Women in the Church: Have We Gone Too Far, or Not Far Enough?

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It was a joy this past Sunday to introduce the first ever class of Deaconesses at Christ Presbyterian, the church that I serve in Nashville.

If you’re interested, that 9-minute video can be seen in its entirety here

You can also read the letter we sent to our congregation on these matters last week here.

In the months leading up to this change, our staff, elders, deacons, advisers, and other leaders had robust dialogue around two questions in particular.

The first question was, are we going far enough in these discussions? There are many in today’s church (and also through parts of church history) who believe that Scripture supports not only women serving in the roles of Elder, Pastor, and Preacher as well as Deaconess. Our belief is in agreement with the Presbyterian Church in America (our denomination), that a complementarian vision for the genders represents our best understanding of what the Scripture teaches on these matters. The Bible study below will hopefully provide clarity on why we remain committed to this view as a church. While we are not certain exactly why God would identify men as his chosen instruments to serve as representative, servant-leader “head of household” in both the home and the church (see Scriptures referenced below) — and while our current cultural climate may regard complementarianism as culturally regressive and disadvantageous to women (For the record, many women would contend that the purest forms of complementarianism demonstrate the highest esteem and empowerment toward women…but more on this below) — what we understand Scripture to be saying on these matters must hold the day.

As Kathy Keller has written in her booklet, Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles:

The justice behind God’s creation of male and female and his arrangement of the different roles he chose for them may not always be apparent to us. Why one and not the other? But should we expect our finitude to understand the infinite, omnipotent, wise, good, lovely, gracious justice of God? Perhaps some inkling resides in the dance of the sexes, by which we reveal truth about the inner life of the triune God. The rest is clothed in mystery, to which we yield, with full confidence that it is meant for our good.

Similarly, Katherine Alsdorf, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian NYC’s Center for Faith and Work, has gone on record saying that as an egalitarian woman (who disagrees personally with the complementarian view), she has witnessed and experienced much greater levels of respect, esteem, and empowerment of women in Redeemer’s complementarian setting than in her previous, egalitarian church settings. You can read Katherine’s related essay here — it’s short and very well worth your time.

The second question for us leading up to this new initiative has been, are we going too far by adding this new role of Deaconess at our church? Are we on some sort of slippery slope toward liberalism, toward a diminished view of the Bible. Our answer to this is that it is not a diminished view, but in truth an extremely high view of the Bible that has led us to our conclusions. For instance, the Apostle Paul himself refers to a woman named Phoebe as a deacon (Greek, diakonon) of the church at Cencherae (Romans 16:1). Whatever our beliefs about women’s ordination and serving in offices of the church, to refuse women this title of “deaconess” in any and every circumstance in our churches would seem inconsistent at best, and dismissive at worst, of the very God-inspired terminology used by the Apostle himself.

There are scores of other reasons, both theologically and historically, in support of women serving their churches in a diaconal role. This essay by pastor J.A. Medders provides an excellent summary of these reasons. Most notably, Medders points out the fact that unlike women elders who don’t show up anywhere in the historic record until sometime after the first three centuries A.D., women deacons appear in historic texts as early as 111 A.D. (the generation immediately following the Apostolic, New Testament age) — as well as in other texts from the first, second, and third centuries.

As for slippery slopes, there is a traditional conservative “slip” we should be just as cautious about as we are the modernist liberal “slip.” We dare not willingly and knowingly become more conservative and restrictive than Scripture, in the same way that we dare not become more liberal and permissive than Scripture. The Reformation “first principle” of Sola Scriptura — Scripture Alone — must be our only rule of faith and practice. This applies even (and especially) when Scripture is at odds with the norms and dogma of modernist secular culture. It also applies when Scripture is at odds with the norms and dogma of traditional church culture. As Scripture itself attests, it is a dangerous thing to either add to or subtract from the Word of God (Revelation 22:18-19).

