Why I write…

A number of years ago, we hosted a wonderful couple, Lynn and Linda Reddick in our home. They often give a word to people from the Lord (prophesy), and what they say is usually very accurate. During one of the gatherings we had, Linda spoke very emphatically to me.

“The Lord has called you to write,” she said. She repeated it several times. In fact, she came back to it time and time again.

My heart sank. I loathed writing with a passion. I would never respond to letters, (if you leave them long enough, any reply becomes irrelevant) and avoided writing whenever possible. I’m not sure why–maybe it tied in with having to write so many dry, scientific papers during high school and medical training.

I felt so strongly that she was wrong that I went up to her afterwards.

“I’m sorry, but you got this one wrong. I hate writing. There’s no way I’m ever going to write.”

I’ve since apologized to her.

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I started writing when Tony lured me away to northern California on a “writing vacation” so we could co-author a book together. He promised the mornings writing and the afternoons and evenings enjoying the magnificent coastline. I fell for it. The scenery was spectacular and the writing part wasn’t as bad as I thought.

By this time we had helped to start House2House, and so many questions were coming in that I wrote a manual that we could point people to save time responding to each person at length individually. Then followed two other books, An Army of Ordinary People  and Small Is Big!  Then an enhanced ebook on hearing God that is available as a free download if you subscribe to Simply Church. Currently I’m in the middle of compiling a book on women.

I now love writing! It’s what the Lord has called me to do. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once said, “You will be the same in five years as you are today except for two things; the people you meet and the books you read.” I’m motivated by the thought that something I write might possibly change people’s lives for the better.

Why do I tell you this?

I’ve found blogging to be one of the most effective ways to reach people. On any given day, as far as I can tell, more people are reading my posts than might be reading a book I’ve written. I started this blog to, as the title says, give people an insider perspective on the simple/organic church movement. I wanted to equip people in a number of areas. My passions include starting churches amongst not-yet-believers, which is far easier and more effective than working with existing Christians, and helping people avoid the “Honey, I shrunk the church!” syndrome.

A few months ago, I started blogging about women in ministry, as much as anything to gauge the reaction of people to the topic and to make sure the book that I’m helping to compile “scratches where it itches.” To my great surprise, the readership of my blog increased almost overnight, and other blogging indicators demonstrated that people are spending more time reading my posts. I still cannot account for this except that the Holy Spirit is causing an interest amongst many on this subject. Could this be one of the next moves of the Holy Spirit?

Some of you reading this get my blog via Google Reader. On Wednesday, Google announced that they are closing this at the beginning of July. (Bummer–I read some blogs via this too.) However, the blogs I really want to stay current with, I subscribe to via email. Can I suggest that if you currently use Google reader for this blog, that you instead subscribe via email. (Another option: the techno gurus I read  suggest  Feedly as a viable alternative and it already has migration instructions from Google Reader posted. But I’m sure there will be many more options in the coming months.)

And finally, thank you to all who do read this blog, who’ve stayed with me through good posts and bad, and especially to those who join the conversation by commenting. I appreciate you all.

Just for laughs…

Tony and I laughed out loud over these “inspired comments” that Reinhold, a friend of ours from years ago, posted on my post listing eighteen things I was taught about being a woman. So I thought I would pass some of them on for you to enjoy too. The “inspired comments” are in red italics.

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Of course I can lead, but only through my influence on my husbandso I better master the high art of man-ipulation.

I can never hold any position of strategic influence or leadership in the church – they would have to build ladies’ toilets on the leadership floor.

Because Eve was deceived, I, as a woman, am more open to deception than a manso I better not ask him to use his credit card.

God only uses a woman when a man isn’t available. (This permits women on the mission field.) I am thinking of starting a female jazz quartet..

My husband is the leader; I am there to serve his calling and vision. His destiny is the one that counts. After all, it’s called History and not Herstory, right?

My husband is the priest of our home. And priestesses are not biblical anyways

I have to be very careful about what I wear in case I cause a man to lust. And brown is the only color permitted for those woollen socks.

A strong woman probably has a “Jezebel spirit” - so, for God´s sake, beware of dogs!

I shouldn’t take the initiative but pray for my husband to do so in order that I can follow his lead. Lead him not into temptation” being the main prayer theme.

I always have to obey my husband, willing submitting even if I know he’s wrong. Just don’t let the children know ….

