There are some questions that are crucial to the future of the church. The role of women is one of them.
(My blog was hacked a couple of weeks ago while we were in Hong Kong and has been giving me technical problems ever since. I’m working on them! John Chapman emailed me with some questions since he couldn’t comment on the blog. His comments/questions (in bold) are so important that here’s a whole post devoted to answering them.)
I have been reading your posts on women in the Church and the deep concerns you have with regard to them not being given legitimacy as to role and function. I’m on the same page with you theologically. But you raise a couple questions in my head.
1) Is your concern with a problem that is going on within the Simple Church (Rabbit) structure that you adhere to in your book re Elephant & Rabbit? If so, I get your concern.
John, yes. When I’ve talked with women (obviously some, not all) in the simple/organic church movement, I have the impression it’s going to require a major shift in understanding for them to take any but a supportive role to their husbands. Even though within the simple church movement in general, there are no theological “stained glass” barriers for women, there are still remarkably few of us taking any kind of strategic roles. We’ve become conditioned to taking a passive role while waiting for a man to take the initiative. Obviously there are other factors too–for example, many women work and they don’t have time outside of their work hours to keep up with all that needs doing within their families, let alone getting more involved in Kingdom activities. But they could come up with other creative ideas such as a lunch time get together with their work colleagues.
However, I get the feeling that your concern with regard to women’s ministry is related to the vertical-top-down (Elephant) structure that the Church has become today. If that is true, then I have a second question.
My concern goes right across the ecclesiological spectrum. While I’m obviously primarily involved in the simple/organic/house church world, I have a deep concern for women within legacy churches. For those who are totally satisfied with the status quo regarding women, that is fine; I’ve no desire to cause them any angst. But there are many who are very, very frustrated. However, I believe that is beginning to change. Within the mega-churches in particular, there’s an increasing emphasis on the empowering of women. For example, Exponential in 2013 had a leadership track specifically for women. Some denominations expect full participation from women, willingly ordaining them. (This isn’t the place for a discussion on ordination.)
John, I hope I’m understanding your question right. What I hear you ask (far more diplomatically than I’m about to put it) is this: is there any way for traditional churches to change their views on the role of women? They have inherited a hierarchical and patriarchal system since the days of Constantine and are unlikely to change in their thinking.
It will take a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit! So yes, I believe it’s possible.
I personally believe that one of the next major emphases of the Holy Spirit is going to be on the role of women. Already the signs are there. There are an increasing number of books that are coming out on this topic–a year or so ago, I was hardly aware of any. To see a major harvest here in the West, women will need to step up to the plate. If women are freed to walk into their calling and destiny, we potentially can double the workforce for the Kingdom.
There’s an increased blurring across old dividing lines in many areas of Kingdom life at the moment. God is up to something. For example, I see little of the old division between charismatic and non-charismatic. Some of my closest friends would not claim any kind of charismatic experience but they are more Spirit-filled and move more in the power of the Spirit than many charismatics I know. Another blurring is coming between house churches and legacy churches. Many legacy churches, both individually and as whole denominations, are applying simple church principles to outreach and missions.
As we focus on the Kingdom, the old divisions seem to play little role. So the topic of women in strategic roles is important across the spectrum. As legacy churches grandparent movements of simple churches, it’s important that they lay good foundations, including the role of women.