The question, “Are we getting too close to the line?” seems inadequate, if not fear-based. If the so-called “line” is Scripture itself, our view is that we want to be squarely ON the line at all times. The only safe and viable place for a tightrope walker is on the line…how much more so with the Scriptures in all that we believe and all that we practice?

We at Christ Presbyterian are by no means the first church to commission Deaconesses. Notable pastors and theologians like John Calvin, Benjamin Warfield, John Frame, Jerram Barrs, CEB Cranfield, James Montgomery Boice, Philip Ryken and Tim Keller have all taught and practiced their own versions of this. The same could be said of familiar, like-minded PCA churches Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City and Christ Community Church in Franklin, plus many others.

This coming Sunday’s sermon (July 15) at our church will cover this very subject with as full a treatment as we can give it. If you are part of Christ Presbyterian, come join us for that!! If you are part of another church, we welcome you to dial in to iTunes or the Sermons page at christpres.org to hear our thoughts on these important matters.

Below is a fuller teaching and Bible study, with Scriptures to consider, regarding the proper and biblical elevation of women in the economy of Jesus.

As always, your comments are welcome, including disagreements. It’s important to say, in closing, that we could very well be wrong on some things — as these matters have been disagreed upon for centuries, including our own, by some of the best and brightest biblical scholars.

The only thing I ask is that restraint be exercised by anyone tempted to comment in a way that’s mean in spirit.

 


 

JESUS, CHAMPION FOR WOMEN
AS WELL AS MEN

(Reflections and Practices of Our Church)

 

SUMMARY OF OUR PRACTICE

All positions of teaching and leadership at Christ Presbyterian Church shall be open to non-ordained women and men, except for the unique preaching, governing, and guarding functions that Scripture assigns to elders. Aside from the elder function, non-ordained women and men are encouraged to seek out all avenues of leadership and service, and by all means fully exercise their gifts to the glory of God and for the benefit of the body of Christ.

Specifically, under the authority and oversight of CPC’s elders, and with activities not reserved uniquely for ministers and elders (i.e., preaching, officiating the sacraments, formal church oversight) non-ordained women and men may teach when men are present. Furthermore, and in line with what the PCA permits, CPC shall add an elder-commissioned and led, non-ordained leadership position of deaconess to serve alongside CPC’s deacons.

Pivotal and often misunderstood texts related to the issue are 1 Timothy 2:12-13 – “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve” and 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 – “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.”

Some err grievously by dismissing these texts as mere cultural artifacts. Others err by interpreting these texts without regard for the broader context of Scripture, thereby limiting non-ordained persons—especially women—in ways that Scripture does not. In so doing, they bring harm to the church. We must allow Scripture to be its own interpreter.

WE WILL RELY ON SCRIPTURE ALONE FOR GUIDANCE ON WHAT THESE TEXTS DO MEAN, AS WELL AS WHAT THEY DO NOT MEAN. RELATED SUBJECTS INCLUDE…

Men and leadership in the church. The word “authority” in 1 Timothy 2:12 (Greek, authentein), relates specifically to the roles of formal governing and preaching, both of which are reserved for elders. In Scripture, Jesus’ twelve disciples who were the first to be entrusted with “the keys to the kingdom” were men. Where the author is known, each book of Scripture is written by a man under the Spirit’s inspiration. Passages concerning the office of elder are always written with men in view (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). There are no Scriptural examples of women serving as elders in the church. Also significantly—unlike the role of deacon which included women from the earliest days of church history—there are no known examples of women serving as elders for the first three centuries of church history.

Rooted in creation versus culture. When Paul speaks of a male eldership in the church, he appeals not to his cultural context but to the creation order—“Adam was formed first, then Eve” (see also Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:22-33). Man and woman were created equal in dignity and as God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:27; Galatians 3:28). Scripturally, men are given the task of leading as “first among equals” in the family (Genesis 2:15; Ephesians 5:22-24; 6:1-2) and the church (1 Timothy 2:12). Eve is tasked with coming alongside Adam as his partner and “helper” in a shared mission. Lest we mistake the word “helper” as a demeaning or belittling term, we mustn’t forget that in Scripture, GOD is also our “helper.” Biblically, a helper is one who comes alongside to add strength, wisdom and perspective that is otherwise lacking. As Adam’s “helper,” Eve completes the image of God.

