Women elders?

Many people believe that women cannot be elders. They often base it on this Scripture:

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do (1Tim 3:1 NASB). Many other versions say something similar.

There are two problems with this translation:

  1. Nowhere in the original Greek does it use the word “man.” In fact, according to Philip B. Payne, author of Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters, nowhere in the descriptions of qualifications of elders and deacons in either Timothy or Titus is a masculine pronoun used. The New Living Translation has it more accurately–”If any person…”
  2. The word “office” or “position” is not in the original Greek either. It was added by the translators.

But, you may say, what about the fact that one of the qualifications for an elder is that he is to be the husband of one wife–a “one-woman-man”? The qualifications for a deacon also include that stipulation, and we know that Phoebe was a woman deacon, so this on its own cannot be taken to mean there should not be women elders. The exclusion was probably to prevent polygamy in the leadership of the church, not to prevent women, or indeed single males, from being either elders or deacons. Added to that, unlike many cultures where men can have more than one wife, I cannot think of a single culture where women had/have more than one husband.

Others may object, but there are no females named as overseers (Greek episkopos) in the New Testament. True. However, apart from Jesus, there are no named males entitled episkopos either. Yes, John and Peter both describe themselves as elders, (Greek presbuteros) but these do not identify them as having a specific local church function and can equally well be interpreted that they are older in age. Similarly, older women in Titus 2 are described as presbutera.

What about verse 11 that says “Likewise their wives…” (NKJV)  implying that the wives of elders and deacons have to be qualified too? The Greek word can be translated as either “wives” or “women.” A better translation would be “Similarly, the women…” This phrase occurs within the description of deacons.

Several inscriptions have been discovered that show that women were leaders in Jewish synagogs shortly after the time of Christ. There is similar archaeological evidence of women leadership in the early church.

What do you think?

Two articles

I’ve had a couple of articles posted more widely in the past few days.

The first is in Christianity Todays section on building church leaders. It talks about the paradoxical nature of leadership within the simple/organic/house church movement.

The second comes in Charisma’s SpiritLed Women. They periodically (and with my permission) use one of my blog posts. This one they have entitled “The Medieval Attitudes that Prevail for Women in the Church.”

Enjoy!

The Path of Freedom

Brandon Chase is a frequent contributor to House2House Magazine Online.  I always enjoy his posts which I find insightful and thought-provoking. He also writes about Life, Love and Church – and how Jesus is all of these – on his blog Zōē Perissos. He has recently written an ebook The Path of Freedom: Few find it; Fewer walk it; Be one of the few. As I read this book, I was caught up in his story of how, from a churched background  Brandon found the freedom he longed for. I know others long for the same.

Felicity: I know from personal experience how important motivation is in writing a book. Why did you decide to write The Path of Freedom?

Brandon: The Path of Freedom was really a private wrestling I had with the Lord long before it was ever an eBook.

I had observed something that “bothered” me – in my own testimony, and in years of ministry with and to Christians - that is: the lack of real understanding of and living in the Freedom we are supposed to have in Jesus.

I was a “Christian” half of my life – and had no concept of what being Free was. I have witnessed countless Brothers and Sisters taste this Freedom in some area of their life – only to seemingly fall out of it, return to old sin patterns, wrong belief, or other bondage.

The fruit of Freedom is too often not there, or fleeting.

This eBook is the culmination of my wrestling with the Lord in asking the question, “Why?” and my understanding of what He showed me about Freedom – what It is, how It is entered in to, how It is remained in, how It is grown in, how It is Lived from – and why It matters.

You are not getting another “how to” book here. Rather, this is an unveiling of “what already is,” and what it means to “see” that reality, and Live from It.

Felicity: How has this process of writing a book changed you?

Brandon: That’s a really insightful question. As you probably can relate, writing is a wonderful fellowship with the Lord – I hear from Him and learn from Him in the “classroom” of the keyboard.

But before I ever get to the point of actually writing, for me, the process of writing about the things of God begin in the abiding in Him and seeking His things. When I did this for the specific purpose of understanding Freedom, He was faithful to show and tell.

This process has changed me eternally in that I now “get” Freedom. Please don’t hear me to say I am an expert, or have fully reached the bottom of understanding. That would be like reaching the end of the Lord Himself – and He is unsearchable in His riches! But I grasp what it means to realize His Freedom, and more importantly, what Living from that Freedom looks like, far better now than before this process started.

Those who take this journey with me will too.

I believe any sincere and seeking follower of Jesus who desires the fullness of relationship, intimacy, Life and Freedom in Him will benefit from this book.

