Christian women, Complementarianism, Ministry, Sin

Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue

When it comes to Christianity, are the specifics of what people believe important?

I think most of us would answer a resounding “yes” to that question. Of course, the various concepts we believe are important. You can’t just believe anything you like and still be a Christian. There are certain things you must believe in order to become a Christian at all, and there are certain things you will come to believe because you are a genuinely regenerated Christian. But what are those things, and how do we know which is which?

Maybe you’ve heard the terms “essential doctrines” or “primary, secondary, and tertiary theological issues” or “first, second, and third tier levels of doctrine”? For years, theologians have been attempting to organize beliefs of the Christian faith – all drawn from the Bible, naturally – into nice neat categories in order to make things a little simpler. As someone who thrives on organization and categories, I’m grateful for their efforts. But if you begin to study this categorization of beliefs, you’ll find that we haven’t reached an across the board consensus yet.

Generally speaking, “essential”, “primary”, or “first tier” doctrines are those which you, biblically, have to believe in order to become a Christian and/or be considered a Christian. For example:

✢ Sin is a thing, and I am a sinner.

✢ God exists and is the supreme authority of the universe.

✢ Jesus was God in human flesh.

✢ Jesus rose bodily from the grave.

See how this works? If you don’t believe you’re a sinner, you’re not saved. If you don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, you’re not saved. Here’s how our friend, Pastor Gabe, briefly outlines essential doctrines:

 

(Gabe later tweaked the acrostic a little and added an “S”, which I think is helpful.)

The vast majority of brand new Christians have only the most basic understanding of most of these tenets at the moment of salvation. But it’s not an issue of fully understanding – or else we’d all have to be theologians in order to get saved – it’s an issue of believing. Someone who is genuinely regenerated may not completely understand how the Trinity works (honestly, no one does), but when she’s introduced to the biblical idea of the Trinity, she believes it, learns more about it, and does not reject it.

There is typically agreement among most reputable theologians regarding what constitutes first tier doctrine. Scripture is clear about these things, and several of these issues were settled long ago by the church fathers in assorted church councils (Nicea, Chalcedon, etc.)

Secondary issues are routinely defined as non-salvific but still extremely biblically important, if not quite as biblically clear-cut as primary issues. Doctrines surrounding baptism (credo versus paedo, affusion versus immersion), for example, are usually cited as a secondary issue. A disagreement on a secondary issue doesn’t mean one person is saved and another isn’t, but it normally prevents close partnership in ministry activities involving these issues. For example, my Presbyterian friends and I can join together in pro-life ministry, but we would most likely not plant a church together.

Tertiary issues are non-salvific, less immediately urgent, biblical issues in which the Bible is even less clear-cut and open to wider (yet still biblical) interpretation. These are issues over which Christians can disagree and still maintain close doctrinal fellowship, even in the same church, if they’re in agreement on first and second tier doctrine. Eschatology – the order and timing of events at Jesus’ second coming – is a doctrine that’s often considered third tier. Someone can hold a different eschatological view than mine, yet it doesn’t affect our ability to worship together, work together, or participate in the ordinances together in the same church.

Some theologians add a fourth category – issues of adiaphora, conscience, or Christian liberty. Usually these are issues of much less importance that the Bible either doesn’t specifically address, or doesn’t give commands about one way or the other. Individual Christians may use biblical principles to inform their consciences and decide for themselves. These would be things like whether or not to take your child trick-or-treating or deciding whether to dress formally or casually for church.

While theologians are largely in agreement about primary doctrines, there is wider spread disagreement on which doctrines are secondary and tertiary (many consider eschatology to be a second tier doctrine, for example) and whether or not there is a need for a category of adiaphora, since such issues are normally not considered to be “doctrinal” issues. In fact, there’s enough space for disagreement that pastors and theologians often wisely refrain from making concrete lists of secondary and tertiary doctrines.

But when we’re talking about the different levels of doctrine, what you won’t find is questions like these: Is murder a first, second, or third tier doctrine? What about gossip? Rape? Adultery? Lying? Gluttony? Pride?

And it’s not because these issues aren’t important or because the Bible doesn’t address them. It’s because they’re in a different category from the other issues: the category of sin. They aren’t doctrines upon which salvation hinges, they aren’t open to interpretation, and the Bible is clear that we are absolutely not to do these things.

In 2005, Dr. Albert Mohler wrote an excellent article about the different levels of doctrine entitled A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity. He carefully explains the importance of each level of doctrine and what it covers in a plea to keep each level’s urgency in its proper place of significance during discussion, debate, and decision-making.

It was a helpful article to which I always refer people who have questions about tiers of doctrine, and I agree with Dr. Mohler’s thoughts wholeheartedly (as I usually do) …except on one point:

“In recent years, the issue of women serving as pastors has emerged as another second-order issue.”

