The Mailbag: Should I Sue?

Originally published March 23, 2020

I know the Bible tells us not to sue someone, but are there situations where this may be OK?

I have a long term illness caused by bad medical advice given to me by several doctors. I know there are many many others who suffer like I do from the same thing for the same reasons. Because of my illness I have lost my job, friends, and the ability to do things I used to do and enjoy.

While I have never been one to sue someone or take legal action I am considering it in this situation. I am not doing it for the money, but so that awareness can be brought about so maybe others will not go through what I am going through.

I know if I go forward it will be a difficult journey for me and may cause some disruption with the doctors who treated me. I have been praying about it and am going to look into Christian counseling as well, but I have learned a lot from following you and would like to hear what you have to say as well.

Great question. First let’s look at exactly what Scripture says about this:

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

So, the Bible doesn’t make a blanket statement “not to sue,” but not to sue certain people for a particular reason. The idea Paul is trying to convey here is that Christians, of all people, ought to be able to work out their differences among themselves. We’re the people who have God-given wisdom for such things, not lost people. So, when Christians drag each other into a worldly court over something that they ought to be able to work out in godly love, humility, and repentance (or at least ought to be able to have mediated by a pastor or elders), it tarnishes the name of Christ and makes the church look foolish. It’s better to just absorb the loss than to do that. So what this passage is teaching us is that it is a poor witness to the world for Christians to sue one another rather than to work things out together.

Now, I realize this isn’t your particular situation, but I’m going to throw it out there for everybody else who’s reading. The passage above does not say this, but I think the Bible would also support the idea that, in most cases of personal grievance, Christians probably shouldn’t sue lost people either. Your neighbor accidentally planted her garden six inches over your property line? You babysat for a couple down the block and they never paid you the agreed upon amount? You had been planning a special anniversary dinner for you and your husband for weeks and the restaurant messed everything up? Try to imagine what these people might think of Christians or Christianity or your church if you sued them, and, conversely, how counter-culturally surprising it might be to them if you didn’t sue them. Would a lawsuit open or close a door for you to share the gospel with these folks? Would you be carrying out Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek, to overcome evil with good, and to repay no one evil for evil, but to bless and do what is honorable? When we make decisions like this, we need to be sure we’re putting Scripture, the name and renown of Christ and His church, and the spiritual good of the other person ahead of ourselves and any benefit we might gain. God is our provider, not the tort system. And, of course, it should go without saying that Christians should never sue others on the basis of dishonesty (ex: faking injuries after a car accident) or in an effort to greedily “get rich quick”.

However, the way our legal system and our laws work in the United States, there are, unfortunately, some instances in which a lawsuit is the legally sanctioned proper channel to go through in order to secure services or for two entities to iron out the details of a fair settlement between them, and this process carries no more ethical implications than, say, filling out a request for services form. This is often the case between insurance companies in the event of a car accident, for example. This can sometimes be the case with a business or entity that is obligated to provide you with a particular service or remuneration. It very much depends on the situation, the laws of your state, the company’s policies, etc. In a case like this, I would recommend setting up an appointment with your pastor for counseling on the biblical aspects of the situation, and consulting with a reputable (preferably Christian) attorney for legal advice.

In your case, it sounds like your goal is to prevent innocent people from suffering at the hands of negligent doctors, and a lawsuit can be one way to do that. I cannot give you a definitive yes or no as to whether or not a lawsuit would be the biblical thing to do in your case, but here are some things I would encourage you to do and consider as you prayerfully make your decision:

•Pray through and consider the Scriptures I’ve linked to above as well as others that will help you examine your heart to be sure your motives moving ahead are godly, not retributive.

•If you’re married, be sure you’re submitting to your husband regarding any action you might take.

•Assuming you’re a member of a biblical, doctrinally sound church, make an appointment with your pastor (preferably, or, barring that, a Biblical Counselor, which is different from a “Christian counselor”) for counsel on all of the biblical ramifications of filing a lawsuit and any other actions you might be considering taking. Counseling is part of his job, he can take the time to walk through all of the details with you, and it is he whom God has placed in the position of shepherding your soul.

