Does the Bible command that men rule over women?

The other day, the excellent editor I’m working with on the book I’m compiling, The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church, asked me a question on the manuscript.

I’d written “God nowhere in Scripture commands men to rule over women.”

Her comment was, “This is a big statement. Do we know it is true?”

There was only one verse in Scripture that I was aware of that might say this. In Genesis 3,  God says to Eve that one of the consequences of the Fall was that her desire would be for her husband, and he would rule over her. I’m persuaded this is descriptive (ie God is telling what will happen) rather than prescriptive (this is the way God wants it to happen. If it is prescriptive, and knowing that God is always consistent with himself, how do you explain Deborah, Esther, Priscilla, Phoebe, let alone a host of other women God has used in positions of leadership down through the pages of history.)

I couldn’t think of any other verses. But was I totally sure without any shadow of a doubt?

So I posted the question on Facebook and had a slew of fascinating responses. I’m very thankful for all of them. Most were very thoughtful and one produced some verses I’d never thought of in this context. Nearly everyone agreed with my statement, and I was very grateful for the person who contacted some theologians on my behalf, who also agreed with me!

Assuming, then, that the statement is true, what difference does it make in our churches?

 

Interesting church statistics

According to a good and informative 2013 year-end status report by Leadership Network providing statistics on the state of mega-churches in this country, almost 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers attend a mega-church.

According to a Pew Forum report in December 2009, (if there is a more recent report, I am not aware of it), 9 percent of Protestants “attend religious services in homes.”

Just saying…

When you come together–the Holy Spirit leads

On Friday evening, when the church that meets in our home met together, it was quieter than usual. We were a smaller group (the weather was terrible) but, as usual, the Holy Spirit showed up. Much of our time was spent around the Word, and what we learned together was truly relevant to the things going on in people’s lives. I was blessed as God spoke to me about reclaiming a habit I’d lost over the years–that of meditating on his Word as I fall asleep.

If we do in our homes what we’ve traditionally done in the four walls of our church buildings, (what our friend John White calls, “Honey, I shrunk the church,”) we miss out on one of the greatest blessings of simple/organic church–the Holy Spirit being in control. He’s like the conductor of an orchestra, and as each one of us plays our individual melody at his prompting, a symphony emerges.

I  first learned this back in the early days of the British House Church Movement.

I remember those times very well.  The power and presence of the Lord was almost tangible.  I remember running to get to the meeting because I couldn’t wait to get into the Lord’s presence with the rest of the body of Christ.  No one dared go in with unconfessed sin because the Holy Spirit was likely to address it publicly.  I remember times when everyone was on their faces on the floor, lost in God’s presence.

It was in that kind of context that we learned to follow the Holy Spirit in a gathering.  Week after week we would watch the Holy Spirit lead and guide in his own unmistakable fashion, drawing out whatever theme he had for us.  Sometimes we would be mostly in worship, other times in prayer. I can still remember some of the lessons we learned in times around the Word. It was always fresh, never dull.

But it was a learning experience. As we tried to follow the Lord, sometimes our times were so bad, we would all decide to just go home. But as we learned to press in, over the months, it came to the place where nearly every week the presence of Jesus was there.

Things may not be as dramatic in this current move of what God is doing (the house church movement in the UK was very tied in to the charismatic movement).  But the Holy Spirit still leads clearly, and I’m spoiled for anything else!

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Some quotes from one of my heroines–Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India who had a profound impact on my life through her writing. Even reading some of her work now, I can understand why they were so impactful (ouch!) Here are some quotes, several of which are taken from one of her  little books called If:

“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”

“If I am afraid to speak the truth lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, “You do not understand”, or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other’s highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“There have been times of late when I have had to hold on to one text with all my might: “It is required in stewards that a man may be found faithful.” Praise God, it does not say “successful.”

“Satan is so much more in earnest than we are–he buys up the opportunity while we are wondering how much it will cost.”

“If I do not give a friend “The benefit of the doubt,” but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

“If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

Quotes from here and here.

The hemiplegic body of Christ

When I worked as a doctor, there was a diagnosis I never liked to make. “Hemiplegic” is the medical term used to describe paralysis down one side of the body that occurs, for example, after a stroke. If the condition was severe, it was potentially a devastating diagnosis for the person involved, who had to come to terms with the fact that they would be weak and unable to fully function and might have to depend on the help of others for the rest of their lives.

The body of Christ in the West is hemiplegic. Half of it–the female half–is significantly weakened, if not totally paralyzed. The whole body of Christ is suffering as a result.

Where are the women apostles? Where are the women who are prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers? Where are the female role models who dare to do great exploits for the Kingdom of God?  I’m grateful to count several like these as my friends, but in general, women in any form of strategic church leadership in the West are conspicuous by their absence.