If God uses me to lead/teach men in any way, it’s like God speaking through Balaam’s donkey–an aberration. I should learn I-a, Y-a, j-a so to have something to say

There are no such thing as women elders they always look younger anyways.

Once I have children, my place is in the home. Let him drive them to school.

There are plenty of ministries I can involve in–prayer and women’s ministries, Sunday School and making the coffee. I should be content with this and not seek to use my gifting outside of those prescribed boundaries. You might run into the danger of making church a better place.

How are men impacted by the teaching about women?

On Friday I posted about eighteen things I had been taught about women as a young Christian–things which impacted me for decades of my life. To be honest, even as I wrote them down, I found myself angry (hopefully with a righteous indignation) at the cage I had been trapped in. Thankfully, Tony, my husband, is a wonderful and gracious husband, but even today, I remember well him trying to explain to me why I had been removed from a leadership team because of my gender–because our church had just come under the influence of teaching that didn’t allow women in leadership, but that it was okay because I could exert an influence through him.

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I’m not blaming the guys, They were taught these things as much as I was, and for some of them, the strain of trying to live up to this view of the man’s responsibilities must have been just as difficult as it was for us as women. What about the man whose wife is naturally more outgoing, where he is more content to be in the background?  Or the man who is more pastoral and less apostolic than his wife?  Is it fair for one person in a partnership to be responsible to always make the correct decisions? Tim Day had a thought-provoking post on this over the weekend too–well worth pondering.

I’d be very interested to hear how this teaching about women has impacted the men. What stories do you have?

Why are some women passive in church?

Here’s what I was taught in my early days as a Christian. As a woman

  • I am always to be under a man’s covering or authority. If I’m unmarried or my husband is not around, I have to find a man to whom I will submit.
  • I cannot teach a man under any circumstances–unless they are under the age of 13.
  • Of course I can lead, but only through my influence on my husband.
  • I can never hold any position of strategic influence or leadership in the church.
  • Because Eve was deceived, I, as a woman, am more open to deception than a man.
  • God only uses a woman when a man isn’t available. (This permits women on the mission field.)
  • My husband is the leader; I am there to serve his calling and vision. His destiny is the one that counts.
  • My husband is the priest of our home.
  • I have to be very careful about what I wear in case I cause a man to lust.
  • A strong woman probably has a “Jezebel spirit.”
  • I shouldn’t take the initiative but pray for my husband to do so in order that I can follow his lead.
  • I  always have to obey my husband, willing submitting even if  I know he’s wrong.
  • If God uses me to lead/teach men in any way, it’s like God speaking through Balaam’s donkey–an aberration.
  • God created Adam before he created Eve. Therefore men lead; women follow.
  • Women are more likely than men to lead the church astray.
  • There are no such thing as women elders.
  • Once I have children, my place is in the home.
  • There are plenty of ministries I can involve in–prayer and women’s ministries, Sunday School and making the coffee. I should be content with this and not seek to use my gifting outside of those prescribed boundaries.

The obvious conclusion? God, for some divine reason, prefers men. Women are therefore inferior to men, comparatively unimportant in the bigger scheme of life in the Kingdom.

A whole generation of women has been brought up to believe these things are true. We have become conditioned to living within these boundaries because we have been taught this is what the Bible says about us.

Is it any wonder that some of us struggle when we are given the freedom to take the initiative?

What has been your experience?

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Men lead, women follow?

I recently had a conversation with a lady who all her life has been told by her church that her husband’s role is the  only important one, and her job is to support him.

After centuries of being taught that men lead, women follow, many women are content to be passive, waiting for someone else to take a lead.


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God is giving women all over the world permission to take the initiative, to escape from their theological cages to follow where he’s leading them, and men are championing their efforts.

When will this happen here in the USA? Where are the women who will act as role models? Where are the men who will encourage and support them? What might happen when men and women co-labor together for the sake of the Kingdom. Could we see a generation emerge that has never been hindered by gender constraints?

Guest post by Larry Bennett: Why I changed my mind about women in ministry

Occasionally, I get a comment on my blog that is so important, it’s worth creating a guest post so others read it. The story that Larry tells of how he came to change his mind about women in ministry is outstanding.

Larry Bennett is an experienced mission’s trainer to developing world pastors and leaders. He has conducted and directed training in Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa and the USA. Larry is director of New Dimensions International in Ellijay, GA.  He has a passion for church planting and believes that aggressive and rapid multiplication of churches will be the end-time method of fulfilling the great commission in our lifetime.