Preaching versus teaching. As we will see below, gifted women are encouraged to teach in many ways. So what is Paul getting at when he says he does not “permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man?” 1 Timothy 2:12-13 relates specifically to the elder office, which includes a specific type of teaching that carries unique weight and authority in the church—the authority of those whose office includes preaching (1 Timothy 3:2). Outside of this kind of teaching, and this kind of teaching alone, gifted women are encouraged to use their teaching gifts liberally within the church.

Women teaching theology to men. Alongside her husband, Aquila, Priscilla taught theology to Apollos, a man and a preacher (Acts 18:24-26). Most scholars concur that because Priscilla’s name is mentioned first in the biblical text, that she was also the primary teacher to Apollos in this less formal, yet significant setting. Clearly, then, in certain contexts women may teach Scripture to men. Just like a non-ordained man who is gifted to teach, a woman is free to exercise her teaching gift in the church, never contradicting or usurping, but rather complementing, reinforcing, and serving as an extension of the elders’ teaching and leadership.

Women speaking God’s Word when the church is gathered. Women were encouraged exercise the gift of prophesy (Joel 2:28-29; Luke 2:36-38; Acts 2:17-18, 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5). This gift was commonly exercised during the public worship gatherings of the church (1 Corinthians 11:16, 14:1-19). Modern parallels could include reading the Scriptures, leading in prayer, offering encouragement around the communion tables after a Minister has properly officiated and administered the sacrament, sharing wisdom about a specific need or situation, facilitating liturgy in parts of the service where a Minister’s leadership is not required by Scripture or denominational guidelines, and/or giving testimony to the Lord’s work during Sunday services.

Gifted women should be encouraged to teach and lead. Some have wrongly used 1 Timothy 2:12-13 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 to restrict women from ever speaking in the church setting. Neither passage may be taken to prohibit women, in any context, from teaching men about the Christian way of life. To make this prohibition is to do an injustice not only to women, but also to the intent of Scripture and the dynamic of the Holy Spirit. Scripture encourages women to pray and prophesy in the worship assembly (1 Corinthians 11:5). In view of 1 Corinthians 11:5 and other passages (i.e., Acts 2:17-18, 21:9), whatever the prohibition in 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 means, it absolutely cannot mean that women should never teach or lead in the church. Examples include but are not limited to…

  • Women teaching women. Older women are encouraged to teach younger women in Titus 2:3-5.
  • Women teaching children. Timothy had known the Scriptures “from infancy” (2 Timothy 3:15). As a young child, Timothy was taught Scripture by his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5).
  • Women teaching men by example. The example of the “wife of noble character” in Proverbs 31 causes her husband to “rise and call her blessed” (v. 28), and her works “praise her at the gates” (v. 31). Also notable is the fact that she is an industrious businesswoman. See also 1 Corinthians 7:16; 1 Peter 3:1-2.
  • Women sharing the gospel with men. The Samaritan woman (John 4) shared the gospel with an entire town, including the men. And many of them responded (vv. 39-42).
  • Women giving testimony and exhorting publicly. Women are encouraged to share with the church their experience of God and His grace, specific Bible verses and what those verses have meant to them, etc. For example, many women testified of Christ’s resurrection to the apostles and other believers (Luke 24:10). Such sharing would also fall in line with women being permitted to prophesy – to speak God’s truth in the assembly of believers (cf., Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18, 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5).
  • Women serving and leading in multiple ways. Scripture is filled with leaders who are women. Miriam the prophetess led Israel in worship (Exodus 15:19-21, see also Psalm 68:24-25). Deborah served as a judge of Israel (Judges 4). Queen Esther became a hero to all of Israel (Esther 1-10). Mary composed and sang a theologically rich song that became part of Scripture (Luke 1:46-55). Women are chosen as the first witnesses of the resurrection of Christ and became the first evangelists, the “apostles to the Apostles,” so to speak (Mark 16:1-8). Junia was “outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7). Women assisted in diaconal work (1 Timothy 3:11), and Phoebe, a woman, is identified as a deacon (diakonon) in the church of Cenchreae (Romans 16:1).

