Practical Considerations Concerning

Women’s Role In The Church



Note: This article was written at an earlier time when my wife and I were members of a local congregation called First Baptist Church. The reason I’m making you aware of this fact will become self-evident as you read. I consider the conclusions which were made at that time are as applicable today as at that time.


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  If the article WOMEN'S ROLE IN THE CHURCH is believed to be a fair appraisal of the Scriptures regarding this subject, all kinds of questions surface, such as:


1. Can a woman be a God-ordained...

 

pastor?

 

elder?

 

deacon?


2. What about a Sunday School Teacher?

 

over men?

 

over women?

 

over men and women in a mixed setting?

 

over children?


3. And what about functions such as Choir Director, etc.?


4. Can women serve on committees? Can she chair those committees?


These and other questions need to be addressed when considering the roles of women in the church. To the writer, the answers to these questions are really quite obvious if the clear teachings of the Bible are first believed, then, simply followed. I'm amazed at how we Christians so often look at verses like John 3:16 and cling tenaciously to them, believing every word as if our lives depended on them (as is indeed the case), but then we come along verses just as clearly written like 1 Corinthians 14:34&35 and 1 Timothy 2:12 and our minds go 'on tilt'! Why is this so?


I think it's because these passages go so strongly against trends of the modern society we live in, that preachers and teachers feel pressured into making these Scriptures mean something other than what they plainly say. These distortions were discussed in WOMEN'S ROLE IN THE CHURCH and need not be covered again here, but let me recap a few of the most important aspects from that study.


  Just as we can summarily say John 3:16 is a beautiful condensation of the essence of salvation for believers in Jesus Christ, so also 1 Cor. 14:34&35 and 1 Tim. 2:12 capsule the way we should think as we consider the function of women in the church structure as it pertains to leadership activities. So, let's approach the practical side first with THE WORD:

 

"Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church."


1 Corinthians 14:34&35.


 

"And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence."

                                               1 Timothy 2:12.


Some try to make the Corinthians' passage a cultural problem, referring to 'loudmouthed women' speaking out of turn. I think that interpretation is repudiated right in the passage. The apostle is quite clearly saying the Lord's spiritual law regarding women's submission in the church was in agreement with the natural law of the land ("...as the law also says") at the time he was addressing them. If Paul had wished to only discuss female unruliness in the church he would simply have given proper instructions on that issue, as shown repeatedly by his style throughout all his letters. Whatever was in Paul's mind (under the Holy Spirit's guidance), he reiterated it again to Timothy, thus indicating the command applied to the church in Ephesus as well as in Corinth. It is important to note Paul specifically tells why he wrote this epistle to his younger "son" in the faith:

 

"These things I write to you, hoping to come to you shortly, but if I am delayed, that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." 1 Timothy 3:14&15.


I'm not always in agreement with him but I like what Dr. C. I. Scofield has said regarding these passages in general:

 

"As the churches of Christ increased in number, the questions of church order, of soundness in the faith, and of discipline became important. At first the apostles regulated these things directly, but the approaching end of the apostolic period made it necessary that a clear revelation should be made for the guidance of the churches. Such a revelation is in First Timothy and in Titus. Well had it been with the churches if they had neither added to nor taken from the divine order."



Dr. Scofield obviously felt, as do I, that the instructions of 1 Timothy and Titus are guidelines from God for the whole church age, not just first-century Christians. If one takes the cultural-problem position, he/she could just as absurdly surmise that God only wanted to save people in the first century!


  Don't misunderstand me. I do not mean to imply we should never look at the cultural setting in order to understand certain Biblical truths. However, we should never be so liberal as to virtually remove the passages regarding women's restrictions in the church. If we are going to eliminate 1 Timothy 2:11-15, we might just as well leave out 1 Timothy 3:1-13 (same setting, same context, same subject), which has been, and is, the church's primary anchor for the qualifications of leadership positions.

