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.

Podcast Appearances

Tulips & Honey Podcast Guest Appearance: Women’s Discipleship

 

Amy Spreeman (my co-host at A Word Fitly Spoken) and I had a super fun time interviewing on the Tulips & Honey podcast with Lauren and Emily. Listen in (and watch!) as we chat about women’s discipleship, older women mentoring younger women, the importance of the local church, and most importantly – where Amy and I each land on pineapple on pizza (spoiler alert – we are not in unity! :0)). We will upload the audio of the recording above to A Word Fitly Spoken’s podcast platforms and website next week in case you’d rather listen than watch.

You can subscribe to the Tulips & Honey podcast on a variety of podcast platforms. Be sure to check out their YouTube channel too, and give Tulips & Honey a follow on Facebook and Twitter.

My articles mentioned or touched on in the interview:

Rock Your Role

Rock Your Role: Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian

Women and False Teachers: Why Men Don’t Get It, and Why It’s Imperative That They Do

Searching for a new church?, Biblical Counseling, and Bible Studies tabs are at the top of this page.


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!

Discernment, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should I attend the “Bible” study to correct false doctrine?

 

I’ve been invited to join a ladies’ Bible study class that’s using a book by a well-known author and speaker. The woman who wrote the book is a false teacher. Should I accept the invitation and join the class in hopes of correcting the false doctrine that will be taught?

To join or not to join. I’ve been in the same situation myself, and I know many of my readers have as well. It can be a difficult decision to make. The Bible does say to avoid false teachers, but it also says they should be rebuked, and that older women are to “teach what is good, and so train the young women…that the word of God may not be reviled.”

My counsel to those who have expressed concern to me over studies by Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lysa TerKeurst, etc. taking place in their churches is to pray that God would give them wisdom as to whether they should attend the study and biblically refute all the false doctrine that comes up (the rebuking/training perspective) or whether they should decline to attend the study (the avoiding perspective), giving anyone who asks a biblical explanation as to why you won’t be participating (also, kind of rebuking/training). There are a lot of things to take into consideration as you begin working through Scripture and prayer to reach a decision.

First, where is your pastor in all of this? Why is he allowing a study to take place that uses materials authored by a false teacher? Maybe he is familiar with the author’s materials and approves of them (in which case you have a bigger issue than whether or not to attend this particular class). But maybe he’s a discerning-leaning guy who’s just not aware that this author teaches false doctrine.

Most pastors are extremely busy. They either don’t have the time or don’t know they need to make the time to vet the authors of the studies their church is using (I’m not excusing this state of affairs, I’m just saying- this is the reality we’re dealing with). And many of them simply assume that if the book comes from LifeWay (or another trusted Christian retailer), it must be OK. So, before making a decision about whether or not to attend the class, go to where the buck stops and humbly, patiently, and kindly find out where your pastor is about the issue. He might just pleasantly surprise you and cancel the class or insist that a doctrinally sound study be used instead, and your problem will be solved.

Next, if you’re married, what does your husband have to say about it? There may be a logistical conflict – he prefers you not to be out that late at night alone for safety reasons, your child has to be picked up from soccer at the time the class meets, etc. – that will immediately solve your dilemma, or there may be some other reason he doesn’t want you to attend the class. Since it’s not sinful to decline attending the class, if your husband says no, you need to respect his decision and decline to join. (You also need to discuss with your husband the issue of approaching the pastor about the study. He might prefer to be the one to talk to him, or he might prefer the two of you talk to the pastor together, rather than you approaching the pastor on your own.)

But even if your husband leaves the decision up to you, ask for his counsel and perspective. Simply by virtue of being a man, a person with his own unique thought processes, and someone who knows you well, he can add invaluable insight that can help you reach a wise decision. This was certainly the case for me when I was faced with this situation. I was leaning toward declining to attend the study, but my husband gave me a whole new perspective and encouraged me to get involved in order to be a corrective influence and godly example to the other ladies. And he was right!

If you’ve talked to your pastor and your husband and the dilemma is still before you, there are several things you need to think, pray, and study through as you’re working toward a decision:

☙Are you biblically knowledgeable enough to recognize and properly refute false doctrine? (It might help to get the perspective of your pastor, your husband, or a mature believer who knows you well and who will be honest with you.)

☙Do you have the extra time to study and make notes ahead of time so you’ll be prepared to refute, with Scripture, during class?

☙Is the study so replete with false doctrine that you’ll have to constantly be speaking up and people will just be annoyed and tune you out?

☙Does your conscience prevent you from financially supporting the false teacher by buying her book for the study?

☙Would it make a bigger impact on this particular group of ladies for you to attend and refute or to decline to attend with explanation? (Consider your influence on them, your reputation for sound doctrine among them, the dynamics of the group, etc.)

☙What will be the repercussions of your actions (whether you decide to attend or decline) on the church at large? How might your family and/or your pastor be affected?

☙Are you spiritually and emotionally prepared for the harsh backlash you will probably receive for refuting? Can you stand firm in the face of that, or will you cave?

☙Are you in the “cage stage” of discernment with a “mow ‘em down!” disposition to match, or do you have the self-control required to follow the instruction of 2 Timothy 2:24-26: to be patient, kind, and not quarrelsome? Do you understand that the goal of discernment is to humbly rescue captives, not to prove how right and knowledgeable you are?

☙Think outside the box. Is there another way to handle this situation besides attending/refuting and declining to attend? What about you (or a spiritually mature woman in your church- someone who is able to teach) offering to teach an alternative class that studies a book of the Bible?

There’s no one size fits all answer to this question. Either of these options (or another) could be biblically wise depending on the people and situations involved. Talk to your husband and your pastor. Examine what God’s word says about false teachers. Pray for wisdom. Follow your biblically-informed conscience.


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.

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Titus 2

titus 2 3 4

Titus 2

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 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, andsubmissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Who wrote the book of Titus? Who was the audience of the book of Titus? Which genre of biblical literature is Titus (history, poetry, epistle, etc.)? What is the theme of Titus? If you have a few minutes, read the whole book – all three chapters (the longest of which is 16 verses) – of Titus.

2. In verses 2-12 Paul addresses character attributes that certain people are to display. Who are the people, and what are the attributes he mentions for each? What are the similar or dissimilar attributes these people are to display? How does the word “likewise” (3,6) connect similar attributes?

O____ M__ (2):

O____ W____ (3):

Y____ W____ (4-5):

Y____ M__ (6):

T____ (“yourself”) (7-8):

B________ (9-10):

A__ P____ (11-12):

3. Verses 3-5 outline two very important roles for older and younger women in the church. What is the role of older women? Younger women? Examine the things older women are to teach and younger women are to learn. What are some practical ways you can carry out these instructions in your life and in the church as an older or younger woman?

4. How can we apply Paul’s instructions to “bondservants” (9-10) to our lives today? What can we learn from these verses about being a godly employee?

5. What do verses 5, 8, 10, and 14, tell us is the reason for believers to be people of godly character? What is the main idea of this chapter?