Women serving as pastors, women preaching, women teaching men Scripture in the church, and women exercising authority over men in the church is not a secondary issue. Nor is it a primary or tertiary one. It does not belong in the category of “doctrine” in the same way baptism and eschatology do. It belongs in the category of sin in the same way murder, gossip, and adultery do. Let’s take a look at the reasons for this.

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:12

(The preponderance of Scripture supports and affirms this concept, so to keep things simple, we’ll use this verse as an exemplar.)

✢ The prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 is a clear command against a certain behavior. And when we behave in a way God has prohibited, that is called “sin”. All of the tenets in the three levels of doctrine are affirmative statements regarding beliefs (you must believe in the resurrection of Christ, we believe in baptism by immersion, etc.). None of them are commands, in the negative, against sinful behavior (Thou shalt not murder, I do not permit a woman to teach… etc.)

✢ Secondary and tertiary doctrines can be open – to varying degrees – to biblical interpretation. Every stripe of non-heretical eschatological thought can provide you with chapter and verse passages that can, depending on the angle from which you approach the subject, be biblically plausible and scripturally supported. There is no biblical support for anything God prohibits. No one can cite a properly handled, in context Bible verse in which God says, “It’s OK to commit adultery,” or “Women are allowed to preach.” There can be multiple views on a secondary or tertiary issue that can all be considered biblical, but there can only be one view of sin that is biblical.

✢ Differing beliefs on true secondary and tertiary issues are not sin. My Presbyterian friends have a different view of baptism than I do. That doesn’t mean either of us is sinning. I may think their interpretations of the verses they believe support paedo baptism are incorrect, but they are not breaking any of God’s commands. Differing behavior (again, we see the distinction between doctrinal belief and sinful behavior) on issues of sin is sin. If someone behaves differently from God’s command about lying, she is sinning. If a woman behaves differently from God’s command in 1 Timothy 2:12, she is sinning.

✢ Differing beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Usually, it’s quite the opposite. When someone has studied a theological issue enough to hold a particular position on it, it’s usually because she is striving to please God and to be biblical in her beliefs. Differing behavior on issues of sin is born out of disobedience and rebellion toward God. Someone who steals has already decided in her heart that her desires are better than God’s command. A woman who knowingly holds improper authority over men in her church is doing so because she has already decided to defy God’s clear command against such.

✢ Because different beliefs on secondary and tertiary issues are not born of rebellion and are not sin, they do not require church discipline. Sin does require church discipline. If someone in your church is openly dishonoring her parents, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. If a woman is pursuing a career as a pastor, she is sinning and should be subject to church discipline. 

Since the publication of Dr. Mohler’s article (and perhaps as a result of others teaching the same thing) the idea of the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 being a “secondary doctrine” has spread in a most unhelpful way, leading many Christians to treat the issue in a c’est la vie, “We can just agree to disagree on this,” manner.

No, we cannot.

We would not say, “We can agree to disagree,” on lying or adultery or homosexuality or abortion, and we cannot say it about women preaching, teaching men, or holding unbiblical authority, either. We disciple and teach a sister in Christ who is unaware of what the Bible says on these matters, and if she is committing any of these sins, we begin the process of church discipline. But it would not be loving toward her, or honoring God, to allow her to continue in biblical ignorance or in willful sin.

Furthermore, the violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 brings with it dangers to the church that true secondary and tertiary issues, and even many sins, do not.

I have mentioned several times when dealing with this issue that women preaching to men is highly correlated with women teaching false doctrine. I have researched scores of women teachers. Every single one of them who unrepentantly teaches men also teaches false doctrine in some other aspect of her theology (usually Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation). In other words, if a woman teaches men, you can just about take it to the bank that she also teaches false doctrine. False doctrine and heresy are infecting the church – via female preachers – at an alarming rate.

We dare not simply “agree to disagree” on this.

The violation of God’s command that women are not to instruct men in the Scriptures nor hold improper authority over men is a sin like any other. It is not a doctrinal issue in the same sense that other second and third tier doctrines are. If left undisciplined, however, it can lead to first tier doctrinal issues infiltrating a church and eventually destroying it. It is detrimental to the church to label and treat any sin as a secondary doctrinal issue.

Complementarianism

Throwback Thursday ~ Fencing Off the Forbidden Fruit Tree

Originally published April 26, 201612792388_1038946969485405_6014948087227704745_o

Often, with regard to 1 Timothy 2:12, husbands and pastors will reassure a woman that it’s OK for her to teach that co-ed Sunday School class or step into a church leadership role reserved for men because she’ll be doing so “under his [husband’s or pastor’s] authority.” A reader recently asked me about this, and I wanted to share my (slightly modified) response to her with you.

