Mailbag

The Mailbag: Husbands, pastors, and mentors- Which roles do they play in a Christian woman’s life?

 

I have three questions that are kind of related to each other:

1 Corinthians 14:35 says women should ask their husbands questions at home; how does this fit with women mentoring other women in Titus 2?

Where does a husband’s role end and where does the role of a godly older woman begin in terms of teaching younger women?

Are there areas where a pastor’s authority trumps a husband’s authority?

Thank you for your help.

These are really awesome questions. I love it when women ask questions that demonstrate that they’re digging into Scripture and thinking deeply about the things of God. It’s so exciting to me!

(Before I begin answering, let me just stipulate, as I usually do in articles about marriage, that the following statements assume a normal, relatively healthy, average marriage, not abusive marriages, extremely aberrant marriages, etc. Also, it’s not my intent to leave out my single sisters, but the reader asked specifically about married women, so that’s how I’m answering the questions.)

So let’s take each question separately…

1 Corinthians 14:35 says women should ask their husbands questions at home; how does this fit with women mentoring other women in Titus 2:3-5?

The first thing we need to do when we’re addressing questions like this is to look at each of these passages in context. This is a very simple study skill that will clear up nearly all instances of supposed contradictions in Scripture.

Read 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. What is the venue for Paul’s instructions in this passage? In other words, is he telling people how to behave at home? At work? At the movies? Look at the key phrases in verses 26 (“when you come together”) and 28,33b-35 (“in church”). Paul is giving instructions for how an orderly worship service is to be conducted. He is not making a blanket statement that any time any woman wants to know anything about Scripture or God or life in general that the only person she can ever ask questions of is her husband. What he’s saying is that in order to avoid chaos in the worship service, women are to sit down and be quiet during the preaching and teaching, rather than interrupting to comment or ask questions (one of the reasons Paul says this is that the women in the Corinthian church were doing just that – interrupting the preaching and teaching with questions and comments). If you read further in chapter 14, you’ll notice he places similar restrictions on prophesying and speaking in other languages to prevent chaos and confusion during the worship service. I’ve discussed this passage in further detail in my article Rock Your Role ~ Order in His Courts: Silencing Women?

Now read Titus 2. What’s the main idea of this chapter? Is it the same as the main idea of 1 Corinthians 14 – instructions for an orderly worship service? No. Verse 12 gives a nice summary of chapter 2: “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” That’s what this chapter is about. “Titus, here’s what your church members (and you) are to do and how they’re to conduct themselves as they go about the business of living as Christians in this world and in community with one another.” The older women teaching and training the younger women in verses 3-5 is not taking place during the worship service, but as these women go about daily life with one another. Today, this kind of teaching and training takes place in women’s Bible study classes, women’s fellowship groups, and in one on one discipleship, not in, nor instead of, the gathering of the whole church for worship.

So as we can see when we examine the context of both passages, 1 Corinthians 14:35 and Titus 2:3-5 are not in conflict, they’re actually in harmony, addressing two distinct ways women are to conduct themselves in two completely different venues.

 

Where does a husband’s role end and where does the role of a godly older woman begin in terms of teaching younger women?

I don’t think it’s really that discrete and linear, i.e. the husband teaches this list of topics the wife needs to be taught about and the godly older woman teaches that list of topics she needs to be taught about, and never the twain shall meet. It’s a much more informal and “whatever is needful at the moment” type of thing. Additionally, it’s going to vary from marriage to marriage. Some women have unsaved husbands. Some women are newly saved with husbands who have been saved for decades. Some husbands and wives are very private about everything, some are very open to others. So the balance between who (husband or older woman mentor) teaches what, and how much, and when, is going to look different in every marriage.

I would just offer a few guidelines:

• After your relationship with Christ, if you’re married, your highest allegiance is to your husband. He should be your best friend and first confidant, not a woman who’s mentoring you (or even your mother, sister, or female best friend). He should never feel like he’s in competition for your time, interest, or affinity with the woman who’s mentoring you, or that you esteem her on the same (or, perish the thought, higher) level of loyalty or emotional intimacy with him. If you’ve gotten that close to your mentor, you’re too close. Turn your attention toward your husband.

• Along those same lines, always keep in mind that God instructs you to submit to your husband, not your mentor. The only time you should ever follow your mentor’s advice over your husband’s desires is if your husband is asking you to do something the Bible clearly calls sin and your mentor is advising you to obey Scripture instead. (But even in that case, you’re not really choosing your mentor over your husband, you’re choosing to obey God rather than to sin.)

• There are some things that are private between a husband and wife that shouldn’t be shared with anyone, including a mentor. Which things? Again, that’s going to vary from marriage to marriage, but a few no no’s might include the private details of your sex life, your finances, and anything your husband would be embarrassed for someone else to know. Talk with your husband and ask if there’s anything he would rather you didn’t share with your mentor.

