Garrett’s tenth wish for the Churches of Christ is —
Let us bring women into the church as equals; let us cease being male-dominated.
I’m on record on this one. The Bible does not teach male domination of women. Rather, the Bible teaches that male domination of women is part of the Genesis 3 curse on the Creation that Jesus came to reverse. I’ll not repeat the scriptural arguments here. They are laid out in detail at Buried Talents.
It is not an easy task to reverse our long-standing discrimination against women. Any church with a woman in a leadership role has to contend with at least two serious problems —
First, so many of us have grown up in the churches where women could not be leaders that we instinctively recoil at the thought — even when we intellectually know we shouldn’t. Even some women struggle in this area.
Second, there have been some studies that suggest that one reason churches tend to be largely female, despite the largely male leadership, is that we’ve unconsciously feminized our churches, centering our spirituality on practices that are very un-male in contemporary culture. Having more women in leadership can, if we’re not careful, deepen this problem.
Now, the solution isn’t to deprive women of the opportunity to use their God-given talents. Rather, it’s to think long and hard about how to make church a place that men can feel useful and fulfilled. In other words, how can we best use the talents God tends to give to men? I’m not speaking of the pulpit. I’m speaking of the men in the pews, the guys who have no interest in classes on relationships or such.
And so, I think, to move to greater egalitarianism in church, we have to first re-create a more manly church. And it just happens that what God wants from our churches is much more along the lines of masculine preferences than what we often have. You see, most churches are actually social clubs. They are great places to make friends. And women are all about relationships. (Yes, I’m generalizing, maybe even stereotyping, but it’s true.) And preachers teach relationship-evangelism, and most men are pretty weak in this area.
I’ve seen men’s groups that figure the solution is to go out and shoot guns and cook red meat over fire. And this is fine. But it’s not really what being a man is all about. And it’s not the solution (although I’m all about the red meat).
Why do men volunteer to join the army, knowing they’ll likely be killed? Why do men gladly work to support their families, seeing nearly all their paychecks go to benefit their wives and children? Why do men so enjoy team sports?
Men, I think, need a mission. They want a larger purpose and a task. Men find fulfillment in their work — not necessarily their 8 to 5 job, but in what they do. This is one reason men enjoy hunting and fishing and competitive sports. They like striving to accomplish something. They like killing their own supper. They like competition. They like being part of a team trying to achieve a goal.
And what the church is desperately needing today is a sense of mission.
Now, when most people hear “mission” they think “missionary” and “evangelism.” And these are relational things that most men find uncomfortable. They really don’t want to talk to their neighbors about Jesus. Or about anything other than football or such like. It’s not what men do well (as a whole. And, yes, I’m stereotyping.)
But if the mission were building affordable houses for people who really deserve it, well, men can get into that. Or if it’s digging wells in Africa. Or if it’s coordinating all the churches in town to take the community for Jesus. Or to start night basketball for kids at risk of joining gangs. You see, men love to strategize and work together toward a common goal — a tangible, achievable goal.
Ironically enough, if the church were more faithful to God’s mission, it would be far more attractive to men.
And in a more masculine church, tasks would be assigned based on talents — because getting the job done is far more important than some preacher’s persnickety preferences over whether a woman oversee the work crew that paints the house. (Men understand well that the best player starts.) Nobody worries about women’s authority when it comes to actual mission. And if we were about the actual mission, the worship service would no longer be central to our vision of what church is.
And when we finally push the assembly from the middle of Christianity and replace it with the mission, well, our attitudes toward women will change. As will men’s attitude toward church.
You see, it all fits together.
By the way, once you see this, it changes your understanding of what preachers should be trained to do.
Historically, we’ve trained preachers to defeat false teachers through powerful arguments. This has made doctrine a replacement for war, and has made the church down the road the enemy rather than Satan. And men can really get into war-substitutes. This has been a huge distraction for our male church leadership.
More recently, we’ve trained preachers to be counselors — and they preach sermons about relationships because that’s what they studied in school. Christmas sermons tend to be about the members who are miserable because of lost loved ones. And men hate these sermons. (And Father’s Day sermons that tell men how sorry they are at being fathers.) We need good counselors, for sure, but it’s a mistake to define Christianity in terms of healing broken relationships. It’s bigger than that. It is that. But it’s more.
And so, if we would just train our leadership — elders and ministers both — to be equippers to do good works (as God told us to do in Eph 4), well, that would change everything. Not surprisingly, what the church needs is what the Bible prescribes.
And, ironically enough, it would naturally and easily allow women to assume their proper roles.