The Role Of Men In The Church – There is constant debate among Christians about what the Bible says about the proper roles of men and women in the ministries and ministries of the local congregation or church. Some believe that the Bible teaches no difference in the roles or responsibilities of men and women in the home or church. Others believe that the Bible teaches the principle of male leadership in the home and church.
I believe that God has given different roles and responsibilities to men and women in the church, and some believe that this is an outdated and increasingly unpopular understanding of the Bible. However, I sincerely believe that the Bible teaches, so I don’t care if it is outdated or unpopular.
The Role Of Men In The Church
That being said, the point of this article is not to debate that issue. Recently, Brian Brodersen and I discussed these matters with another pastor and thought it would be good to explain our understanding of how these different roles and responsibilities should affect the ministry and ministries of the local church.
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For those who think the Bible teaches no difference in role or responsibility between men and women in the church, 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is often considered a “problem.” Since I believe the Bible teaches such a distinction, I don’t see it as a problem at all. However, as in many places in the Bible, a clear command can present challenges in the way the command is carried out.
First, there are at least two commands in the passage: that a woman should teach in silence, with all submission, and that women should not teach and have authority over men in the church.
I believe the New King James Version translation of “silence” in 1 Timothy 2:11 and 2:12 is unfortunate. The word just as easily means “peaceful” or “without contention” and is used in that sense just a few verses earlier (1 Timothy 2:2, peaceable). Paul never meant that women should shut their mouths when they enter the church, but that they should not speak in a way that would lead to strife, disturb the peace of the congregation, or despise the authority that God has given in the church.
The commandment that women should not teach or have authority over men in the church (1 Timothy 2:12) is actually one commandment, not two. Women should not teach in the church in a way that takes over or replaces the authority that God has ordained in the church.
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The reasons for these commands are fascinating and not based on time or culture. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul connected the reasons with the order of creation and the nature of the fall (1 Timothy 2:13-14).
1. God gave both men and women to understand and teach His Word, to care for others in God’s family, to organize and lead. The only biblical question is in what sphere these gifts will be used. God and His church benefit greatly from the gifts and energy of qualified women, but not in the role or responsibility of teaching or leading the congregation in general.
2. Being a man does not qualify anyone for leadership in God’s church. While I believe the scriptures teach that men should lead in the church, no one should think that gender alone qualifies a person. The character qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 mean that many or most men in the church are not yet qualified for leadership.
3. The Bible teaches male leadership only in the home and in the church. The Bible does not mandate male leadership in politics, business, academia, community, and other similar institutions. God has special purposes for both the family and the church that go beyond pragmatism or efficiency.
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4. God’s role and responsibility for men in the family and church are not given because men are inherently more spiritual or gifted. Again, God has special purposes for both the family and the church that go beyond pragmatism or efficiency.
For those who agree that women should not teach in a way that usurps or replaces God-given authority in the church, there is agreement and disagreement about how the principle should be applied.
Most would agree that women should not be given the title or office of elder, bishop, or pastor because those titles and offices presuppose the exercise of authoritative teaching and preaching over the congregation as a whole. It is not that women cannot preach, teach or show pastoral love and care. It is that they should not do these things over the congregation in general, but only under the authority and supervision of the general leadership of the church.
Therefore, if a qualified woman teaches a women’s Bible study or leads a class of fourth graders, we should have no problem with that.
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Therefore, if a woman—even if she is qualified or gifted in some sense—regularly taught or preached in the weekly service of the general assembly, that would be a problem. It would be a problem if she had the title of pastor or elder or not, because regular teaching and preaching to the general congregation is an exercise of authority over that congregation.
Where there may be some legitimate area of disagreement is over the question, “What exactly is authoritative teaching over the general assembly?” If a woman is speaking as a one-time guest and the topic of her teaching is not settling or speaking about doctrinal controversies, is that permissible? I know some pastors who fully agree with the principle of male leadership in the church who would not have a problem with it, and others who would have a problem with it. I think there is room to agree to disagree while still remaining true to the principle of God’s setting certain roles and responsibilities for qualified men in the congregation.
Some think that a woman teaching at a conference or workshop or some similar situation is a violation of authoritative teaching over the congregation, and some do not. Again, I think there’s room to agree to disagree.
We can also think of some exceptions that do not erase the principle, but are only considered somewhat rare exceptions.
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We could say that there is a “Corrie ten Boom exception”. Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian of extraordinary courage who endured concentration camps during World War II and had an extraordinary testimony and heart for God. Pastor Chuck Smith invited Corrie ten Boom to speak Sunday at Costa Mesa’s Calvary Chapel in the 1970s. It was a rare, convenient exception that did not undermine the congregation’s recognized leadership.
We could also say that there is a “frontier missionary” exception, using the hypothetical example of a woman missionary who sees a tribe that has received Christ without trained or qualified men to teach or take leadership. The situation is not ideal, but sometimes the answer is to work with what we have and work according to the biblical ideal. We might imagine a woman taking on the roles and responsibilities that the Bible usually assigns to trained and qualified men and working to build male leaders among those she ministers to.
One area of caution would be the use of the pastor’s wife in the pulpit. Because of the nature of her relationship with her husband and the natural prominence she may hold, it would be easy for many in the congregation to view her as a substitute for their husband’s role and responsibility, which is exactly the wrong message to send.
However, those exceptions are just that – rare exceptions that should not be established or considered the regular order of the church. The principle that God has appointed qualified people to fill the roles and responsibilities of leadership is important, and even more so because it is becoming less accepted by the culture at large. We must believe that God’s order is good and should be followed, even if the fashions and opinions of our time would lead us in the opposite direction.
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David Guzik is a teaching pastor at Calvary Chapel in Santa Barbara. David is popularly known in the Christian community for his online and print commentaries on the Bible. What an inspired group of themes we have to choose from this month from Follow Me. I was doing a little studying today to help my husband with his Priestly Choir lesson tomorrow and felt the need to post a few thoughts. Maybe it will help some of you in preparing for the lesson. I’ll be honest, after reading all the suggested resources, I took a nap (I’m still in recovery mode from a minor surgery I had last week), but the nap served me well, as I drifted off to sleep as memories from the past played out in my mind. As a young mother, I loved telling my children stories, including my favorite ones
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