 

A woman speaker at the 1991 Episcopal Convention in Phoenix said exactly that, by the way. That is, that certain Scriptures (those referring to women roles and homosexuality) bear absolutely no relevance to the modern-day church and should be totally disregarded! This woman knew exactly what these passages meant but refused to accept their applicability to her and the church today.



SOME BASIC GUIDELINES


When deliberating on issues to formulate general church policy regarding women's role, it would obviously simplify the task by following certain guidelines. To avoid confusion, rules are best kept simple. Here's a two-rule approach that works:

 

1.      Take the Biblical guidelines literally.

 

2.      Ask, does the function or office being considered for a woman to occupy, place her in a position of teaching or exercising authority (power to control) over men? If it does, she cannot, Biblically, be the head of that position.


The Scriptures are plain here so why complicate it with endless discussions about what women are doing in the "real world" and trying to come up with some kind of compromise that will appease evil unbelievers and apostate, Christian women in the Church?


CATEGORY 1. Pastors, elders and deacons.


  Look back now at the four categories listed on the first sheet. Clearly, a woman can't be a God-ordained pastor or elder. FBC’s present policy correctly agrees with this. However, a woman also shouldn't be a deacon for there are no instructions anywhere in the Bible which outline qualifications which would include women for the office.


  I realize FBC already ordains "deaconesses", but the passage used there to justify the policy (1 Tim. 3:8-13) says nothing about deacon-ship qualifications for women. Verse 11 begins with "Likewise their wives must be reverent,..." etc. I don't know the thinking of those who originally founded the FBC policy but I've heard some teachers try to justify women deaconesses with the single word "likewise"! But, the fact is, "likewise" pertains to the conduct of the wives of church deacons, not her qualifications for any office. Read it. Verse 12 goes on with "Let deacons be the husbands of one wife...", nothing being said that the "deaconesses must be the wife of one husband", or anything of the sort, directly or by implication.


  Thus, I conclude, and propose, the present church policy regarding deaconesses should be changed to fit the clear teaching of Scripture. Wives of deacons should be as 1 Timothy 3:11 says but the office title should be removed. There's absolutely no Biblical foundation for it. An alternative to present church policy could be that the wives of deacons assist their husbands in the work of the ministry of that office, (as indeed should be true for all church offices) but without headship of the office itself. This policy would, of course, exclude all unmarried women from any direct association with the office of deacon.


However, the unmarried woman should be able to exercise her spiritual gifts as surely as the wives of deacons or elders, but under the direction of a pastor, elder, deacon or any other assigned, male, church leader, or assisting other women who are under God-given authority.


CATEGORY 2. Sunday School Teacher.


  The above two-rule guideline obviously restricts women from teaching men. But what about women teaching other women and children?


  Titus addresses this very specifically:

 

"...that they (i.e., the older women) admonish (teach) the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed." Titus 2:4&5.


So, we see here that women not only can but are mandated to teach other women. The untapped power of influence that remains virtually hidden within this idea of women teaching other women how to love their husbands..., is, I believe, of volcanic proportions! If Godly men and women could only get hold of the potential that lies dormant here, it could revolutionize the church. I'm convinced if such a class was formed in the church, attended by women who truly wanted to teach, and learn, how to love their husbands in a Christ-like way, we would see such an explosion of love within the body of Christ at FBC it might even erupt out into the surrounding community! After all, isn't that our goal?


  The passage would also allow the teaching of children (boys as well as girls, of course). In fact, no one would be in a better position of teaching children the values of submissiveness than one who herself lives constantly in that role. On first glance, this may not seem like all that important a function. The fact is, it's one of the most important, and sometimes the most neglected, ministries in the church. What should come out of this if carried out to completion? Just this: you would see children raised who understand the values and benefits of submission and service — God's most-treasured character traits. Jesus demonstrated it to the fullest. Women occupy the primary position in the church to bring these qualities to the fullest potential possible in the lives of our youth.


