Christian women, Church, Complementarianism

Unforbidden Fruits: 3 Ways Women MUST Lead and Teach the Church

Originally published April 20, 2018

Ladies, we whine too much.

Like petulant little girls, we look at what’s off limits to us, stomp our Mary Janes on the floor and cry “Why can’t I? I want to!” instead of giddily jumping into all the opportunities God has blessed us with. Instead of being happy and thankful for what we have, our greedy little fingers stretch out to grasp what God has said we can’t have because it’s not good for us or anybody else.

God has instructed pastors – who are, in turn, to instruct us – that, in the gathered body of Believers, women are not to preach to men, instruct men in the Scriptures, or exercise authority over men. And that’s what we focus on, and whine and kick our feet about. That part – the childish rebellion and discontent with the role God has graciously placed us in – that’s on us.

But pastors, we badly need your help on this one. Many pastors do a wonderful job of rightly and biblically explaining what women are not to do (And may I take a moment to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I know how difficult that can be and that you take a lot of undeserved flak for simply teaching God’s Word on this subject.), but that “no” teaching has often not been coupled with the “yes” teaching of what women must do and how they must lead in order for women, and the church, to be healthy and function properly.

You’ve loved us well to tell us not to bite at the apple from the forbidden tree, but we also desperately need you to take us on a tour of the Garden and introduce us to the all-you-can-eat buffet of pear and peach and cherry and pecan trees that we have the privilege and the responsibility to feast on.

🍊 The Other Institution 🍊

Did you ever notice that the “do” for women in the church comes before the “don’t”? We tend to totally skip over that enormous little word that kicks off 1 Timothy 2:11: “Let a woman learn…”. We have no idea of, nor appreciation for, how huge and groundbreaking it was for the Holy Spirit, through Paul, to proactively instruct pastors: “Hey, get these women in here, make sure they listen up, and train them properly in the Scriptures so they’ll be equipped to fortify their homes with biblical truth.”

We completely miss the fact that, though God installs men as the teachers and leaders in one of His foundational institutions – the church – He has very much made women the functional, boots on the ground, day to day, teachers and leaders by example – of His other foundational institution – the family. The church didn’t even exist for the first few millennia of human history, but the family has existed since Creation. And people who are members of families populate and lead the church. Raising and molding those people is a tremendous position and responsibility. A position and responsibility God has largely given to women.

Wives pray for our husbands’ growth in Christ. We build them up with Scripture. With a gentle and quiet spirit, we set a godly example for them as they observe our respectful and pure conduct. We encourage and help them in their leadership roles at church.

Moms pray for our children’s salvation. We pour the gospel into them at every turn. We train up our children in the way that they should go – in the nurture and admonition of the Lord – so that when they are old they do not depart from it. We teach them to love and serve and invest in the church both directly and by modeling these things for them.

And our single, widowed, and childless sisters work right alongside us in this labor, praying for church leaders and members, nurturing children at church whose parents are unsaved or unequipped to raise them biblically, encouraging and assisting brothers and sisters in Christ.

We grow and develop, nourish and support, exhort and sharpen the population of the body of Christ.

Men may lead the church, but women raise the church.

🍐 Woman to Woman 🍐

Essential to the health of any church is the component of women training women, whether in the formal setting of a Bible study class and structured women’s ministry programs or an impromptu “let’s get together for coffee this week” discipleship discussion.

Though we receive instruction in Scripture from our pastors, elders, and teachers, there are some counseling and teaching situations it’s not appropriate for a man to address with a woman, or that a woman understands better than a man. There are issues women face that men just don’t “get” in the same way a sister in Christ does. There are insights and perspectives a woman can use to explain Scripture to another woman that a man just doesn’t have. There are times when a woman needs someone to walk through a long term emotional journey with her that requires a personal intimacy which would be inappropriate for a man to engage in with her. And in the same way men are better equipped than women to train men to be godly husbands, fathers, and church members, women are better equipped than men to train women to be godly wives, mothers, and church members.

God knew all of this back when He breathed out the words of Titus 2:3-5…

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, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

…and, again, 1 Timothy 2:11:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.

Women must be trained properly in the Scriptures so we can take that training and pour it into other women, teaching and sharpening them into godly women, wives, mothers, and church members.

