Sunday, November 25, 2012

Using God’s gifts

Lisa is a daughter and wife and a mom to three daughters and two sons. She is a lifelong member of the Church of Christ and grew up in the world of Searcy and Harding. She loves her spiritual heritage and is thankful to the Restoration Plea for teaching her to take God's Word seriously and to not settle for easy answers. One of her greatest joys is seeing her sons use their gifts in public worship, and she hopes she will someday see her daughters be able to do the same thing.

What do you think about women leading in public worship? 

It's interesting that you would use the word, "lead." Over the course of my life, I've learned that some of my gifts are more public in nature. I speak well. I love sharing God's word with believers. I love words and ideas. I sing, and sharing God's love through music has been a joy to me throughout my life. However, I don't view any of this as leadership. These are gifts that God has given me and my heart's desire is to serve him and others through using these gifts. Yes, these are all roles that are more public, but when we use the gifts that God gives us, we are serving him and sharing his truth with others. 

Serving communion is one of the areas that both puzzles me and makes me laugh. From what I know about first century culture, men had very little -- if anything -- to do with food preparation and service. It's hard for me to imagine a first century, middle-eastern man suddenly deciding that he would take on a woman's role and serve food to others simply because it was Sunday. Maybe I'm underestimating the potential for egalitarian attitudes in first century Israel, but I really doubt that those first communion experiences were "led" by men.

Each week, I sit in a room in which the population is over 50% female. Many of the families in attendance are led by single moms or spiritually single mothers whose husbands do not attend church with them. These women -- from early ages into elder years -- will most likely never hear anyone who sounds like them read scripture from the pulpit. There may be gifted teachers and worship leaders who will never be able to use their God-given gifts in God's house.

So what do I think? I think that gender-based "leadership" causes us to miss the opportunity to learn and grow. Women are missing the opportunity to serve; men are missing the opportunity to learn from women's experiences. Children are missing the opportunity to see their moms share their faith and we are all losing a rich heritage of faith.

What do you think about women serving on a church ministry staff? 

I work at one of our brotherhood's institutes of higher ed. Every semester at graduation, I see capable and intelligent young women graduate with degrees in ministry. Youth and Family Ministry, Vocational Ministry, and sometimes, even a pure Bible major. My heart hurts for them. I love their courage at pursuing a degree in a male-dominated (male-exclusive?) field, but I'm very aware of the fact that their chances of being employed with their degrees are very small. Some of them may go on and pursue graduate degrees in counseling and find jobs, but the possibility of being employed as a youth minister or minister of involvement in a local congregation of a church of Christ is minimal. I'm aware of several positions in campus ministries where men and women serve equal roles, yet the men are hired as ministers and the women as "assistants," and are paid what a secretary would be paid rather than what a ministry coordinator would be paid.

If we are going to educate and graduate young women in ministry, we need to employ them in ministry. If we are going to employ them in ministry, we need to call them "ministers," and pay them equally to what we pay men filling the same role. If we cannot do this, we will lose them. They will seek employment in other religious groups. They will work for non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity or World Vision. We will lose their servant hearts and hands and we will be poorer for it.

What do you think about women serving as deacons or elders? 

"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae." Romans 16:1-2. It seems that scripture has answered this question for us.

On a practical, less idealistic, note we live in a culture where people are very concerned about gender lines. If our elders continue to only be men, who will women go to with difficult questions regarding their marriages or child-raising—when they need official insight from their church? We are often warned about not discussing deeply personal issues with matters of the opposite sex because of the temptation for the relationship to move beyond the bounds of propriety. How can the spiritually single women receive the spiritual guidance they desire if all of their spiritual leaders are men? Who can they voice their concerns to? What about a woman in an abusive relationship or someone who doesn't trust men for valid reasons? How likely is she to discuss important matters with an all-male group of elders?

If we plan to reach out to the unchurched, we will have more and more of these scenarios and fewer and fewer answers. Women need women to address particularly female issues.


