In the my previous three posts, I laid out the scriptural case for women teaching men in the Church. Assuming this foundation, its important to look at the practical case for it as well. This is about more than just being right. It is about being fruitful.
I’m not a big fan of churches that pipe in a sermon via video. If you’re not familiar, there is a growing movement primarily among mega-churches to “plant” satellite churches using a teaching video from a main campus communicator each week in worship gatherings. Most then utilize a campus pastor who rarely preaches, but focuses on administrative and shepherding duties. The positives are that resources are shared, and the local leader does not have to be a good communicator. The negative is that messages are not indigenous to the community. This can be a challenge in a traditional church culture that marries preaching and shepherding into the single role of pastor. For better or worse, when God speaks through the teaching or preaching of an individual, it’s natural for the recipient to feel a sense of relational connection.
A few months ago, in a church planters fellowship, a well-established local pastor was assigned to lead a Bible study for our meeting. It’s always good to have those walking ahead of you give wisdom, and he has much to give. During his talk, he shared his continual struggle with comparison and failure. He confessed discouragement, depression, and sin even as his church thrived. It resonated with me. I had felt all those feelings, and immediately came up to him after his testimony to share some of my struggles. This was not simply the downloading of information by means of sermon; it was a relational connection that allowed me to hurt aloud with one who shared my experiences.
When we look at scripture, we see God using the same means to communicate His message. The prophets suffered, rejoiced, and lived amongst their people. In fact, some were accused of being poor speakers. What made the message of the prophet powerful was not their oratory charisma, but that they were most often called from the people to whom the message was given! The people knew the prophet could RELATE. Teaching is more than just words; it is relational, and personal. This is the method of Christ Himself! He does not simply speak the words of God; He Himself is the Word of God, who pitched His tent among us!
How does this relate to women teaching? Statistics show that approximately 61% of worship gathering attenders are women. Yet in many churches, they never hear the perspective of a woman from the pulpit on a Sunday morning. You might say, “Why isn’t it enough to have women teach women?” In a Sunday morning centric culture, the platform is prime real estate. While this is not true in all cultures, it certainly is in Bible belt America. We show what we value, by putting it on stage Sunday morning. We have traditionally shown that we value white middle-aged men. We preach about lust, abortion, parenting, sex, and GOD all from this narrow perspective. No matter how gifted a preacher may be, he still sees the Bible through his experiential lenses. It is no wonder issues like abuse, shame, and oppression often get neglected. Not only is it a need for women to hear preaching from those who share their experiences, it is a need for men as well! We need more than information. We need someone with whom we can relate, and by whom we can be challenged.
Now put yourself in the place of a young girl who grows up in a traditional Southern Baptist church. Her parent’s marriage is struggling. They are busy trying to keep up appearances, while keeping out anyone who might condemn them. She feels alone and unknown as she watches them smile big each Sunday morning. One night, in a moment of weakness, she hears the soothing words of a cute boy who has one thing on his mind. The test comes back. She knows exactly what her parents, and her church will say. Over the next few weeks she sits in the worship service hearing the usual condemnation of premarital sex from the pulpit, met with enthusiastic “Amens!” In a suburban community that not only shuns sin, but shames sinners, she has heard much about the value of unborn children and little about her own value. Would she feel like her pastor can relate to her struggle? I hear story after story like this one from people battling abuse, same-sex attraction, addiction, and myriad of other things. They suffer silently, wondering if anyone can relate. Imagine how a woman feels, hearing nothing but the perspective of men every Sunday morning.
Even if you don’t believe women should teach men, it should bother you to hear the story of Beth Moore’s books being put in the back of an SBC seminary bookstore to make sure they were not more prominent than those of male authors. It should bother you that women are encouraged to give annual offerings in the name of Lottie Moon, (a female missionary who taught men) but are forbidden to do what she did. It should bother you that we as pastors have often remained silent on important issues such as “women in ministry” for fear of offending those who disagree (and tithe.) Hypocrisy cannot be the message we send to women or anyone else. Yes, I do believe women should teach men, but wherever we land theologically, we must do so with clarity, compassion and consistency. Misogyny has no place in God’s Church.
I am grateful for the women who have preached in our church. Each have been strong expositors, and gifted in communication. As you might imagine in a Southern Baptist church, a few of our members initially struggled with the idea. There are growing pains. Now, I hear many of those same folks expressing how God has used the example, and teachings of women to grow them personally. One expressed to me “I am so grateful that my daughter can grow up knowing she too can teach the scriptures to anyone.” Our girls have mentors in ministry. Our women have leaders to whom they can relate. Our church has Biblical accountability from a female perspective. The Church must exemplify God’s desire for all to use their gifts as He leads. If we want all the fruit God desires for His Church, we cannot allow fear to be our unholy spirit. I hope these posts have been thought provoking and encouraging.
Follow humbly, and lead boldly!