“When God tells us (in context, rightly handled, correct covenant, etc., of course) not to do something and we do it anyway, that is sin, right? Only God has the authority to say what is sin and what is not. No one – not your pastor, your husband, your parents, your best friend, the Pope, nobody – has the authority to tell you that it’s OK to do something God has said is sin. That authority belongs to God alone.

Try inserting any other sin into that situation. Does your husband, pastor, etc., have the authority to tell you it’s OK to lie? Cuss? Covet? Of course not. And why would they even consider doing such a thing?

My point exactly.

The issue here is that this particular sin (teaching/exercising authority over men) has become so acceptable in the church that we no longer even see it as sin. If you were to ask [your husband and pastor] to show you from Scripture where God says it’s OK for them to allow you to teach men, they would quickly realize that they are not basing their decision on Scripture (because there is no Scripture that allows them to do this), but on their own opinion that it’s OK, which has been heavily influenced by the fact that this sin is now so widely acceptable in the church at large.

Beth Moore is a perfect example of why husbands and pastors should not allow or encourage women to violate God’s word by teaching men. Beth Moore started out teaching a women’s Sunday school class in her home church. It grew. Men wanted to attend the class (a problem I’ve addressed here). She was hesitant, so she talked to her husband and pastor about it. They both told her it was OK because she would be teaching the men “under their authority” (despite the fact that there’s no passage of Scripture that allows them to say that or gives them the right to lay some sort of mantle of authority on her) That initial compromise led to another and another. Fast forward to today, and this is still the argument Beth Moore – in all of her false doctrinal glory – uses for preaching to men. And she has influenced thousands of women (and their husbands and pastors) to do the same.

But it doesn’t matter how sound our doctrine is, when women stand in front of co-ed groups and teach (or accept positions of authority over men in the church) we are teaching more than just what’s coming out of our mouths. We’re teaching that group of people by example that it’s OK for women to teach men. That God’s word can be ignored and disobeyed in this area while we stand there urging them to obey it in other areas. How can a woman exhort a group to obey God while she is standing there disobeying Him herself?”

It’s my prayer that we’ll begin to see more husbands and pastors uphold God’s word and protect their wives and female church members from sinning by encouraging them to fulfill all of the wonderful roles God has for women in the church and by fencing off that one tree in the garden that bears the forbidden fruit of teaching and exercising authority over men.

Additional Resources:

The Mother of All Rebellions: Having a Woman Preach on Mother’s Day

Why Asking Women to Preach Is Spiritual Abuse by Josh Buice

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Is it OK for Christian men to read Christian women’s blogs?

mailbag

As a man, am I not to read or seek to understand anything from your blog because a woman wrote it? (1 Timothy 2:12)

While other female bloggers might answer differently, as far as my personal position goes, the short answer to your question is no. Generally speaking, it’s not biblically problematic for a Christian man to read my blog because the blogosphere is not the gathering of the church body, and I’m not in any position of spiritual or practical authority over male readers (or even female readers for that matter). Additionally, when I write, I’m writing to instruct and edify women, not men. Male readers are sort of “eavesdropping” or “listening at the door.”

But I would encourage male readers to examine their motives for reading my blog. I have a number of godly male readers, including several pastors, who read my blog for a variety of reasons: they’re interested in a female perspective on various church and biblical issues, they want to use my perspective to better understand and help their wives or female church members, their wives or female church members read my blog and they’re keeping tabs on me to make sure those ladies are taught properly, they don’t have time to vet a certain Christian teacher, so they use my information on false and sound teachers as a resource, and there are those who are friends, whom I’ve asked to keep up with my blog so they can offer me correction as needed.

My thought is that any of those (or similar) reasons are fine and don’t even fall under the spirit of 1 Timothy 2:12, much less the letter. What I do feel would fall under the spirit of that passage would be a man seeking biblical instruction from me for his own personal walk with the Lord. For example- I run a Bible study for women every Wednesday on the blog, and the archives of my previous studies are under the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page. On my part, I’d feel scripturally uncomfortable if a man were using that as the basis for his quiet time rather than using something written by a man, or just studying his Bible. (By the way, if you’re looking for some godly male preachers and teachers, check the “Recommended Bible Teachers” tab at the top of this page.)

I guess the questions I would ask myself if I were a male reader are: What are my reasons for reading this? Is my motivation to receive instruction in Scripture that should really be coming from a male teacher or straight from God’s word? Is my conscience clear, based on God’s word, to go ahead and read this? How can I best honor God and His word in this situation?

I’ve written more extensively on this topic (and related topics) in these articles:

Adam 3.0: Meanwhile, Back in the Garden, It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

Are Female Bloggers Violating Scripture by “Teaching” Men?