🍑 Super Models 🍑

Women instruct our brothers and sisters in the church in biblical truth when we lead by example. When we sin against someone, we go to that person and ask forgiveness. We demonstrate the importance of meeting together with the Body by being faithful in our church and Sunday School attendance. We model servanthood by serving the church and our brothers and sisters. We paint a picture of biblical compassion by ministering to the sick and others in need. We show Christians how to carry out the Great Commission by sharing the gospel. We set an example of trusting God when others see us depending on Him through difficult situations.

And one of the most important biblical concepts women have the privilege and responsibility of teaching the church through our example is submission to authority – a lesson the church is sorely in need of these days.

Because God blessed us by creating us as women, we have an opportunity to model submission to authority in a unique way that God has chosen to deny to men.

As we submit to our husbands, we teach the church what it means to submit to Christ. How to walk in humility and obey Him out of love. How to put selfishness aside. To trust Him to take care of us. To deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him.

When we submit to God’s design for leadership in the church and joyfully carry out the work He has planned for us as godly women, we teach the church to submit to God’s authority and love Him by obeying His commands. We instruct our fellow church members in respecting and submitting to the pastors and elders God has placed in spiritual authority over us.

Submission to Christ, to God’s commands, and to pastors and elders is the bedrock of a healthy church. God has graciously given women the role – and the duty – of teaching these and other biblical principles to our churches in a way that men cannot -through our example as godly women.

 

Remember the series of fun little nutritional books that came out several years ago called Eat This, Not That? The idea the books centered around was, “Don’t eat that unhealthy thing. Eat this similar but healthy thing instead.”

Sadly, many Christian women have only been getting half the story. “Not that” (preaching to/teaching men and exercising authority over men) is biblically correct, but it’s not biblically complete. If all you tell someone is “Don’t eat that,” without showing her the “Eat this,” part, what she needs to eat to be healthy, she’s going to starve, and the church will be malnourished as well.

Christian women need our pastors to teach us to eat the fat of the land of being properly trained in the Scriptures and drink the sweet wine of leading and instructing the church the way God gifts us and requires us to. Only then will the Body be healthy and well nourished.

Christian women, Complementarianism

Throwback Thursday ~ Toxic (Evangelical) Femininity

Originally published August 24, 2018

Toxic masculinity. It’s a buzzword that’s gaining momentum as it’s bandied about in pop culture like a shuttlecock over a badminton net. There’s a clinical definition of the term (which, in the ivory towers of the scholarly world is, properly, “hegemonic masculinity“):

Hegemonic masculinity is defined as a practice that legitimizes men’s dominant position in society and justifies the subordination of women, and other marginalized ways of being a man. Conceptually, hegemonic masculinity proposes to explain how and why men maintain dominant social roles over women, and other gender identities, which are perceived as “feminine” in a given society.

And then there’s the sort of similar working definition of the huddled masses: Anything a man does that others, especially women, don’t like that can, by any stretch of the imagination, be blamed on the fact that he’s a man.

If a man cuts you off in traffic, it’s not that he’s a jerk or didn’t see you, it’s toxic masculinity. If a man holds a door open for a woman, it’s not that he’s polite and helpful, it’s toxic masculinity. If a man leaves his socks on the bathroom floor, it’s not that he’s sloppy and has no home training, it’s toxic masculinity. In other words, he’s not doing these things because he’s a polite or rude or aggressive or helpful human being, it’s because he’s a man who just wants to keep women down and exercise dominance over them.

Pardon my French, but what a bunch of malarkey.

Yes, I’m sure there’s a fringe element of men out there who consciously think they’re better than women, that women shouldn’t have any rights or hold any positions of responsibility, blah, blah, blah. And you know what? They’re considered fringe kooks, and rightly so. But I’m not buying this business of these elitist gnostics telling us that every little move a man makes is a subconscious act of belittling women or exercising domination over them, and neither should you. It’s like the race-baiters who say that every single white person is racist, deep down, and this latent racism manifests itself in everything we do, from the way we tie our shoes to the breakfast cereal we buy at the store. We’re just not aware of it, supposedly.

Poppycock.