  I've barely touched the surface here on the positive aspects of what women can do in the church. The fact is, the exercising of spiritual gifts among women is, for all practical purposes, no different than that of men. Remember though, the primary objective here is simply to underscore the fact that there is a move in the overall church throughout the world today (from within and without) to undermine proper church order, the main focal point underway right now, I believe, being a breakdown in the understanding, and application, of the Biblically-described roles of women in the church. However, I wanted to include at least a few positive suggestions to let women (and men) know where I really stand on these issues. I'm on your side! I simply believe the Bible has a better way (God's way) of balancing power and influence between men and women than the world does.



CATEGORY 3. Choir Director and similar positions.


  I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend that the church soon seek a full time, male, Minister of Music. (This part was written before Tom Fox came to the First Baptist Church of Davis to be the Minister of Music (Tom is the son of Dale Evans and stepson of Roy Rogers .)


However, in the interim, I see no reason a choir director can't be a woman provided she is under proper authority and if any formal teaching is done in a mixed setting, that it would best be led by the men in the group. Proper authority could be any one of a number of possibilities: a designated male officer for this specific purpose, a deacon, an elder, a committee chairman of the music committee, etc.


  Full time positions of Music Ministers usually involves some teaching, therefore the permanent Minister of Music should be a man.



CATEGORY 4. Committees and 'chairpersons'.


  This will likely be the most "sticky" situation to deal with in this whole matter of women roles in the church. In my opinion, women are undoubtedly far superior to men in many aspects of life. This is true in my home and perhaps the best way for you to hear my suggestions is for me to discuss it from that vantage point. (Actually, this is quite proper for activities in the congregational church should parallel the practices of a Christian home.)


  First of all, I do virtually nothing that I don't seek my wife Cindy's input. She is intelligent, insightful, and frankly, full of ideas and suggestions which far exceed my own in many areas of interest. Even if I didn't love her as I do, I'd be foolish not to tap the reservoir of her resourcefulness. Many times, perhaps more often than not, I will yield to her decisions and recommendations rather than follow my own thoughts on the matters. This makes good sense. It is proper. It is Biblical. However, I reserve the right to make final decisions, not as an authoritarian, but because I hold that God-given responsibility. We don’t decide based on votes. We each provide input, but as I said, I make the final decision even though it often will be her perspective that takes precedence over my own view. She “wins” by Godly appeal. Cindy understands this; she also prefers it. Our marriage is built upon love, understanding, and God's Word and for these reasons we have an excellent relationship. I don't know of a better way.


  This same approach should be used in the church. Women should be on church committees. This avenue provides the opportunity for women to exercise gifts and talents in the church, but it should, like a marriage, operate in a non-voting way. The chairman of committees which involve men should always be a man, even if the man is less 'qualified', technically speaking (again, like is so often the case with me at home).


  Women being restricted from voting rights would be especially important on a pulpit committee. There are two reasons for this: (1) On such a committee, they have the capacity to virtually change an office (pastor) which they themselves cannot hold and (2), in this position they have authority to exercise a strong measure of control over other men in the congregation as well as the man they are considering bringing before the elder board and church in view of a call. This represents one of the highest degrees of spiritual authority in the church, and for this reason, should be restricted to men-only, in order to be in agreement with the spirit of all Biblical teaching. If the men desire to have the counsel of wise, Godly women in the church, then inviting them to special meetings for that purpose would be appropriate to hear and consider their input, but not for collective female vote power.



SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS


  The restrictions God has placed upon women as described in the Bible does not dishonor them. God has merely told us in His Word how things are and has also given clear instructions of how to best function in His world, particularly in the church and in Christian marriages. The humanist-feminist response would of course argue against this statement. Many 'political action' groups, such as N.O.W., the A.C.L.U., PLANNED PARENTHOOD, and certainly those involved in Wicca (witchcraft), etc., have agendas designed to destroy every Christian precept in every area in America, including the church and the home.


