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The First Step of Leadership

Thursday, August 01, 2013 | Comments (4)

by John MacArthur

In a reaction against sexism, our society practices what you might call reverse sexism. Women are given prominence over men, and men are beaten down as irresponsible dullards who can’t get anything right. Many men invite and deserve this treatment, caring only for pleasure and entertainment. Many women are glad to give it, thrilled at the chance to turn the tables on male chauvinism. And on it goes, as fallen humans live out the curse of Genesis 3.

But it should not be so with Christian men and women. We are to be peaceful and orderly, reflecting the character of God. That’s why, in 1 Timothy 2 and 3, Paul sets both genders straight, teaching them God’s design for men and women in the church. He addresses men first, reminding them of their responsibility to lead. And the first role in which they lead is the vital area of prayer.

In 1 Timothy 2:8 Paul begins his instruction with this command: “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.” That text sets the backdrop for the call to pray. “Therefore” refers to the first seven verses of 1 Timothy 2, which discuss the importance of praying for all people—especially non-Christian authorities. The responsibility of offering public prayer is the special duty of men.

The Greek word translated “men” in verse 8 refers to men not in the generic sense, but to men in contrast to women. Men are to be the leaders when the church meets for corporate worship. In the Jewish synagogue, only men were permitted to pray, and that practice was continued in the church. The Greek phrase translated “in every place” refers to an official assembly of the church (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:8). Paul was saying that no matter where the church officially gathers, select men are to lead in public prayer.

Some claim that contradicts 1 Corinthians 11:5, where Paul permits women to pray and proclaim the Word. That passage, however, must be interpreted in light of 1 Corinthians 14:34, which forbids women to speak in the assembly. Women are permitted to pray and proclaim the Word, but not when the church meets for its official worship service. That in no way marks women as spiritually inferior (cf. Galatians 3:28) — not all men proclaim the Word in the assembly either, only those called and gifted to do so.

The second half of 1 Timothy 2:8—“Lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension”—specifies how men are to pray. The emphasis there is not on lifting literal hands but on offering worship in holiness. It’s a specific qualification for the men selected to lead prayer in public worship: They must live holy lives. And their inner attitude is “without wrath and dissension.” Church leaders are not characterized by anger and strife; they are to have loving, peacemaking hearts.

Leading the congregation to God in prayer is a simple way to begin leading in the church. But at the same time, it’s a tremendous responsibility. By stepping up to take on that role, men can both serve the church and challenge our culture’s low view of men.

Next time, we’ll further examine God’s design for leadership in the church. What sort of men can lead—what are the qualifications? Stay tuned.

John MacArthur

(Adapted from Divine Design. All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.)


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#1  Posted by Larry Miles  |  Thursday, August 01, 2013at 7:38 AM

What a stark difference in many churches today. I fully support the post, because it is Biblical. The feminist movement is so strong, the church succumbed to it years and ago and the momentum today is staggering. Once again, the charismatic church does play a role in much of this, as the early 1900's saw many "holy ghost" filled women emerge as evangelists and later pastors. One prominent pentecostal denominational bishop endorses the emergence of women as pastors and bishops. It is true, when persons go outside of scripture, constructing their own interpretations, anything is possible.

#3  Posted by Rose Michels  |  Thursday, August 01, 2013at 11:21 AM

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I'm sure that many would not agree but, then again, how do you disagree with God's word? I guess by interpretation but, as I said, I did like this blog post!

I've often turned heads when I open up our church book club gathering by asking a man to open and to close our gathering in prayer. I've never been comfortable with leading in prayer and can only recall praying openly before I give a testimony. Sad that this topic is such a hot-button topic. I, for one, would like to see all evangelical churches correctly practice this. I do wonder though, would you say this is more because men have not stepped up on this issue, or that women simply wish to dominate?

Again, thank you for a great post and look forward to the next one on this subject.

#4  Posted by Laura Young  |  Thursday, August 01, 2013at 4:34 PM

My family and I currently attend the Pentecostal denomination that I believe you are referring to and I must confess that the encouragement of female leadership is one of the biggest issues that has really bothered me about our local church.

That being said, our church is technically "under" that particular denomination but is more "classic Pentecostal" than anything I've seen come out of the head office and is definitely NOT charismatic. The teachings from the denomination's head office (we regularly check their website and read their newsletters) that we disagreed with have not appeared in our church. We keep our eyes and ears open.

I thank the Lord for programs like GTY and other trustworthy Christian sources that keep us on our toes, open our eyes to what is around us and remind us to pray and seek the Lord in all things. Thank you for everything you do - we have grown much thanks to your teachings and sharing of the Gospel.

#5  Posted by P B  |  Friday, August 02, 2013at 6:57 AM

I briefly revisited the charismatic/Pentecostal kind of church that I used to attend exclusively. This whole women can be teachers of men and leaders thing is totally prominent there. They insist that scripture is misinterpreted and give as proof texts things like " In Christ there is no male or female" to back up their claims.

I have personally observed (and this is no doubt a politically incorrect thing to say) that many of the churches that have gone awol from scripture have women who are very mannish in appearance and overall demeanor; severely short hair, pants wearing in both the literal and figurative sense of that, quite dominating. I wonder why they don't notice the unflattering effect that it has ? I realize that a woman can wear slacks that are feminine and not tight and revealing of course so I am not saying that women MUST wear dresses at all times. But these ladies seem to go to pains to look "modern" and fit in with the culture. No one seems to notice just how unappealing the overall effect is. I was watching a very well known woman bible teacher on a Christian television show teaching both women and men, and I found her mannerisms very unfeminine and unappealing to watch. I don't know if she thought her finger stabbing gestures to emphasize points or her frenetic energy as she moved all over the stage somehow added strength to her presentation but it turned me right off. Sadly, it reminded me of an aggressively hyper and yappy dog! Her materials are used by many and thought to be just great but my response was that I wouldn't want to learn that brand of "Christian womanhood" at all.

Many of these changes in outward appearance came about as a result of the woman's liberation movement, aka feminism. Prior to that women looked like women and wore dresses and even the wearing of hats was common practice in overall society in and out of church right up until the shucking of all symbols of authority and gender began to occur in conjunction with the feminist movement. Not to put too fine a point on it but its my thought that these changes in society and culture did not come about as a result of greater revelation of God and godly freedom but because society was rejecting God, and embracing psychology, feminism and humanism. This resulted in the desire to erase all evidences of God and by extension those things that point to him such as maleness and femaleness and submission to authority, esp. male authority, respect and honor, which of course is symbolised in many cultures by the wearing of some form of hat or head cloth. I for one would be really excited to find a church that wanted to return to biblical standards and while perhaps they don't force the issue of hats and dresses at least allowed and supported women who wished to honor God that way. Thanks for the time to share my ruminations on this important subject.