Over the years whenever there has been a tough theological/doctrinal issue, or practice that is causing concern in the churches being planted, one of the spiritual exercises we do with our house church people is:
1) ask everyone to close their eyes and imagine they were born and raised on a deserted island with no outside voices to influence their thinking
2) one day they discover in their midst a single book, the Bible.
3) what conclusions would they come up with about the question at hand by having no other outside influences, tradtions, or sources to interpret for them? Just the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and nothing else.
The first time we used this exercise was when the question arose whether or not a woman can baptize?
This is what happened...
Instead of just telling them either yes or no, it was a weighty enough issue to bring before the assembly of believers in what might be called our own "Council of Trent".
What does Scripture have to say about women baptizing?
The easy way would have been to just answer them according to our own tradition and what we had been taught. As missionaries, our say on the matter would have probably been accepted as the final word. Instead we set aside a block of time to gather, pray, and discuss the issue.
Our role as missionaries was to facilitate the gathering together of all the verses related to baptism in the New Testament. We didn't even distinguish between the narrative and didactic portions. The real question for us was whether the Holy Spirit would be able to guide sincere Christians to discern the truth as found in the Word of God without relying on outside influences or extra-biblical sources.
After praying and asking the Spirit to reveal to us the truth from His Word and show us his will on the matter, we carefully examined each passage of baptism Scripture. For several hours we went back and forth, around and around, until the group came to a solid united consensus. Their conclusions?
1) The New Testament is SILENT about whether or not women can baptize.
2) Since Scripture does not expressly allow, or prohibit it, then women are free to baptize, BUT...
3) Since their culture is "machista" where men dominate the women, it was determined culturally appropriate that a woman NOT baptize under ordinary circumstances, but seek out a brother in Christ to do the baptizing.
4) If for whatever reasons no brother is available, a sister would be free to do the baptizing, but normally it was best to have a brother do so if at all possible.
What a great answer to a tough question! At this point, it has become irrelevant to me what I think about women baptizing. That day the Spirit, the Word, and the Body of Christ spokie in unity and I am quite content to abide by the consensus.