Satan delights in wreaking havoc on the church. He twists the truth on every issue, creating doctrinal confusion wherever he can.
He has been particularly successful in distorting the roles God has designed for men and women. Over the years, the cultural ideal of gender role equality has seeped into many churches—and Christians have bought into it. In many congregations, men sit back and relax while women preach the Word and lead the church. In fact, it is alarming to see how comfortable Christians have become with adopting the standards of the world.
Meanwhile, society gives hearty approval to the trend. In a chapter titled “To Hell with Sexism: Women in Religion” in Megatrends for Women, (Fawcett Columbine, 1992) authors Patricia Aburdene and John Naisbitt show how modern culture celebrates feminism:
Women of the late twentieth century are revolutionizing the most sexist institution in history—organized religion. Overturning millennia of tradition, they are challenging authorities, reinterpreting the Bible, creating their own services, crowding into seminaries, winning the right to ordination, purging sexist language in liturgy, reintegrating female values and assuming positions of leadership. (p. 119)
It’s safe to say, that trend in the church—noted more than twenty years ago—has become a settled reality, and it is dangerous on many levels. Feminist theology teaches that God is not male, God does not exist in a trinitarian form, Jesus was a feminist, and the true history of women was edited out of the Bible. Aburdene and Naisbitt assert that once women’s perspectives “attain greater power, [that] will signal revolutionary changes in church policies.” (ibid, p. 133) And for years now we have seen a surge in attempts to purge male terminology out of Bible translations.
All this is not limited to liberal churches and denominations, however. Aburdene and Naisbitt note that the organization Christians for Biblical Equality believes, “Women as well as men exercise the prophetic, priestly, and royal functions” of the church. (ibid, p. 128, quoted from “Women Served as Priests,” Grand Rapids Press, November 9, 1991) Evangelical churches are just as susceptible to the feminist onslaught. The fact is, feminism has already gained a foothold within the evangelical community in recent years.
At stake today is God’s perfect design for His church—a design that reflects the principles of authority and submission that allow both society and the family to function. While there is no disputing the equality of men and women as believers in Christ (Galatians 3:28), God specifically calls qualified men to lead His church. Women have unique opportunities to serve the church and are in many ways its warmth and depth, but God’s basic design for leadership in the church is for men to be in authority. To see how He fleshes out His plan for men and women in the church, we need to turn to the New Testament.
The second and third chapters of 1 Timothy are a good place to start. The entire letter focuses on establishing God’s standard for order in the life of the church. That will be our focus for the next few weeks as we seek to understand God’s design for the church and how we can best glorify God alongside other believers.
But for now, we want to hear from you. Have you ever attended a church that had women in primary leadership roles? Have you ever sat under a female pastor? What leadership roles are available to women in your current congregation? Let us know in the comment thread.