  1. Since Mike has handed over the keys and is welcoming female comments, I would like to comment. I think it would be wrong for me not to comment. I am a wife and mother and a member of the Church of Christ, and I totally disagree with you. Seems to me that your main concern is that, in your opinion, women aren’t being treated fairly. God is 100% clear about women’s roles. Why are you longing to see it changed? We must not see this issue as men verses women. There are women and men on both sides of this debate. This is not about discrimination; rather, it is about biblical interpretation.

    “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” 1 Tim 2:11-12.
    So there are different roles for men and women. This is a result of the way mankind was created and the way in which sin entered the world (vs 13-14). God limits women from serving in roles of teaching and/or having spiritual authority over men. This includes elders, ministers and bible teachers because this consists of preaching to, teaching, and having spiritual authority over men.

    I think that, biblically, the “reason” is perfectly clear. Verse 13 begins with “for” and gives the cause for Paul’s statement. Why should women not teach or have authority over men? Because “Adam was first created and then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived, it was the woman that was deceived.” God made Adam first and then created Eve to be a helpmeet for him. This order has application in the family AND the church ( Eph 5:22-23). The fact that Eve was deceived is also given as a reason. Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism, and helps. This is not unimportant. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on them. But they should use their gifts the way God intended. Women in the church are not to have teaching authority over men. But women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruits of the spirit and proclaim the gospel!
    Phoebe was a “servant” in the church. The Greek word for “deacon” is not used regarding Phoebe.

  2. Have you not seen the very obvious trend in America over the past 100 years? Very few women are stay-at-home moms, which means that most children grow up with the public school system, daycare workers, and babysitters doing the child rearing. Would you say this is an improvement? You cannot say so statistically, not even close. Children are FAR worse off now that women are “treated fairly” and get to “pursue their goals” and “make something out of themselves”. Your question isn’t “how can I follow God completely?” but “How can I get more of what I want?” Women are putting themselves first nowadays, their wants, desires and needs above their children’s, husband’s and the church’s needs even if it means rejecting the clear teaching of the Bible. Ungodly women like Simone de Beauvoir and Margaret Sanger fought for women’s rights. They and many other prominent feminists rejected the bible. Those are the people we revere in our culture. Men have become more like women and women more like men, and this is considered a good thing. The line between our roles is almost completely gone. The only place you still see it is in the church… and you are trying to dissolve the line there too… Heaven help us. Let’s get back to the Word. If we can’t trust it to be true, then why bother? If what God says in His Word is not accurate, why are you still attending a church? And why on earth would you want to be part of serving communion to believers?? Just don’t bother! Stay at home on Sunday. Get more sleep or go out on your boat.

  3. No, let’s get back to the Bible and the Biblical perspective on everything. The Bible says women aren’t to teach or have authority over men. Period. You don’t like that and hate to see women’s gifts unused. But why not focus on using your gifts the way God intended. Perhaps you could become a counselor to those women you said that have no one but men elders to go to for marital help. Where does it say that only elders should give counsel? The Bible says older women are to teach younger women and children, and they should, so there you go. You could pass on your great heritage of faith to your children! There’s a thought! Or you could also serve your husband, but maybe that’s too much to ask. That would be equal, after all. God has ordained men to lead, not because they are necessarily better teachers or because women are inferior or dumb. It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in leadership in their lives and in their words. Women take a less authoritative role. This doesn’t make women less important by any means but gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and God given gifts.
    I am a woman and went to college, worked in the corporate world for years at a Fortune 100 company… why any woman would find joy in that I’ll never understand, unless it’s just knowing that she’s capable of doing what a man can. Sure women are smart and talented, but striving to be able to do everything a man can is striving after the wind. You will find TRUE joy fulfilling the role God created you to do. I’m now a stay-at-home mom. I’m not constantly fighting and looking at how I’m not being treated fairly and how my gifts are being wasted because I can see how my gifts are being used every single day! Maybe I’m not speaking in front of an entire congregation, but I’ve taught classes of children and teen girls and it was a blessing. And I homeschool my son, who is growing wonderfully! He doesn’t have to rot away in a daycare or be taught the heresies of this world as truth. He’s being reared at home by his father and mother, as the Bible instructed. I fear that you have left your first love. If you hadn’t, you wouldn’t be trying to persuade the church to reject clear biblical teaching. A true love for Jesus is to obey Him. The last thing you want is for God to remove His lampstand from your church just because you had to have your way. The goal should be love from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith but you are straying from these things and have turned aside to fruitless discussions wanting to be a teacher of the scriptures even though you don’t understand what they are saying or the matters about which you make confident assertions. I encourage you to repent and get back to God’s Word as the rule for your life in every way.