•Contact a reputable, preferably Christian, attorney (your pastor may be able to recommend one) who can explain all of the processes involved in filing a lawsuit, and might also be able to give you some more effective alternatives. Discuss all of this with your pastor and get his counsel on it.

•Is there another way to accomplish your goal of protecting and helping other victims and potential victims? What about a local ministry to others with the same illness? What if you wrote a book about your experiences? Perhaps an online ministry and information clearinghouse – a blog, website, Facebook group, etc. – that could reach even more people than a lawsuit could? Brainstorm some ideas with your pastor, husband, or close friends.

If there is any way to avoid a lawsuit while still protecting others, I would recommend exploring that possibility.

Additional Resources:

What does the Bible say about lawsuits / suing? at Got Questions?

Forbidden Lawsuits by John MacArthur

Alliance Defending Freedom

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Complementarianism, Rock Your Role

Throwback Thursday ~ Rock Your Role: All Things Being Equal (Galatians 3:28)

Originally published August 21, 2015

Being a church lady can be really confusing at times, am I right? There are so many questions and Scriptures to sort through and figure out. We want to serve the body of Christ in a godly way, but sometimes it’s hard to know how to go about that.

Rock Your Role is a new series I’m starting today that will examine all of the “go to” Scriptures that help us understand our role as women in the church. Some of these passages are – let’s just be honest – tough. Tough to understand. Tough to accept.

As we tackle tough passages like these, it’s important to ask ourselves a few equally tough questions, search our hearts, and answer honestly. Before reading each article in the Rock Your Role series, I’d like to ask you to prayerfully consider these questions:

1. Do I really believe God’s rightly handled, in context, written Word has the final say when it comes to what I (and the church) should believe and do?

2. If so, am I truly willing to “put my money where my mouth is” and back up that belief with action and obedience, even if I don’t initially like or fully understand a certain biblical concept or command?

3. Is this passage a tough one for me because it challenges my preconceived notions and opinions? Am I willing to put my ideas aside and hear what God’s Word has to say so I can obey it?

Ready to dive in? Let’s get started with…

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

For those of you who have been around the blog for a while, you might be surprised that I’m kicking things off with this verse. I’m about as complementarian as they come, and Galatians 3:28 is the rallying cry for egalitarians. But this verse is foundational to our understanding of the role of women in the church because it tells us who we are in Christ.

Before we zero in on verse 28, though, let’s zoom out and look at the book of Galatians as a whole. Galatians was written by Paul to the churches at Galatia to combat the false doctrine of the Judaizers- those who taught that the Gentiles must first become Jews (be circumcised and follow the Mosaic law) before they could become Christians. The Galatians were being seduced by this teaching, allowing it into their churches, and many were being drawn away from the truth of the gospel. Paul wrote to straighten them out and remind them – and us – that we are justified (saved and made right with God) through repentance and faith in Christ, not by keeping the law.

Galatians 3 is a perfect showcase for Paul’s theme of justification by faith. Take a moment and read the whole chapter now.

Paul reminds the Galatians that they were saved by faith, not works of the law, just like Abraham was. Paul explains that the law came with a curse attached for those who disobeyed it, but that Christ redeemed us from that curse. In fact, the whole purpose of the law was to teach us we can’t keep it and push us to faith in Christ as our only hope for salvation.

Wait a second. What’s all this talk about the law and faith and salvation and stuff? Isn’t this passage about women being equal to men and that they can serve in any capacity or office in the church that men can?

Wait a second. What’s all this talk about the law and faith and salvation and stuff? Isn’t this passage about women being equal to men and that they can serve in any capacity or office in the church that men can? Um…no. No, it’s not.

Um…no. No, it’s not. And that’s where the wheels fall off of the egalitarian argument. The entirety of Galatians chapter three is about salvation by faith instead of works. It says nothing about women serving in the same roles in the church as men. Nada. Zip. Zero.

