The Mailbag: Potpourri (Ministry oversight…Elliot/ten Boom preached to men…G3…Alt-her-ing Scripture)

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.

Hello! I’ve just found you while looking for theologically sound Bible studies. I’m thankful to find your resources and look forward to reading further!

So far you’ve checked all my boxes in looking for someone who is seeking to be faithful to the Word. I would assume in being a proponent of complementarianism, that you are in a church that allows you, as a woman in ministry, to submit to the pastors and/or elders of your church… Can you please clarify this? In other words, are you receiving oversight outside yourself in your ministry? One reason I’m asking is our church has an elder that is over all our women’s ministries and find that as a good discernment check.

Also, where do you live? That question isn’t terribly important; I’m just curious.

I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (You can find out more about me in the Bio tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.)

This is a super question, and I’ve received it a few times in the past, but I’d like to tweak it just a bit if that’s OK.

It’s certainly not a bad thing for a woman in a parachurch ministry like mine to have her doctrinally sound pastor and elders or some sort of ministry board oversee her ministry if she and her husband and pastor and elders all mutually agree that it would be beneficial. And if God miraculously gave my pastors several more hours in the day that they didn’t know what to do with and they called me and said, “Hey, we’d like to volunteer to do this for you,” I’d probably take them up on it.

But what I’d like to clarify is that, while this may or may not be a wise and helpful arrangement, it isn’t a requirement of Scripture (and I’m not saying that you think it is) for women or men in parachurch ministries, complementarianism notwithstanding. What Scripture requires is that all church members submit to the leadership of their pastor and elders:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:17

As a member of my church, I certainly strive to obey this instruction. And if my blogging / podcasting / speaking ministry were a ministry of my church, like the women’s ministry of your church, it would definitely fall under the purview of my pastors.

But it isn’t. My ministry is discrete from my church just like any other church member’s job or business. Furthermore, I’ve been a member of four different churches since I started my ministry, and, sad to say, some of those pastors and leaders weren’t even biblically qualified for their own ministries, never mind overseeing mine.

Next, it depends on what you mean by “oversee”. If you mean – Do I submit all of my articles, podcast notes, and teaching materials to my pastors for approval before I publish, podcast, or speak at an event? Do I check with them every time I make a decision? – no, and I would never think of asking them to do all of that. They’re busy being pastors. And, if my writing, teaching, and decision-making were so suspect that I needed them to do that, or that they felt they needed to do that, I would have no business writing and teaching on biblical topics.

Now, there have been a few times when I’ve asked for their input or advice. One time, I needed a little clarity on a certain passage. Another time (due to spiritual abuse at a previous church), I was super anxious that something I was writing might upset my pastors, so I ran it by one of them, and he essentially said, “That’s the same thing we believe. Calm down. We trust you.”.

And that’s basically the long and short of it. They know what I think, I know what they think, we’re pretty much on the same page about everything, biblically, and they trust me. And the same goes for my husband. And I trust that if I ever write anything that’s unbiblical or needs correction, they’ll let me know, and I’ll fix it. 

Where do you place speakers such as Elisabeth Elliot, Corrie ten Boom and the like who, while they spoke to audiences that included men, did not seem to be cut from the same cloth that some female speakers of today seem to be? Do you feel they were appropriate in speaking to mixed gender audiences?

Several people have asked me this about Elisabeth Elliot recently, so it’s possible there’s something making the rounds about her that I’m not aware of, but I think there’s an aspect of this question that’s really important for all of us to key in on:

God is no respecter of persons, and we shouldn’t be, either.

If something is a sin, it’s a sin – and it doesn’t matter who’s committing it. It’s just as much a sin for Elisabeth Elliot to preach to or teach the Bible to men as it is for Beth Moore as it would be for you or for me.

And it appears that Elisabeth Elliot1 did, in fact, make a practice of committing this sin. (Here are some videos of her preaching/teaching the Bible with men clearly present in the audience: here at 1:06, here from 0:00 and at 12:38, here from 0:00, here at 1:32, and there are many others.) So, at least in that one respect, she was “cut from the same cloth that some female speakers of today seem to be.”

Apparently, there were other serious problems with Elisabeth’s doctrine as well. From the article, Courage to Be Catholic?:

“[Elisabeth] continued, “…my brother…entered the Catholic Church some years ago. I only wish I had his courage.”…she admired the decision I had made to enter the Church, as her dear brother had! After she had sung the praises of the Catholic Church for several minutes, I worked up the nerve to ask Elisabeth why she did not follow in her brother’s footsteps. “Cowardice, I suppose. My listeners and readers simply would not understand.”

Of course they wouldn’t. Catholic doctrine is heretical.

It’s harder to decipher (at least from YouTube videos) whether or not Corrie ten Boom preached and taught Scripture to mixed audiences, but so far as I can tell, she did. Corrie is generally known for giving her personal testimony, and that’s not normally a violation of Scripture for a woman (see #14 here) unless she veers off into actual preaching. However there are several YWAM (Youth With A Mission) training videos like this one (0:49) which show a man and women on the stage with Corrie as she teaches them a biblical topic, videos which, I can only assume, were used to train both male and female YWAM staff.

