Women in Ministry: It’s All About Motive

I read a discussion on women in ministry today at T C Robinson’s blog, New Leaven. It really reminded me how important relationship with God and motive is, for any Christian worker. The following is a slightly modified copy of my contribution to the discussion:

Theologically speaking, I am complemegalitarian hybrid. I believe that male headship in a marriage relationship is affirmed in the New Testament, but not a universal male headship over women in general.

Ephesians 5:22 (NIV)
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.

The husband is given responsibilities that the wife is not, and authority is necessary to carry out that responsibility. Order/role occurs in the Godhead and does not undercut value or equality. Subservience is not a theological issue–there is no room for abuse or domination in the Biblical model.

Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

I do believe that an application of Galatians 3:8, along with the unapologetic references to female ministers and leaders in the Bible means that there are no universal restrictions placed on the role or function that a woman can have in the church.

Galatians 3:28 (NIV)
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

There are, however, some pragmatic/relational gender issues that make the matter far less than cut and dry.

My “woman’s perspective” may be a bit different than many. I think defensiveness on the part of women leaders has damaged efforts to free women to serve according to their gifts and callings. I am pleasantly refreshed when I run into a woman pastor who is in the role simply because she has the gift, desire, and opportunity. When a woman serves as a pastor because “she has the right to” there is danger that the content of the messages and decisions about direction will always be subtly insisting “It’s OK for me to do this!” -That’s just my window.

I think I agree that the NT churches may have been more familial or community based, but even there, it is clear that certain leaders were given authority to make decisions, carry out discipline, and face the brunt of opposition. Isn’t there a chance that masculinity is (in general) more suited for that sort of a role? Equality does not do away with natural gender distinctions. What I am suggesting is that maybe God leaves the door open to use willing and capable women to serve as lead pastors when He sees fit, but that it may be a concession because men don’t always step up to the plate like they should.

At the end of the day, I think women should be encouraged, equipped, built up, and enabled to do whatever their personality, gifts, abilities, opportunities, and God’s direction lead them to do–just so long as those things and an honest desire to serve God to the best of their ability are the motive.

It was clearly not Paul’s practice to put women in an overseer position (1 Tim 2:12), but the following principles apply to men and women.

1 Timothy 3:1 (NASB)
1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.

James 3:1 (NASB)
1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

Anyone, man or woman should take seriously the responsibility of teaching God’s Word. Using that platform for any other agenda is risky business.

This concept of motive in ministry is big. I think I’ll be talking about this more…

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3 thoughts on “Women in Ministry: It’s All About Motive”

  1. I’m still not sure where I stand on the issue, and the voices for both sides can be so strong that it is hard to sift through to what is important.

    On a separate note, I think you are off to a great start with your blog, and you have an interesting writing style. I’ve added you to my feed reader and look forward to your future posts.

  2. Nathan –

    It is true, there are compelling arguments on both sides. Admittedly, I can sit pretty comfortably where I do. I have no desire to be a lead pastor, I have a wonderful, Godly husband, and this really doesn’t tend to be an issue in the pentecostal tradition (my primary church context). Still, after an honest and thoughtful look at the key passages, and a consideration of obvious (though unpopular) gender distinctions, it is the only conclusion I can come to at this point.

    Thanks for taking the time to be encouraging–made my day!

  3. You’re welcome. Also, the creative usage of images is greatly appreciated. Everyone should use them as much as they are able. 8)

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