You want to know where this notion of toxic masculinity came from? It sprang from the loins of toxic feminism. Zoom out and look at the big picture. This is a manufactured concept, baptized in the (assumed) credibility of academia, designed to help women leverage power and control over men. How? By denigrating them at every turn, thereby convincing the world that men are intrinsically bad and women are good and must be elevated to prominence. Call me crazy if you want to, but it doesn’t take a prophet or the son of a prophet to look down the road and see that the feminist end game here is a matriarchal world where women rule and men drool. And there are plenty of brazen females out there who would openly and unashamedly admit this.

That, however, is not my concern. Sinners gonna sin, and God’s going to deal with them in His own way and in His own good time.

My concern is the way this attitude is fleshing (pun intended) itself out in Christian families and the visible church, and creeping into evangelical women’s (and men’s) hearts. Because, whether or not we’d like to admit it, this worldliness is advancing upon us, and we need to be aware of – and biblically approach – the facets of this issue that are already at our doorstep:

On the Top of the World Looking Down on Creation

I actually laughed out loud when reading some of the academic definitions of so-called toxic masculinity. There seemed to be an air of, “We just don’t understand it! This pattern of male dominance seems to transcend all cultures and time periods!”

Well here’s a really academic response to that: Duh.

I mean, you have to wonder if these researchers and scholars have ever said to  themselves, “I wonder if there’s a reason for that. I wonder if this tendency in men that defies time and culture can be traced back to a pinpointed source.”

There is, and it can. It’s called Creation, and God is the one responsible. God created man first and then woman. God created husbands to lead and wives to be helpers. God set up the Old Testament patriarchal society that became the nation of Israel, which was led by male tribal heads and, later, male kings. God established male leadership in the temple, and subsequently, in the church. The major and minor prophets were male, Jesus was male, the apostles were male, the writers of Scripture were male. And all of this traces back to that one moment in Genesis 2 in which God decided to create man first and hard-wire him to lead, protect, and git ‘er done. Broadly¹ speaking, the reason we see a general¹ pattern of male leadership across time and culture is because God set those wheels in motion.

As Christians, we recognize that sinful men sometimes abuse the positions of leadership God has given them, but that doesn’t negate the entire pattern and call for us to turn it on its head. We study our Bibles and embrace and submit to the way God has instructed men and women to behave in the roles He has bestowed upon us.

(Don’t) Do the Woke-Emotion

One of the components of God’s creative work that adds inexplicable beauty to this world is the tender-heartedness, passion, and empathy He built into women in a uniquely feminine way. Emotions. Feelings. God created them, and they are good. What a dreary and heartless world this would be if women didn’t bring nurturing, caring, sympathy, and love to the table. God uses us to soften the hard edges of life and make the planet pleasantly inhabitable.

But along with that good gift comes the challenge to steward it wisely and in obedience to God so that we may use it to glorify Him rather than dishonoring Him.

I see Christian women wisely stewarding their emotions to the glory of God every day as they care for their husbands and families, friends and co-workers, and serve in their churches. It is a beautiful picture of the mature fruit of biblical womanhood.

Unfortunately, I also see the exact opposite. I see (ostensibly) Christian women who scream like banshees any time their pastor preaches on the passages of Scripture dealing with women’s roles in marriage or the church. I’ve seen women who claim to believe and follow the Bible throw an everloving fit when someone points out – from Scripture – that their favorite women’s “Bible” study author is a false teacher. I see women formulating their beliefs and practices about God, worship, the Bible, their own behavior, their families, and their churches based on their own personal opinions, experiences, and feelings rather than on rightly handled Scripture.

And, just like secular feminists demand domination over men because they feel oppressed, have experienced sexism, or resent the world’s history of male dominion, I see Christian women letting their emotions rule the day as they demand unbiblical solutions to their real or perceived personal experiences with men and male leadership.

The anger, the outrage, the hurt feelings, and being offended are nearly as evident in evangelicalism as they are in society at large.

Godly women are not ruled by their feelings. We are ruled by the Bible. We make our feelings submit to and obey God’s Word. We don’t make decisions based on what we like or don’t like, or what makes us feel good about ourselves. We base our decisions on what the Bible says. When our feathers get ruffled, we take a step back and evaluate the situation with rightly handled Scripture. Maybe we’re upset because someone actually sinned against us, but maybe we’re upset because our pride or vanity was wounded, or our unbiblical notions were biblically challenged, or because God used someone to expose an idol we’re worshiping. Maybe it’s not that the other person sinned, but that we’re in sin. Those hurt feelings could be a wake up call from God to humble ourselves and repent.

