlund posted several weeks back on the Resurgence blog about transforming your Bible reading.  He wrote, “Biblical theology reads the Bible as an unfolding drama, taking place in real-world time and space, that culminates in a man named Jesus.”

We call this type of theology “Christocentric” (aka “Christ-centered”). The Bible is truly God’s grand story of redemption in the world he created, and that redemption is found and fulfilled in Jesus.  Therefore, the way we view the creation, the fall, redemption, and future glory should be centered upon him.

If we have an anthropocentric (aka human-centered) view of the world or Scripture, we will inevitably make life and redemption about us. Grace will not longer be grace, and we will make God a debtor to us.  Salvation will not be a free gift–it will be something we have earned and deserve.

We cannot even have a view of the world and redemption that is centered on others. Why? Because no human being–not even a spouse or child–can bear that responsiblity.  Ernest Becker wrote, “If your partner is your ‘All’ then any shortcoming in him becomes a major threat to you…What is it that we want when we elevate the love partner to this position?…We want to be rid of…our feeling of nothingness…We want redemption–nothing less. Needless to say, humans cannot give this.”

The Bible does not let us go either of those ways, however.  We could discuss dozens of passages all over the Bible that declare this, but one passage in particular stands out about the rest in calling us to a Christocentric view of Scripture and all of life.  Colossians 1:15-22 says:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.

How glorious!  We could spend years on this paragraph, but notice the linchpin of the text: all things were created through him and for him. Was anything made through you or for you, or through or for any other human for that matter?  I don’t think so.

If my world is Jamescentric, I will be a miserable and mean wretch of a man, isolated from others and void of purpose, meaning, significance, and love. But if my world is Christocentric, Jesus will be my supreme delight and ultimate end, and in him there is complete joy and pleasure forevermore (Ps. 16:11).

Categories
Life

Do your words give life or bring death?

Paul David Tripp has said, “You have never spoken a neutral word in your life. Your words have the power of life and death in them.” This morning, Proverbs 12:18, made that come to life for me:

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Lord, help me to speak words that are sweet to the ears of those around me. Let me speak life to people, and not death.

Categories
Life

Who do you want to be with when you go to heaven?

John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach, died yesterday at the age of 99.  John Wooden was a great basketball coach, but an even more incredible human being.  He was a Christian, and is now with Jesus.  Loving God was more important to him than Final Fours or X’s and O’s.  So we don’t mourn the loss of this person — we celebrate his life and rejoice that he’s with the Lord. 

At the same time, our thoughts are with the Wooden family — even when someone is 99 years old and their eternity is set, it’s still not easy when they take their last breath.  Until death is destroyed when Jesus returns, death will always be (as it should) strange.  We were created to live in constant, intimate fellowship with God. Sin ruined that. Death is not right and one day, Jesus will fix that.

Today, when I was watching ESPN’s coverage of Wooden’s death, I read a quote from Wooden’s children.  They were thankful for their father’s guidance and love and then they said, for me, the most discomforting thing they could have said: "Our peace of mind at this time is knowing that he has gone to be with our mother, whom he has continued to love and cherish."

That seems wonderful and spiritual.  But the sad part is this: as great as it might seem to be reuinted with loved ones gone before us, that is not our peace of mind.  Our peace of mind is this: "[Jesus said] ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die’" (John 11:25-26).  John Wooden is with Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, Creator of the universe, Savior of the world, at this very moment.  No doubt he has seen his wife and had a conversation or two with her, but his true delight — truer than any day on this sinful earth — is to be at the feet of his crucified and risen Lord.

I realize that I’m treading deep water because many of you may have loved ones — even spouses — who are in heaven, and you want to be with them.  That’s not a bad thing.  It’s just not the ultimate thing.  Remember that even Jesus said, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage" (Matt. 22:30).  Why? Because Jesus will be our Groom, and we, the Church, will be his Bride. 

I love my wife, Carly, more than any person in the world. And I want to grow to love her more. She knows this, and I know she would say the same about me. But, as much as I love her, my prayer is that if I am on my death bed and she is already with Jesus, I would not say, "I can’t wait to be with her."  I pray that I would say, "I cannot wait to be with my precious Jesus."  And even more, I pray that my children say of me when I die, "Our peace and hope and joy is that our dad is with Jesus."

Categories
Life

Happy Birthday, Carly!

Today is my fiancee’s 23rd birthday.  Here are 23 reasons why I’m thankful for her.

  1. She loves Jesus.
  2. She wants to be a mother of a lot of kids, and wants to adopt international children.
  3. She quiet and gentle, which is pretty much the opposite of me.
  4. She trusts me (and wants me) to lead our family well and be a courageous husband and father.
  5. She likes to cuddle and watch movies.
  6. She works hard every day at a job that could be quite intimidating.
  7. She is absolutely, physically gorgeous.
  8. She laughs at my jokes even if they aren’t funny just to make me feel good about myself.
  9. She was confident enough to say yes to dating me even though I was leaving for Africa.
  10. She said yes to marrying me even though I was leaving for Africa.
  11. She is continually patient and gracious with me when I am hard to love and don’t deserve it.
  12. She has been amazing in planning our wedding while I’ve been gone.
  13. She wants me to follow the Lord’s call to the pastorate, trusting him despite the trials it may bring.
  14. She’s more concerned about helping me become a godly man than hurting my feelings.
  15. She isn’t concerned with a six-digit income, a large house, an expensive car, fame, or status.
  16. She puts up with my long monologues because I’m too verbose to say something in less than 5 minutes.
  17. She is not satisfied with mediocrity.
  18. She is very laid back and likes when I take charge and make decisions.
  19. She loves summer and hates winter…but loves Christmas, which is awesome.
  20. She doesn’t blog or Twitter like I do.  (I couldn’t imagine two social networking junkies in one house.)
  21. She has traveled internationally and knows about and loves other cultures.
  22. She loves missions and wants to give money for the sake of the gospel.
  23. She loves me and wants to be my wife.

I love you, Carly!