It tells us something better. Something far more precious to the women of that time – and to us – than we realize. Let’s look at verse 28 in its immediate context:

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Do you see that? We’re no longer under the guardianship of the law. Anyone can come to Christ in repentance and faith- Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, all are welcome. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. No one is more important than anybody else. We are all equally saved, equally loved, equally forgiven of our sin, equally precious in God’s eyes. In a time when women were considered less important, less valuable, less intelligent, less everything than men, this would have been joyous news, indeed. It should be to us, as well.

But equality in salvation does not translate to equality in church roles. A king and a pauper might have worshiped side by side in the Galatian church, but when it came to the role of giving, the church would not have expected the same offering from the pauper as from the king. This didn’t make the king more important than the pauper, it just gave him a different area of responsibility because of who he was. Likewise, men and women are equally saved and forgiven in God’s eyes, but still fulfill different roles in the body of Christ because of who they are.

Equality in salvation does not translate to equality in church roles.

Let me illustrate this another way. My husband and I have 6 children. Each and every one of us are all equally Lesleys even though I married into the family and the rest of them were born into the family. No family member is more loved or important than another. However, we all have different roles, which come with different blessings and responsibilities. My 12 year old might not be able to drive the car, but he doesn’t have to work eight hours a day and pay bills, either. I no longer have to do homework (thank you, Lord!), but I do have to do housework. Our family would not operate in a healthy way if I tried to take on my son’s role or my husband tried to take on my role.

It’s the same way in the church. God loves, forgives, and saves each one of us equally. But he also loves us each individually. And it’s because of that individual love that He gives each of us unique roles to fill in the church so that it will operate in a healthy way. As we’ll see throughout this series, the role of women in the church is precious and vital to the well being of the body of Christ. So is the role of men. They are both equally important, yet God has specially gifted women to fulfill the roles He has designed for us just as He has specially gifted men to fulfill the roles He has designed for them.

Ladies, you have a Savior who loves and values you as a woman, and your role in the church is no less important than any man’s just because it’s different from his role. There are no second class citizens in God’s kingdom.

Ladies, you have a Savior who loves and values you as a *woman,* and your role in the church is no less important than any man’s just because it’s different from his role.

Titus Bible Study

Titus: God’s Order of Service ~ Lesson 1- Introduction

Welcome to our new study, Titus: God’s Order of Service!

What does God think about the way His church should operate? What are the qualifications and character traits of godly pastors, elders, and church members? What is your role in the Body, and why is it so crucial? God is a God of order, and He wants the church to operate in an orderly way – to glorify Him – as we worship, work, and witness.

Titus is the New Testament’s third and final pastoral epistle. The pastoral epistles are God’s instructions to pastors about the way His church should run (kind of like the weekly “order of service,” or bulletin at your church describes how that week’s worship service will run). But pastors aren’t solely responsible for the smooth sailing of the church. We all contribute to glorifying God by learning and robustly filling out our roles in the church in a godly and orderly way. Over the course of approximately 5-8 lessons, we’ll learn how to do that from the book of Titus.

The attractive title image for our study was designed by Benita Gruchy. I liked Benita’s use of the photo of the church sanctuary because the book of Titus is about the gathered body of the church. The word “service” in the title of the study is meant both in the sense of “worship service” – our corporate worship of God – and our “serving” the church body. When I imagine brothers and sisters in Christ assembled together in the pews in that photo, that’s what I think of: worship and service. Finally, the main theme of Titus is “setting things in order” (1:5) in the church, and I thought the rows of pews, with hymnals neatly in their racks, as well as the sleek design and the lines and sections on the left side of the image evoked that sense of orderliness quite nicely. Great job, Benita!

Many thanks to all of those who worked so hard on your entries for our title pic contest. You ladies were very creative and did some outstanding work! 

There were too many entries to share all of them with you, but here are a few “honorable mentions”:

Teressa Campbell
Emily Smith
Melany Goblirsch

If you’re new to using my Bible studies, just a few housekeeping items and helpful hints:

The studies I’ve written (you can find all of them at the Bible Studies tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) are like “training wheels”. They’re designed to teach you how to study the Bible for yourself and what kinds of questions to ask of the text so that, when you get the hang of it, you won’t have to depend on other people’s books and materials – even mine – any more. To that end, I do not provide answers for the study questions in the studies I’ve written.