SUMMARY

There have traditionally been two errors made with respect to the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12-13 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-34. The first is the modernist / liberal error, which favors cultural and/or emotional considerations over the plain meaning of the text. The second is the traditionalist / conservative error, which, for fear of “getting too close to the line,” prohibits women from teaching and leading roles that Scripture actually encourages (We should always aim to be right ON the line of Scripture, versus somewhere to the right or left of it). The traditionalist / conservative treatment of the text is equally as disturbing as the modernist / liberal treatment, as the whole of Scripture supports women leading and serving in a multitude of ways. The biblical (and therefore the only valid) limitations placed upon women in the church appear to be those related to the following, each of which is the unique responsibility of ministers and elders:

  • Preaching: Teaching / preaching in formal and “authoritative” (but NOT “authoritarian!) capacity that is unique to the office of elder.
  • Governing: Exercising formal spiritual and directional oversight of the church.
  • Guarding: Admitting people to / removing people from church membership, and administering / officiating the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

 


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13 responses to “Women in the Church: Have We Gone Too Far, or Not Far Enough?”

  1. heather says:

    Thanks for your look at this. I basically agree with what you’ve said. For me, there are multiple ways women can serve in church, but the biggest “no-no” for women is to serve as head pastor. If a church has a woman head pastor then I know that church is compromising God’s Word, trying to please people over God. (And if they would compromise on that, what else would they compromise on?) But on the other hand, I do not agree with those churches who completely restrict women from serving in any capacity or those who say women can’t teach anyone or speak at all. That is equally damaging. Far too many churches mess up by going to one extreme or the other. It’s a shame! (Many feminists and liberal churches who want women to be in control are pushing back against the idea of submission, as if God favors or trusts men over women. But they don’t realize that God is not elevating men above women by assigning them headship. Men – as the head of family and church – actually have huge responsibilities and are accountable to God for how they lead. That is a serious, solemn responsibility, not a celebration of them somehow being more favored by God than women. If women only realized the huge responsibility that comes with headship, they might not want it so badly. They might be thankful that the buck stops with the men in leadership.) Thank you for your thoughtful post on this.

    • Laura Woodworth says:

      Heather, in your comment you wrote: “If a church has a woman head pastor then I know that church is compromising God’s Word, trying to please people over God. (And if they would compromise on that, what else would they compromise on?)”

      I find it interesting that you assume that a church would have a female head pastor only because they are trying to please people over God. Has it occurred to you that a church may believe that they are *being faithful* God’s Word by having a female head pastor? And you “know” that church is compromising God’s Word. Have you spoken to a female head pastor or to members of a church that has a female head pastor? Have you asked any of them if they are choosing to please people over the Lord? Have you asked them about their theology, their position on the Bible, etc.?

      I know several female pastors who love the Lord Jesus Christ, believe the Bible to be the Word of God and have not led their congregations down a slippery slope of compromise. They serve at small churches so are not “head pastors” but if they had a male associate/assistant pastor, I expect that they would be gracious and humble in their servant leadership. I currently attend a church with male pastors and both male and female elders. The pastors and elders preach and teach the Word of God, live lives of faith and grace, and serve with humility. Should our church ever hire a female head pastor, I would have no problem with it because I know our congregation would choose wisely as they have done in the past.

      I would encourage you as a sister in Christ to be careful about what you know and what you assume – to show grace in imputing motives to those you disagree with. I am grieved by the strife in the church in the US; I’m sure that Satan rejoices. I think that it is all too common for us to assume that someone doing something we agree with/approve of is doing so with good motives and that someone doing something we disagree with/disapprove of is doing so with bad motives.