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  5. Oof.
    Lisa, thank you for your courage in sharing what may be a wildly unpopular opinion in some circles. Thank you for opening your heart to us. I hope that most readers will hear what you say and respond with wisdom and love.

    Jenn, you managed to insult a number of people in your comments. Not every family can afford a stay-at-home mom and some women have jobs outside the home that they absolutely love. I, along with millions of other children, went to daycare and public school and never had a problem. You seem to embrace a "humble, submissive woman" role, but your comments read quite differently. Your comments are pharisaical, if not mean. As though you presume to know exactly what God wants for women you've never even met. We don't all get joy from doing the exact same thing as you. We just aren't built that way. I hope you're a happier person than your comments suggest.
    Peace and blessings to you all.

  6. Jenn,

    You're being irresponsible with scripture. Immediately preceding the 1 Timothy text you quote that tells women they must be silent in church, the passage says women are not to wear gold or pearls. If you're going to legalistically interpret scripture, you should be consistent and preach against women wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. But yet you likely wouldn't.

    Moreover, the word "silence" used in greek in the NT means total silence. That would involve singing.

    The Bible is not 100% clear on this.

  7. (I know, Lisa E. There really is no response to Jenn’s comments that makes sense to me yet either, yet here I go.)

    I can say that she seems to sincerely hold her beliefs, and it seems, at least in her own opinion, that she is a very good mother. So for those who might want to villainize Jenn, let’s look from the cup-half-full perspective. I doubt we have to worry about her selling drugs or driving drunk, and she probably makes a mean chicken and rice casserole, which she takes promptly to a shut-in.

    Lisa B, I sincerely appreciate Jenn taking the time to present here the arguments that some readers might have never known exist. I believe she recalled, word for word, the correct “book, chapter, and verse” and captured the exact tone of every preacher and elder and deacon and bible class teacher with whom I was raised. On their behalf, I would like to present her with an A+ and the coveted Super Student! button.

    In some ways, I look wistfully back on the days when Truth was as clear and black and white as it still is for Jenn. If I could go back there, it would certainly make my life as a CofCer a lot simpler and perhaps a good deal more enjoyable. And if those were the greatest goals in my life, I could possibly make a case for going back. Wish her well, Lisa, and carry on. (lnoah)

  8. Lisa,
    Thank you for your insight and your words. It is hard to speak honestly in these situations because of the backlash. And you have gotten a big dose of it.

    Please don't give up and go spend time on your boat, as one commenter asks. Your voice is one that keeps me interested and able to continue to have hope that I have a place in the church.

    Thank you for your words and your brave voice,
    Jenn Duck Baker

  9. Lisa, this is a brave and true post. Scripture reveals to us man and woman both created in the image of God, and God was pleased with them both. The male human was not “good” until he met the female human, then they were complete and “very good.”

    In Christ, there is not male or female, only children made in God’s image, and the witness of scripture reveals that none should be subordinate to others.

    In the New Testament, not only were there woman who served as deacons, preachers, prophets and leaders, at least one woman is named as a likely apostle. In I Corinthians 11, women prayed and prophesied, and women plainly taught and led men in the Way.

    Those who would continue to subordinate women are conflating hundreds of years of culture, law and tradition in which wives were dissolved into their husband’s identities, where women were wards, like children, to be protected and chastened, not empowered and free to fulfill the dignity God intends for us all. We ought to not permit culture to encroach on the gospel, so we ought to fulfill the gospel premise that all people are made in the image of God, that there are not male and female in Christ, but that all women and men, all people, stand equally before God, full of dignity and love.