 

Are there areas where a pastor’s authority trumps a husband’s authority?

It really depends on what you have in mind when you ask that question.

If you’re talking about personal decisions made between a husband and wife, let’s say, for instance, whether or not to move to a certain part of town or whether or not the wife should take a part time job, it is not the pastor’s place to step in and overrule the husband’s decision, nor should the pastor have any expectation that the couple would obey any edicts he issues. If the couple goes to him for counseling or asks for his advice, he can certainly give it, but we never see any place in Scripture where a pastor has authority over another family’s decisions. The husband is responsible before God for leading his family, not the pastor.

But if you’re talking about a situation in the church, then yes, a pastor’s (or the elders’) authority – assuming he’s abiding by Scripture – trumps a husband’s authority, and pretty much every other church member’s authority as well. For example, a husband does not have the authority to walk up to the pastor and say, “I’m going to let my wife preach the sermon next Sunday,” or “My wife is going to take over this Sunday School classroom and use it as her personal office.”. If a husband were to say something like that, the pastor is well within his authority as shepherd of the church to say, “Oh no she’s not.”. The buck stops with the pastor when it comes to how the church runs, and he is responsible before God for making godly decisions for the church.

I’m aware that there are aberrant, fringe “churches” (many of them are some stripe of New Apostolic Reformation or extreme legalism/fundamentalism) out there in which the “pastor” has ultimate authority over every decision a family makes: where they live, how many children they have, what to name their children, whether and where each spouse should work, etc. If you’re in a so-called church like that, leave immediately and find a doctrinally sound church to join. A church doesn’t plunge to that depth of spiritual abuse without succumbing to other dangerous false doctrines along the way.


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.

Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ Discipleship Requires Relationship

Originally published September 30, 2016

discipleship-relationship

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

You probably know the verses above as the “Great Commission.” Jesus spoke these words to His disciples after His resurrection and before ascending back into Heaven, and they are still our marching orders as Christians today. It’s an action-packed passage, wouldn’t you say? Go. Make. Baptize. Teach. We are to be about the Lord’s business, not sitting around doing nothing or busying ourselves with other things to the exclusion or neglect of the task to which Christ has called us: sharing the gospel with the lost and training the saved to follow Christ.

But how do we put shoes on the Great Commission? What does it look like to “Go ye therefore” and carry out this action plan of making and teaching disciples of Christ in our day to day lives? Like so many other aspects of working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, there is no one size fits all checklist of specific, “do it this way” tasks to choose from. Why? Because God created you as a unique individual with a particular background and placed you in a certain life venue. Yours doesn’t look like mine, and mine doesn’t look like yours. And that’s a good thing. God has woven all of those elements together in our lives to place us in the exact spot He wants us in to glorify Him, grow in our own faith, and make the disciples He has specifically assigned us to reach in the way He wants us to reach them.

But while you may be counseling a fellow church member about her marriage and I might be teaching my children the book of Colossians and another sister might be praying with a hospitalized co-worker, there’s one thing that’s foundational to all these divergent discipling situations: relationship. You can’t disciple someone unless you have a relationship with her.

Now let me stop and clarify something here. I’m not saying you have to have a relationship with someone before you can evangelize her. We should absolutely be sharing the gospel with lost friends, family, and others we already have relationships with, but we can (and should) share the gospel with complete strangers we’ll never see again as well. When Jesus first called His disciples and said, “Come follow Me,” He didn’t, humanly speaking, know any of them, as far as we know.

But Jesus didn’t stop with the call, just like we’re not to stop with the conversion. He gathered those twelve guys to Himself and they literally did life together for the next three years. They lived together, ate together, traveled together, went to the temple together. Everything. Together. For three years. That’s what turned them into disciples- true followers: time spent together with Christ, learning from Him.

There were three main ways Christ discipled the Twelve: formal teaching (as with the Sermon on the Mount), situational teaching and correction (as when James and John wanted to sit on His right and left in the Kingdom), and setting an example (as when the disciples watched Jesus minister to Zacchaeus), and all of those methods required Jesus to spend time with and bond with the disciples. These weren’t mere acquaintances of His, they were brothers.

Is that what God is calling us to do today? Should we quit our jobs, gather up a dozen ladies, move in together, and disciple them? (Goodness, it almost sounds like a reality TV show, doesn’t it?) Probably not (Especially if you’re married and have children. In that case, your family members are your live in disciples.). But we do need to make sure we’re clearing time in our busy schedules to bond with women or children who need a “big sister” in Christ. Time to disciple them in the same ways Jesus did: formal teaching, situational teaching and correction, and setting an example. Work through a book of the Bible together, be a shoulder to cry on, pray with her when she’s had a bad day, go to the movies together, let her watch while you share the gospel with someone, have a cup of coffee. Develop that close, trusting relationship that creates a safe haven for confession of sin, sharing fears and inadequacies, instruction, rebuke, encouragement, grief, and rejoicing.