Ladies, we must learn to put our feelings aside and act on the objective truth of God’s Word instead of our fickle and deceptive emotions. If we display the same sorts of fleshly emotionalism as unsaved women, how are we being salt and light in the world, pointing the way to Christ? We’re supposed to be set apart and different from the world.

Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?

Because – speaking of salt and light – embracing and submitting to our biblical roles in the family and in the church sets us apart from the world. Now, more than ever, we have a unique opportunity to be counter-cultural – simply by obeying God’s Word.

Women being hired as pastors and teaching and exercising authority over men in the church and leading denominations and becoming popular evangelical conference speakers with co-ed audiences – that’s what the world expects because that’s the way they do things. But a Christian woman who happily puts her foot down and refuses to teach men in the church setting or joyfully insists on submitting to her husband? That’s different. It’s against the grain, not the norm.

Remember that out of the ordinary burning bush that caught Moses’ attention and he turned aside out of curiosity to investigate? And remember how, when Moses was watching it burn, wondering what in the world was going on, that God called to him out of that fiery shrub – “Follow Me.”? God can do the same thing with our obedience to Scripture.

Lost people see this anomaly of our “weird” behavior, and they want to know what in the world is going on. Why do we act differently than they do? And that’s when we get to explain it to them. We get to share the gospel. God can call to them out of our passionate burning for Christ and His Word, “Follow Me.”.

People in darkness gravitate toward light. Salt makes people thirsty. Do we care more about giving them the Light of the World and the Living Water or our own selfish and fleshly desires for power and position? Our embrace of and obedience to the biblical roles God has laid out for us as Christian women is one gateway to sharing the gospel with the lost.

 

Toxic femininity is worldly and fleshly. It has no place in Christian homes and churches. How do we combat it? We take up the sword. We submit to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. We recognize that God is the authority in our lives, not self, and that we are to obey Him at any cost – even at the cost of our convenience and pleasure. We trade our desires for His.


¹I’m well aware that there are plenty of exceptions to this generalization. I’m referring to a broad pattern across time and culture, here. There are many biblical ways women can contribute and lead in the family, society, and the church.
Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Doreen’s vision, Bible apps, ESV Women’s Study Bible, Women teaching on Zoom)

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 potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


Just a brief note to all of my readers to kick off this edition of The Mailbag. I really love and appreciate y’all. I don’t say that enough but I do – deeply. One of the things (among many) I appreciate is that upwards of 99.99999999% of you have read my e-mail/messages policy (linked in the first paragraph above) and the information at the Contact & Social Media tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page), and you have been extremely understanding and gracious when it comes to my limitations regarding answering individual e-mails/messages. Thank you!

But for the handful of folks out there who haven’t read and followed the directions at those links, may I just gently and lovingly say this: demanding that I answer your e-mail/message immediately, or sending me multiple copies of the same e-mail/message over the course of a few days isn’t going to work for me, or for you. If you have an emergency situation or one that needs an immediate answer, you need to contact your pastor or a mature brother or sister at your church for help.  That’s one of the functions of the local church.

I wish I could answer everyone’s questions right away, but as I’ve explained at the aforementioned links (which everyone seeking my e-mail address is asked to read before they e-mail me), I can’t. I get too much mail to be able to do that and have time to properly care for my family, home, and other responsibilities.

Thanks again for your understanding and grace, and keep sending me those e-mails/messages! I love hearing from y’all even if I’m not able to answer you personally.


I have some concerns about Doreen Virtue and the “vision” of Jesus she had that supposedly led her to Christ. I came out of the New Age movement and something just doesn’t “sit right” with me as a discerning Christian about that. And now, you and other Christians have endorsed her book? I’m just seeking the truth as I do with every other subject I research.

Seeking the truth and doing your research is awesome! That’s just the kind of thing I love to hear from my readers!

The thing about doing research is that you have to consider the source and make sure the sources you go to are reliable, trustworthy, and handle Scripture correctly. I’m sorry to say that many of the online “discernment” resources out there (including the ones you mentioned in your e-mail, but others as well) are not. Many of them exhibit zeal without knowledge, and some exhibit knowledge without love. (I know I have crossed these lines at times, myself, which I am sorry for. God is still working on me and growing me in that area.)

