Focus on differences and seek common ground

Following up on Monday’s post, I want to encourage us to sharpen our discussions by focusing on the areas of difference and seeking common ground.

Whether or not women are created in the image of God should not be an area of disagreement. Whether or not women have value for God should not be an area of disagreement. Whether or not Jesus treated women with honor and respect should not be an area of disagreement.

Those are basic things, but surprisingly, I still hear them being discussed.

In the same way, showing that Jesus empowered women to take a more active role in the faith community shouldn’t be an area of discussion. First century Judaism could be very restrictive toward women; it would have been surprising had Jesus NOT challenged some of those norms.

There may be room for another article noting that Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, that women formed part of the company of disciples, that women play a major role in the genealogy in Matthew 1, that women were tasked with sharing the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. These are important lessons. They don’t change the discussion about whether or not women can be elders. They don’t provide a basis for women to preach. Mention these facts in a discussion, but don’t pretend to play them as a trump card.

Some have claimed that Jesus was more inclusive than Paul, that it is only Paul’s writings that limit women in their participation in church leadership. I disagree. I think that both valued women, both enabled women to have active ministries, both rejected misogynistic attitudes in society. Neither drastically changed the biblical principle of male leadership.

If you want to convince me that they did, please don’t try to do so by repeating examples that emphasize things I already agree with:

  • Women preached. They did, though the examples show them preaching in the typical New Testament sense of the word, which is telling others the good news. Unless you have something that shows a woman doing what is done in our Sunday assemblies, examples of women teaching others in private settings aren’t helpful to the discussion.
  • Women prophesied. They did. Before Jesus. After Jesus. The Jews didn’t see the existence of prophetesses as changing anything regarding male leadership. If you do, you need to do more than provide the examples.
  • Women had important ministries in the church. Yes. Yes they did. Yes they do, even when they aren’t on the eldership.

I’ll add one more thing. I think there has been a lot of bad teaching that limits what women can do. There are lots of bad attitudes; for example, I reject the way John MacArthur spoke about Beth Moore. Examples of complementarians acting badly won’t change my views, any more than my providing examples of misbehaving egalitarians should change yours.

To conclude, I’ll restate my position just to help you see my biases: I believe in male leadership in the church. I believe that leadership can be expressed in different ways in different cultures. I also believe that members of the Church of Christ have often restricted women in ways that don’t line up with what I see in the Bible. (I mention some examples in this post)

I look forward to your comments.

Links To Go (October 23, 2019)

In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace

The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.

Young People Will Come Back to Church, Right?

The data is speaking a clear message: the assumptions that undergirded church growth from two decades ago no longer apply. If churches are sitting back and just waiting for all their young people to flood back in as they move into their thirties, they are likely in for a rude awakening. Inaction now could be creating a church that does not have a strong future.

Sing Freedom! Why isn’t Christian music more revolutionary?

It seems we’ve gone from Jesus-is-my-boyfriend to Jesus-is-my-savior, but we’re missing Jesus-is-our-Lord. Christian worship should express our collective hope in Christ of a rescued, renewed and restored world, a world in which injustice, racism, hatred and violence have ended, once and for all.

Exodus 22:2 and the Attacker at the Door

When we read Exodus 22:2-3 in this same light, it would suggest that the law was not necessarily written to place God’s stamp of approval on killing home invaders at night. Instead, it seems as if this law, like all the others in the surrounding context, were written to point Israel towards a more loving and gracious treatment of their enemies by placing restrictions on when an attacker could be killed.

Lessons on Ministry Pay We Are Learning from Retiring Boomer Pastors

  1. Most pastors are underpaid.
  2. Too many pastors refuse raises.
  3. Few pastors give sufficient thought to retirement.
  4. Many pastors have too much debt leading into retirement.
  5. A number of pastors have given little thought to health care costs.
  6. The common theme of many of these Boomer pastors is over-spiritualizing their financial reality without the wisdom of planning for their future years.

How America Lost Dinner

This net loss in meal time can beget a nagging tension. There’s that lingering moralistic pressure that it’s important for you to cook wholesome food, sit down with people you care about, breathe, enjoy. But for many people, the trade-offs it would take to get there push the ideal dinner farther and farther out of reach. This can weigh especially hard on parents, who often simply don’t have the time that preparing family meals requires.

Vinyl records expected to outsell CDs in 2019 for the first time since 1980s

Most people never thought they would use their old records again. But, according to a report by the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl records are expected to out-sell CDs in 2019.

