My friend, John Starke, who serves at The Gospel Coalition, wrote this article as a response to a book review of How I Changed My Mine about Women in Leadership. I wholeheartedly agree with everything John said (as I knew I would), but wanted to elaborate on some of his points and maybe state things from a women’s POV who is in full-time ministry.
Disclaimer: Some may say that the “women in ministry” issue isn’t really timely. I do not find that to be a valid argument. Anytime we have failing marriages, dysfunctional churches, and church leadership teams that aren’t biblical, then it will be a valid topic for discussion.
“Complementarianism is unsatisfying to egalitarians.” The reason I think it is. We, all of us, sin-nature, is to put man first. Sin nature is man focused. God is God-focused. To use the Westminster Catechism: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” We like to focus on ourselves, our desires, our wants, making our name great (Genesis 11:4). God’s authority and plan for our lives is that we make MUCH of Him (John 3:30). Most of the arguments I’ve heard from egalitarians is man-focused. “I’m gifted in preaching and can’t use it. I can work just as well as my husband at _________. Being a mom is not really a satisfying job.” The underlying theme in all of these is “I”. The gospel is not about “I”. The gospel is about Christ.
‘Pastors should take these concerns seriously and labor to answer them appropriately.” For complementarian pastors and ministry leaders, it is not enough to just say “Egalitarianism is wrong. The Bible says so.” You need to know what the Bible says about this and why/how these truths are applicable. Some content that will decidedly be helpful to you as you learn more about this is: CBMW, Grudem and Piper’s Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and Wayne Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. Theologians and pastors such as Dr. Grudem, Dr. Peter Schemm, John Piper, Randy Stinson, and Chris Cowan have all been highly instrumental in my thinking on this subject and I’m grateful for their ministry and knowledge of this subject and the Word of God.
The Bible must be our “go-to” starting point for this discussion. If we start anywhere else, we’ve started at the wrong point. And I my boss says, ‘If we are only 1% off now, ten years down the road, that 1% has turned into 40%”. We don’t want to be 40% off on this subject. It is too crucial to the understanding of the gospel to a lost and dying world that needs Christ.
So, we take our situations (existential) and we see what the Bible has to say to them. If I have the ability to speak and write, then what guidelines does the Bible give me in how I can use those gifts. Am I a Mom? Then what does the Bible say about how I’m to respond to and respect my husband and how I’m supposed to nurture my children and order my home? What does the Bible say is important in these roles?
“We should conform our worldview and feelings around the Word of God – the norm above all norms.” Pivotal statement by John. If you understand this, then the rest will fall into place.
“We trust that complementarianism makes sense of reality and can be satisfying to believing hearts.” God’s rules and authority are not for our torture. They are for our good and His ultimate glory. Jesus said in the gospels that His yoke was easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). If we are burdened or put-out by these rules and regulations as woman, then our hearts needs transformed by the gospel. We all stand in need of redemption and sanctification. Pray that the Spirit would sanctify and transform your heart as you see God’s bigger Truth and how it is completely satisfying.
Here is where we fail, where I fail, as pastors, ministry leaders, women’s leaders, wives, friends: we don’t know how to have a pastor’s heart in this area: a shepherd’s heart: like Jesus who was compassionate to us, knowing we are stupid like sheep and tend to wander away. We need to have a more compassionate heart to meet women where they are, take their circumstances, and lovingly walk them to the gospel, show them the right ways of Jesus and the gospel and allow them to see that God has such a more glorious path for them to be on.
This world is full of sin, abuse, neglect, pride, dysfunction – not at all the way the beauty of the original Creation was: walking in the Garden of Eden in perfect harmony with God. We suffer broken marriages, poorly led churches, men who abuse the authority that God has given them. My word of exhortation and edification: pray that God would soften your hearts to those who are in need of the truth of God. These may be non-believers who need to surrender their hearts to God. These may be women who do not yet see the beauty of God’s design for the home and church as He designed it. Live life on life with these women (or men, life or life with other men), pulling them aside the gospel, praying that your life and God’s truth would be transformative in their lives.
God has a Grand Design. It is based in the gospel. It is based on His character and not our situations. He redeems. He has purchased us. He has made His plan known through the Bible. Let’s share life with people, live in authentic community, and bear with our people. May God use His sufficient and perfect word to transform our lives, hearts, churches, and homes.
For His Fame.