My studies are meant to be extremely flexible and self-paced so that you can use them in the way that works best for you. You can do an entire lesson in one day or work on the questions over the course of the week (or longer). You do not need to feel obligated to answer all (or any) of the questions. If the Holy Spirit parks you on one question for several days, enjoy digging deep into that one aspect of the lesson. If He shows you something I haven’t written a question about that captures your attention, dive in and study it! Those are ways the Holy Spirit speaks to us through His Word. This is your time to commune with the Lord, not a school assignment or work project you are beholden to complete in a certain way by a certain deadline.

I will post a new lesson on the blog every other Wednesday, so there is nothing to sign up for or commit to. Simply stop by the blog every other week, or subscribe to the blog via e-mail to have the lessons delivered to your inbox.

I use hyperlinks liberallyThe Scripture passage for each lesson will be linked at the beginning of the lesson. As you’re reading the lesson, whenever you see a word in a different color text, click on it, and it will take you to a Scripture, article, or other resource that will help as you study.

All of the studies I’ve written are suitable for groups or individuals. You are welcome to use them as a Sunday school or Bible study class curriculum (for free) with proper attribution.

You are also welcome to print out any of my Bible studies (or any article I’ve written) for free and make as many copies as you’d like, again, with proper attribution. I’ve explained more about that in this article (3rd section).

From time to time I receive inquiries from men about using my studies for their personal quiet time or for teaching a co-ed or men’s Bible study class. It is my personal conviction that it is more in keeping with the spirit (though not the letter) of 1 Timothy 2:12, Titus 2:3-5, and related passages for men to use Bible study materials authored by men rather than by women. Therefore, on the honor system, I would request that men please not use my studies for personal use, or when teaching a class with male members. (Vetting the studies for your wife, daughter, or the women of your church, is, of course, fine. Encouraged, actually.)

Introduction to Titus: God’s Order of Service

Before we begin studying a book of the Bible, it’s very important that we understand some things about that book. We need to know…

Who the author was and anything we might be able to find out about him or his background.

Who the audience of the book is: Jews or Gentiles? Old Testament Israelites or New Testament Christians? This will help us understand the author’s purpose and approach to what he’s writing.

What kind of biblical literature we’re looking at. We approach books of history differently than books of wisdom, books of wisdom differently than books of prophecy, etc.

What the purpose of the book is. Was it written to encourage? Rebuke? Warn?

What the historical backdrop is for the book. Is Israel at war? At peace? In exile? Under a bad king? Good king? Understanding the historical events surrounding a piece of writing helps us understand what was written and why it was written.

When the book was written. Where does the book fall on the timeline of biblical history? This is especially important for Old Testament books which are not always arranged in chronological order.

So this week, before we start studying the actual text of the book of Titus, we need to lay the foundation to understanding the book by finding the answers to these questions.

Read the following overviews of the book of Titus, taking notes on anything that might aid your understanding of the book, and answer the questions below:

Bible Introductions: Titus at Grace to You

Overview of the Book of Titus at Reformed Answers

Summary of the Book of Titus at Got Questions

1. Who wrote the book of Titus? How do we know (or why do we not know) this?

2. Approximately when was Titus written? What is the geographical setting of the book of Titus? Here are some maps (scroll down to “Titus”) that may be helpful as you study through the book of Titus.

3. Who is the original, intended audience of the book of Titus? Describe the historical setting (historic events, politics, sociology of the time, etc.) of Titus.

4. Which genre of biblical literature is the book of Titus: law, history, wisdom, poetry, narrative, epistles, or prophecy/apocalyptic? What does this tell us about the approach we should take when studying from this book versus our approach to books of other genres?

5. What is the theme or purpose of the book of Titus?

6. What are some of the major topics of instruction or exhortation in the book of Titus? How do these topics relate to the theme of Titus?

