I can’t count how many sermons I have heard that suggest that God speaks first to the male presence in every household, some of which go as far as to say the man is “priest” over his household (a term that does not appear anywhere in Scripture). There may be biblical evidence that points to the idea that God delivers His instructions first to the man (Abraham, for example), but there is also biblical evidence that refutes this, such as when God spoke first to Samson’s mother of His plans to raise up another judge over Israel, including all that was to be expected of her as she raised him. This was done even though we know that there was a husband in the picture whom God could have chosen to instruct first. And if Joseph was betrothed (engaged) to Mary, he would have been the legal male of their “household” (i.e., union, marriage) when the angel Gabriel gave instructions to Mary first, even though Mary and Joseph were not yet residing in the same home. This is a significant example, because Mary was young, and the instruction/revelation given to her regarded her carrying the very Son of God.
One reason this concept is held by so many Christians today is because of a misinterpretation of Paul’s words: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (Ephesians 5:22–24). Yet, we should not assume that Paul’s comparison holds an underlying insinuation that the man is a “type of Christ”—and therefore a spiritual authority—over his wife, as so many have done. More simply, Paul’s words should be taken exactly as they were delivered, which could be rewritten in contemporary language as: “Wives, you must submit to the authority of your husbands, in the same way that the Church submits to the authority of Christ.” Likewise, Paul says in verse 25, husbands are to love their wives, which, at times, will require their willingness to surrender their own desires or comforts to love them completely, just as Christ did: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Yes, these verses address a wife’s submission to her husband and the husband’s love of the wife, but we need to accept that there is no hidden meaning about a man being the only recipient of God’s instructions or will.
The first issue this “man as recipient” concept raises is how unfair that would be for the woman. However, let’s not forget how unfair such a concept would be for a man! Imagine a home where the man is the sole receiver of truth. What man would want to bear that responsibility? If a woman or child in that family is given instruction by the husband or father to do something, and that activity is later identified (even unintentionally) as a sinful or immoral act, then who is ultimately responsible for the sin? It would be the man’s fault that the woman or child sinned. It may appeal to some men who seek more power and some women who wish to avoid responsibility, but ultimately, this arrangement produces huge problems. What if the man is internally corrupt and orders a member of his family to do something evil? If he is the recipient of God’s instruction, then should that family member obey him in order to obey God, even though he’s ordered something that goes against the Bible’s instruction? Heaven forbid! Doesn’t Acts 5:29 say, “We ought to obey God rather than men”? Weren’t Ananias and Sapphira equally punished for their transgression in Acts 5:1–11? And don’t get me started on how many angles this theology would not apply to the Adam and Eve account.
Or, as another example, what if the man is not stepping up to fulfill his duty as priest over his family, as so many families today face? These homes would not have any righteous teaching at all if a woman had to rely on her finite husband as the archetypal “Christ.”
I know a godly woman whose husband began to migrate away from God’s Word, teaching outlandish ideas to their children as he delved ever deeper into conspiratorial “fringe gospels.” His beliefs became so corrupt and fantastical (God was really an alien, Paul was really a heretic planted by fallen angels to corrupt the early Church, etc.) that she felt she was given no choice but to insist that he no longer teach the children about God. Not only was she “usurping his ‘priestly’ authority” within the household, but she took this responsibility onto herself after stripping him of it. Was it right or wrong to do so? It was a hard line for her to draw, but her children were counting on her for accurate, biblical teaching. The bottom line, as made perfectly clear throughout the whole of Scripture, is that God speaks to individuals—male, female, slave, free, young, old, rich, poor, etc.—and each is held accountable for the instructions God gives through personal revelation as well as adherence to the Word, which openly assigns the word “priest” to anyone who follows Christ (1 Peter 2:9).
