Christian women, Complementarianism

Women Teaching Men: My Thoughts on Aimee’s and Mary’s Articles

aimee mary

My friends and readers are the best. They are so sweet and helpful when it comes to making sure I stay up to date on what’s happening out there in Evangelicaland. It’s like having a little army of really smart co-laborers who are great at research.

Last week, a couple of articles about women teaching men appeared on the Reformed complementarian women’s landscape, and several folks were kind enough to send them to me and ask for my reaction. I e-mailed the readers back with my responses, which I’ve posted below.

What is Sunday School? What Does it Appear to Be? And Who Can Teach It?
by Aimee Byrd
May 18, 2016

I have loved and respected Aimee’s work as a writer and podcaster for a while. This article was apparently written to clarify some things that had been said on a Mortification of Spin podcast.

“I didn’t catch the podcast, but I did read the article. I was disappointed with what Aimee said, because Steve’s comments [Steve Cooley’s comments in the comment section following the article] are correct. Also, if we look at the broad pattern of male headship in Scripture…

man was created first, then woman
woman was created to be helper to man
women are to submit to their husbands
women are not to serve in the office of elder or pastor
women are not to preach to men
women are not to exercise authority over/lead men in the church

…which fits better with this pattern, women teaching men in co-ed Sunday School or women not teaching men in co-ed Sunday School? I think it’s pretty clear that women not teaching men in co-ed Sunday School fits best. Why would God set this pattern of male headship in motion and then turn around and contradict it when it comes to women teaching men in Sunday School?

Furthermore, the gathering of a body of believers for studying the Bible is the gathering of the church, whether it is in someone’s home (like the first century church), a sanctuary, or a Sunday School classroom. We’re the ones who have invented all these lines of delineation between Sunday School, worship service, Christian conferences, revival meetings, etc., and then tried to go back and figure out which of these man-made distinctions 1 Timothy 2:12 applies to. When 1 Timothy was written, they didn’t have all that. The church was just the gathering of the believers for worship, study, etc. So 1 Timothy 2:12 applies to the gathered body of believers without respect to all these artificial lines we’ve drawn.”

Again, I have great respect for Aimee, but I disagree with her on this particular issue. It’s possible that the differences in our denominational viewpoints of Sunday School play a big part in this, and that if we ever had the chance to sit down and hash it out over coffee or something, we might find more common ground.

 

Women Teaching Men- How Far is Too Far?
by Mary Kassian
May 21, 2016

I’m not as familiar with Mary as I am with Aimee, but I’ve read and enjoyed a few of her articles. This one may have been a response to Aimee’s article above.

“Good stuff! I agree with her about 90%. I love that she brought out the part about “teaching under a man’s authority.” I wrote about that not long ago. It’s nice to hear somebody with a bigger platform say it. I hope people will listen to her!

I also love what she says about what we love versus following a set of rules. So true! Another aspect of this that I run into frequently with women who want to preach is that they’re so focused on leading they forget about Jesus’ example of humility in servanthood. We’re supposed to be focused on serving, not gaining notoriety.

My main disagreement with her would be the line she (and most others who address this issue) draws between the worship service and things like Sunday School and Christian conferences. Those are really man made lines of distinction rather than biblical ones. The “church” is the gathered body of believers for worship and biblical instruction. So whenever believers are gathered for those purposes – whether we call it Sunday School or worship service or a Christian conference, and whether it’s in a sanctuary, Sunday School classroom, or conference center – that’s the church, and the Scriptural mandate for women not to teach or hold authority over men applies.

I also think it’s interesting that in the second paragraph under “Can Women Teach Under Male Authority” she rightly points out, “The text doesn’t say, ‘A woman may teach men if…'”. But then later in the article she talks about how she feels it’s OK for her to teach men if they’re much younger than she is. Well, just like the text doesn’t say a woman can teach men if she’s doing so under male authority, it also doesn’t say it’s OK for a woman to teach men if she’s much older than they are. It just says “don’t”. Curious.”

Mary’s position on this issue is much more similar to mine. I hope to hear more from her about this in future articles.