And it’s important that we do this, not only at the individual level, but at the church level as well. My church is somewhat large, with a few hundred or so in attendance each week. A few months ago, I hosted a fellowship for the ladies of my class, just so we could have some fun and get to know each other better. During the evening, I asked if anyone would be interested in a weekly women’s Bible study. Most indicated that it wouldn’t work out with their schedules, and we went on with the evening, sharing various things that were going on in our lives, and even stopping to pray for a few of the ladies who were struggling. Later, one of the ladies pulled me aside, told me how much she had enjoyed the evening, and said something so wise I’ll never forget it: “A weekly Bible study would be nice, but this evening is the kind of thing we need. We get good teaching in church and in Sunday School, but we never get to just sit around and talk and share our joys and struggles- our lives.” And she was right.

Yes, sometimes churches can go overboard on fellowship, but we’ve got to be careful not to swing too far the other direction to the point that we’re a group of isolated individuals who happen to be in the same place at the same time each week to receive good teaching and all go our separate ways when it’s over. Good, biblical, corporate teaching and worship are only one aspect of discipleship- the “theory” aspect of discipleship, if you will.

But what about the “applied” aspect of discipleship, where the rubber of the sermon meets the road of life’s circumstances? That’s where relationship comes in. There are women and children in your church who are fairly starving for someone to reach out to them, listen to them, help bear their burdens, explain how the Scriptures apply to what they’re going through today, give them a hug and an encouraging word. Is your church creating space for this to happen between individuals and in small groups? Are you encouraged to get involved in one another’s lives and walk through joys and sorrows together on a personal level?

Making disciples. Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes intentionality. It takes relationship. Jesus was willing to invest those precious resources into the lives of His disciples. Are we?

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Salvation, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ Sinatra Saints and Developing Disciples

Originally published September 7, 2018

“I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.”

My friend, who’s also in women’s ministry, and I were discussing a phenomenon we’re seeing more and more among professing Christian women (and among men, too, I’m sure). I call it “Sinatra Sin-drome”.

Most of us are too young to be able to remember Frank Sinatra in his heyday, but one of the songs he was best known for was My Way. The lyrics open with a man who’s near death looking back over his life. He recounts his adventures and regrets, the good times and the bad, but no matter what came his way, he faced life on his own terms. “I did it my way,” is the refrain woven into the fabric of the entire song. The last stanza is especially telling:

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way.¹

This man kneels all right. He kneels at the altar of self. Nobody else is going to tell him what to do. He’s going to do what he wants to do.

Most of the women my friend and I were discussing are either savvy enough or self-deceived enough that they would never dream of even thinking in these clear-cut terms, much less stating them so boldly. And yet, for many, their hearts beat to the rhythm of My Way.

One example of this kind of mindset – though it may have been an isolated incident in the lives of some women – came out in some of the comments on my recent Mailbag article, Should Christian women cover up while breastfeeding?. The sentiment behind the words from several women was, “What the Bible says about the shame of nakedness and denying self to serve others means less to me than: the law that says I have a right…the culture where I live that says it’s OK…my personal experience with the way my baby nurses that demands that I not cover up.”

It came out in a rather puzzling conversation I had with a reader, “B”, who sent me the link to my article on Priscilla Shirer and demanded to know why I think Priscilla is a false teacher (even though the article, which “B” claimed to have read, clearly demonstrates from Scripture why she’s a false teacher). It wasn’t that “B” didn’t have the information and Scriptures right in front of her, it was that she didn’t like what Scripture says about Priscilla. She loves Priscilla Shirer, so she’s willing to put her own feelings above what Scripture says.

It comes out constantly with the issue of women preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men in the church setting in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. “I feel called to preach.” “It’s OK if I teach this co-ed Sunday School class because I have my pastor’s/husband’s permission.” “I can preach a sermon to a mixed audience at this event, because it’s not in a church, it’s at a Christian conference.”

And it always comes out when the topic is Christian women dressing modestly. “I can wear what I want! If men have issues with lust, that’s their problem. They can just avert their eyes.”

Now, let’s be clear, any time you or I or anyone else sins, we are – consciously or subconsciously – saying through that sinful thought, word, or action, “I don’t care what the Bible says about this, I want to do what I want to do.” I’m sure my own words and actions have shouted that rebellion against God loud and clear on many occasions.