Coming from a conservative Baptist background my view of women in major leadership roles, such as pastor or evangelist was not something acceptable. We clearly clung to the “women keep silent” passage. I saw no light theologically to change my mind. Besides it has been that way for hundreds of years. My mind was closed to the subject and anyone offering any scriptural proof was ignored by me.

However, a funny thing happened when I left the pastorate and started training church planters in third and developing world countries. I began to observe that  some of the most successful church planters in NE India and throughout all of Asia were women. Now this really messed with my theological model. How could this be if women were suppose to keep silent in the church?

When I related this to my peers in the States, they said, “God had to use a woman because there were not any men available.” That just didn’t make sense, even to a prejudiced preacher like me. There were plenty of men available to be used by God.

Had I been wrong about the role of women?

So then I began to search the scripture and read as much as I could regarding the subject. I didn’t find much published information, but I did find in Scripture that God has always used women in major leadership roles. As a church planter I observed one of the most obvious roles was that of Priscilla in the New Testament..

Whats my point? I learned the value of women in leadership in a practical way, in the field. My real world experience broke down my prejudicial barriers when theological arguments couldn’t budge my ignorance. And I must say, it has been a freeing revelation. To see and to know that God is just as active in using committed women as He is to using committed men is an exciting thing. Besides, I believe “more hands on the rope, steadier the pull”.

One other story that convinced me that God indeed has chosen to use women involved a training session in India. It was our first attempt to introduce Chronological Storying. I had a daunting task of training four language groups in the same room at the same time. One of people groups represented were from the unreached Maithili tribe.  Among the group of church planters was a tall, rough looking woman who had recently been released from prison for drug running.  While in prison she had come to know Christ and had experienced the touch of God.

We explained to the church planters that we were going to learn the Bible stories chronologically, beginning with Genesis and eventually ending at the stories surrounding the Cross.  I told them not to get discouraged and not to expect much in the way of evangelism because they were setting the stage for presenting the gospel.  The plan was to teach 10 Bible stories each quarter. The church planter would go out and tell the stories and then come back for 10 more stories next quarter. They would continue this process until they completed the full set of stories.

When a new story was presented, the church planter was asked to learn to tell the story, compose a song for the story and then, with a small group, develop a drama related to the story. I was enamored by the tall Maithili lady and watched how she was intently focusing on learning the stories.   As I watched her practice her story, I thought, “How will the Lord use this woman, especially since she will be so rejected because of her background and because she is a woman?  She is such a baby believer, who will believe her when she goes into the villages?”

Three months later the group came back to learn the second set of stories.  We surveyed the group just to see how the stories were received in the villages.  The tall Maithili lady stood and reported that she had led 200 people to the Lord and planted 10 new house churches, all from telling 10 stories in Genesis.  Even though other church planters had good results, no one came close to her numbers.  In the following year she continued to be greatly used of the Lord.

The Lord taught me two things from that experience.  Women will be a key player in the next great harvest of souls.  Secondly, the Word of God is the cultural key that unlocks the heart, not just good missiology.  Because Jesus, in typology,  is presented throughout Genesis, the bridge to the cross was made possible.

Felicity, your book is important to publish, especially since it is coming from those of different backgrounds. The church needs this book, I will be praying for the Lord to greatly use the book for His glory.

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Eve was deceived…

As a  young Christian I was taught that  because women are more prone to deception than men, therefore men should be the teachers. Adam was created before Eve, and therefore all women should be in submission to male leadership–whether that’s husband, pastor or some other Christian man. (I shudder even now to think how, albeit unwillingly, I swallowed these maxims. But I wanted to be a good Christian woman, and if that’s what it took…)

The idea comes from 1 Timothy 2

Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.(vv 12-14 NKJV)

Two incontrovertible facts:

  1. Eve was deceived and then sinned.
  2. Adam was formed first, then Eve.

Let’s review the background from this letter. Paul was writing to combat heresy in the church in Ephesus (I Tim 1:3).  In Acts 20, Paul had warned the Ephesian elders that false teachers would come in, including some men who would distort the truth. The book of 1 Timothy is full of warnings against false teaching:

  • People were spending their time in meaningless discussions, wanting to be known as teachers of the law (1:6-7).
  • Hymenaeus and Alexander are two examples who had deliberately violated their consciences and shipwrecked their faith and Paul had  thrown them out (1:20).
  • In the last times some would follow deceptive spirits and demonic teachings, saying it’s wrong to be married or eat certain foods (4:1-3).
  • Paul exhorts Timothy not to waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales but instead to train for godliness (4:7).
  • Some younger widows had already gone astray to follow Satan (5:15).
  • People who contradicted Paul and Timothy’s teaching were arrogant and lacked understanding, stirring up arguments that resulted in jealosy, division, slander and evil suspicion. Their minds were corrupt and they were using a show of godliness to become wealthy (6:2-10).
  • Paul gave a final exhortation to Timothy to avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who have wandered from the faith.