      There are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who interpret the Bible in different, even contradictory, ways. The only sure thing about understanding and interpreting the Bible is that no one is 100% correct in doing it. The “checklist” in Scripture of what one must believe in order to be a follower of Jesus is extremely short. Romans 10:9,10 states “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” I don’t know if you attend a church with creeds; if you do, you are aware that the Apostles’ Creed also sticks to basic statements of faith. I am fond of a saying by a 17th-century theologian that has been adopted as a motto of the Moravian Church and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church: “In Essentials Unity; In Non-Essentials Liberty; in All Things Love.”

      Grace and peace to you in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

      • Heather says:

        Laura, thank you for your thoughtful reply. And I would say that you’re right that I should not assume that they are trying to please people over God. That is too much of a blanket statement to fit in all situations. My observation has been that most denominations that have women head pastors also compromise on the Bible’s view of other socially-debated issues. I don’t know if I have ever seen a denomination that has women head pastors but doesn’t compromise on other issues. But that doesn’t mean they are not out there.

        My point about compromising is based on 1 Tim 3, which talks about the head leaders in a church. (Technically Paul calls these guidelines “trustworthy sayings” (NIV), not “commands”.) But it very clearly talks about men in these roles, particularly as overseer. I take that to mean the leader above all leaders, the head pastor. This “man as head leader” guideline also reflects God’s plan for marriage, man as the head of the family unit, and reflects Christ as the head of the church (Christ is the man, the church is the bride). All throughout, the Bible emphasizes men in the head roles, with them being the ones ultimately accountable to God for leading.

        While I am sure there are head women pastors whose hearts are in the right place and who want to glorify God, I think they are overlooking this biblical guideline and pattern. Yes, Deborah was a woman judge, but from what I understand, it’s because a man couldn’t be found who would be a strong-enough, righteous-enough leader. It’s an exception to the rule. And she was a judge, not head pastor of a local church (or am i misunderstanding this?).

        But nowadays, it appears to me that women are becoming head pastors NOT because there are no good, godly men around, but for feministic reasons (a generality). We are in a hyper-feministic culture, and it seems that too many churches are seeking to appease them. To impress society. To give the people what they want. (Once again, I am not saying this is all head-women-pastor churches, but all the ones I know about.).

        You are right that I shouldn’t assume that people-pleasing is their motive. But on the other hand, it doesn’t matter to me what their motive is. If they would go against a clear guideline of “men as overseer,” it leads me to believe they would compromise in other areas, especially since they generally try so hard to explain away the clear biblical guideline of “men as overseer.”

        I,too, am grieved by what I see happening in our country. But I grieve partly because people have decided that they know better than God how things should be done. They throw out Bible passages they don’t like. They ignore other passages or explain them away. Huge, disastrous compromises on God’s Word are being done in the name of “extending grace and loving others”. So many believers wrongly operate under the belief that “love others” is the greatest commandment, which leads them to support and encourage everything anyone wants to do or believe.

        But they fail to remember that “love God” is the greatest commandment. And to love Him is to obey Him. To obey Him is to do things His way. This is part of the reason why I am critical of churches who don’t do things His way, who think they can do whatever they want. If you can’t trust churches to uphold God’s truth in one area, you can’t trust them to uphold it in all areas. (This goes much deeper than women pastors. It’s about the generally-compromising attitude of churches in many areas. I have no idea about your church, so don’t take it personally. It’s about society and churches in general. It might not fit your church, but it is the case for so many others.)

        And the checklist you shared (Romans 10) is for being a believer, for obtaining salvation. Not for being a head pastor.

        Anyway, thank you for the very thoughtful, kind tone of your reply. You seem to really have a good heart. I wish I could be more “kind” sounding in my reply, but that would require a lot more writing. So I went for forthright and succinct. I hope you can see my point about the generally sad, compromising state of churches nowadays, with female head pastors being only a small part of it, a “red flag” but not necessarily a conclusive indicator that a church has gone astray. Blessings to you too.