Rock Your Role FAQs (#2)


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, 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.

Complementarianism

Fencing Off the Forbidden Fruit Tree

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I usually publish a mini-blog there each Sunday afternoon. Here’s a recent one.

12792388_1038946969485405_6014948087227704745_o

Often, with regard to 1 Timothy 2:12, husbands and pastors will reassure a woman that it’s OK for her to teach that co-ed Sunday School class or step into a church leadership role reserved for men because she’ll be doing so “under his [husband’s or pastor’s] authority.” A reader recently asked me about this, and I wanted to share my (slightly modified) response to her with you.

“When God tells us (in context, rightly handled, correct covenant, etc., of course) not to do something and we do it anyway, that is sin, right? Only God has the authority to say what is sin and what is not. No one – not your pastor, your husband, your parents, your best friend, the Pope, nobody – has the authority to tell you that it’s OK to do something God has said is sin. That authority belongs to God alone.

Try inserting any other sin into that situation. Does your husband, pastor, etc., have the authority to tell you it’s OK to lie? Cuss? Covet? Of course not. And why would they even consider doing such a thing?

My point exactly.

The issue here is that this particular sin (teaching/exercising authority over men) has become so acceptable in the church that we no longer even see it as sin. If you were to ask [your husband and pastor] to show you from Scripture where God says it’s OK for them to allow you to teach men, they would quickly realize that they are not basing their decision on Scripture (because there is no Scripture that allows them to do this), but on their own opinion that it’s OK, which has been heavily influenced by the fact that this sin is now so widely acceptable in the church at large.

Beth Moore is a perfect example of why husbands and pastors should not allow or encourage women to violate God’s word by teaching men. Beth Moore started out teaching a women’s Sunday school class in her home church. It grew. Men wanted to attend the class (a problem I’ve addressed here). She was hesitant, so she talked to her husband and pastor about it. They both told her it was OK because she would be teaching the men “under their authority” (despite the fact that there’s no passage of Scripture that allows them to say that or gives them the right to lay some sort of mantle of authority on her) That initial compromise led to another and another. Fast forward to today, and this is still the argument Beth Moore – in all of her false doctrinal glory – uses for preaching to men. And she has influenced thousands of women (and their husbands and pastors) to do the same.

But it doesn’t matter how sound our doctrine is, when women stand in front of co-ed groups and teach (or accept positions of authority over men in the church) we are teaching more than just what’s coming out of our mouths. We’re teaching that group of people by example that it’s OK for women to teach men. That God’s word can be ignored and disobeyed in this area while we stand there urging them to obey it in other areas. How can a woman exhort a group to obey God while she is standing there disobeying Him herself?”

It’s my prayer that we’ll begin to see more husbands and pastors uphold God’s word and protect their wives and female church members from sinning by encouraging them to fulfill all of the wonderful roles God has for women in the church and by fencing off that one tree in the garden that bears the forbidden fruit of teaching and exercising authority over men.

Additional Resources:

The Mother of All Rebellions: Having a Woman Preach on Mother’s Day

Why Asking Women to Preach Is Spiritual Abuse by Josh Buice

Rock Your Role

Rock Your Role FAQs

RYR FAQs

Rock Your Role is my series examining the “go to” and hot button Scriptures that relate to and help us understand our role as women in the church. The articles have garnered a lot of great questions from readers. I’ve been extremely encouraged to hear from so many women who love the Lord and want to obey Him. So, I thought it might be handy to have all of the questions and my answers¹, in one place.

1. Is a man violating Scripture if he seeks out or voluntarily sits under the teaching or preaching of a female Bible teacher or “pastor”?

Yes. Read more about that here.


2. Is there ever a time when it’s OK for a man to be in the room while a woman is teaching the Bible to other women?

Yes. There are some biblically legitimate reasons for a man to be in the room while a woman is teaching the Bible to other women. For example, if my pastor, an elder, or even my husband wanted to sit in on a Bible study I’m teaching to make sure I’m handling God’s word correctly and not teaching false doctrine to the women of the church, I would welcome that, and it would be perfectly biblical (frankly, more pastors, elders, and husbands should do just that). Likewise, it would be fine for a husband or father to sit in temporarily and check me out for his wife or daughter. Other scenarios might include a male reporter covering me or the class (I can’t imagine why anyone would, but…) or a male videographer recording the class.


3. What about Christian women bloggers and authors? Aren’t they teaching men if men read their writings?

The short answer is no. Click here for the long answer.


4. If I’m a member of a co-ed Bible study or Sunday School class led by a man, is it “teaching” the men in the class if I ask or answer a question, make a comment, or participate in the discussion?