THEOLOGIAN: JESUS HIMSELF STARTED THE FIRST WOMEN’S LIBERATION MOVEMENT
The issue of submission gets into muddy waters when a person’s husband is not a believer of Christ. First, we must always remember that the top authority—well before that of any “man” or “woman”—is God. If a man tells his wife to do something outlined in Scripture as wrong, then by no means should the wife obey. She may answer to her husband, but she answers to the Lord above all else (which, in my opinion, answers the aforementioned question of the wife who limited her husband’s ability to teach biblical issues to her children). If the issue is not a moral one, then, whenever possible, a wife should still humble herself and submit, assuming it doesn’t place her in harm’s way.
Paul and Peter, together, made it clear that a wife’s faith, humility, modesty, fidelity, and “chaste conversation” have great influence over the conversion of a nonbelieving husband (1 Corinthians 7:14–17; 1 Peter 3:1–7). (Peter also said in this reference that a man’s prayers could be hindered if he doesn’t “honor” his wife with love and unity.)
If you are married to a nonbeliever, remember what was said earlier about the yoke. If you are spiritually the strong ox and your husband is the weak, pulling him along by force will not accomplish sincere conversion. There may be a few miracle stories in circulation regarding a woman begging her husband relentlessly to go to church, and then when he finally agrees in order to silence her, he finds the Lord in a radical intervention. This is not the norm—and, in many cases, pestering a man to go along with something he doesn’t believe in is only going to increase his resistance to the faith. A man does not want to be “fixed,” he wants to be desired! The greatest witness of Christ—no matter what the situation—is when a believer allows his or her choices, lifestyle, aura, and mannerisms throughout the day to shine through him or her like the light Christ spoke of (Matthew 5:14). If love is shown always and continually, eventually those around the believer—including the husband—will be inspired to ask, “What is that ‘it factor’ in her that makes her this way? How can she be so patient and kind at every turn?” It is then that she can tell her husband how much the Savior desires him.
Also consider how hopeless his situation might be. Believers have the Creator of the universe to talk to at all times, and if we belong to a church, we have a spiritual family at the ready whenever we need a listening ear. A man may have a group of friends, but his concepts about the afterlife may be incredibly bleak, especially if he is an atheist. Each time someone mentions death, he is reminded of how short his own existence is, and every time a loved one passes, he has zero hope for ever seeing that person again. Whom does he have to talk to? What a lonely life some people lead… A woman married to a nonbeliever will surely feel lonely, but if her husband is under the impression that she belongs to a family he can’t belong to, his feelings of isolation may be even greater than hers. But by being available for questions and gentle in countenance—without jerking him by the yoke around his neck—he’s likely to come around and ask his wife what she believes in these, and similar, situations.
If you have an unbelieving husband, try as hard as possible to see him in the same way God saw you before you surrendered your life to Christ: You were a lost soul in need of a Savior. It’s not about getting a man to say words or attend a service, it’s about reaching past the wall and loving the lost. A believing wife should never act as if she’s more enlightened than her husband because she accepts the truth and her husband doesn’t. Nor should she be motivated by the idea that he will finally come around to agree with her. A wife should always remember that her husband is as loved as she is by the Messiah she serves, and it’s not about winning a debate or proving anything. It’s a soul in the balance, and the central motivation should always be that the husband is so loved by the wife that she wishes for him to not only join her in eternity, but also live with the earthly joy and riches such faith can provide. After all, if we are to love our spouses the way that Christ first loved us, then this is how we would love them, is it not?
If you are married to a nonbeliever, pray that God will give you a love for your husband that is so profound it can’t possibly originate from the human heart in its finite box of temporal emotions. Pray that the Holy Spirit will tug at your husband persistently, so that even if he doesn’t admit it aloud, he feels the power each time Christ’s name is spoken. The Holy Spirit does not need your husband’s permission to bring the Name of Jesus to life each time he hears it.