7. What are some ways Titus points to and connects to Jesus?

8. What else did you learn about the setting of this book that might help you understand the text of the book better?

Take some time in prayer this week to begin preparing your heart for this study. Ask God to give you wisdom both to understand the text, and to apply what you learn from Titus as a member of your own church, as we study Titus together.

Our next lesson will be two weeks from today.


The Mailbag: Potpourri (Cremation… ID-ing false teachers… Church membership… Women translators)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.

I can’t find any Scripture about cremation. Is this practice another pagan tradition Christians have accepted? I, myself was thinking it’s okay, but now I’m unsure. Thanks.

Thank you so much for setting a super example for us all by a) wanting to do the godly thing about this, and b) searching the Scriptures to find your answer.

You didn’t find any Scriptures about cremation because Scripture doesn’t mention cremation, and there are no related biblical principles that directly indicate that we either should or shouldn’t participate in cremation. And, no, the way cremation is practiced today in Western culture, it is not a pagan practice. Therefore, cremation is an issue of adiaphora, or Christian liberty.

I think Todd Friel has done a good job of answering this question from his “burial is preferable” perspective…

…but I don’t find it compelling enough to move me from my “either way is fine with me” perspective, and I feel like some of the things he says are stretching it just a tiny bit. A few reasons:

  • In the same way that the overwhelming majority of people – even many Christians – don’t make the Ephesians 5 connection between husband and Christ, and wife and church in a wedding ceremony unless it’s explicitly explained to them, the overwhelming majority of people – even many Christians – aren’t going to make the connection between burying someone and the resurrection of the dead at a funeral unless it’s explicitly explained to them. Naturally, I’m all for those explicit explanations during those respective ceremonies. I’m just saying it’s not an automatic connection most people make merely from witnessing a wedding or burial.
  • If you’re buried long enough, your remains are going to decompose and disintegrate, just like someone who is cremated, dies in a fire, is buried or lost at sea, is eaten by a wild animal, etc. If you’re being buried instead of cremated because you want to be sure you have a body to be resurrected into, I would encourage you to do a little more study on the science of the decomposition of the human body. God is able to resurrect every saint no matter what happened to her body after death. And besides, you’re getting a new body anyway.
  • I think a perfectly biblical, and possibly even more strongly Scripturally supported argument could be made for stewardship. Burial is typically much more expensive than cremation. What about the person who would rather be cremated and give the difference in cost to his church? What about a struggling family who could scrape together enough for a cremation, but would have to go into debt for a burial?

This is an issue you will have to pray about, talk with your family about, and maybe even discuss with your pastor. If your conscience would bother you to be either buried or cremated, don’t violate your conscience. A few more resources that may help:

Burial vs. Cremation on Wretched TV

What does the Bible say about cremation? at Got Questions

What does the Bible say about cremation? by John MacArthur

Is Prophetess X a false teacher?

What do you think about the teaching of Apostle Y?

Can I get your thoughts on LifeWay Women’s newest divangelista1?

I’ve received several questions along these lines in recent weeks. Lemme just give you the quick and easy answers to these.

I would never literally bet my life on something, but if I were so inclined, I would feel perfectly comfortable betting that nobody who goes by the title Prophet/Prophetess or Apostle is doctrinally sound. In my experience, everyone I’ve encountered who has gone by one of those titles has been a New Apostolic Reformation heretic (NAR doctrine is literal heresy – another gospel). So, if you come across somebody who goes by one of those titles, there’s no need to sweat whether or not you should read her books or follow him on social media, just avoid all of them them all together.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t think it has caught on widely, yet. It pains me to say this, but if you’re trying to find out if a certain female author or teacher is doctrinally sound and you need a quick rule out without doing hours of research on an someone you’re not familiar with, I would recommend avoiding any author or conference speaker platformed or promoted by LifeWay Women (the women’s division of LifeWay).