No, assuming that this is a Q&A type of class in which discussion is encouraged (speaking out during a lecture-style class isn’t “teaching” either, its just disruptive and rude and would fall more under the 1 Corinthians 14 principle of being quiet so people can hear the pastor or teacher).

Asking and answering questions, making brief, appropriate comments, or participating in class discussion is not teaching any more than it would be if you were in a science or math class. The teacher is the one in the position of authority. He is supposed to be knowledgeable enough about what he’s teaching to guide the discussion and affirm insightful comments or correct misinformed comments. He is also in control of class logistics (for example, when to cut off discussion and return to teaching). In summary, the teacher is in charge, not you, and you are asking questions, commenting, and discussing under the umbrella of his authority and control.

If, however, a woman goes beyond simply asking or answering a question or commenting, essentially takes over the class, and begins lecturing everybody, that would be inappropriate.


5. What if I’m in a co-ed Bible study or Sunday School class taught by a man, and either the teacher or one of the male members of the class says something that’s in error, biblically? Should I speak out?

It really depends on the situation. Ideally, if a male member of the class makes an erroneous comment, the teacher should know the Bible well enough to correct him, or, at the very least, one of the other men in the class should do so. Likewise, if the teacher says something biblically off, the best case scenario would be for one of the men in the class to correct him (if you’re married, let your husband take the lead if he is with you and able to do so). If not, there are several factors to consider before jumping in with a corrective:

a) Are you sure you heard him correctly?

b) Is it possible he made a slip of the tongue and actually meant to say the right thing?

c) Does the majority of the class understand what he meant even if he accidentally chose the wrong word (for example, accidentally saying “Elisha” when the text is clearly about Elijah)?

d) Does this need to be corrected now so others won’t believe false doctrine, or is it something that you (or your husband) could talk to him about after class (think Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos)?

If the male teacher or class member says something incorrectly that’s unimportant, its best to just let it go. But if he says something completely unbiblical (and its not a slip of the tongue or a misunderstanding), nobody else is speaking up, and it can’t wait for a private discussion after class because it might lead others astray, then, yes, a correcting comment made gently, with a humble spirit, and backed up by Scripture is absolutely appropriate. A great way to seek or offer clarification in a way that’s not undermining or usurping the teacher is to ask a question rather than make a statement.


6. Is it OK for women to teach at Christian middle schools, high schools, or colleges?

Of course. A school, even a Christian school, is not a church. The biblical prohibition is against women teaching men the Scriptures, and applies to the gathering of the church. However, I believe it is most in keeping with the spirit of Scripture for a man to teach (co-ed) Bible classes starting around the middle school level. And, since chapel is a worship service, it should be led by a biblically qualified man.


7. What about women preaching or teaching the Bible (to Christians) at a Bible study / small group in someone’s home, the workplace, a coffee shop, etc., at co-ed Christian conferences, campus ministries, youth ministries, or parachurch ministries? Is that OK since they’re not preaching and teaching “in the church”? 

Here, we need to remember what the definition of “church” is. The church is not a building, it is a body of born again believers gathered for the purpose of worship, prayer, the ordinances, and/or the study of God’s word. Those things can take place in a church building, a home (as with the first century churches in Acts), in a campus or office building, outdoors, in a conference center, in a sports arena, or anywhere else. So, when a body of believers comes together for these purposes, regardless of the building in which they meet, or whether you call it “church” or not, they are the church, and the biblical parameters about women teaching and holding authority over men applies.

This includes leading or facilitating co-ed Bible study groups / small groups meeting in homes. They should be led by men, and if the regular male leader is occasionally unable to lead, another man should fill in for him. (More here, 3rd section)

There are occasions when it is perfectly appropriate for a woman to address a co-ed audience at a Christian conference. For example, a woman who’s a computer expert teaching a breakout session on software that can be helpful to the church, or a woman experienced in children’s ministry teaching a session on security screening procedures, background checks, etc., or possibly even a situation like a women’s ministry leader addressing a group of pastors to give them insight into the struggles particular to Christian women, false teachers popular among Christian women, or how pastors can help the women in their church. The speaker would merely be handing the pastors a tool they can take back to their churches and implement. It’s akin to a nurse handing a doctor a scalpel during surgery so he can use it to operate. The biblical prohibition is against women instructing men in the Scriptures and exercising authority over men, not sharing their expertise or disseminating information on non-biblical topics. So women should not be preaching or teaching Bible lessons to mixed audiences at conferences, but there are other types of conference teaching and leadership that are perfectly biblical.