One final item on this list regarding gender roles that is necessary to address before we move on is the idea that by denying women leadership positions within the Church of Jesus Christ, only the women are affected. In fact, the gifts of the Spirit might be the same bestowed upon men and women alike, but the way they are used is not the same for men as it is for women, and when suppression of an entire gender population occurs, it harms the whole Body. Even Paul acknowledged this when he wrote, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
When Pentecostal healing minister Katherine Kuhlman stepped up to the platform in her flowing gowns and pretty jewelry in the 1970s, the theology she delivered from a pulpit might be seen as similar to the theology a man would deliver, but it had a gentility, a draw, that no man could have imitated. She pulled in crowds by the hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and her ministry resulted in uncountable, medically documented healings. Who can deny such influence? Was it because she was a woman? No, because the Lord can use anyone. Did she reach specific people who would only respond to the kind of ministry this woman led? Absolutely, yes. And the same can be said for any woman. Women simply can reach people in a way that men cannot, having been endowed with different attributes of God’s image, so every denomination or church that places male-only limitations on its ministry is stunting its own potential!
According to the Pew Research Center, the population of women attending Protestant Christian churches (“Mainline Protestant,” “Evangelical Protestant,” and “Historically Black Protestant,” as the PRC has them listed) outweighs men by up to 59 percent.[i] In their overall summary, posted in the article “The Gender Gap in Religion around the World: Women Are Generally More Religious than Men, Particularly among Christians,” they relay:
In the United States, for example, women are more likely than men to say religion is “very important” in their lives (60% vs. 47%), according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey. American women also are more likely than American men to say they pray daily (64% vs. 47%) and attend religious services at least once a week (40% vs. 32%).… [W]omen so outnumber men in the pews of many U.S. churches that some clergy have changed decor, music and worship styles to try to bring more men into their congregations.…
Based on these wide-ranging and comprehensive datasets, this study finds that, globally, women are more devout than men by several standard measures of religious commitment.[ii] (Emphasis in original)
By disallowing women leadership roles, the Church is cutting down its ministerial capabilities and outreach potential by more than half the population of contributors!
Whereas I normally wouldn’t engage in an argument related to which gender is more devoted to work, it is a well-known and documented fact that men generally see themselves as the harder-working gender, and this contemporary cultural concept contributes to why females wouldn’t be viewed as productive in the ministry as males, as I have heard preached. According to governmental researchers (primarily the Bureau of Labor Statistics within the US Department of Labor) in various studies since 2003, and as reported by the Washington Post, “men have reported devoting more life to paid labor than their female counterparts…[while] unpaid labor [such as domestic chores] has long disproportionately fallen on women’s shoulders. Women worldwide spend an average of 4.5 hours each day on unpaid work—cooking, cleaning, feeding the baby [in addition to their paid labor]. Men devote less than half that much time, according to the OECD.”[iii] So, yes: Men do often spend more time in “the workplace.” This has contributed to the misunderstanding that men work harder than women. Really, though, it’s because the fruit of their labor is quantified in monetary form so they have a tangible measurement of their productivity.
However, in our current culture, many marriages involve both the husband and wife in a full-time job at “the workplace,” and the women are still the domestic sweethearts, as the article states: “In the United States, women now financially support 40 percent of homes and tend to take on more domestic chores.”[iv] I don’t mean to suggest that this is always unfair, as many women enjoy coming home from work and cooking a meal for her family. In fact, I, myself, do this daily—as do my mother and sister. All three of us work well over forty hours per week at our jobs, we’re all on salary pay (not hourly), and we still have smiles on our faces when we come home to whip up a nice meal for our families. (I will admit that my husband, of his own will, often helps with laundry and dishes in our home.) I approach this with an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” outlook. I am not setting out to prove that women are mistreated or that their labors of love are overlooked (although they sometimes are), I am only attempting to show how hard-working most of us are. If a woman is fulfilled in this “full-time job plus domestic chores” position (as I am!), then that’s wonderful.
Awesome. Great. Nobody’s offended and everybody’s happy. Including myself.