11 thoughts on “Women Teaching Men: My Thoughts on Aimee’s and Mary’s Articles”

  1. I would contend that open air preaching, although not a gathering of believers for worship and biblical instruction, falls under a similar heading of “I do not permit a woman to…”

    The ultimate question is why do we do what we do? Is it a love for Christ which compels us to “toe the line” of sin or “dip our toes in the water” of even gray areas? Certainly not.

    The love of Christ should compel us to avoid every form of evil and to be holy. So now the question is, what about male readers of your blog? How is that different from the gatherings you’ve described herein? Are you teaching male readers? Exercising authority? That’s worth a blog post in itself.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s a good article to refer back to. But when you take the logic in that article, the “in the church” phrase pointed out early on, you have to start asking, when you are preaching at a street corner, are you in the church?

        How is street preaching different from blogging? In each case, you are trying to bring the truth of Scripture to bear on readers or passer bys.

        By the way, I think they are different, but I think it is a hard thing to explain. Especially in a short comment.

        Maybe over time we can develop a good explanation. I have to admit though, most explanations for why women shouldn’t street preach that I read would also prohibit women from blogging…and the corollary: most justifications I read for women blogging would not prohibit street preaching.

        Anyway, just kinda rambling now. But I think it is helpful to discuss and I appreciate your point about Godly women really wanting to do the right thing.

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      2. “How is street preaching different from blogging? In each case, you are trying to bring the truth of Scripture to bear on readers or passer bys. By the way, I think they are different, but I think it is a hard thing to explain.”

        It’s a good thing to think about and talk out to crystallize where we stand and to be able to explain it to others. Just speaking for myself (not the other ladies in the blogging article), I think there are some important differences between my blog and street preaching that allow me to blog with a clear conscience, but not be in support of women street preaching:

        1. Street preaching is, in fact, preaching, even if it is not confined inside the four walls of a building we call “church”. It looks like preaching, it sounds like preaching, it smells like preaching. Blogging is not intrinsically preaching, nor does it have the appearance of preaching. Scripture clearly mentions preaching/teaching as being prohibited. We have to extrapolate to get to the point of prohibiting writing. Scripture doesn’t mention women writing.

        2. I can’t speak for other blogs, but my blog is clearly labeled all over the place as being for Christian –women–. I write to women and for women. Any men hanging out here are either:

        a) “eavesdropping” (not necessarily in the pejorative sense) – godly male friends like you whom I trust to keep me accountable, men keeping tabs on me doctrinally (which I welcome and encourage) because their wives/daughters/church members read my blog, or men who use the female perspective presented here as a tool to understand Christian women better so they can pastor them better or be better spiritual leaders at home.

        b) “trespassing”- coming here only to read my stuff, say they’ve been “taught” by me, and make accusations against me of teaching men ala 1 Timothy 2:12. Usually rabid egalitarians.

        c) men who have never been taught that it’s unbiblical for women to instruct men in God’s word and are coming here to sit under my teaching. I have made comments in the past (and maybe I need to add it to my Welcome tab) that if this is the reason they’re here, they need to find a biblical site to follow that’s written by a godly man. If/when I find out a man is following me for that reason, I turn him away.

        I’ve done my best to fence this blog off so it’s for women only. With street preaching, on the other hand, the audience is anybody and everybody – men, women, Christians, non-Christians. No “fences” are put up in an effort to limit the audience to women only.

        There are probably some other distinctions (I did flesh out my thoughts about women and evangelism here {#11} a little more), but I think that’s a good start :0)

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      3. I think that is an EXCELLENT answer. So here’s a question, can women preach to other women? Here’s a for example:

        A woman (Let’s call her Lily) goes to an abortion mill for the purposes of calling out to women to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and to tell them of their options other than murder for the life growing within them. Because Lily loves women so much, she uses lots of Scripture and tries to explain it so the ladies passing by will understand. For the sake of the question, she’s utterly biblical and accurate.

        She raises her voice to be heard because she has to stand at a sidewalk at a distance. She may even use an amplifier and speaker sometimes.

        She is there with the intention in her heart of fighting abortion and telling people of Jesus Christ because she thinks that is the best way to fight abortion.