And, in a video entitled The Holy Spirit Gives Power (June 8, 2016) the man introducing Corrie says at 2:55, “she has toured the world preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, winning many to Christ by both her writing and her preaching” and she goes on to preach to what sounds like a rather large audience, which, it seems unlikely, was restricted to women. (Further, the man introducing her sounds very much like Billy Graham to me, and if Billy Graham ever introduced a woman speaker for a women’s only event, that’s news to me.)

Perhaps even more disturbing was Corrie’s appearance on Kathryn Kuhlman’s show. Kathryn was a rank heretic: a female preacher, faith healer, and, essentially, one of the “founding fathers” of what is now the New Apostolic Reformation.

I don’t think anybody asking this question is intentionally saying or thinking that there’s a different standard for our heroes in the faith than for us regular old ordinary Christians, but it’s a sneaky little mindset that can weasel its way in without our even noticing it. We need to keep a couple of things in mind:

First – Surviving a horrific experience, even with great faith, doesn’t automatically make a person biblically discerning, doctrinally sound, or qualified to teach the Bible.

Second- As doctrinally sound Christians, we need to be really careful not to do the exact same thing that disciples of false teachers often do: let our sentimentality or love for an evangelical legend override biblical standards and commands, or give our favorite teachers a pass on sin.

I’ve addressed this subject further in my article Stricter Judgment, Even for MY Favorite Teacher.

1Big thank you’s to my dear friend Elizabeth Prata (an Elizabeth you should be following) for the heads up on much of this info about Elisabeth Elliot.

Will you be at the G3 Conference? I’ll be there, and I’d like to meet you!

Sadly, no, and I’m kinda bummed about that, because, not only is G3 a fantastic conference, it seems like all of my buddies that I hardly ever get to see are going to be there.

I have a conference of my own in Montana the weekend before G3 and another in California the weekend after G3, so I’m already going to miss those two Sundays at my own church, plus I don’t like leaving my family any more than I absolutely have to.

I will be in Heaven eventually, though, and we’ll all have eternity to meet and greet and fellowship together as we worship around the Throne. So, if I don’t see you here, I’ll see you Hereafter. :0)

I have a dear friend in Christ who I know loves Jesus, trusts Him, and knows her Bible. However, she sent me something recently that really made me curious and I want to know if out of love, I should discuss with her.

What she sent me was this: The Lord’s beloved rests securely on Him. He shields (her) all day long, and (she) rests on His shoulders. Deuteronomy 33:12.

It was on a pink background with very pretty script. But I believe it’s wrong to alter Scripture to make it about me, as a woman. If God meant for it to say “her” or “she” He would have made sure it did. Am I being petty, or reading too much into a simple daily devotion thing that my friend I’m sure meant nothing but love by sending to me?

No, you’re not being petty or legalistic, you just have a higher view of Scripture and better hermeneutics than she does, and you’re right. Who in the name of arrogance are we to alter or adulterate God’s written Word so it’s more pleasing to us? There are actually two issues here:

First of all, there are many passages of Scripture which use universal male pronouns to mean everybody, humankind, men and women. For example (I just picked this one at random), Psalm 8:4:

what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Obviously, “man” and “him” in this verse don’t mean that God is only mindful of males or only cares for males. As women, we can correctly understand that this verse includes us. And we ought to be woman enough, mature enough, and have enough reverence for God’s Word that we don’t have to put it on a pretty pink background with flowers and a swirly font, and change the pronouns from masculine to feminine so that none of the girls get their feelings hurt.

But here’s the second – and in my view, more important – issue with this particular instance: Deuteronomy 33:12 isn’t one of those universal male pronoun verses. Your friend (or whoever created the image) is ripping it completely out of context. And she had to amputate the first part of the verse in order to do so. Here’s the whole verse:

Of Benjamin he said, “May the beloved of the Lord live in security beside Him Who shields him all the day long, And he lives between His shoulders.”

This isn’t some universally applicable verse, even if you’re a man. This is Moses blessing the twelve tribes of Israel prior to his death. Verse 1 of chapter 33 tells us just that: “Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the sons of Israel before his death.”

What your friend is doing is like finding a letter her dad wrote to her brother, scratching out her brother’s name, and writing in her own name instead. Yes, Dad loves her too, but this is her brother’s letter, and she’s stealing it.

Maybe this was just a one time “oopsie” in which your friend wasn’t very careful about what she was passing along on social media. We’ve all been guilty of that. If that’s the case, and everything else seems to be doctrinally sound, you could talk to her about it if you want, but I don’t see any harm in letting this one go. But if it seems more like a pattern or a downhill slide, yes, I’d pray for wisdom and an opportune moment and gently, yet firmly, talk to her about reverence for God’s Word, and rightly handling it.

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.