It’s not that way in other parts of the world.

  • In China, around 80% of house churches are planted by ordinary women
  • In India there is a significant harvest being reaped by women of all castes. Two years ago, I met two women–ordinary, middle aged housewives–one of whom was responsible for starting 2,000 churches and the other, 6,000 churches.
  • In Dr. Cho’s church of more than 800,000 in Korea, two-thirds of the associate pastors are women, and 47,000 of the 50,000 cell group leaders are women too.
  • In many nations where there is restricted access for the gospel, women are planting churches–they have easy access to homes and naturally share their testimony with others, pray for the sick and demonized and find persons of peace.

If women can do it in other nations, why not here in the West?

Are there women in this country who are willing to break out of the stereotypical role assigned to them by tradition? Who will follow the Great Shepherd into the harvest? Who will dare to break out of their boxes of convention, who will color outside the lines of expectation.

If God is using women in extraordinary ways elsewhere, (and he is) then why not here too? We do not have to remain hemiplegic!

Do you have examples of what God is doing through women either here or in other nations?

Photo credit: Vici-Jane


A story from the Philippines

For some years we have been friends with Molong Nacua, who lives just 40 minutes from where the worst of Typhoon Haiyan hit in the Philippines. He’s not exactly a house church guy, but he makes disciples all the time. His new disciples go on to make other disciples and so far they have touched about 600 families, reaching to 14 generations of disciples. They don’t hold meetings; for them, life is one long encounter with Jesus in the company of others. Discipleship is practical, and very reproducible.

We stayed with Molong and his lovely family a few years back. They live simply, as an extended family, always taking in others in need. There were two other families and several single guys living with them when we were there. They looked after us like royalty, giving up their bedroom for us to sleep in, producing delicious meals that we ate out in the open, talking and laughing until late in the evening. They took us to the coast–I’ve never seen such an incredible variety of starfish before or since.

So when we heard about Typhoon Haiyan, we were sure that Molong and his community would be in the thick of things. Sure enough, they were.The community, including the children, spent hours and hours preparing hundreds of grocery sacs of food and water to take to those in need.  These they delivered out in the community, visiting different areas, distributing to thousands of people.

As people elsewhere heard the story, they sent them funds that are being used to help provide for those whose lives have been devastated.

The work continues, blessing many whose lives were impacted by the typhoon. Nowthey are rebuilding homes. And alongside all of this, they continue to make and baptize disciples. Eight were baptized just yesterday!

Molong’s blog on Facebook is worth following to give you an idea of what is going on. His pictures are worth a thousand words.

The needs will be ongoing. You can donate to the work Molong and his family are doing via House2House.

Where in the world is the church?

During World War II, my father was a prisoner of war under the Japanese. He, and those with him, endured unspeakable atrocities for more than three years. Although I was protected from all the details as I was growing up, it dominated our family in many ways. Looking back on it now, I’m fairly sure he would have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. It affected him for most of the rest of his life.

Today we have troops coming home from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are many veterans from the Vietnam War. Yesterday I came across these horrifying statistics. More than 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Every day. That’s one every 65 minutes. It’s more than are dying in combat.

Where in the world is the church? Surely Jesus has an answer.


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The Christian author’s dilemma

A few years back, Paul Young, author of The Shack spoke at one of our House2House conferences. When we first invited him, The Shack was barely known. A few months later, by the time he spoke at our conference, it had sold 7 million copies!   We asked Paul for  the story behind the book.  It went something like this. Paul was working three jobs when he finished writing a book for his children. Somehow he managed to scrape up the money to get 11 copies for his family and a few friends made at Kinkos. Friends sent it on to friends… From there, the rest is history. It was a God thing! No marketing, no publicity campaigns, just the Holy Spirit taking it and changing lives through it.

It was every Christian author’s dream.

But it was a once in a generation thing.

I’ve just finished compiling The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church,  and it’s now with the editors, due out in April 2014. I’d love to send it off to the printers and just have the Holy Spirit do what he wills with it. But the work for most authors when they finish a manuscript is only half done. Which is where the dilemma comes in.  I want to promote the message of the book, but I want to make sure that my motivation is not seeking recognition for myself or any kind of self-promotion.

And so I will do the things that authors need to do in our current climate to bring their books to the attention of others, while asking Jesus to deal with my heart, praying that he gives me wisdom.

It’s only the Holy Spirit who can transform lives and change the church. I pray that The Black Swan Effect will be a tool in his hands.

 

I am thankful

Sometimes Tony and I will look at each other and just say, “We are so blessed.” God has showered us with his grace and favor in many, many ways.

I am so thankful for you, the readers of this blog, who put up with my rants about this and that, my theological musings, my passion for simple/organic church and for women in ministry. Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for being my brothers and sisters in Christ.

May you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!

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