Sunday, January 21

Women church workers

Again the subject of the role of women workers and what they can or not do in their role as females within the Body of Christ has once come to the attention with the recent posting of Wade Burleson's Sheri Klouda: Gender Discrimination, Federal Law and the Law of Christ in the SBC and SWBTS. To date this post has generated 321 comments (his follow-up post on the same subject with more than 200+ comments itself brings the total close to 600--that has to be a record!) Not to mention all the other blogs, news stories, editorials, etc. posting both for and against what has taken place at SWBTS.

How do these issues affect women workers in missions? Others have written volumes about how these matters should be handled Stateside. But how do we handle overseas in our own contexts the role of women workers in ministry?

I'd like to begin by posting a bit of Galen Currah and George Patterson's Women Mentoring Women from their MentorNet #42. While not 100% in agreement with the entire article, much of what they express conveys my own views and feelings about the role of women workers in church, missions and church planting in general.
We who mentor church workers must facilitate the training of women in ways that honour Scripture, respect culture, empower women, advance the gospel, and cause new churches to reproduce continually.

The New Testament provides significant examples and teaching about women workers. Likewise, church history and the contemporary church reproduction around the world reveal some powerful facts about women workers.

Biblical and Current Examples

- Around the world, the majority of church workers are women, often poor, even illiterate, women. If only males were allowed to plant churches and train leaders, then most of that work would never get done, and most of the major church planting movements currently underway around the world would grind to a halt.

- The New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit distributes ministry gifts to all believers, according to His will. The result is that “each one” has a gift to share with others (Rom 12:3- 6; 1 Cor 12:7; 1 Pet 4:10-11). Thus, woman believers all have one or more gifts of the Spirit which are for the common good, enabling them to share in church meetings, to start new church meetings, to train new leaders, and much more. Among the five kinds of gifted persons that Christ gives to every church or cluster of churches (Eph 4:11), some are women:

Women apostles. Here we are not talking about the Twelve but about ordinary church-planting apostles. Junia and her husband Andronicus (Rom 16:7) were wellknown apostles [not “known by the apostles”], as were Priscilla and her husband Aquila (Rom 16:3; 1 Cor 16:19; etc.).

Women apostles should be empowered and trained in how to organize new cells and congregations, and in how to appoint and mentor leaders

Women prophets. Anna, a prophetess, blessed Baby Jesus (Lk 2:36-38). Four daughters of Philip, an evangelist, prophesied (Ac 21:9). Paul told women, along with everyone else, that they could prophesy in the church (1 Cor 16:24 & 31) in submission to their husbands.

Women prophets should be trained in how to prophesy while remaining in public submission to their husbands.

Women evangelists. The first evangelists were women (Mt 28:7), and women figured amongst those who received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Euodia and Syntyche labored with Paul “in the gospel” at Philippi (Phil 4:2 & 3).

Women evangelists should be instructed in how to let the gospel flow into families, households, and communities. They need methods and materials that women can afford.

Women shepherds. Lydia (Ac 16:14-15, 40), Nympha (Col 4:15), Julia, and the sister of Nereus provided leadership for churches that met in their homes (Rom 16:15).

Women shepherds should be supervised in how to lead cells and congregations to become obedient to the command of Jesus and of the New Testament.

Women teachers. It is normally older women who teach younger women (Tit 2:3-5). Priscilla, along with her husband, Aquila, mentored Apollos, a competent teacher, in their home (Ac 18:24-26).

Women teachers must be provided Bibles and literacy or easily recallable lessons and Bible stories to pass on others.

- The apostle Paul wrote these sticky passages:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:11 & 12 ESV.

As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 1 Cor. 14:34 & 35 ESV

Exegesis of these verses and their context shows that Paul was concerned that wives not usurp authority over husbands... [they write quite a detailed exegesis of these verses for those interested, but will not reproduce it here]
Ironically while so much debating is going on Stateside, in many parts of the world, there is a huge spiritual revolution going on. In contrast, the "women's role" debates are a minor whisper on the global scene. It seems strange that so many back home in the States are not up to speed with the way God is moving amongst the nations. I fear our testimony diminishing amongst the world's believers who are less pharisees on these issues and more obedient to simply be about the Lord's commands. What good is it to have all the right answers if we are not obeying the clear commands of our Lord like the Great Commission?