Felicity: My blog focuses primarily on simple, organic church life, and on empowering women who follow Christ. How would these audiences benefit from your eBook?

Brandon: Great question.

Religion, and the institution of “church” has had a very negative, mostly unintended consequence of doing the precise opposite of what it proclaims to do – that is, set people Free via the Gospel. It has instead become one of the most significant prisons keeping people from that Freedom. Even in the organic/house/simple church movement, there is a great temptation for the “fellowship” or “community” itself to become its own special bondage.

I address these in the eBook.

The Daughters of God, Sisters in the Lord have been in a “cage” for far too long. That’s why I rejoiced over your recent book, The Black Swan Effect, and its prophetic message.

While certainly not the only cause of this “imprisonment,” part of the reason has doubtless been because (along with men) women have failed to apprehend and believe in their identity in Christ, and Live from it.

In my eBook, identity is addressed, and will bless women and men who have been lied to about, or who have failed to agree with God about who they are for far too long.

Felicity: How can readers who are interested get your eBook?

Brandon: You can get a FREE copy of The Path of Freedom by joining my newsletter list. This will automatically subscribe you to free updates to my blog, Zōē Perissos, as well as any other future eBooks and will give you a link to download the book.

Felicity: Any closing thoughts?

Brandon: I’m praying that this eBook opens eyes to more – More Freedom, More Life, More Jesus – and inspires us to Live, really Live Free.

The world and the Church are hungry, starving, for the people of God to realize their Freedom – and to Live It.

Thank you, Felicity for this opportunity to share. Blessings!

Five vows

In my late teens/early twenties, I came across AW Tozer’s “Five vows for spiritual power.” I’ve tried to live my life by them ever since. At times they’ve been inconvenient, I’ve certainly broken all of them at one time or another, but they’ve formed a compass for my life. They’ve simplified decision making. They’ve convicted me. They remain a guide.

Here they are:

  1. Deal thoroughly with sin
  2. Never own anything
  3. Never defend yourself
  4. Never pass on anything about anyone else that will hurt them
  5. Never accept any glory

The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church is a clarion call for a New Reformation encompassing the whole body of Christ–Leonard Sweet

Jesus Feminist

With a title like Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, especially with the further subtitle of “Exploring God’s Radical Notion That Women Are People Too,” I expected a book that was strident and argumentative. But I was instantly won over by the welcoming and gracious, generous and vulnerable writing of Sarah Bessey.

It’s hard to know how to describe this book. Perhaps the thing that comes across most strongly is Sarah’s love for Jesus that permeates every page. Written with poetry and beauty, the book is a clarion call for women (and men) who long for freedom to step out into the fullness of their giftings and potential.

While she doesn’t gloss over the problems, Sarah encourages women to forgive and leave behind the limitations and hurts they may have experienced in a patriarchal system, and to move on into a work of healing and loving, of justice and community. Over and over again, she affirms the worth of women, commissioning them to go and heal others, to disciple and minister, to set others free. While the arguments she uses are Biblically sound and thought provoking, they are seasoned with such grace that they are somehow less confrontational and more winsome.

One of the signs that God is on the move concerning women in our generation is the number of books that are coming out on the topic.  Jesus Feminist is one of those books. It’s written from a different perspective to many of the books on this topic–more personal, less combative. Well worth reading.

 

Rethinking giving

Until a few months ago, the church that meets in our home did what I suspect the majority of simple/organic churches have done with their giving.

Nothing!

That’s not to say that people haven’t been giving. They have–generously. (A few years ago, a friend of ours did research on how giving within simple/organic/house churches compares with the traditional church. Well over half the people give more than 10 percent of their income. The typical American Christian gives 3 percent.) But most people don’t tend to give via the house church. They give to friends they know on the mission field, needs within the church as they have come up and various other charitable/spiritual projects they have wanted to support. All of it good.

The issue was forced on us recently when a couple told us they wanted to do some of their giving via the church.

What to do?

As a church, we sought the Lord and had the sense that he wanted us to be more strategic in our giving. It’s not that one or two people should make the decision about where the money should go. As his body, together, we were responsible for asking him what he would like us to do with any  money collected. Even with people continuing to give their regular support to projects they are committed to, with no buildings and no staff, there’s a lot of money available.

So we opened a bank account, and each week we have a pot available for people to put money in.

In the past three months, as a church, we’ve spent time seeking the Lord as to what we should do with the money collected. Each time, there’s been a general consensus as to where it should go. We’ve given to missions, we’ve helped some people within the church who had overwhelming financial need, we’re helping one of our young people go to camp over the summer and we’re giving a proportion (rather than a set amount) regularly to House2House.

