Mailbag, Speaking Engagements

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Joni’s testimony, “Messy”, Female seminary profs…)

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 also like to take the opportunity in these potpourrri 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 can be a helpful tool!

Our church has a ministry for the homeless where once a week, lunch is provided and a Bible Study is given usually by a woman, occasionally by a man to a mixture of both men and women. Some might be saved, probably most are not. What are your thoughts in regard to this situation from a Biblical perspective?

Great question! I’ve answered it in #11 of my article Rock Your Role FAQs.

We watched a video of Joni Eareckson Tada speaking at a recent Shepherds Conference. She gave her testimony and shared the meaning of Scripture and what some Greek words were so there was teaching going on as well as testimony. I know she is thought of highly but I was wondering about her speaking and teaching to groups of men.

Joni is not someone I follow closely, though I did read her first book, Joni, when I was a teenager. John MacArthur heads up the Shepherds Conference, which is a conference for men in church leadership, particularly pastors (“shepherds”).

Just to give a little background for anyone not familiar with him, Dr. MacArthur is a staunch complementarian and is a doctrinally sound pastor, teacher, and author I am happy to recommend to my readers. He would never invite a woman to preach at ShepCon nor invite a doctrinally unsound speaker. So I trust Dr. MacArthur’s judgment and reasons for inviting her to speak – that he was not inviting her to preach.

That foundation being laid, there are instances in which it is perfectly biblically appropriate for a woman to speak in front of a co-ed Christian group or a group of Christian men, and giving her testimony – so long as she does not veer off into preaching (instructing and/or exhorting men in the Scriptures) – is one of them. I’ve written more about that, giving examples, in these articles:

Rock Your Role FAQs (#7, 14)

The Mailbag: Should women give testimonies and reports, lead prayer and worship in church?

I have not listened to the talk Joni gave at ShepCon. It is possible that I would think her explanations of Scripture crossed the line into teaching, but it is also possible I would not. I just can’t say since I haven’t listened to it. (I would not consider giving the definition of a Greek word or two to be the type of biblical instruction prohibited by 1 Timothy 2:12.)

I would be more inclined to look at Joni’s history and intentions. Did she come to ShepCon with the intent of preaching or instructing men in the Scriptures? Does she have a track record of preaching sermons or giving Bible instruction to men at conferences? If the answer to both is no and she is normally very careful to stay within the parameters of biblical womanhood, I’d be inclined to extend grace on any bobbles she made during her testimony at ShepCon. It’s a very fine line to walk, and I’m sure I would probably make a few mistakes too if I were in that situation.

Update: Thanks to reader DebbieLynne (see comments section) for the heads up that Joni actually gave her testimony at the Strange Fire Conference (2013, also spearheaded by John MacArthur), not at the Shepherds Conference. Strange Fire was co-ed rather than men only. Whether or not women were in attendance at the conference doesn’t really change my answer to the reader, but it’s good to have the facts straight.

Is it OK for women to teach pastors-in-training at seminaries?

John Piper recently answered this question on an episode of Ask Pastor John. You should read his response for yourself (it’s not long), but, essentially his answer was that experienced pastor-mentors should be training up young pastors, and since it is unbiblical for women to serve as pastors themselves, they lack the experience necessary to mentor pastors-in-training. And, my word, the egalitarian world had a fit – including Beth Moore and her daughter Melissa (who helps run Beth’s ministry):

While I consider him to be a generally doctrinally sound brother in Christ, I’m not particularly a fan of John Piper, but I do want to say that I think his answer was taken wildly out of context by those pushing unbiblical agendas, that he was treated shabbily by many on social media, and that I thought his answer was very good, biblical, and just plain old made sense. Women are not qualified to serve as pastors. Why on earth would we want them training pastors? Moreover, what student wouldn’t want the most qualified and experienced professors he could get for his tuition money?

Let’s say you were the dean of the neurosurgery department at a medical school. A gentleman, totally blind from birth, comes in and applies for a position teaching surgical practicum (cutting, suturing, removing tumors, etc.). He has held positions teaching various subjects at other universities so his ability to impart information is not in question, but he has never performed surgery in his life because he’s blind. Would you hire him to train neurosurgeons to perform brain surgery?

