“We need to not damage our men!”
My friend called this out to me as I was walking away from her the other day. I smiled and repeated the phrase out loud to myself – We need to not damage our men… I like it.
The question is, if we are to walk as godly women and interact with men, how do we do so in a respectful and non-damaging way?
Because, let’s face it – sometimes we are more qualified, gifted, available, talented – than men.
What is this place that God has called us to and where should the lines be drawn in the church between men and women?
I am by no means an expert here and I have another friend who has made a whole project out of the roles of women in the church and I am sure she has some very wise and educated thoughts on the subject – maybe I can talk her into a guest post.
I have been thinking this over lately and here is my input on the matter currently.
LET’S BE CLEAR WHERE THE BIBLE IS CLEAR
Eldership and teaching: The bible clearly teaches that men are to hold the eldership/overseer and teaching role of the church. Such men should be of high standard and godly: 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:12.
Head of the home: The bible clearly teaches that men are to be head of the wife, how that plays itself out in real life is in some sense very clear and in other ways very blurry. Ephesians 5:22-33
I found this sermon from John Piper very interesting:
I think this is what Paul means in 1 Timothy 2:14. Let me try to paraphrase it to bring this out. “Adam was not deceived [that is, Adam was not approached by the deceiver and did not carry on direct dealings with the deceiver] but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor [that is, she was the one who took up dealings with the deceiver and was led through her direct interaction with him into deception and transgression].”
If this is right, then the main point is not that the man is undeceivable or that the woman is more deceivable; the point is that when God’s order of leadership is repudiated, it brings damage and ruin. Men and women are both more vulnerable to error and sin when they forsake the order that God has intended.
So Paul’s argumentation in 1 Timothy 2:11–14 is that men ought to bear primary responsibility for leadership and teaching in the church (that is, be the elders):
because in creating man first, God taught that men should take responsibility for leadership in relation to woman; and because the fall of Adam and Eve shows that the neglect of this divine pattern puts men and women in a more vulnerable position and leads to transgression. (Affirming the Goodness of Manhood and Womanhood in all of life)
Later in this sermon:
A woman who designs the traffic patterns of city streets exerts remarkable leadership over all the drivers in that she determines how they drive. But this leadership is very impersonal. On the other hand the relationship between a husband and a wife is very personal. All leadership falls somewhere on the scale between very impersonal (little personal contact) and very personal (a lot of personal contact).
A drill sergeant is the essence of directive leadership. On the other hand non-directive leadership is much closer to entreaty and suggestion. A good example of non-directive leadership is when Abigail talked David out of killing Nabal (1 Samuel 25:23–35). She was totally successful in guiding David’s behavior but did it in a very non-directive way.
My principle, then, is this: To the degree that a woman’s leadership of man is personal it needs to be non-directive. And to the degree that it is directive it needs to be impersonal. To the degree that a woman consistently offers directive, personal leadership to a man, to that degree will his God-given manhood—his sense of responsibility in the relationship—be compromised. What’s at stake every time a man and a woman relate to each other is not merely competence (that is very naïve), but also whether God-given manhood and womanhood are affirmed in the dynamics of the relationship.(Affirming the Goodness of Manhood and Womanhood in all of life)
HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE?
The question is, how are we to interact with men in ministry and in the church?
As brothers – There should be loyalty and kindness shown to our brothers in Christ. The preference, respect, common decency and love that we show toward (or ought to) our own family members should be the way that we interact with the men in the body.
In modesty – That said, this brotherly love should be shown and lived out in modesty. This means modesty in our talk, actions, dress and manner of interacting. As women our bible study, outside of corporate bible study, should be with women. Our counseling (to some degree) and mentorship should be with women. Our intimate relationships should remain with our husband or other women, if we have no husband then it should remain with women (Titus 2).
With much prayer – It is wise to think and pray carefully about how you conduct yourself in ministry with a man. I like how this passage in A Challenge to Women puts it:
That in all your relationships with men you seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in applying the Biblical vision of manhood and womanhood; that you develop a style and demeanor that does justice to the unique role God has given to man to feel responsible for gracious leadership in relation to women—a leadership which involves elements of protection and care and initiative. That you think creatively and with cultural sensitivity (just as he must do) in shaping the style and setting the tone of your interaction with men.
WHAT ARE MY PERSONAL CONVICTIONS?
Let me tell you how this plays out in my own life. I must preface this with a note that I tend to lean more towards the follow the rules and lets have lots of rules side. I would like to live on a farm and would be perfectly happy if men were to sit on one side of the church and women on the other. I prefer not to pray for a meal if a man is present, in fact, I just might refuse to do so. Again, these are MY PERSONAL CONVICTIONS.
When you find yourself in leadership over a man:
Pay attention to how you talk to him – The tone and manner in which we talk to men should show respect and not be patronizing or rude. Respectful is just a good way for a godly woman to conduct herself, especially with those of the opposite sex.
Pay attention to how you talk about him – You will never hear me call my husband one of my kids and you will never see me smile (well, maybe out of politeness to let the moment pass) when you refer to my husband as one of my kids. It’s just disrespectful. When talking about a man we are in ministry with we should never use the stereotypes and phrases that are so common. “Just like a man!” should never fall from our lips. If he has failed, as we all do, it should be handled in the manner that the bible lays out.
Be wise in your interactions – Don’t hold meetings alone, behind closed doors, conduct yourself in modesty and wisdom. Don’t let your interaction and talk slip, it’s ever so subtle, into a flirty or sexual tone. This is very, very easy to slip into, do not think yourself above this!
Respect his position – You may be in charge of the church picnic, but this man is usually in charge of an entire company, his own household, the church, etc. This comes back to tone and respect, you do not have to do what this man says, but when you ask him to do something for you – even in the rush of ministry, do so with respect to the man he is. He may not be your husband, but he may be someones husband and he is your brother in Christ and deserves respect.
When you find yourself in leadership under a man, I would follow all of the above with some stricter rules:
Pay attention to how you talk to him – When he doesn’t lead as you like, when you think his ideas are dumb, when he fails, when you think you could do a better job – God has placed him in leadership over you and you are commanded to respect that authority. You might want to consider if you are able to do so before you accept such a role.
Pay attention to how you talk about him – If you don’t like how he leads, when you think his ideas are dumb, etc.. do not be the woman who runs around complaining and spreading rumors about the leader. Don’t do it.
Be wise in your interactions – He is leading. You are not. Do not try to “out talk” him in a meeting. If you have an issue that can’t be resolved respectfully in a large group, then go to him privately (modesty rules apply!) and discuss it and then trust God. He may still fail, but he will be accountable to God and so will you.
Respect his position – Don’t undermine him and go around your own way. RESPECT!
I think that you will find that many of the above thoughts would apply to doing ministry under the leadership of a woman as well. As we navigate our way through ministry in the church, may we always conduct ourselves in humility and in preference to our brothers and sisters without thought to our own gain – to the glory of God. May we not get so caught up in position that we forget our mission – to preach Christ to a dying world and to bring glory to God.
– Julee Huy