The most strategic network of churches I know of regarding finances is in Killeen, Texas. Last time I heard, they’d given more than $1.2 million since their inception.

What if the rest of us were to be strategic with our giving too? What if, as a movement, we were strategic with our giving? What more could God accomplish?

 

 Photo Credit: borman818 via Compfight cc

Rethinking movements

I’ve had the incredible privilege of being part of various moves of the Holy Spirit–most recently, the simple/organic/house church movement. Right now, I’m putting considerable thought into the topic of movements. The reason: Others have encouraged me not to just sit back after publishing The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church but to consider whether God might want to do more.

I’ve begun wondering if what is going on with women may turn out to be a move of God. I recently met with Alan and Deb Hirsch, both of whom feature in the book, and they, too, encouraged me to explore it further. My longing is certainly that men and women partner together as co-equals for the Kingdom.

My thoughts on this so far are very non-technical and only just beginning to take shape:

A movement occurs when the thoughts and actions of a group of individuals begin to impact the prevailing culture.

There are various different ways a spiritual movement begins:

  1. God begins to speak to different people in various places about the same thing. They find each other, and begin co-operating together. Examples would include the house church movements of both the UK and the US, both of which had a profound influence on the church culture.
  2. Austrian philosopher, Ivan Illich was once asked whether the best way to transform society was by revolution or reformation. His reply was, “Neither. You tell an alternative and compelling story.” Example? Luke 10:2b prayer went viral across the nations through the power of story.
  3. People actively engage in principles that are known to create transformation. Many church planting movements overseas are this way. There are well recognized principles to multiplying disciples and churches.

Obviously, we cannot manufacture movement. It takes a sovereign work of God. But we can co-operate with him. Many  Spirit-led movements are a combination of all three of these principles.

[Other secular movements may rely on resistance. For example, Gandhi or Mandela and peaceful collective action. The civil rights movement and the LGBT movements would also be examples. The people initially involved deliberately developed  strategies that changed nations.]

I have no idea if God will create a significant movement of men and women working together as co-equals, but I long that he does so. The indications are there. To me, it feels very similar to the beginning of other movements I’ve been part of.

What do you think?

If any of you are interested in hearing further developments as they arise (for example, there’s a round table happening later this month to discuss these issues further), you can sign up for email updates here. (If you’re already on the list of those praying for  The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church, you’ll automatically be included.)

Jesus Now

Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ is Frank Viola’s latest book. I love Frank Viola’s writing. He is always scriptural, always Jesus-centered and he always makes me think. So I was delighted when he sent me a copy to review.

Over the years, I’ve read many “deeper life” books. The writings of Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee, and AW Tozer and many others have impacted me. In many ways, Jesus Now reminds me of their works. It places Jesus front and center; it challenges the reader to make Jesus Lord of everything in life; it reveals how Jesus transforms and strengthens the believer.

We all know what Jesus did when he was here on earth. He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead. But what is he doing now? He continues to work in our lives. Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ details the current ministry of Jesus as our High Priest, Chief Shepherd and Heavenly Bridegroom. Just these chapters alone could transform the lives of many believers as they are set free from guilt and condemnation.

But the book doesn’t stop at the level of the individual follower of Jesus. In a way that few books do, Frank takes these concepts further into the ministry of Jesus in the body of Christ at large. Jesus is the Master Builder and the Head of the Church. This has implications for how we meet together and how the church interacts with the world.

Although this book is a fast read, I believe Jesus Now is destined to be a classic! I highly recommend it.

Frank has a great offer for us. If you purchase the book between May 5th and May 8th from Parable.com, you will not only get it at 50 percent off, you will also get a study guide for free. Here’s where you can get it.

Nation-impacting women

Floyd McClung is another contributor to The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church. He wrote an amazing chapter in the book about the nation-impacting women God has used throughout the world and down through history. Here’s an excerpt from his chapter:

I have had the privilege of traveling in 192 countries and have met amazing women in all walks of life. The world knows about Mother Teresa and accepts her radical impact. But what of the tens of thousand of unknown women who are silent heroes of the Kingdom? Take away their service and the the Kingdom of God become half or less of what it is today.

I estimate more than 65 percent of the mission force and leadership corps of the church worldwide is female. Serving as Bible translators and church planters, women have opened up unreached groups to the Gospel, taught men to lead and read, made disciples, trained leaders, and ignited church planting movements.Some of these same female leaders have subsequently stepped back as second-generation male leaders took charge, watching silently as men went on to take the credit for what women had actually done.

Floyd McClung