Sunday, January 27, 2013

Thoughts on Women’s Role … by Anonymous




                I am filled with gratitude for my Christian heritage, for being raised where God’s word was taught, prayer was genuine and grace was emphasized as essential in God’s plan.  I am thankful to have grown up with the godly examples and influence of Christian men and women who taught at Harding Academy, Harding University and the College Church.  I remember being told by many as I was growing up that I would have been a “great preacher if I was a man.”  They told me that with my personality and gifts I could have been used for preaching, teaching and leading if I had only been born male.  I can recall the conflict in my mind wondering if God had possibly made a mistake with making me a woman, with the gifts he had given me.  Had he “accidentally” given me gifts that only a man could use for Him?  Is there a difference in the spiritual gifts that God gives to men and women?

            Here is what I have concluded from the study of His word for several decades, and, yes, I remain a member of the churches of Christ.  I do believe that the Bible teaches that there are different roles given to men and women, but that the same spiritual gifts are given to both.  For example, men and women can and do have the spiritual gift of leadership.  In I Timothy 2, I believe the key phrase is that women should use their gifts “under authority.”  In I Corinthians 11, women prayed and prophesied in the church “under authority” (head covered).  In verses 11 – 12, (“Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.”), we find the interconnectedness of men and women in God’s plan.  Some examples of women who used their leadership gifts to God’s glory are Lydia who led the church in Philippi (Acts 16), Priscilla and Aquila who were a teaching team to Apollos (Acts 18) and described as Paul’s “co-workers” (Romans 16), and also Phoebe, called a “deacon of the church in Cenchreae.” (Romans 16:1).  We must ask ourselves what these passages mean.

            It seems to me that many churches have over-reacted by not using women and their gifts at all so as not to “step over” the boundaries that God has put in place.  Why do we have to erect boundaries where God did not?  As a result many of us have had the painful experience of losing close friends to other churches who will allow them to use their gifts of leadership.  In a wider context, it is difficult to answer girls/young women at church who ask questions about why they do not see any women used in public:  praying, teaching, sharing thoughts during the Communion (or even passing out the communion trays), and participating in baptisms when it is their own child or friend whom they have taught being baptized.  It is also hard being part of a church that has a Vision Team making plans for the entire congregation, yet with no women as part of the team.  I feel like our sons/young men/adult men miss something significant when they have not experienced the teaching or heard the prayers from some of our amazing Christian women. They are missing an important perspective – the female side.

            I have found “peace” in discovering ways to use my gifts from God within the churches of Christ.  I am blessed to be a preacher’s wife (which I believe to be as much a “calling” as being a minister), to have had opportunities to teach alongside my husband in adult classes and to provide leadership in certain ministry areas.  I am pleased that during the past few years strides have been made where women can feel comfortable praying in small group Bible studies, sharing testimonies whether in Bible classes or worship services, etc.  So am I saying that women can and should be able to do everything that men can do?  Biblically, I cannot find female evangelists or elders.  What I personally believe is that women should be able to use their gifts to God’s glory in His church whether that be sharing a message with the church on a Sunday, teaching a mixed adult Bible class, reading Scripture, praying, providing leadership for a ministry as long it is “under the authority” of  the elders/pastors of the congregation.  Once again, the same gifts are given but different roles.  Can I give an exhaustive list of what women can and cannot do, or fully explain how we answer the members in our churches asking theses questions – no, I can’t.  But I strongly believe ignoring the questions, not seeking God’s counsel from His word, or even considering that women can and should do more than they are presently doing is wrong.  On the other hand, it also wrong to refrain from serving when there is disagreement on this issue.  There is no perfect church, and to not serve at the church where God has placed me is not right even if I don’t always agree with the decisions made by those “in charge” – that I know for sure.  I also know that UNITY matters to God, so in desiring to see some changes in our churches, the unity of the church is more important than my individual desires.  It is about God and His will, not mine or what makes me most comfortable.  My hope and prayer is that churches, preachers and elderships will truly invest the time in study of this issue with open hearts and minds, seeking only to find God’s will on the matter.  Our young women should not grow up feeling like certain spiritual gifts are “off-limits” to them, or that God doesn’t see their role in His church as significant.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Gifts


Cheryl grew up in Huntsville, Alabama and attended Harding University.  She and her husband, Mike (the blogger), have two children, Kate and Cal.  Cheryl currently teaches 3rd grade at a neighborhood school and is pursuing a master’s degree in children’s literature.