I am not smart enough or knowledgable enough to go head-to-head with those who seem to have a clearer understanding of these "sticky passages." My advise is to debate less and obey more. Let's join the Lord in what the Spirit of God is doing around the world.

I believe if we err, it should be on the side of erring to go out and DO, rather than stand back and DO NOTHING because certain Scriptures lend themselves to several different interpretations. As I've said before, we have made many mistakes over the years in our own ministry and church planting. I don't claim to have all the answers. Many fingers have been pointed to what we have done or not done correctly over the years, but we proceed ahead in faith to the best of our understanding, and that work definitely includes women workers on all levels of ministry.

5 comments:

Gary Snowden said...

Guy,

I'm surprised that your post hasn't generated a lot of comments as the subject almost invariably seems to do so everywhere else that it is addressed. Maybe folks are a bit more disposed to allow women to minister in cross-cultural settings than they are in the U.S. I must confess that our experience of seeing gifted women serving in a variety of capacities overseas was a motivation to study the Scriptures more deeply with regard to the issue and my position on it certainly shifted. It's pretty tough to ignore the numerous passages where women did in fact occupy positions of leadership, including teaching and prophesying (preaching) in the NT.

GuyMuse said...

Gary,

I just figured the news was "old news" by the time I got around to posting on the subject. I continue to think our N. American brethren have a lot to learn from their brothers and sisters overseas, but few seem willing to listen and learn from anybody that lives beyond the borders of the USA. The attitude seems to be we have all the answers and don't need to hear from anybody else. I know this subject is highly debatable with conflicting interpretations, but what bothers me is the unwillingness to listen to each others viewpoints and accept that there may be more than one intepretation.

Kiki Cherry said...

Thank you, Guy, for your comments.

Doug and I have done a lot of evaluating over the past year. We have come to many of the same conclusions as you--which is interesting, considering I had not read what you wrote until just now.

But we've also determined our first priority is to KNOW Him. That means sometimes we need to stay home and spend time in the Word or in deeper prayer rather than be out there "doing." That's not a real popular concept, or one well understood by many people. Apparently there is this idea that missionaries are not working unless they are actively "logging in" hours.

Our second priority is listening. Nothing can happen in ministry unless we discern how God wants it to be done. And that means sometimes we need to pull back and get away for some solitude, before we take any action in the church plant or the ministry.

Finally, obey. Sounds easy. But it hasn't been for us. Obedience this year has cost us--especially in the popularity department. For me personally, it meant pulling away from the blogging world so that I could hear God's voice louder than that of my peers. I was spiraling downward--confident and sure of who I was and where God was leading during my time with Him, and then totally insecure and unsettled after 30 minutes in the blog world.

I've lost some "friends" this year. But that's okay. We're having to learn to live from an eternal perspective looking backwards.

bryan riley said...

Great post. If we'd listen to the Spirit more, then I think we'd get many different answers than the ones we've been programmed by our cultures, education, doctrine, and circumstances to have. I'm sorry I've not been around much lately. You always have good thoughts, Guy. We're busy preparing for the next step in our journey (which I posted on just now).

Godspeed.

GuyMuse said...

Kiki,

I just returned from Long Beach, CA where I attended the OrganicChurchMovements conference sponsored by Neil Cole's organization. In one of the talks by Wolfgang Simson, he says exactly what you are saying, "our first priority is to KNOW Him. That means sometimes we need to stay home and spend time in the Word or in deeper prayer rather than be out there "doing." ... Our second priority is listening. Nothing can happen in ministry unless we discern how God wants it to be done..." In fact I have chosen to blog on this in my latest entry in that what he had to share impacted me so much. What a great comment you leave for us all to think about. Thanks!

Bryan,

Thanks for the comment. I have been following you around via your blog and have enjoyed keeping up with you guys in this way. Keep us posted, I look forward to hearing about all that the Lord leads you into.