You and other discerning readers have surely noted the signs of these types of “ministries”: attacking doctrinally sound pastors and teachers, speaking/writing in a vicious, enraged, or biting tone, failing to provide in context and rightly handled evidence to support their assertions, reporting their opinions as fact, exaggerating or extrapolating from something a teacher said or did in order to make their case, and so on. It is just as much a part of discernment to examine “discernment” ministries as it is to examine the teachers they are critiquing.

Having never heard of her before, I first “met” Doreen Virtue when she and her co-host Melissa asked me to appear on their YouTube podcast to discuss the role of women in the church. Doreen and I kept in touch afterwards and have become good friends.

Doreen has thoroughly explained the issue you mentioned in her videos, her book, and to me and many others personally. As Doreen was coming out of the New Age movement and turning toward Christ, she had some sort of experience which she believed at the time was a vision of Jesus. She said at the time that this vision turned her further toward Christ.

As Doreen has continued to grow  she has progressively come to a biblical understanding of her experience, and now believes the vision was demonic activity that happened before she actually got saved. She does not believe she was saved by this vision, but by the preaching, teaching, and reading of the Word. Doreen hasn’t had any more experiences like this since she’s been saved, and she certainly doesn’t encourage this type of experience – quite the opposite, in fact. She speaks against it. As I’ve listened to Doreen’s videos, read her personal testimony in her book, and chatted with her privately, I can see how God has grown her in holiness and sound doctrine in the short time she’s been saved, as evidenced by the fruit she displays.

Have we forgotten how far God has brought us in holiness and the knowledge of the Word since we have been saved? Haven’t we all repented over dumb or unbiblical things we used to believe when we were unsaved or new Christians that we now look back on in shame? Why wouldn’t God do the same thing for Doreen? I mean, let’s remember that she was totally immersed in a demonic system her entire life until Christ saved her in her 50’s, and she has only been saved less than three years now. It’s completely understandable that God would have to undo all of that as He grows her. Where is our mercy, grace, and patience for babes in Christ?

If you feel confused regarding conflicting information about Doreen, I would encourage you not to listen to what others are saying about her (even me) and go straight to the horse’s mouth: watch Doreen’s videos – including her most recent concerning the “vision”: Unpacking Doreen’s vision with Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith – read her wonderful book, Deceived No More (which I was honored to write an endorsement for and highly recommend, and which she has already edited to clarify the part about the vision), follow her on Instagram or Facebook, and let her speak for herself. And if you make a good faith effort to do all of that and you still have a question, message her and ask.

If you’re honest, objective, and compare what Doreen says and does with rightly handled Scripture, I think you’ll find your answers.


I am a new Christian and am wondering if you know of a good Bible app? I have been using YouVersion, but today’s video featured Joyce Meyer, and I am unsure how I feel about it. 

Great question – and welcome to the family!

Readers, this is one of the reasons I recommend against YouVersion. You may recall from a previous Mailbag article that I explained that YouVersion was developed, and is maintained, by Craig Groeschel’s Life.Church. He has preached at Joyce Meyer’s women’s conference and is immersed in relationships and ministry partnerships with numerous other false teachers.

For Bible app recommendations, check out my article My Favorite Christian Apps. Since I wrote that article, another Bible app has come along that a lot of people seem to like, the Literal Word app. (Some of you may know that Pastor Gabriel Hughes is in the midst of recording the audio version of the NASB for that app. We’ll be hearing his dulcet tones before long!)


Would you recommend the ESV Women’s Study Bible? Some of the contributors are Jen Wilkin, Lauren Chandler, Ann Voskamp, Trillia Newbell, and Kristyn Getty.

I’m so glad you asked and brought this to my attention. I have been seeing the ads for that Bible, but I didn’t realize all of those people were contributors. I attempted to find a list of all of the contributors, but was unable to do so. So just going on these, I would say, no, I can’t recommend the ESV Women’s Study Bible.

In addition to the problems with Lauren Chandler, there are issues with Jen Wilkin, and Ann Voskamp is flat out a mystical false teacher.

I haven’t thoroughly researched Trillia Newbell, but just from seeing a few of her tweets from time to time on Twitter, I’m concerned that she might be leaning toward the woke/social justice movement. She’s also friendly with and supportive of Beth Moore (once tweeting “I thank God for you, too!” to Beth), Priscilla Shirer (here, here), and possibly other biblically problematic teachers, so, at the very least, there are a few red flags.