But—it becomes an insult to women when men stand behind a pulpit and proclaim that the ministry belongs to the men because they are “the working sex”; these men are dramatically inaccurate, considering statistics of the norm. Take the average woman’s full-time job (forty hours) and add the average “4.5 hours each day on unpaid work” documented above (which also includes the weekends, since dishes, laundry, cooking, and cleaning duties never stop), and “the average woman” is working 71.5 hours every week!
What a hard-working breed women are!
Melinda Gates, wife of America’s prized Microsoft entrepreneur Bill Gates, also looked at these statistics and responded in an open letter of her own:
This isn’t a global plot by men to oppress women [and I agree with here here…]. It’s more subtle than that. The division of work depends on cultural norms, and we call them norms because they seem normal—so normal that many of us don’t notice the assumptions we’re making. But your generation can notice them—and keep pointing them out until the world pays attention.…
In TV commercials you see, how often are men doing laundry, cooking, or running after kids? (The answer: 2 percent of the time.) How many of the women are advertising kitchen or cleaning products? (More than half.)[v]
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO:
WAIT… A WOMAN PREACHING IN A CHRISTIAN CHURCH… WHAT DOES GOD THINK ABOUT THAT?!
The assumption that men work harder than women finds its genesis in the hours reported in the workplace, but even those numbers are starting to even out, which points to the fact that women are frequently—whether some want to admit it or not—working more than men today when they come home from a full-time job and begin their second job for their family. (Readers, do not take this as an all-encompassing statement! Bear with me. Keep reading…)
And we can’t assume for a moment that men are better in the workplace and women are better at home, just because of how God designed our genders. If a church leadership position involved administrative duties as well, women are just as competent to be entrusted with that work, as studies have shown.
As one example: In 2012, a research study was conducted by the Ponemon Institute in conjunction with the company 3M, who developed the 3M Privacy Filters (panels that attach to the computer monitor and cut out external distractions, as well as increase the privacy of the worker’s screen). The study involved 274 participants from five different companies, and the purpose of the two experiments (one with the filters, one without) was to show the increase of productivity for participants who had installed the 3M Privacy Filters. Though the study did not initially focus on gender-related data, a collection of interesting facts was compiled:
Results of both experiments indicate a gender effect, wherein female subjects worked longer than male subjects…. [F]emale subjects whose computer had a 3M filter worked 4.9 minutes versus 4.3 minutes for male subjects. Similarly, without an installed filter, female subjects worked 2.5 minutes as compared to 2.1 minutes for males.
Findings reveal an unexpected interaction between the gender of the researcher and subject. The average time worked was 4.0 minutes when both the researcher and the subject are female and 3.6 minutes when the researcher and the subject are male. In contrast, the combination of female researcher and male subject worked, on average, 2.8 minutes during the 10-minute experimental period.
Gender also makes a difference with respect to the walk away versus continue working response during the experimental waiting period. Accordingly, 55 female subjects (38 percent) walked away rather than worked on their computer during a 10-minute waiting period. For male subjects, 67 (52 percent) walked away during the waiting period.[vi]
Now, to use this one study as “proof” that women are more efficient than men in the workplace would be biased, immature, and ridiculous, to say the least. Please understand that I am not trying to form a feminist, “women are better” argument. That has not been my goal anywhere else in the book, and it certainly isn’t my goal now. If it were, then I would quote from one or several of the hundreds of articles that claim science has proven women are of higher intelligence. (Google it for yourself… They are out there.)
Why don’t I quote these articles and make a big statement about women’s intellectual superiority over men?
Because I don’t believe it for a second!
History has shown equality of intelligence between men and women based on their individual achievements (for example: theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, first female Noble Prize winner and physicist Marie Curie), not on science and research studies. History has also shown equality of leadership skills between men and women based on individual achievements (General Patton at Normandy, Joan of Arc of the Hundred Years’ War). The minute someone in the Church Body grasps onto a single “proof study” that one gender is better, smarter, or predisposed to be more efficient leaders, our Christ-centered focus of reaching the lost is thrown off-course. I am simply attempting to show how great a loss it is that women are viewed as the cookie-bakers of the Body while only the men are viewed as the preachers and teachers.