I’m not saying every author and teacher LifeWay Women features is necessarily a heretic or false teacher, I’m just saying that enough of them are that it’s reasonable to draw the conclusion that that’s mainly the type of woman they like to promote. (I mean, you don’t see them promoting women like me or Susan Heck or Martha Peace, do you?) I’ve written articles on many of their featured teachers. I’m not familiar with all of them, but all of the ones I am familiar with are biblically problematic.

And, of course, you can always use my article Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own for tips on researching any of these or other teachers.

Can I please, one more time, beg y’all to stop searching for the diamond chip in the pile of Women’s “Bible” study poo and just study directly from the text of Scripture? You don’t have to vet the Bible or worry whether or not the Author is doctrinally sound. God took care of all that for us.

And if you’re looking for some great women to follow on social media, blogs, or podcasts, or some wonderful pastors to listen to in your leisure time, click here.

1“Divangelista” is just a slang term I coined because the phrase “popular women’s ‘Bible’ study authors” is too long and cumbersome for writing. It’s a combination of the words “diva” and “evangelical” and rhymes with “Sandinista” (if you’re old enough to remember them) for no particular reason.

I came out of the New Age and am looking for a good church. I went to your recommended list and found a church I was interested in. It looked great at first, but it appears they have a rather strange ‘membership’ proposition. It consists of you going to membership classes, then in front of a panel of elders, then you have to attend for up to six months before your ‘interview’. Honestly, I find this bizarre, unusual and is this really necessary? Please could you comment, or get back to me as we have been looking for a spiritual home for a few years now. Thanks.

I’m so happy for you that the Lord is leading you to seek out a doctrinally sound church!

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say, based on no other information than what you’ve given me, that this is probably a very doctrinally sound church. Typically, the reason churches have membership processes like this is that they’re trying to make sure, as best they can, that they don’t admit lost people into membership. The membership classes are for you to learn about the church – their doctrine, their practices, etc. The six month waiting period and the interview are for the church to get to know you and observe the fruit of your life – to see whether your walk matches your talk, so to speak. During this process, they can get a pretty good idea of whether or not you’re actually saved and growing in holiness, and you can get a good idea of whether or not this church is a good fit for you and your family.

Here’s what I would suggest. If I’m understanding correctly, you read all of this information on the church’s website, right? Why don’t you try visiting the church for several weeks and see if it even seems like a church you’re interested in. If not, the membership process is moot. If so, set up an appointment with the pastor or appropriate elder and ask him any questions you may have about the membership process.

If you end up needing to find another church, be sure you carefully peruse all of the church search engines and other resources at the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

I would also encourage you to listen to this brief sermon series my pastor preached earlier this year about church membership. (Our membership process is similar to, though not quite as extensive as the one you described.)

I agree with you about women’s preaching. But I have a question, what do you think about when a woman translates the message of the preacher? I’m a missionary in Mexico and over here they don’t see a problem with women preaching in most of the churches. So one time at our church my husband gave his testimony in English to the American community and I translated in Spanish, and the other day someone asked me when I would like to preach on Sunday at the Mexican church and I was like “no thank you, I don’t think that is something I will ever do” but this person said: you have preached already. When you translated for your husband…. I personally don’t think is the same. But what are your thoughts?

You are correct. Translating and preaching/teaching are not the same thing, and a woman translating for a pastor or teacher is not something that falls under the biblical prohibition against women pastoring, preaching, or instructing men in the Scriptures. I, myself, have translated for worship services in the past.

That being said, because of the confusion and biblical ignorance of the people you’re working with, it sounds like the wisest thing would be for a man to translate if at all possible, and for you to take the women aside and disciple them in a proper understanding of the Scriptures that govern the role of women in the church.

We understand and agree with the value and Biblical reasoning behind church membership. We are in a small town with limited church options. The most solid church here is a church that requires believer’s baptism for membership. My husband would be more in line with paedo baptism and was baptized as an infant. He is a solid, Biblical, regenerate believer. Because of this we cannot be members. I have no idea what we should do in this situation.