  2. Alex Kocher says:

    Hey Scott! Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article and the resources contained in it. It moves me to tears of both gratitude and weariness to read the truths you have articulated so well. I love the picture of the narrow way of the believer being a tightrope and therefore the safest place that we can be is on the line!
    I do have one question for you. My ministry partner and I have just finished a booklet for women on a Kingdom/Mission view for women. We have wrestled deeply with how to present this material about being made in the image of God and the design of women as helper. When you say that “As Adam’s helper, Eve completes the image of God,” are you saying that men uniquely image God in one way and women image Him in another way? Or, that as the pre-fall man and woman, Adam and Eve completely imaged God? Just like we as women don’t want our roles narrowed where Scripture does not narrow them, we don’t want men or women to have their design narrowed in such a way that men are supposed to possess certain characteristics and women are supposed to possess other characteristics. Questions abound, but I will stick to that one for now and hope that it makes sense. I continue to be thankful for your life and ministry!

    • scottsauls says:

      Alex…great to hear from you! And an excellent question, to which the answer seems to be that male and female together, versus separate, give us the fullest picture of God’s image. As “he” and “she” rub off on and influence one another, both become, in essence and perspective, more fully God’s image as individuals as well. Jesus of course is the perfect picture of the complete image of God in one person, as Colossians attests. Though a man, he also had feminine attributes — weeping over Jerusalem as a mother hen does her chicks, and so forth. I hope sometime to be able to read what you have written! It sounds like a helpful resource for the church. Please say hello to Mason for me?

  3. Heather Manuel says:

    “As for slippery slopes, there is a traditional conservative “slip” we should be just as cautious about as we are the modernist liberal “slip.” ”
    YES! Thank you for this.

  4. Carolyn R says:

    I’ve always wondered how Deborah and the Old Testament prophetesses figure in this question, and never seen any discussion. To me their roles seem larger than what is allowed in the complementarian view.

  5. J. K. Jones says:

    Thanks for this!

  6. Jenny says:

    Hi Scott! Thank you for this post. It is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. I have grown up being taught and believing Paul’s teachings that only men can be the leaders of a church- that women have a part to play, but its not with the position of authority that men have. But the older I get (I am in my mid 40’s) and the more I have read my bible, the more I have started to question this position. I confess I have not studied theology, so can’t claim any great biblical background, but in my reading I have come across things that seem (to my mind) to clash with this belief that Paul’s roles for men and women in the church are God’s ordained order.
    The first one is someone you mentioned briefly in your post- Deborah, one of Israel’s God-appointed judges. Deborah didn’t just go to war like most of the other judges, she was actually holding court and settling disputes for the people of Israel. Her decisions must have had final authority. She was also a prophetess, who had the authority to command Israel’s army chief to go to war according to what God had told her. To me she sounds like she is starting to step into the position Paul reserves as only for men- yet, it is a position that has been given to her by God himself. Am I to believe that God would give such authority to a woman in the Old Testament, but that he would withhold it from women in the New Testament church? Surely, either He is ok with women being in a position of ultimate authority or He isn’t. But, perhaps I am comparing apples and oranges… perhaps I can’t compare the spiritual and judicial set-up of O.T. Israel and that of the N.T. church. ☺ Let me know.
    There are other question marks for me, but I will limit it to one more- in 1 Corinthians 11:7 Paul seems to ‘forget’ that woman are also made in the image of God when explaining why men don’t have to cover their heads when praying, and relegates women to simply being ‘the glory of man’, while men keep the status of being ‘the image and glory of God’. I understand that he may be referring to the belief that Eve was created second, but that shouldn’t result in seemingly ignoring the fact that she is made just as much in the image of God as Adam (Genesis 1). Perhaps I am misunderstanding Paul here, but it does make me wonder if he wasn’t still a little influenced by the cultural/religious beliefs of his time regarding women.

    Apologies for the lengthy post!

  7. Phil Cain says:

    Thanks for the article and the desire to be Biblical rather than following culture. I do have one comment: you mention ordained ministry a number of times but I don’t see any formal ordination in scripture only God’s calling on the individual which doesn’t require congregational ratification. Is this an example of the church’s practice going beyond scripture?

