Women in Church Leadership – an afterthought

I thought I was finished with this series of posts until a point of clarification came to my mind.  It’s a bit more practical and “how to” in my thinking than the rest.  I hope this will help many of you to see how I apply the things I’ve already covered in this series.

My wife, Mindi, has been God’s greatest gift to me, after the person of Christ.  I don’t say that lightly or for any reason except for the simple fact that it is obviously true from my perspective.  Her home-life as a child was much more consistently Christ-centered than mine.  Her ability to communicate and be considerate of what is going on inside of poeple is much more finely tuned than mine.  She has been taught, from a very early age, to consistently be asking, “What does GOD think (about whatever she is facing)?”  Those and many other qualities and skills that she possesses have benefited me in countless ways and have blessed many people besides me throughout our ministry life together (if you are one of those people, I’d encourage you to post a comment saying how she has been used of God to bless your life – so those who don’t know either of us can get a feel for the kind of person she is – and to know that I’m not making this up!).

As a Pastor and Elder in a local church for the past how-many-ever years, I’ve learned that her partnership with me is invaluable.  She has discernment about people (the sheep I am called to shepherd) that is typically right-on, and that I would have missed on my own.  I have learned that much of that relational insight comes as a direct result of her being a woman.  There’s TREMENDOUS value in that – that I MUST recognize and humbly receive.  As a Pastor I talk with her about almost every situation with which I am faced (unless it’s in regard to a confidence I’ve agreed to keep).  I listen to her perspective, as a woman and as my wife and partner, and I often adjust or altogether change my intended actions based on her input – because I glean greater wisdom than I had on my own.

I’ve come to trust her relationship with the Lord, her ability to discern right from wrong, and her intuition about people.  I think that’s a HUGE (did I say HUGE) part of what a husband/wife partnership in marriage is all about!  That’s how we are MEANT to function together.  She’s neither a liability as a woman nor a simple “bonus” to enrich my life!  She’s an integral part of the ministry we do TOGETHER!  It’s OUR ministry under God’s authority and calling, not just mine.  Even though I’m the one in the leadership role within the church, she’s as much a part of it as I am – she’s part of God’s provision for HIS WORK to be accomplished in this scenario in which we’ve been placed (remember the old quote by Hudson Taylor, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision”?  She’s part of that provision for this work of ministry to be done!  Isn’t that obvious?).

I believe that any man who is in a church leadership role (Pastor, Elder, etc.) who DOES NOT include his wife in the ministry responsibilities that God has called THEM to do together is very short-sighted and perhaps risking great damage to the flock he is called to shepherd.  And if he is unwilling to benefit from his wife’s wisdom as a woman because he believes that theologically it is “not her place” (or some other such idea), he’s very sorely mistaken in the way he understands not only church leadership, but also the very foundational structure, meaning, and purpose of marriage!

I said all that to say this…

In reading my previous posts on this subject you might get the feeling that I simply tolerate women, or try to be nice to them but still think they are “less capable” than men.  You might think that I give women “lesser” tasks to placate or pacify them so as not to cause too much of a stir in the church.  None of that could be further from the truth.  In our church there are women (very competent women I might add) in VERY VITAL roles within our church community (finance committee, worship leadership, eventually as Deaconesses – when we get them established, etc.).  And all of that is in ADDITION to the irreplaceable role my wife plays in my leadership and oversight of the church as its pastor.  NONE of this denegrates the Biblical truths that I’ve already discussed, nor does it diminish the role of men.  I believe they are effective applications of what both marriage and the church are INTENDED TO BE!

Comments are still welcome…

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7 thoughts on “Women in Church Leadership – an afterthought

  1. Hi Carey,

    As I’ve known Mindi and respected her for a number of years, I definitely have been wanting to respond to your request regarding how God has used her to bless my life. However, I am having trouble coming up with something specific to Mindi and I have come to understand that is because you and she are a team.

    You each have your strengths, but it is the package that God uses to bless others. You might challenge us spiritually while she comes along beside us during the painful growth process. She might console us over a wayward child while you offer practical advice on discipline. And sometimes the specific roles might reverse.

    I believe you and Mindi see yourselves, and behave, as a pastor unit with neither of you being more or less important to the success of your ministry.

    Thank you for allowing God to use your family as an example to other Christians.

  2. Carey,
    This post is an appropriate balance to your previous ones. I think Aquila and Priscilla raising up Apollos is a great example for us married guys to follow (Acts 18)

    “Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” Acts 18:24-26

    Luke, the writer of Acts, could have just mentioned Aquila as the teacher of Apollos. After all, Apollos was a full-grown man. Apollos was also, apparently, knowledgeable about Scriptures. He was a good teacher too.

    But he doesn’t just mention Aquila. Acts says that it was BOTH Aquila and Priscilla who instructed this man Apollos in “the way of God more adequately.” So we have this husband and wife team working together to teach a man who was already doing ministry.

    This would be the equivalent today of a husband and wife teaching team at a church or seminary. And apparently, Paul was good friends with this couple and appreciated the contribution of both husband and wife.

    If we limit the role of women so that they could not do today what Aquila and Priscilla did in the early church, we limit the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to the church.

  3. I never said that a man and woman couldn’t team teach. That seems completely appropriate in light of scripture. Yet, this example from the life of Paul is in no way a clear one to base major church policies upon. Yes, a husband and wife helped and taught Paul. Yes, Paul appreciated BOTH of them greatly. But does that mean that women must be allowed in primary areas of leadership within the church? I hardly think so…

  4. Carey,
    You said:
    “Yes, a husband and wife helped and taught Paul. Yes, Paul appreciated BOTH of them greatly. But does that mean that women must be allowed in primary areas of leadership within the church?”

    My answer would be yes. Paul called Apollos is “fellow-worker” in the Lord or “co-worker.” And who taught him? Priscilla and Aquilla. It is interesting to me that Paul uses the same word to describe Priscilla and other women that he uses to describe Apollos. He considered women his “co-laborers” or “fellow-workers” in the Lord. (See Rom. 16:3; Phil 4:2-3; and 1 Cor 3:9)

    So I believe Paul used women to lead the church in ways that women were rarely used in his culture. He was increasing their leadership roles not lessening them. He saw them as equals in leading the church with him. Just as he saw Apollos.

  5. Hi again Mark,

    Again I’d have to insist that you are saying something that the text does not say. I can call my 16 year old son a “fellow worker” but that does not imply by any means that he is to be automatically considered appropriate for leadership within the church. There are many grown men within my church (and yours too, I’d wager) who you might call “fellow workers” but not consider to be even remotely able to be leaders within the church.

    Your logic on this is baffling to me… you are inferring a very specific application from a very general statement that Paul made. There’s no grounds for doing so in the text.

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