All of that being said, women who teach and speak, especially in the public eye, should give strong consideration to whether or not to speak on biblically-related topics (ex: discipleship, women’s or children’s ministry, ecclesiology, etc.) to audiences containing men, even if they are not technically teaching the Bible in that particular session. For one thing, it is nearly impossible to divorce teaching biblical topics from teaching Scripture. Indeed, biblical topics should be rooted in, and saturated with Scripture in order to teach them properly. Additionally, there are so many high profile Christian celebrities who violate Scripture’s prohibition on women teaching men that women speakers should consider how much more counter-culturally impactful it could be to the church, and to setting an example for women, to refuse to teach men.

Pastor Josh Buice does a wonderful job of restricting co-ed conference teaching to male pastors and teachers, while allowing doctrinally sound women to teach women’s breakout sessions at the annual G3 Conference he founded and leads. He explains more about women teaching at conferences (and other issues related to women teaching in the church) in his excellent article Why Women Should Not Teach the Bible to Men.


8. I teach at a Christian high school. My pastor says our school is an extension of the church. Is it OK for me to give a brief devotion and prayer in home room as required by my job description?

Yes. Again, regardless of what church or denominational leaders say about a Christian school being an extension, ministry, or outreach of the church, the fact of the matter is that a Christian school is not the same entity as a church. They are two different entities with two different purposes, parameters, and audiences (I mean, your church doesn’t charge tuition, right? And your school teaches subjects other than the Bible, yes? They’re different.).

The biblical admonition pertains to the church- the body of believers gathered for worship. These students are not gathered for worship, they are gathered for school, and the majority of them are probably not even believers. Additionally, these students are not yet adults, and are under your authority as their teacher in the classroom (similar to parental authority), not as their spiritual leader in a Bible study type of situation.


9. If I’m listening to a female Bible teacher and my husband walks through the room, should I turn off the program so he isn’t “taught” by the woman I’m listening to?

No, that’s not necessary. A man who overhears a female Bible teacher you’re listening to as he’s walking through the room is no more being “taught” than someone who gets a pie in the face is “eating.” He’s likely not even paying attention to it.


10. If I’m teaching a women’s Bible study and a man comes in wanting to join the class, should I stop teaching and ask him to leave? Should I put a sign on the door that says “women only”?

If you feel that a sign on the door would be helpful, then, by all means, post a sign. Usually if you advertise (on fliers, in announcements, etc.) the class as a “women’s Bible study” ahead of time, men get the picture and don’t show up.

If a man comes to your women’s Bible study and he isn’t there for another legitimate reason (such as the ones I mentioned earlier) but has come to the class seeking to be taught the Bible for himself, it would absolutely be appropriate for a female teacher to gently say something when he comes in like, “I’m sorry, but this is a women’s only class. Maybe you were looking for Joe Blow’s class down the hall?” Be kind. These days a lot of men don’t even know it’s unbiblical for a woman to teach men.


11. What about evangelism? Can women share the gospel with men at work, among friends and family, at the store, through an outreach ministry?

Women not only can share the gospel at every opportunity, the Great Commission mandates it for every Christian. However, it is important for godly women to use caution and wisdom when interacting with men in any situation, especially one that can turn out to be very personal and emotionally intimate, as with witnessing.

My counsel would be that you’re generally OK if you’re in a public place and it’s a one time encounter (for example, witnessing to a stranger at the store). However, if we’re talking about multiple encounters – for example, a male friend or co-worker who wants to continue meeting with you over time to talk about the gospel – it might be best to meet with him a couple of times (in a public area) and then “hand him off” to your husband, pastor, elder, brother, friend, etc., for further discussion.

There are several reasons for this.

It protects your reputation. If people see you meeting with a man on an ongoing basis (especially if one or both of you are married) they can jump to the wrong conclusion, and your reputation, and Christ’s, can be sullied.

It protects your virtue. Unfortunately, some men, who have no interest in the gospel, might see your eagerness to meet with them as an opportunity to take advantage of you.

It protects both of you from temptation. A personal relationship with Christ is exactly that- personal. Discussing sin, conviction, and other matters related to salvation can lead to emotional intimacy, which can then lead to physical intimacy. You don’t want what started as a witnessing encounter to end up as sin.

When it comes to outreach ministries (for example, a meal for the homeless, followed by a group gospel presentation or Bible lesson), it’s best for a man to lead co-ed (or male only) adult groups in anything that could be construed as preaching or teaching the Bible. Not because this is in the church setting and the situation falls directly under the parameters of 1 Timothy 2:12, but because…

…there are a lot of highly visible female preachers (Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Gloria Copeland, Christine Caine, etc.) out there, all of whom are in disobedience to 1 Timothy 2:12 and teach false doctrine (usually Word of Faith/New Apostolic Reformation).