  8. Chuck Stewart says:

    There is much here that I agree with and goes a long way in combating the skeptics of Christianity who say that this religion casts women under the foot of man, which it absolutely does not.

    A few requests! Could you please briefly comment on 1 Timothy 3:12 and how Romans 16:1 provides the grounds for an exception. Also, do you think that context determines the usage of a particular word, for example, ‘diakonos’? Lastly, do you think 1 Timothy 3:11 was meant to apply to the wives of elders as well?

    Thank you for your time and response!

  9. Jordan says:

    Thank you for sharing, Scott! I’m a deaconess at Redeemer Prez in NY. Our Diaconate is essentially a determined, intentional, effort to love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s Acts 4:34 come alive! For me, there is no greater ministry. It is fulfilling scripture; a light in a dark city. I attribute much of my positive experience to our Director who sets the vision for our work and cheers us on. And, it’s vital that there is a framework for men and women to explore their gifts in this way. For those who are uncertain of females officially partaking in the service, I usually reference parenting and care-taking. We wouldn’t consider men as the only parent. We consider both mother and father as completely capable of fulfilling the duties of raising a child in Truth and Love. So, too, with the work of caring for the vulnerable of all ages, there must be a missionary, “all hands of deck” mindset. The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few! Lives are changed when they experience mercy and grace. And, I live for the chance to tell others who has been thinking of them, loves them, and died for them. Many of those conversations begin with first meeting immediate, earthly needs. And, living in a city that has a 3-1 female ratio, many of whom are unmarried, I find that the enormous calling of our majority deaconess team as gift from God to His people. Though I’ve never considered it a position of power, I do often wonder if we’ve forgotten the power of how Christ led. I’ll gladly never stand behind a pulpit and preach on Sunday morning. However, when I serve, I can’t help but think of Jesus kneeling down the night before He gave His life for me and washed the feet of the very men who would be so tempted to think their calling meant anything other than sacrificial service. When I serve my neighbor here in New York, I have one thing on my mind – My King and Savior. I do it for Him and no other earthly gain or praise. And do I feel powerful? No. But, I feel closer to the One who is. Everything is for Him. I’ll be sending up prayers for your new initiated servants. May their experience be as wonderful as mine.

  10. Vicki Gatchell says:

    Enjoying all the discussion above and thankful everyone is remaining respectful. Regarding Deborah: her story has been a big influence in my own journey to leadership. Always one to enjoy the second chair, I felt God calling me to step forward and lead in some areas about 7 years ago. Since I was, and am, a complimentarian, I wondered how leadership would look for me.

    Enter Deborah:
    From Judges 5:
    6“In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
    in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned;
    travelers took to winding paths.
    7Villagers in Israel would not fight;
    they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
    until I arose, a mother in Israel.
    8God chose new leaders
    when war came to the city gates,
    but not a shield or spear was seen
    among forty thousand in Israel.
    9My heart is with Israel’s princes,
    with the willing volunteers among the people.
    Praise the Lord!

    Note how Deborah refers to herself as “a mother in Israel.” This spoke loudly to me as a mother of almost-grown children who also works with a number of young men and women who I realate to in a motherly role. It suddenly gelled for me that as a mother, or motherly figure, many already looked to me for leadership, and I was even more deeply affected by the way I could feel so fiercely for the flourishing of those looking to my leadership. Yep, I’d fight for and with those young men and women (e.g. the young princes in Israel), because I’m a mother (biological or otherwise) and the wellbeing of those under my care I do not take lightly. Why did Deborah lead, and judge, and even go off to war Israel? They needed her! Barak and the others knew and trusted her. Because He could use her, God put her in that role. And today, God still gifts and places men and women in His service right where He wants them (1 Cor 12:11). I don’t need to be the head to lead others. I need to be who God created me to be, a leader who cares for the wellbeing of all who look to her for leadership.

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