    When we silence half the church, we thwart and distort the gospel.

    You are right, and you have encouraged us all.

  10. Mrs. Burley I enjoyed reading what you had to say! You are an inspiring woman, and I wish there were more mothers like you in this world.

  11. Speaking as one who actually KNOWS and loves the author of this blog post, I feel the need to point out one very important fact. Of all the hats she wears, of all the roles she plays, the role of "mother" is of the utmost importance to Lisa Burley. She spent years being a SAHM and homeschooling her children. Sadly, the difficult circumstances of life have robbed her of that luxury and she was forced to enter the workforce. In her heart of hearts she is STILL a SAHM, and each of her children has been immensely blessed by her steadfast example of faithfulness and perseverance. I am not 100% certain about very many things/people, but I am 100% certain that Lisa is the BEST mom that she can be and anyone who says otherwise is, quite simply, ill-informed.

  12. I deleted my earlier comment as it was short and snarky, and I decided to use time to think of a better reply to Jenn's comments and to Lisa's original post.

    Lisa, I appreciate the considerable thought and time you put into your work here. Yes, I do know you personally, and know that you have worked and searched to find God's truth in our roles as women and servants of God. Truth can be very hard to separate from tradition, especially considering where we "grew up" religiously (and I don't mean spiritually - big difference.

    I'm not even going to get into the discussions regarding stay-at-home vs. working-outside-the-home motherhood. That's a personal decision between a father and mother, if the mother has the luxury of having a father that is in the family picture, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Too much guilt has been piled upon loving Christian mothers about this subject.

    Thank you for being bold enough to share what MANY Christian women believe (and some men I've met, although many aren't brave enough to admit it). I hope that my daughters will find a place to serve that fits their talents and gifts and that God will use those talents to His glory.

  13. Jenn, I can tell that you and I care very much about some of the same things, but also have very different views. I've pondered over whether to respond and how to respond if I did.

    Rather than hijack Mike's blog by continuing the conversation here, I'm going to follow up on my blog. You can find me at

    Jenn (and everyone else), I would love to see you there. If you choose not to visit my blog, please do know that my relationship with God is the most important part of my life. It is the reason I get up in the morning and the reason I can sleep at night. I have not left my first love. My family is my next priority. Everything I do is done for them. I work so that they can eat and have a home, not to fulfill some inner longing of my own or so that we can buy boats and have fancy cars. My working away from home *is* submission to my husband because in my heart of hearts I am doing what you are blessed to be able to do, but we no longer can afford.

    I am thankful for your dedication to your family and to seeking truth. We obviously disagree, but I believe that God's grace will cover whichever one of us is wrong. And maybe neither of us is wrong, but are just at different points in our life journeys.

    Be blessed. Hug your son. Thank your God for the time that you have with him. After almost losing two of our children to illness or injury, I know full well that life is short and uncertain and time with our children is precious.

  14. Thanks for sharing Lisa. I appreciate your courage.

  15. Thanks for sharing Lisa, I think you do a wonderful job expressing yourself. Have you read the book "The Blue Parakeet?" I know, crazy asking a librarian about having read a bood :) I'm reading it now and it has given me much to think on the role of women in the Bible/church.

  16. Teresa, I do love Blue Parakeet. Right now, I'm reading Rachel Held Evans' newest book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. It may be the most important book I've ever read. I keep wanting to grab the women in my life and read parts out loud to them. It's helped me finally make peace with the Proverbs 31 woman and I have a new battle cry for life! Eshet Chayil!

  17. Thanks, Lisa!
    Other books I recommend - scholars delve into the history of women's roles in the church in Discovering Biblical Equality with Pierce and Groothius as editors. Also relevant - Half the Sky.

  18. I can't wait to read A Year of Biblical Womanhood. People keep recommending!

  19. Mr. Mike, it's amazing how different worlds continually find themselves colliding. I happened across your blog on Facebook and have spent the last hour reading through your posts, to happen across this one by Lisa, a woman I highly admire and look to as a role model from my time at Harding.