OK, let’s take a deep breath and put things into biblical perspective. As you know, church membership is very important and shouldn’t be treated as trivial, but in a situation like this in which you’ve done everything you possibly can to pursue membership, but it’s impossible, your husband is not sinning by not going through the formal membership process. (You didn’t specify, but from your message, it sounds like you either have been baptized as a Believer or would be willing to submit to credo baptism.) Let me offer you a few thoughts:

  • (This first thought is for my unmarried readers, and is not meant as a criticism of you.) Single ladies considering marriage – it is extremely important that you and your intended be as close to 100% agreement in your theology as humanly possible before you get married. As you can see from this dear sister’s dilemma, differing views on things like baptism are not a “no big deal” proposition, and can cause issues in your marriage and in parenting.
  • If you haven’t already done so, the two of you need to make an appointment with the pastor and discuss your concerns, beliefs, and questions. Some churches have a provisional type of membership for situations like this.
  • Have you thoroughly scoured all of the church search engines at the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page? Perhaps there’s a new church you’re not aware of, or another church in a neighboring town that would be a better fit for your family.

If this church is absolutely the only option available, and you’ve talked with the pastor, my counsel would be for you to go through the membership process (assuming you’re credo baptist) and for both of you to attend and serve faithfully, as far as is possible (most churches don’t allow non-members to serve in certain ways or positions). If your husband’s convictions about baptism change at some point, he can then pursue membership.

And, as I suggested to the previous reader who asked about church membership, I would also encourage you to listen to this brief sermon series my pastor preached earlier this year about church membership. I think you’ll find it encouraging.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christian women, Church, Complementarianism

Throwback Thursday ~ Unforbidden Fruits: 3 Ways Women MUST Lead and Teach the Church

Originally published April 20, 2018

Ladies, we whine too much.

Like petulant little girls, we look at what’s off limits to us, stomp our Mary Janes on the floor and cry “Why can’t I? I want to!” instead of giddily jumping into all the opportunities God has blessed us with. Instead of being happy and thankful for what we have, our greedy little fingers stretch out to grasp what God has said we can’t have because it’s not good for us or anybody else.

God has instructed pastors – who are, in turn, to instruct us – that, in the gathered body of Believers, women are not to preach to men, instruct men in the Scriptures, or exercise authority over men. And that’s what we focus on, and whine and kick our feet about. That part – the childish rebellion and discontent with the role God has graciously placed us in – that’s on us.

But pastors, we badly need your help on this one. Many pastors do a wonderful job of rightly and biblically explaining what women are not to do (And may I take a moment to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I know how difficult that can be and that you take a lot of undeserved flak for simply teaching God’s Word on this subject.), but that “no” teaching has often not been coupled with the “yes” teaching of what women must do and how they must lead in order for women, and the church, to be healthy and function properly.

The “no” teaching of what the Bible forbids has often not been coupled with the “yes” teaching of what women *must* do and how they must lead in order for women, and the church, to be healthy and function properly.

You’ve loved us well to tell us not to bite at the apple from the forbidden tree, but we also desperately need you to take us on a tour of the Garden and introduce us to the all-you-can-eat buffet of pear and peach and cherry and pecan trees that we have the privilege and the responsibility to feast on.

🍊 The Other Institution 🍊

Did you ever notice that the “do” for women in the church comes before the “don’t”? We tend to totally skip over that enormous little word that kicks off 1 Timothy 2:11: “Let a woman learn…”. We have no idea of, nor appreciation for, how huge and groundbreaking it was for the Holy Spirit, through Paul, to proactively instruct pastors: “Hey, get these women in here, make sure they listen up, and train them properly in the Scriptures so they’ll be equipped to fortify their homes with biblical truth.”

We completely miss the fact that, though God installs men as the teachers and leaders in one of His foundational institutions – the church – He has very much made women the functional, boots on the ground, day to day, teachers and leaders by example – of His other foundational institution – the family. The church didn’t even exist for the first few millennia of human history, but the family has existed since Creation. And people who are members of families populate and lead the church. Raising and molding those people is a tremendous position and responsibility. A position and responsibility God has largely given to women.

Wives pray for our husbands’ growth in Christ. We build them up with Scripture. With a gentle and quiet spirit, we set a godly example for them as they observe our respectful and pure conduct. We encourage and help them in their leadership roles at church.