        Then a lady gets out of her car to have an abortion, she begins to exhort this woman from Scripture when a man get out of the car as well to accompany this woman into the building.

        So, does she stop “preaching?” Why or why not? I’m really interested in your thoughts on this. I have a couple ideas myself but I want to hear your thinking on the topic first.

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      4. Lots of issues there! :0)

        Ok, first let me say I have very little experience with clinic ministry, so my answer might reflect that. Also, I want to separate out “Lily” preaching on the sidewalk from Lily speaking to the woman and her boyfriend getting out of the car.

        Lily preaching-

        While I don’t normally participate in clinic ministry (I’m all for it, I just have other areas of ministry focus), I have friends that do and I’ve watched many videos of this type of ministry. I’ve never seen an instance of what you describe as Lily “preaching” to a substantial group of women.

        My first question would be- how often does it actually happen that a woman has more than, say, 5 or 6 other women gathered around her listening to the point that she would have to address them by “preaching” with amplification rather than just having a discussion with them? And why is there no man who has come with her who is able to do the preaching? Mostly what I’ve seen is one on one interaction with people who come to the clinic. Maybe I just haven’t seen instances where preaching might be necessary?

        If there is a situation where preaching is deemed to be necessary, I think a man should do it for the same reasons I’ve given as to why men should do street preaching.

        However, I’m not sure preaching at a clinic is always the best way to go. Women, especially in a highly emotional and personal situation like having an abortion, are going to respond much better to a woman kindly and caringly approaching them and talking to them one on one. They can turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to impersonal preaching, but someone (especially another woman) hugging them, looking them right in the eye, and talking to them personally about their unique situation is going to make much more of an impact. That’s just the way women are generally wired.

        If there really are big crowds like that, I think it would be much more effective to get several godly women out there talking personally to small groups (5 or 6 women max) than to have one person preaching. (Again, I don’t have a lot of experience in this arena, so maybe I’m wrong. Just my opinion.)

        Lily talking to couple exiting car-

        I would think Lily would be talking primarily to the woman here, but there’s no biblical problem with her talking to the man as well because this is an instance of evangelizing the lost, not preaching to/teaching men or holding authority over men in the church (see my remarks in the FAQ article about women evangelizing men). Those are two separate things.

        Now, if the couple seems to soften and really be interested and open to what Lily is saying, I think it would be helpful for a godly man to come over and undergird Lily because the man of the couple is facing the abortion on a whole different level and perspective than the woman is, and he could probably use someone to talk to who understands what he’s going through as a man. Lily isn’t going to be able to do that as effectively as a man is.

        Clinic ministry is just one of the areas women are uniquely suited for and, in many cases, are probably (sorry) more effective than men, at least when it comes to dealing with the women who are seeking an abortion. Just the difference in your perspective (preaching and exhorting) versus mine (one one one, personal sharing and discussion) is indicative of that. But I do think godly men are vital to helping and exhorting the boyfriends/fathers/husbands who arrive with the women, and it’s likely those men DO need to be approached in more of an “exhorting” manner.

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  2. Thank you for this! I read both Aimee’s and Mary’s articles and I’ve been at a low simmer ever since. It even annoyed me when Mary mentioned the ‘Mother’s Day service’ she spoke at. Do any Reformed congregations pay homage to Moms on Mother’s Day? I should hope not. It has no place in worship. We worship the Lord on the Lord’s Day. Moms should be celebrated privately – her children rise up and call her blessed. We’ve invented so many extra-biblical ceremonies. Just my 2¢ Reading this post was a refreshing cool-down. There are, after all, some true complementarians left.

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    1. Thanks so much for your support, Angela. :0) Let’s be sure to be patient with one another and bear with one another in love, though. Mary and Aimee are two dear sisters and we’re all at different places in our walk with the Lord trying to figure things out and strive for godliness. A lot of the feedback I get about my own position on the spectrum of complementarianism is that I’m too restrictive. I appreciate the patience of my brothers and sisters who bear with me in love although they might not completely agree with me. (Of course, it’s also very encouraging when people DO agree! :0)

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