But there’s a difference between…

A Developing Disciple
A Christian who is striving to do things God’s way, who occasionally stumbles into sin or gives in to a momentary weakness of the flesh. When confronted with what Scripture says on the subject, she sorrowfully repents and submits to God’s Word.

and

A Sinatra Saint
A person who claims to be a Christian and generally aligns with what the Bible says as long as it agrees with her. When confronted with what Scripture plainly says about her beliefs or actions, she doesn’t repent, but digs in her heels and attempts to justify herself, often with claims like, “Well that’s just your opinion/interpretation,” or “That’s not really what that passage means.”

Sometimes it can be hard to come to grips with a difficult passage of Scripture that challenges something you’ve believed or done your whole life. (Hey, I’ve been there. It’s no picnic.) But the difference between a Developing Disciple and a Sinatra Saint is that the Developing Disciple will grapple with the passage with an overall desire to properly understand and submit to that Scripture, even if it’s hard, while, for the Sinatra Saint, it’s a no-brainer. Her opinions, feelings, or personal experiences win. Because it’s not just that one isolated issue, it’s her whole outlook and approach to life.

Am I saying that a woman who thinks it’s OK to let it all hang out while she’s nursing her baby isn’t saved? Of course not. What I’m saying is that if your general approach to life is, “I’m doing it my way and if the Bible wants to align with me, fine, and if not, that’s fine, too,” you’d better start examining your heart pretty carefully against Scripture to discover whether or not you’re actually saved.

Why? Because that’s what the Bible says. And if you claim to be a Christian, the Bible is your authority in life, not yourself.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

This isn’t just flowery, poetic language. When Christ saves a person, he literally changes that person into a new type of creature with a different way of thinking, different likes and dislikes, different goals, different responses.

Imagine if you had a magic wand and could change a house cat into an elephant. When the cat was a cat, he wanted to chase mice. Now that he’s an elephant, he’s afraid of mice. As a cat, he craved tuna, but as an elephant, he turns his trunk up at meat, preferring an herbivorous diet. No more baring his claws to scratch at an enemy; now he tramples and uses his tusks to ward off danger. The coziness of hearth and home? Nope. The elephant prefers the wide open savanna.

And all of that is nothing compared to the radical transformation that takes place in the heart of someone who has been genuinely regenerated by Christ.

Christ changes our mindset from the mind set on the flesh to the mind set on the Spirit:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Romans 8:5-9

Christ changes our will – from desiring what Satan desires to desiring what God desires:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.
John 8:44a

Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20a,21

Christ changes our behavior from willful disobedience to joyful obedience:

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
Luke 6:46

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. John 14:21a  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
1 John 2:4

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
1 John 2:3

Christ changes us from His enemies to His friends:

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:4

They are…haters of God
Romans 1:29b,30a

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 25:14

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:14-15

Christ changes us from believing Satan’s lies to believing God’s truth:

Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
John 8:43-47

Has there been a radical transformation like that in your heart and life as a result of repenting of your sin and placing your faith in Christ? You can be your own authority and have “I did it my way,” as the theme song of your life, but you can’t do that and be a Christian too. The two are mutually exclusive. It doesn’t matter if you’ve walked an aisle, made a “decision”, prayed a prayer, been baptized, joined a church, are a “good person”, and do all sorts of good deeds, if your heart and your desires aren’t generally oriented toward Christ, growing toward in Him and away from self, you aren’t saved.

But that can be remedied right now. The gospel is right there, ready for you to repent of your sins and believe. Take some uninterrupted time alone with God and measure your life and your heart against the plumb line of His Word. Is it “I did it my way,” or “I’ll do it Thy way.”?

Are you a Developing Disciple or a Sinatra Saint?


¹My Way. AZLyrics. https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/franksinatra/myway.html
Podcast Appearances

Throwback Thursday ~ Scripture Matters Podcast Guest Appearance: Women In Ministry

Originally posted December 8, 2017

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Richard Swartz, host of the Scripture Matters podcast. Listen in as we talk about some of the major issues in women’s ministry today, women’s discipleship, false teachers, and “golden calf tipping”. Richard and I also discussed the importance of husbands, fathers, and pastors protecting the souls of the women in their lives, so there’s something edifying for everyone!


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Need a speaker for a women’s conference or church event? Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!

Podcast Appearances

Throwback Thursday ~ Theology Gals Podcast Guest Appearance: Christian Discernment

Originally published December 15, 2017

Last week, it was my joy to sit down and chat for a while with Coleen Sharp, host of one of my favorite podcasts, Theology Gals. Listen in as we discuss discernment, what it is, how to exercise it biblically, and what to do if you’re seeing false teaching infiltrating your women’s ministry or church.

Episode 44: Christian Discernment with Michelle Lesley

 

Theology Gals has a wonderful Facebook discussion group you can join. Be sure to follow their Facebook and Twitter pages, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Theology Gals podcast!


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Need a speaker for a women’s conference or church event? Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!