Again, the background to 1 Timothy is to deal with false teaching in a culture that was dominated by a female-centered religious cult.

Jon Zens in his excellent book,What’s With Paul and Women? makes the following points:

  • “First” is a function of time, not of superiority. Nowhere in the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 where both Adam and Eve are given the command to have dominion over creation, or in I Timothy 2:12, is there evidence that women are to be subordinate to men.
  • The worship of Artemis, goddess of the Ephesians, was a female-dominated cult ruled by women priests that included public sexual displays and fancy clothing and jewelry.
  • This cult taught that Artemis was born before her twin, Apollo, and that women, as the superior gender, therefore could dominate men.
  • Women in Ephesus looked to Artemis, the mother goddess. for protection–for their virginity, for aid in barrenness and for help in labor.
  • The history of the church shows that most false teaching has been propagated by males.
  • Eve being deceived by the serpent was not an example of what goes wrong when a female usurps male leadership, but of disobeying one of God’s commands. Paul uses the same example in 2 Corinthians 11:3 to show how an entire congregation can be deceived, both males and females.
  • It’s not right for anyone to teach with the goal of dominating others.
So is 1 Timothy 2 a “timeless universal restriction” on women? Or was it written into a specific situation where certain women in Ephesus had been deceived by false teaching and were passing it on to others?  Do we run into danger if we allow a cultural understanding to balance a literal obedience to the word?
What do you think?
 

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My ten favorite books on the topic of women in the church

Over the years, I’ve read many books that have helped me to understand the role of women in the body of Christ.

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In my early days as a Christian in the UK, the stream of churches we were part of held the traditional view of women–they could lead prayer meetings, children’s and women’s ministry and make the coffee. They were not allowed to have any kind of strategic leadership role.

This viewpoint was ingrained in me for many years. (I disliked it intensely, but if this was what God had for me as a woman, then I would submit to it–although I have to admit to doing more than my fair share of grumbling and complaining! I might be sitting down on the outside, but inside I was definitely standing up.)

Aside from my own study of the Scriptures, books by various authors played a large part in setting me free. I’ve read fairly extensively around this topic. Here are ten of my favorites:

Why Not Women : A Biblical Study of Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership by Loren Cunningham and David Hamilton. This is one of the first books I read that answered a lot of questions and is still one of  my all-time favorites on this subject with a good blend of justice and theology.

What’s With Paul and Women? by Jon Zens takes a practical and theological look at the challenging passages for women in Paul’s writing in ways that the ordinary person can understand.

Ten Lies The Church Tells Women: How the Bible has been misused to keep women in spiritual bondage by Lee Grady covers the big questions concerning women in ministry.

For Such a Time as This by British theologian, Martin Scott. It has a hand grenade on the front cover–need I say more?

Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters by Philip Payne–my new favorite theological textbook on this topic. Well worth the read for anyone who is looking for a book that goes deeper into this subject.

Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church by Pam Hogeweide also looks at complementarian/egalitarian issues (not a topic we’ll be covering in the book I’m co-writing). Well worth the read.

The Fall of Patriarchy: Its Broken Legacy Judged by Jesus & the Apostolic House Church Communities by Del Birkey–a deep and weighty theological book with a lot of good information.

Powerful and Free: Confronting the Glass Ceiling for Women in the Church by Danny Silk is a recognition of the stained glass ceiling for women and an appeal for equality in the church.

Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family by Gilbert Bilezikian–an oldie but a goodie, looking at the key texts of Scripture regarding women in a format that encourages independent conclusions.

How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals by Alan Johnson. A number of prominent evangelicals describe why they changed their opinion about women. The story by Bill and Lynne Hybels in this book is outstanding.

Add to this a Kindle-only book, Junia Is Not Alone by Scot McKnight that tells the story of how people tried to make the apostle Junia into a man down the centuries.