Focusing our discussions of women in the church*

Within churches of Christ, the discussion about women in the church generally comes down to these areas:
Can women take a leadership role in a congregation?

  • Can women be elders?
  • Can a woman be “the preacher” for a congregation?
  • Can women take a leading role in worship?

    • Can a woman take a teaching role in worship?
    • Can a woman lead a prayer in worship?
    • Can a woman take a speaking role in worship?
    • This would include announcements and scripture reading, among other things.

    • Can women have a participative role in worship? This includes things like passing communion trays.

    As we look at examples from the Bible, I think it helps to keep these areas of focus in mind. There is a temptation to either emphasize the lack of women’s names or emphasize the ones that are there, while never considering how those examples speak to the above activities.

    Does that list seem fairly complete? I know that some would say that behind this are questions about the relative value of women, the giftedness of the Spirit, etc. But in my experience, where the rubber meets the road is praxis: what is actually going on.

    * I recognize that almost every description of this discussion is awkward. Do we call it women in the church? Gender roles? Inclusiveness? I’m not fully satisfied with any of the descriptors, which is one reason I try to vary what I use.

    A prayer for Friday (October 18, 2019)

    Lord Almighty,

    You are the Creator of all. Nothing exists that was not touched by Your hand.

    You brought order to chaos, replacing darkness with light and stillness with life. Your breath fills creation, Your glory extends far and wide.

    You called a people to be Yours and Yours alone. You sought a holy nation, one that would be shaped in the image of Your Son. You sent Him to die to purchase that people, redeeming us from the power of sin and bringing us into Your kingdom of light.

    We are Your creation, Father. We are Your people. We are the subjects of Your kingdom.

    Listen to our cry. We long for justice. We long for peace. We long for righteousness. Establish these in our world. Establish these in our land. Establish these in our hearts.

    Glorify Yourself in this place and in me. Make me an instrument of Your righteousness, a reflection of Your Son, a light that gives honor to You.


    Links To Go (October 17, 2019)

    Business or the Bible? Thoughts about Science and Evangelicalism

    Specifically, there is no Biblical reason why evangelicals should deny climate change more than any other demographic group. So something else has to be driving that opinion. And if it’s not the Bible, then what? Well, again, I think the answer is obvious and brings me right back to my conclusion: Evangelicalism defends politics as much as it defends the Bible, making it less a Christian movement than an ideological one.

    Supreme Court decision on L.G.B.T. discrimination sets up religious liberty clash

    Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit law firm, told reporters before the Supreme Court’s term began that if the court views these employee cases as discrimination, there will likely be new lawsuits and “massive liabilities with churches, schools and religious organizations” that expect their employees to follow certain standards.

    Bully Vol 3

    Being let go with threats of legal and financial punishment if you say anything, by an organisation that prides itself on helping churches establish healthy practice, is discombobulating. Which is why so many people who are bullied out of church roles feel it so intently. It was all “family family, family”, until it wasn’t.

    What a visit to the Grand Canyon taught me about God

    And it was helpful to realize I am not that big a deal. Hard to be full of yourself while at the Grand Canyon. Not that big a deal here either. And don’t have to be. I just have to be ready and available for God to use me up. Fifty years from now not many people will even remember me. Maybe my grandkids. 100 years from now no one will remember the sermons or the books.

    The Importance Of Doing What Anyone Could Do

    When my friend works for the charity, he uses his legal skills, yes, but he also gives time, effort, care, and love for his work and the people it helps – gifts that any of us can give for the sake of the people around us. Without these ordinary skills, his specialised legal abilities would be useless to the charity, like those of so many others that could have helped, but didn’t. As the apostle Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians, impressive skills are nothing without love.

    The Road to Infidelity Passes Through Multiple Sexual Partners

    Instead, as my survey results illustrate, infidelity’s roots likely start much earlier in someone’s background and experience. But infidelity is also often the fruit of a lifelong approach to mating that involves seeking and practicing short-term mating encounters that encourage sexual variety at all stages and into marriage.

    Firefighters calm girl’s fears after car crash by allowing her to paint their fingernails

    After noticing the child was holding bottles of fingernail polish, the two firefighters turned a quick calming conversation into an instant manicure complete with purple polish. The child immediately directed her attention to painting the first responders’ nails and soon was no longer afraid after experiencing a car crash.

    Funeral cracks up as dead man screams ‘Let me out!’ of coffin

    Friends and family said the good-humored officer and father made the recording because he knew he was dying of a “long illness bravely borne” — and wanted “to make his family laugh rather than cry at the funeral.”