Moms pray for our children’s salvation. We pour the gospel into them at every turn. We train up our children in the way that they should go – in the nurture and admonition of the Lord – so that when they are old they do not depart from it. We teach them to love and serve and invest in the church both directly and by modeling these things for them.

And our single, widowed, and childless sisters work right alongside us in this labor, praying for church leaders and members, nurturing children at church whose parents are unsaved or unequipped to raise them biblically, encouraging and assisting brothers and sisters in Christ.

We grow and develop, nourish and support, exhort and sharpen the population of the body of Christ.

Men may lead the church, but women raise the church.

Men may lead the church, but women *raise* the church.

🍐 Woman to Woman 🍐

Essential to the health of any church is the component of women training women, whether in the formal setting of a Bible study class and structured women’s ministry programs or an impromptu “let’s get together for coffee this week” discipleship discussion.

Though we receive instruction in Scripture from our pastors, elders, and teachers, there are some counseling and teaching situations it’s not appropriate for a man to address with a woman, or that a woman understands better than a man. There are issues women face that men just don’t “get” in the same way a sister in Christ does. There are insights and perspectives a woman can use to explain Scripture to another woman that a man just doesn’t have. There are times when a woman needs someone to walk through a long term emotional journey with her that requires a personal intimacy which would be inappropriate for a man to engage in with her. And in the same way men are better equipped than women to train men to be godly husbands, fathers, and church members, women are better equipped than men to train women to be godly wives, mothers, and church members.

God knew all of this back when He breathed out the words of Titus 2:3-5…

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

…and, again, 1 Timothy 2:11:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.

Women must be trained properly in the Scriptures so we can take that training and pour it into other women, teaching and sharpening them into godly women, wives, mothers, and church members.

🍑 Super Models 🍑

Women instruct our brothers and sisters in the church in biblical truth when we lead by example. When we sin against someone, we go to that person and ask forgiveness. We demonstrate the importance of meeting together with the Body by being faithful in our church and Sunday School attendance. We model servanthood by serving the church and our brothers and sisters. We paint a picture of biblical compassion by ministering to the sick and others in need. We show Christians how to carry out the Great Commission by sharing the gospel. We set an example of trusting God when others see us depending on Him through difficult situations.

And one of the most important biblical concepts women have the privilege and responsibility of teaching the church through our example is submission to authority – a lesson the church is sorely in need of these days.

Because God blessed us by creating us as women, we have an opportunity to model submission to authority in a unique way that God has chosen to deny to men.

Because God blessed us by creating us as women, we have an opportunity to model submission to authority in a unique way that God has chosen to deny to men.

As we submit to our husbands, we teach the church what it means to submit to Christ. How to walk in humility and obey Him out of love. How to put selfishness aside. To trust Him to take care of us. To deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him.

When we submit to God’s design for leadership in the church and joyfully carry out the work He has planned for us as godly women, we teach the church to submit to God’s authority and love Him by obeying His commands. We instruct our fellow church members in respecting and submitting to the pastors and elders God has placed in spiritual authority over us.

Submission to Christ, to God’s commands, and to pastors and elders is the bedrock of a healthy church. God has graciously given women the role – and the duty – of teaching these and other biblical principles to our churches in a way that men cannot -through our example as godly women.

Remember the series of fun little nutritional books that came out several years ago called Eat This, Not That? The idea the books centered around was, “Don’t eat that unhealthy thing. Eat this similar but healthy thing instead.”

Sadly, many Christian women have only been getting half the story. “Not that” (preaching to/teaching men and exercising authority over men) is biblically correct, but it’s not biblically complete. If all you tell someone is “Don’t eat that,” without showing her the “Eat this,” part, what she needs to eat to be healthy, she’s going to starve, and the church will be malnourished as well.

Christian women need our pastors to teach us to eat the fat of the land of being properly trained in the Scriptures and drink the sweet wine of leading and instructing the church the way God gifts us and requires us to. Only then will the Body be healthy and well nourished.