And here is a very good position paper by David Gschwend

I’d love to hear what other books you’ve found helpful on this subject

Can you help me with a book on women?

As most of you who have been following my blog for any length of time know, normally my blog looks at simple/organic church life. I started posting about women tied up with a book I’m co-writing/editing with a number of other authors. I’m hoping to have the manuscript complete by the end of May.

There are a number of things a blogger looks for to see what kind of response his/her posts are getting. These include:

  1. Subscriptions
  2. Bounce rate
  3. Comments
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Much to my amazement, all three of these improved exponentially as soon as I started blogging about women. For example, check out the comments on this post.

What this indicates to me is not that my blog has suddenly improved in quality, but that this is a topic that is truly “scratching where people itch.” (I sincerely hope so since I’m writing a book about  the role of women in the Kingdom!) I believe that this is going to be one of the next major moves of the Holy Spirit.

I need your help at this point. I’m praying that the book will cover the questions people are most concerned about.

So… what questions do you have concerning the role of women in the Kingdom? Are there any pressing issues or Scriptures you’d like to see discussed in the book (or on this blog)? Any related topics? Do you have any stories that are pertinent to this subject?

I appreciate your help.

 

 

 

Guest post by Heiko Poth: Women and the Great Commission

Heiko Poth is a chemist, a musician, and writer. He and his family are involved in simple/organic church in the southwest part of Germany. A few weeks ago, he sent me some comments which were so pertinent to our current discussion on 1 Timothy 2:12 apparently forbidding women to teach men, that I asked him to rewrite them as a guest post. Here they are:

Do women have to obey Jesus? (Silly question, isn’t it?) Are they also entrusted with the Great Commission? Are they authorized to make disciples? Let’s have a look at the Great Commission and its implications, especially in regards to the question of whether a woman can ever teach a man.

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus told his eleven remaining disciples (who should soon be twelve again) to go into all the world to make disciples of all nations. In order to do so, they had to

  1.  baptize them
  2. teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded them 

Now let’s play through a possible scenario that results:

The apostle Peter meets a fellow Jew named, say, David. He tells him the Gospel, and David wants to become a disciple. What is Peter to do? He baptizes him, and then tells him to obey everything Jesus commanded. Among many other things, Peter will have to tell him: “David, one of Jesus’ commandments was to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations. So you too have to go now and obey that commission. You do that as I do it – baptize them and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded.”

So David meets Deborah. He tells her the Gospel, and Deborah wants to become a disciple. What is David to do? He baptizes her, and then tells her to obey everything Jesus commanded. Among many other things, David will have to tell her: “Deborah, one of Jesus’ commandments was to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations. So you too have to go now and obey that commission. You do that as I do it – baptize them and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded.”

So, Deborah meets Marcus. She tells him the Gospel, and Marcus wants to become a disciple. What is Deborah to do? She baptizes him, and then tells him to obey everything Jesus commanded. Among many other things, Deborah will have to tell him: “Marcus, one of Jesus’ commandments was to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations. So you too have to go now and obey that commission. You do that as I do it – baptize them and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded.”

What if there was a universal commandment that women are not allowed to teach men? Then the last generation of making disciples as described above could not have taken place, because Deborah would not have been allowed to teach Marcus anything. But does this comply with the Great Commission itself?

The Great Commission is to go and make disciples of ALL people of ALL nations. That includes women. There is no gender discrimination in the Great Commission. Women are to be made disciples, not “just believers or attenders” or whatever. And ALL disciples are commanded to be baptized and to obey ALL that Jesus has commanded.That goes for female disciples as well as for male disciples.

Now ALL that Jesus commanded includes two other very universal commandments: The Great Commission itself again, from Matthew 28:18-20, to go and make disciples of ALL nations. So women are also to go and make disciples of just everybody they can – including men! Another commandment of Jesus is the Great Commission as it was given in Mark 16: To go and preach the Gospel to EVERY creature. Women, as female disciples, are also obliged to carry out this order, as they are to obey ALL that Jesus has commanded. So they have to preach to everybody – including to men!

This means that if there is in fact a universal commandment for women to be silent and not to teach men, they could not obey the Great Commission about half of the time! They could not make a man a disciple! Is that really the case, or are we turning a special instruction, that Paul wrote to a church in a special situation to fix a specific problem, into something more than it was intended to be? Slowing down and delaying the fulfillment of the Great Commission would be the cost of limiting half the harvest workers in what they can do,?