The reason Dr. Piper’s answer caused a bit of a kerfuffle is that he limited his answer to the question he was asked. Imagine that. He was asked if women should train pastors and that’s the question he answered. The agenda-driven screaming neemies took his answer of “no” to mean that no woman should ever teach anything to anyone in any seminary anywhere ever. That is not what Dr. Piper said. He said women should not train men for the pastorate.

I would have answered the same way. However, if I were to expand on Dr. Piper’s answer, what I would further explain is that most seminaries (at least the ones I’m familiar with) do far more than simply train men for the pastorate. Take the seminary my husband attended for example, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. If you’ll click on the “Academics and Admissions” tab at the top of the page and examine the various degree and non-degree programs, you’ll find that most of them are not strictly preaching programs. There are programs for women’s ministry and children’s ministry (Surely we wouldn’t say women are unqualified to teach in these areas?), college ministry, urban ministry, music ministry, missions, counseling, languages, and many more. There’s nothing wrong with women teaching things like music theory, finance, general education classes like math, history, and English, archaeology, legal issues, languages, business, etc., even in a seminary.

There are definitely some classes women shouldn’t be teaching in seminaries, but there are plenty of other classes that would be fine for them to teach.

Since we’ve become parents my husband and I have mostly attended churches that were larger and offered childcare. We were saved out of Mormonism eight years ago which has its own order of services and no childcare provided for the main service, but I don’t know what to expect from a Christian service that doesn’t offer childcare. I don’t know what will be expected of me and my family. I have a four-year-old and I worry that he will end up running around or asleep on the pew. Do we call ahead? Pack a busy bag? Are snacks alright? How do you ever get anything out of the service for yourself?

Before I answer, I want to encourage readers who are experienced church members to really let this precious sister’s question sink in and inform the way you respond to visitors and new members. Increasingly, the people who are new to your church will have very little church background. Church culture may be old hat to you, but it’s like landing on Mars to many of them. They have no idea where to go or what to do, and they don’t speak Christianese. Make sure you warmly welcome and encourage newbies and let them know that it’s OK to ask questions.

I think my article Churchmanship 101: Training Your Child to Behave in Church will help with some practical tips and expectations. You should not allow your child to run around the sanctuary during the worship service any more than you would allow him to run around a restaurant if you went out to eat, or a store if you were shopping, but I would not get overly stressed about him making a few minor noises or dropping the occasional Bible during church. If a church doesn’t offer childcare, they’re surely used to children making a little noise during the service from time to time. Sermon-time naps at four years old are not the end of the world, but you’ll want to curb those as he approaches school-age (if he can stay awake all day in school, he can stay awake for 30 minutes or an hour in church).

Until your child gets into the routine of attending worship and learns how you expect him to behave, you may not get very much out of the service. That’s just one of those parts of being a mom that we all have to accept – like stretch marks :0) But if you will be consistent and diligent as you train your child, he’ll get with the program soon enough.

When you ask if you should “call ahead”, if what you mean is calling the church office prior to Sunday and asking any questions you might have, that is a super idea! Most pastors I know would be delighted to chat on the phone or in person to welcome you to the church and help you feel at ease. That is the point at which I would ask about snacks. Different churches have different policies about food and drink in the sanctuary. I’ve never heard of one that wouldn’t allow a baby bottle, but some may not be keen on the idea of Cheerios ground into their carpet. You could also ask if they have a “cry room”. Some churches have set aside a room near the sanctuary where you can take a fussy baby or jumpy toddler. Many of them have the sermon “piped in” so you can listen until you go back into the worship service. You might also want to ask if the worship service is recorded and posted online so you can listen at home to any parts of the sermon you may have missed. Never be afraid to ask an honest and polite question.

I have been hearing the word messy a lot in reference to our lives..has this word replaced the word sin?

Well…I suppose it may have for those who are trying to sand off the sharp edges of the gospel, but the biblical term is sin, so that’s the correct word to use, despite how popular “messy”, or any other trendy word, might be.

Can you recommend any doctrinally sound female speakers for women’s events?

(I promise this is an actual question I recently received, not one I made up for promotional purposes! :0)

Yes, me. Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab at the top of this page for more information.

If I’m not really your cup of tea, or I’m too far away for your travel budget, I happily recommend any of the women listed under the “Recommended Bible Teachers” tab at the top of this page (although I’m not positive all of them do speaking engagements).

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.