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What do I think about women’s role in the church?  I’ve heard the arguments both ways.  There are the scriptures about the women who served in Jesus’ ministry--the loving, faithful women.   There’s Priscilla who helped to teach Apollos “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).  But then there’s that pesky scripture about women being silent (1 Corinthians 14:34).  And there are no examples of actual sermons being spoken by women in the Bible. 
 
Growing up in the church of Christ, I learned to be submissive to boys, and to men, but I did enroll in a course called “Lasses to Leaderettes”.  We learned how to give speeches about the Bible.  The class was taught by our preacher, Byron Laird.  He would begin the class by making us shout, “Boy, do I feel terrific!” Then, we’d give our little speeches to him and to each other and we’d learn to “preach”.  Later, we’d often compete in front of a group of women or give little talks at women’s retreats or to the girls at a childrens' home.  Some of us were good at it.  Some of us were just okay. 

My sister was really good at it.  I can still remember a speech she gave that started with “What’s in your hand?”  The point was that we were to use whatever gift God had put into our hands to use.  To answer the question for my sister, there were a lot of gifts in her hand.  One of them was preaching.  When she took a test in high school to determine a good fit for a career, “pastor” was at the top of the list.  At the time, that suggestion was ignored.  Who ever heard of a woman preacher?  So, she went on to become a teacher and a mom.  Now, though, she’s a missionary.  Ah…her gift.

I say all that to say that I believe that God created us with these gifts and passions and he wants us to use them to His glory.  David was so excited to have the Ark of the Covenant back, that he danced through the streets.  Music and dancing were his “things”.  Some scoffed at that.  I think God probably loved the joy.  Romans 12 talks about all these gifts that we may have as Christians.  Paul says, “Whatever your gift is, use it.  Use it well.”  He doesn’t specify where and when, and by whom these gifts should be used.  He doesn’t say, “Now, remember women, if you teach, it can only be to women or to boys of elementary-school age or younger.”  Paul just says things like, “Use your gifts” and “really love other people.”  I take comfort in this.

I’ve never had to make this decision for a church—what women can and can’t do, but slowly, through the years, I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with women participating.  At our church, we have a worship leader whose voice is a true gift to me.  Her singing puts me in a great frame of mind for worship.  I listen to John Ortberg online.  Sometimes, his wife, Nancy, speaks.  Some of her messages have touched me in powerful ways.  I no longer feel worried about women participating.  I guess I approach it the way I do other issues that I’m unsure about—I’ll make the best decision I can with prayer and study.  If God’s not happy about my decision, my church, my belief, He’ll either reveal it to me or cover me with His grace, as he does in so many other parts of my life.
 


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Using our talents




Brenda is an LPN with a master’s degree in healthcare administration.  She currently works in San Antonio, Texas as a nursing supervisor.

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I was raised in the Church of Christ, but have escaped the need to worship only in buildings labeled “Church of Christ.” I began questioning my religious upbringing in high school, and once I moved away from home, I chose not to attend church. I had grown tired of the legalistic views associated with the Churches of Christ, and I had been raised not to attend anywhere else. It has only been in the last eight years that I’ve chosen to attend church regularly, and those years have not always found me paying attention to the signage on the building. Those years taught me that the talents of women should be utilized in leadership roles within the church.

Where am I with women's role in the church today? Well, I think women can have leadership roles, because otherwise who will ever teach girls to grow up and have active roles in the church?  The congregation I attended in Tennessee—on one occasion—took an hour of Bible study time and devoted it to gender leadership.  During this hour, women had a service separate from the men.  Young women led the devotional. This was awesome because it taught young women to be comfortable leading singing, reading Bible verses and praying in front of others.

Talent needs to be used (from my perspective) where it can be best used. One of the Churches of Christ I attended in San Antonio had a lady leading singing. Mind you, the service was a capella, but the lady stood up front the same as a guy would have and led singing.  I thought it no different than a woman leading a praise band at any other church.

Some women’s roles (like serving communion, leading a prayer or preaching a sermon) take me out of my comfort zone.  I'm not sure why that is.  For years, I was not comfortable with a female military chaplain leading a prayer in public.  I think I'm over that now.

I heard my grandmother tell a story once of my grandfather conducting a gospel meeting. Grandmother had taught a class that morning and later (as I remember it) one of the girls asked Grandmother if she would baptize her.  Grandmother said she would, but that there was also a gospel preacher available to do it.

I like seeing women have a more active role in the church for service to others. We all have our talents, and they should be used accordingly.

I'm not quite sure how I got to where I am with women's roles in the church. I think attending a Christian Church in Fairbanks, Alaska played a huge role in me getting comfortable with it and with seeing that it's really okay for us to step up and do a variety of things. At that church, women prayed the opening prayer, and we read scriptures when lighting the Advent candles, etc.