There are many wonderful male leaders in the body of Christ. This is true because they have deep and abiding relationships with Jesus (the living Word). God has gifted and called them. Maleness did not prequalify them for it; Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made it possible.
Jesus’s redeeming work is just as potent in women. And I firmly believe that he doesn’t confine himself to passive vocations (through females). After all, the Spirit blows where it pleases (John 3:8). And Genesis 2 describes the first woman as “ezer” (warrior-helper), the same word describing God when Israel desperately needed rescuing (16 out of 21 times in the Old Testament).
As an evangelical, I believe that Scripture can’t contradict itself (the big ideas of God’s intended meaning). Yet some who call themselves evangelicals take obscure passages out of context with confusing outcomes.
A somewhat recent article by Mary Kassian, posted by Desiring God, claims that the Bible offers “clear” instructions and boundaries prohibiting women from leading men. A girl is left wondering what to do with stories of strong women leaders reeling across the pages of the Bible. Miriam, Rahab, Deborah, Abigail, Ruth, Esther, Huldah, Naomi, the Proverbs 31 woman—All made judgment calls and acted to benefit God’s purposes. What about New Testament passages endorsing the ministry, teaching and leadership of women in partnership with men—Lydia, Dorcas, Priscilla, Tryphena, Euodia, Syntyche, Junia (among others)?
Though he could have specified which spiritual gifts are masculine versus feminine, Paul—an explicit writer and theologian—makes no such distinctions in the Greek.
Rather than plumbing further biblical and theological evidence, I’d like to take another approach. The following is satirical series (Part 1 & Part 2) ; it shows the logical outcomes of women and men navigating male leadership without mutuality. The instructions and boundaries are less than clear. More than confusing.
In the future, I will occasionally post satirical pieces (be forewarned).
How To Avoid Teaching Men- Confusion Rocks the World Of Evangelical Women (Satirical, Part 1)
In a profound about face, numbers of evangelical women are turning their backs on male-centered laws and leadership hierarchy. Evidently they are confused because gender-based roles aren’t as clear as some proclaim.
Zooey (name changed), a pianist and vocalist, explains the doubts and questions that began forming in her mind a couple years ago.
“One Sunday, while offering a solo of the hymn Transcendent God, she explains,” I started to worry, and confusion has rocked my faith ever since.”
Zooey describes feeling unsettled while singing the words:
Transcendent God, Creator Lord—
(I know this is a theological statement.)
To most a myth, denied, ignored
(Does singing this count as calling out men who deny God?)
For creatures proud and self-deceived,
(Does this confront men who are proud?)
A truth too plain to be believed,
(Does singing God’s truth on a Sunday morning count as teaching it?)
A life too vast, a realm too grand.
(Does pointing at heaven count as exhortation?)
But humble minds will understand
(I hope the men aren’t taking this wrong.)
The Love that all can see and feel,
That earth and sea and sky reveal.
(I hope I’m not singing too assertively.)
Zooey didn’t know if she should stop singing though she believed it would disrupt the service, causing discomfort and embarrassment to others and herself. After the worship service, she expressed her fears to the lead pastor.
“Don’t worry about it. You did great!” He responded enthusiastically. “None of the men were offended.”
Phoebe (name changed), a vocalist of another church, started worrying for similar reasons. When she brought her concerns to the elders, they marveled that she had such regard for male leadership. They wondered why it hadn’t occurred to them before. Brainstorming solutions, one elder suggested that male congregants might turn their chairs around when she sang so as not to be instructed directly. Given the large congregation, and the awkwardness of having to turn chairs around—when she sang a solo—the elder board looked for a better solution.
In the end, they decided to turn Phoebe and the microphone around so she wouldn’t have to face the male congregants. To alleviate her fears, they adjusted the volume to a softer setting so as not to communicate an exhortative message. And they hung a banner over the pulpit proclaiming:
They agreed that the congregation needed to see how serious the church was about women not offending male leaders.
Ella (named changed), a young wife and mother of one, doesn’t struggle so much in church as the rest of the week. She has begun losing sleep over ways she might accidently “teach a man,” especially her husband. Questions and confusions have flooded her mind. Some boundary lines are clear. She knows to follow her husband’s lead when it comes to big and important things like money, where they live, and anything else she knows he cares about. But there are less clear decisions to make.
Recently while pushing her cart through the grocery store, she did not know whether to buy the expensive or inexpensive cheese. The topic of Velveeta versus Gouda had never come up in three years of marriage. Ella worried that buying the expensive cheese might not sit well with her husband. She felt a little relieved when he didn’t pick up the phone at work—she wasn’t sure if educating him on the differences between cheeses counted as “teaching a man.”
Ella knew she was supposed to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for direction though she wasn’t sure if the desire she felt for the Gouda was herself or God. That bothered her, and she wished the Bible was more specific about whether to involve her husband in daily decisions.
“The boundary lines aren’t very clear,” Zooey affirms.
“At times, I don’t know if God is pleased or displeased with me,” Phoebe echoes.
“It’s confusing,” Ella summarizes. “I do my best, but half the time I don’t know if I’ve crossed a line and taught a man.”
* * *
As I’ve written, 1 in five women feel underutized in church. The numbers point at important realities and questions—Is Christ’s body missing out on a treasure trove of gifts? What can we do to cultivate the leadership gifts of women? Read Part 2, here . . .