I’d recommend you invest in a much better study Bible, like the MacArthur Study Bible. You can also get the Faithlife Study Bible app for free. I use both of those regularly and they’re both very good.


Love the clarity of your writing! I am curious how you apply commands against women holding authority and teaching to online situations. Is it also sinful for a woman to teach Scripture over YouTube or Zoom? This seems to be a huge issue right now. Thanks! 

Super question, and thanks!

The reason this is a huge issue right now is that many churches have temporarily begun moving many of their regular “in person” activities to livestream, YouTube, Zoom, Skype, etc., due to COVID restrictions that prevent members from gathering together easily. Likewise, many Christian conferences have had to move to video because of gathering restrictions and difficulties.

All of that being the case, we need to follow the biblical principles we would be following if we were meeting face to face. A woman should not be preaching the Sunday sermon for your church just because it’s going to be on Facebook Live instead of people gathering face to face in the sanctuary. I’m not going to teach my co-ed Sunday School class just because we’re “meeting” together on Zoom instead of in our Sunday School room. A Christian conference should not have women preaching the main sessions if those sessions would be co-ed if the attendees were all in the room together.

If it is not something that would normally be a violation of Scripture, in the face to face gathering of the church – for example: a woman speaking at a women’s conference that had to be moved online, or a woman teaching a children’s Bible class on Zoom – then it’s perfectly fine to do it online.

Readers, in case we’re tempted, let’s be sure we all keep in mind here that the goal in Christianity is not to see how close to the line of sin we can get without accidentally putting a toe over, or to find some loophole in God’s Word that lets us do what we want. The goal is to get as far away from the line of sin as possible, and to look – not for loopholes – but for ways we can better obey Christ.


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should I attend seminary?

I’ve been tied up speaking at the Cruciform conference this past weekend.
I hope you’ll enjoy this article from the archives.

Originally published November 13, 2017

 

For the past few months, I’ve felt a strong desire to attend seminary. After a lot of prayer, Scripture reading, and reaching out to my pastor and trusted, older, Godly friends for counsel, I began the process of applying [to a doctrinally sound seminary].

I’m in my early 30s, have never been married, and have no children. I lead middle school youth girls, women, and children in various classes at church, and work as a part time staff member in my church. I have a strong desire to pursue further education, and to teach and lead women and students. I am incredibly excited at the prospect of going to seminary.

I would like to know your thoughts about how a woman might know for sure she is being called to full-time ministry and what part attending seminary should or could play in that.

Great question, and one I wish more doctrinally sound women were asking!

Some might wonder, “What is the point of a woman getting a seminary degree if she can’t, biblically, become a pastor, elder, or exercise authority over men in the church?”. Because there are tons of other ways women can serve the Body of Christ, maybe in parachurch ministries or missions or as an author, or maybe by simply striving for godly excellence as a Christian woman, wife, mom, or church member.

Learning as much as you possibly can about the Bible, the church, and Christianity is never a waste, even if you don’t go into some sort of formal, paid position of ministry. If you’re a woman with time and resources on your hands, I’d encourage you to consider taking a seminary class or two, or even getting a degree, just for all the valuable things you’ll learn. Some seminaries will allow non-students to audit courses. Others offer degree and certificate programs specifically designed for women, online degree programs, and free online (non-degree) classes. A couple of good ones to check out are Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. The Master’s University, while not a seminary, offers many courses and degree programs which are open to women. (The Master’s Seminary does not admit women as their scope is limited to preparing men for the pastorate.) Ligonier Ministries doesn’t offer a seminary degree program, but does offer many theologically rich online classes.

Whether you opt for a non-credit online course or move into campus housing and pursue a degree, be sure you keep your discernment radar on high alert, even at a doctrinally sound seminary. Believe it or not, even multi-degreed seminary professors can lack discernment or teach unbiblical doctrine. Don’t be intimidated by a string of letters and decades of experience behind someone’s name. If what he’s saying doesn’t match up with rightly handled, in context Scripture, he’s wrong.