That. Is. Not. What. God. Designed.
We are not created “the same”; we are created “equal”—and there’s a difference.
Consider what is taking place when a man steps behind a pulpit. He is delivering God’s Word the way a male brain interprets it, from a male’s perspective, involving a male’s system of logic and reasoning, influenced by the world and culture as a male sees it—which I can guarantee does not encompass the historical “Susie Homemaker baggage” the average woman faces—and he is accomplishing all of this in front of a congregation that the Pew Research Center has qualified as predominantly women.
What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing. In fact, as iron sharpens iron, it has greatly benefitted me personally at times to hear a male perspective throughout the week at a church service, so nothing is innately wrong with a male preacher…
Until it is decided that a woman cannot deliver God’s Word the way a female brain interprets it, from a female’s perspective, involving a female’s system of logic and reasoning, influenced by the world and culture as a female sees it. Then it becomes a tragedy that might very well have eternal implications: We’re removing 50 percent of the faithful population’s Holy-Spirit-given gifts that, like Katherine Kuhlman, may be even more effective in the Gospel commission to specific hearers who might be lost forever if the glorious truth of Christ isn’t preached to its fullest potential among the saints! A man cannot always stand behind a pulpit and relate to what a woman in the pew is thinking or feeling. Likewise, if there are no women preachers or teachers, men can’t gain the nurturing insight of women.
This harms the Church more than it helps the Church, folks! It’s not a matter of feminism, women’s lib movements, or proving anyone is better than anyone else. It’s a matter of rejecting the equality that: 1) God the Father designed in the Garden of Eden when He created both genders in His image, 2) Jesus Christ inspired and supported throughout His ministry on earth, and 3) the Holy Spirit equipped on the Day of Pentecost.
We have probably all heard someone ask, “How many potential scientists, warriors, presidents, and world leaders have been aborted by selfish or frightened women?” This question is thought-provoking, because it speaks to a “what might have been” curiosity we all occasionally ruminate. But I wonder: How many potential soul-winning ministries or churches have been aborted by the rejection of the biblical principles of equality in ministry?
I also once heard it said, “Anyone can count the seeds in a single apple, but only God can count the apples in a single seed.” God alone knows the potential a woman has within her to draw the lost toward Him, but the “freedom to speak” seed must be planted within her for her full potential to materialize.
Ladies, with so many “gender identification” issues circulating the nation today, we have never needed your feminine voice of leadership more than now! We need women to show younger girls what a woman looks like, and we need women to show young men what to look for!
In conclusion: A minister should be appointed by God based on the qualifications He has bestowed, not based on one’s gender, race, or anything else.
For women who sincerely feel called to respond, prepare yourself to minister. Nobody can complete the work God began in you but Him (Philippians 1:6).
UP NEXT: “Prepare Yourself to Minister”
[i] “Gender Composition,” Pew Research Center, last accessed August 23, 2017, http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/gender-composition/.
[ii] “The Gender Gap in Religion around the World: Women Are Generally More Religious than Men, Particularly among Christians,” March 22, 2016, Pew Research Center, last accessed August 23, 2017, http://www.pewforum.org/2016/03/22/the-gender-gap-in-religion-around-the-world/.
[iii] Danielle Paquette, “Men Say They Work More than Women: Here’s the Truth,” June 29, 2016, Washington Post, last accessed August 23, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/29/men-say-they-work-more-than-women-heres-the-truth/?utm_term=.311a41783ac4.
[vi] “Visual Privacy Productivity Study: Commissioned by 3M,” October 2012, Ponemon Institute, last accessed August 23, 2017, https://www.ponemon.org/local/upload/file/Visual_Privacy_Productivity_Study.pdf.