The Bible says we’re to avoid even the appearance of evil, and you don’t want to appear to be one of those women if it’s avoidable. Having a man lead the teaching helps distance you and your church from those types of sinful women and their bad theology, and sets a godly example for the people you’re ministering to.

…the Great Commission is clear that we’re not just to make converts, we’re to make disciples. That means the ultimate goal of evangelism is to get the newly saved person plugged in to a local, biblical church. Why confuse a new Christian by having women lead out “in the field” when it’s not going to be that way in the church?

…there are very few examples in the world of what it really means to be a man. Men are constantly emasculated on TV and in society and receive all kinds of conflicting messages regarding what real manhood is. What an impact on lost men (and women) to see an example of a godly, masculine man who leads well, fulfills his duties and responsibilities, and is totally sold out to Christ. If you have someone like that, why wouldn’t you want him to lead?

Basic Training: The Great Commission

The Mailbag: Is it biblical for women to carry out The Great Commission?

Evangelism at Theology Gals


12. What about teaching my sons the Bible? Should I stop when they are teenagers?

This is a little bit of a different question because now we’re talking about the home instead of the church. We’re also talking about minor children who are under your authority as a parent rather than men or youth in your church who are not under your authority. Additionally, there is no Scripture which clearly addresses a specific age at which a mother should stop formally teaching her sons the Bible.

Ideally, Dad should regularly lead the whole family in Bible study, because the Bible says he is to be the spiritual leader of the home. But if your husband is OK with you also teaching your sons the Bible at another time of day in a way that complements what he’s doing in family worship time, there’s no biblical problem with that.

My husband leads our family worship, but I also teach my teenage sons a chapter of the Bible every morning before we start school. My husband is fine with that because it goes hand in hand with what he’s doing as our spiritual leader.

My counsel would be to talk it over with your husband and decide together what would be right for your family according to the limited biblical principles we have that address this issue. My thought is that as long as long as these children are in your home under your parental authority, and your husband is OK with it, it’s fine to formally teach them the Bible.


13. What about teaching the boys in my church’s youth group?

Women should not serve as youth pastors. The Bible restricts pastoral and elder roles to men.

As to teaching the Bible to co-ed groups of minors (in Sunday School, as a youth helper, etc.), there is no hard and fast rule, but my recommendation is that a good time for women to break from teaching boys at church is around the time they start middle school. In the Bible, boys traditionally moved from childhood to adulthood at age thirteen. Jesus exhibited growth toward manhood and engaged the rabbis in the temple at age twelve. Of course, these are both anecdotal and neither means this age is the basis of any sort of law for Christian women about teaching boys, but there seems to be some wisdom there- a good rule of thumb. Once they hit their early teens, boys really need the guidance of godly men who can lead by example and teach them what it means to grow into godly manhood. When it comes to teaching adolescent boys at church, it’s much less about what women are “allowed” to do and much more about the best way to grow godly men. Only men can train boys to be men.


14. Is it OK for women to make announcements, or give mission reports or personal testimonies during the worship service?

I don’t see why these would be a problem biblically, as long as she doesn’t veer off into preaching, exhorting, or instructing the congregation… (See the remainder of my answer to this question in #2 of this article and in this article.)


15. Should women lead prayers or read Scripture aloud (verbatim, no commentary or teaching) from the platform during the worship service?

I would discourage both for a couple of reasons.

First, while neither is technically a violation of the “letter of the law,” so to speak, in the times we live in where so many women and their churches are in rebellion against the biblical role of women in the church, having a woman lead prayer or read Scripture from the pulpit or platform may send a message – to visitors and church members – that your church doesn’t want to send.

If a visitor walks in and sees a woman leading in this way she could draw the conclusion that your church is egalitarian. If she’s looking for an egalitarian church and thinks she’s found one, you’ll eventually have to disabuse her of that idea, possibly months down the road after she has already joined the church. If a visitor who’s complementarian comes in and sees women leading in this way, she could also draw the conclusion that your church is egalitarian and get up in the middle of the service and leave before you have a chance to explain the situation. The same kinds of conclusions could be drawn by the members of your church with similar results, causing unrest in your church. Why put a stumbling block in front of your visitors or members?

Second, there seems to be a tragic dearth of male leadership in the church in general. So many men are either too lazy or too afraid to lead, or they see very few examples of what leadership by a godly man looks like. I think it would be great for the pastor to sometimes ask men who need to learn leadership skills to dip a toe in the water by leading a prayer during church, and at other times ask a spiritually mature man to model leadership skills by leading prayer during worship. Sometimes, these kinds of situations aren’t about women’s roles, but men’s needs.