Now let’s address a few of the more specific points the reader mentioned:

I think we way over-mysticalize this whole “call to ministry” thing. We think there’s got to be some kind of supernatural “road to Damascus” experience that we can point back to and say, “There! That’s the moment God ‘called’ me into ministry!”. But the Bible doesn’t really talk about a call to ministry in those kinds of terms. Remember, the account of Paul’s (and other Bible characters’) conversion and call experience is descriptive, not prescriptive. The prescriptive passage looks like this:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 1 Timothy 3:1

No mention of God speaking to you or a particular feeling or goose bumps or feeling “a peace about it.” Scripture just says if a man has the desire to be a pastor, that’s a good and noble goal. Just an objective statement of fact. So, by the same underlying principle, if a woman wants to dedicate her life to full time ministry, that’s a good desire.

The next step is to see if you’re biblically qualified to be in full time ministry. Simply wanting to be in ministry does not mean you should be in ministry or that God thinks you’re qualified to be in ministry. A few biblical passages any woman considering seminary or a career in ministry should consider:

📖 1 Timothy 2:11-15 You cannot, without sinning, pursue the office of pastor, elder, associate pastor, or any other position which requires you to teach Scripture to men, or hold authority over men, in the gathered body of Believers. If you’re a woman who’s going to seminary in order to pursue such a position, you are already biblically disqualified from ministry.

📖 Galatians 5:22-23 How’s your fruit looking? If your life generally doesn’t reflect the Fruit of the Spirit, you’re probably not ready for seminary or ministry. (In fact, you might want to examine yourself against Scripture to see if you’re really saved.)

📖 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 These may be qualifications specifically for pastors, elders, and deacons (which are all offices restricted to men) but the underlying principles would extend to anyone in a position of Christian leadership, and nearly all of them apply to Christians in general. Indeed, Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15 that he is writing these things so that “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God.”

📖 Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Timothy 3:4-5 If you are married and/or have children, Scripture is clear that it is your primary calling to be a helper to your husband, raise godly children, and manage your household well. Any seminary classes or degrees or ministry positions you pursue may not interfere with or impede your first calling. Additionally, if your husband objects to you attending seminary or pursuing a career in ministry, Scripture mandates that you submit to him and respect his decision.

📖 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 If you’re single with no children, God has given you the precious gift of being able to serve and focus solely on Him, and it may be the perfect time for you to attend seminary or serve Him in full time ministry. 

If you have a strong desire to attend seminary or pursue a career in ministry and you meet the biblical qualifications, the next step is exactly what our reader has done: pray about it, search the Scriptures, seek wise counsel, consider and evaluate the ministry you’re already doing in your church (If you don’t already love being a faithful, serving member of a local church, why on earth would you want to go to seminary or into full time ministry?), realize that there are a lot of things about ministry that are difficult and that seminary doesn’t prepare you for, and if you still want to go to seminary or seek out a ministry position, trust God to guide you and go for it.

Yes, it really is that simple. Desiring to dedicate your life to the service of our Lord or to study more about Him in seminary is a good and God-pleasing desire. If you can accomplish those goals within the parameters Scripture has laid out for godly women, why wouldn’t you pursue it?


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ May 14, 2019

Here are a few of my favorite recent online finds…

“Complementarian interpretation of Scripture holds that God’s creation purpose for man and woman entails equality of individual value but also distinct roles.” Our friends over at Crossway give us 5 Myths about Complementarianism.

 

Image result for taking god at his wordHow about a free book? Here’s the PDF of Kevin DeYoung’s book Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What that Means for You and Me.

 

 

 

 

Image result for 50 of all marriages end in divorce“You’ve heard it repeatedly on radio, podcasts, and TV. You’ve read it in various books and articles. You’ve even heard it in your pastor’s sermon. The problem: it’s a lie: 50% of all marriages end in divorce.” The Cripplegate helpfully explains why everything you know about American divorce statistics, including the divorce rate among Christians, is probably wrong in The 50% Lie.

 

Image result for ccef‘No’ to a husband’s advances is a big deal in a marriage. A godly wife can certainly say “no” but she will also be alert to the way her response might be taken by her husband. Understanding and compassion can go a long way at these moments.” CCEF explores the sensitive subject of marital intimacy in “Not tonight dear”… men rejected.

 

On his most recent episode of Ask AnythingDr. Albert Mohler tackles a number of interesting questions, not the least of which is (from a Southern Baptist perspective) Should women preach the Sunday sermon in church? (8:58).