  In the article WOMEN'S ROLE IN THE CHURCH, and here in this brief followup, I have outlined a few concepts based upon Biblical understanding which, if the guidelines are accurate, and followed, ought to help prevent the enemy from 'entering-to-take-a-spoil' at F.B.C. It may seem to some that my reaction is extreme. I don't think it is, once we understand how our real enemy operates. We must understand that it is Satan who is at the helm of all these outside, evil influences. His delusions are invariably designed to strike Christians at their most vulnerable points. This means that, at first, demons (or people under demonic influence) are willing to accept whatever door of opportunity that already exists just in order to get in. Once in though, their purpose is to commence a methodical operation designed to change from within all evidences of Biblical standards, ONE AT A TIME, until they destroy any semblance of Godliness. It takes spiritual discernment (and frankly just a little common sense) to see the insidious nature of how evils creep into the church. In a nutshell, this is basically how apostasy comes about.


  In this study, I have shared some examples of the avenues where I believe our 'gates are down'. As I see it, present church policy regarding eldership and pastoral roles are in order. The sites of most prominent vulnerability is in the areas of deaconship, female chairpersons, female headship of any position which would allow exercising authority and control over men and membership of any committee which has the authority to affect or change the God-ordained, men-only positions in the church.


  It is important for you to realize that the position I take in these matters has nothing to do with any personal grievance against any women in our church. Every statement I've made is based upon Biblical convictions and observations established in my lifetime as a Christian (I’m 74 now and have been a Christian for 62 years). I believe the result has been that God has given me a certain degree of awareness of how other churches have lost their power of Godly influence. It's not so much the women who are currently operating in unscriptural positions at FBC that I'm worried about; it's weak Christians (or perhaps even unsaved church members) not yet on the scene who may have 'bought' part of Satan's lies so prevalent in the world today, who may use the positions I've discussed as points of opportunity to 'advance their cause'. This is not a mere suspicion. I have witnessed the 'slide' in several local churches to the point that little 'light' of the Gospel remains in them today. The commonality among them has been, and is, softness relative to the role women play in the churches. By taking action now, our church could perhaps prevent such a decline from happening here at F.B.C. Are we willing to do it?


  Men and women of FBC, this is no little thing we are addressing here. Let me urge you to unhurriedly review every aspect outlined above. I would suggest several meetings designed to discuss every point raised. Last, but not least, study God's Word on these issues backed by hours in prayer, both alone and collectively. If I may be so bold, please don't take my views lightly.


  I'd like to close with God's reasoning as to why women are to be in subjection and why the older women should teach these things to younger women. For emphasis, here are four translations of the last part of Titus 2:5:


 

"...that the word of God be not blasphemed." King James Version.

 

"...that the word of God not be dishonored." New American Standard.

 

"...so that no one will malign the word of God." New International Version.

 

"...that the word of God may not be exposed to reproach — blasphemed or discredited." Amplified.


  Paul obviously felt that this subject is so important that the totality of God's Word was at stake! When you think it through, this is reasonable, because from cover-to-cover the Bible is about the authority of God and His Word; and to access the benefits of it requires submission to its mandates. Men's God-given right to rulership over the woman is expressed from the book of Genesis to Revelation. And to violate this order, according to the apostle Paul, would be to "blaspheme", "dishonor", "malign", "expose to reproach", the word of God.



A Matter of Balanced Roles


Here’s the Bible’s summary of the balanced roles of men and women in the Church: Men in the position of authority and responsibility; women in the position of submission and power through appeal. I believe there are a few things that need to be done at F.B.C. to bring this principle into better alignment with God's Word. Doing so will allow us to better achieve our overall mission.


  These recommendations are admittedly idealistic, which is to say as Biblically accurate as I’ve been able to discern and discuss, but not at all a step backwards for women's ministries as some might think. Indeed, any ministries that are out of line with the Bible will invariably remain horizontal, dull, and lifeless. God won't be in it. The Spirit of God bears witness with our efforts only when we walk correctly in the truth and light of His Word.



Respectfully yours in Christ Jesus,


Lance Johnson


http://www.comeandsee.org


lancebjohnson@sbcglobal.net