16. Should women serve as worship leaders? What about singing solos, singing in the choir, playing an instrument, etc.?

No, women should not serve as the worship leader. The primary reason I say this has more to do with the position of minister of music – a term I think we need to get back to – than the role of women in the church. For the secondary reason, see #15 above…Singing in the choir or on the praise team, singing solos, playing an instrument, etc., under the leadership of the minister of music, is, of course, fine… (See the remainder of my answer to this question in #4 of this article.)


17. Should women serve as deacons/deaconesses?

It could be perfectly biblical if we’re using a Scriptural understanding of a deaconess’s duties and position, not the understanding many churches currently have of the (male) office of deacon. In many churches male deacons function as, and are given the authority of elders, carrying out teaching, leadership, authority, and other duties and characteristics that would be biblically inappropriate for women… (See the remainder of my answer to this question in this article.)


18. Can women be missionaries? Is it biblical for women to carry out the Great Commission?

Yes. Absolutely. In fact, we need more women – single and married – to serve as missionaries (more men, too). The only caveat is that women who serve as missionaries need to do so in a way that is in keeping with Scriptural principles of women’s roles in the church. (For example, female missionaries should not be pastoring churches on the mission field. A missionary’s job is to share the gospel with people and then disciple them in sound doctrine, and you don’t want to be teaching false doctrine through the act of preaching to men.) But there are oodles of mission opportunities that fit the bill… (See the remainder of my answer to this question in this article.

The Mailbag: Is it biblical for women to carry out The Great Commission?


19. Can women perform baptisms?

Although there is no biblical prohibition against it, what seems to be most in keeping with the pattern of both Scripture and church history is for pastors and elders to perform baptisms. This would preclude women, as well as most men, from performing baptisms. For more details, see my article Basic Training: Baptism.


20. I’ve heard people say it’s OK for women to preach or teach the Bible to co-ed groups as long as they are doing so under their pastor’s and/or husband’s authority. Is this true?

No. There is no Scripture that says it’s OK for pastors/husbands to extend some sort of mantel of authority to a woman to do these things. When God says “no” about something, no man has a right to say “yes.” I’ve written more about this in my article Fencing off the Forbidden Fruit Tree.


21. Is it biblical for women to serve as children’s directors or children’s pastors/ministers?

It could be, depending on the situation. (Women should not bear the title Children’s “Pastor” or “Minister”, though. Biblically, women are not pastors/ministers, so carrying that title would be dishonest and misleading.)

It is perfectly biblical for women to teach and lead children in the church setting. (And when I say “children”, I mean birth to about age 12. I’ve addressed women teaching youth/teens above in #13.) The biblical prohibition is against teaching and holding authority over men in the church. Male children are not men.

The potential 1 Timothy 2:12 issue is not with teaching and leading children or supervising other women who teach children. The issue at play is whether or not a female children’s director will be holding unbiblical authority over any men who work or volunteer in the children’s department as Sunday school teachers, Awana leaders, nursery workers, etc. And that’s something that’s got to be examined on a case by case basis. It could be completely biblical for a woman to serve as a children’s director in one church but not in another simply due to circumstances of the environment.

Does the church have only women working in the children’s department? Is there an associate pastor or elder over the female children’s director that handles any issues of authority? Would she have to train, evaluate, or correct male volunteers? What kinds of things would male volunteers need to come to her about? These and other questions all need to be carefully considered by her pastor, elders, husband, and the woman herself.

If a pastor or elder oversees the children’s director’s leadership so that she is acting under his authority and at his direction (including the pastor/elder vetting and approving any curricula and materials, guest speakers, activities, etc., she wishes to use), and she is not violating Scripture by preaching to men, teaching men Scripture, or exercising authority over men, I don’t see why it would be a problem for a woman to lead the children’s ministry. In fact, Christian women and churches who handle this properly could be a superb example and model for other Christian women and churches.


There are thousands of practical scenarios we could go through about women teaching men, but at the end of the day, we ladies have to examine our hearts honestly and ask ourselves: Is it my heart’s desire to do everything I can to obey and submit to Scripture out of love for Christ, or is it my heart’s desire to do what I want to do and either ignore Scripture or twist Scripture to make it fit what I want out of love for myself? That’s ultimately the heart of the matter.


¹It’s important that we ladies remember whose authority we’re under. First and foremost, we are under the authority of Christ and His word, and we are to submit to and obey Him. Next, if you’re a minor still living at home, you are under your parents’ authority, and God’s word directs you to honor and obey them. If you are married, the Bible says that you are to submit to and respect your husband. Finally, SCRIPTURE tells us that we are to submit to the biblical instruction of godly pastors and elders
I remind us of these authorities in our lives because, while I can provide answers to questions, I am not an authority in your life. Your husband, parents, or pastor might prefer that you act in ways other than those I’ve outlined above, so, as long as those ways are in compliance with Scripture, please be sure you’re submitting to them.