THE PRACTICE OF WOMEN IN CHURCH LEADERSHIP
Women have been a blessing to the church since its inception. In many local churches, if it weren’t for the women, nothing would get done. In the early church, the names of women come up as being active in local church ministry. Their support ministries, their working with children and other women has been instrumental in countless people coming to Christ. The issue at hand is not women in the church, but women in leadership in the church.
Women in church leadership is a relatively new phenomenon. With the advent of the women’s liberation movement, many of the orthodox churches have accepted women in church leadership. However, the Bible if very clear regarding this subject.
Suppose a father wants his son to mow the lawn when he gets home from school. So he says to his son, “I want you to do your chores when you get home from school today.” So, when dad comes home and finds the lawn not mowed, he consults his son. “Did I not tell you to do your chores when you get home?” he asks his son, at which his son replies, “I did my chores. I cleaned my room, and I cleaned the garage.”
The fault was really the father’s because he did not expressly say ‘mow the lawn’. However, if the father had said to the son, “I want you to mow the lawn when you get home from school today.” There is no misunderstanding what is to be done here. Dad has every right to expect the lawn to be mowed when he arrives.
That is how clear Scripture is regarding women in church leadership. Let’s first look at some passages in the Bible regarding this subject.
“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12)
This can’t be much clearer. Women are NOT to lead men, teach men, or rule over men in the church. That explicitly eliminates female pastors. But, let’s not stop here.
In presenting the qualification of church leadership, specifically that of Elders and Pastors, the Bible is again clear.
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop (overseer, elder, pastor) then must be blameless, the husband of one wife (one-woman-man), temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
Again, we find:
“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders (pastor, overseer) in every city as I commanded you--if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.” (Titus 1:5-6)
This is as clear as ‘Son, I want you to mow the lawn when you get home from school today!”
Those churches that violate this imperative defend their actions in one of two ways.
Defense one, they come back with, “Well, Jesus did not say this, the Apostle Paul did.” However, they fail to understand, in recognizing the Bible in its entirety as God’s Holy Word, without error and infallible, that whatever Paul says, Jesus is saying. If Peter or James or Matthew or Mark said it, Jesus said it. It is ALL God’s Word. There is nowhere in Scripture that substantiates the idea that what Paul, or any of the other Biblical writers said is less important than what Jesus said or did not say. It’s all of equal importance. We cannot pick and choose.
Defense two, we have a ‘living Bible’. In saying that, they who hold this position are not talking about the Living Bible translation. They mean Bible imperatives and structure change with time. What was said fifteen hundred years ago is not the same today. What they are saying is the Bible changes with changing culture. In regard to our subject, they believe the scriptures above regarding women in church leadership do not apply today. Women have been ‘liberated’ and that applies in the church as well as in the market place.
However, there is no evidence of this living Bible idea. In fact, it is quite the opposite. What was applicable a thousand year ago is still applicable today. God does not change His Word for mankind.
“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law (the Bible) till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18)
“Jesus Christ (who is called the Word in John 1:1) is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
"For I am the LORD, I do not change; …” (Malachi 3:6)
Those who try to change what the Bible says have these warnings.
“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)
"… you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:32)
“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)
Although this is not a subject on the trustworthiness of the Bible, it’s clear from what we’ve read that it does not change with time and fashion. It is the same ‘yesterday, today’, and will be the same tomorrow.
God is a God of order. And, He has established order in His church.
“But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)
The order of authority in the church is:
… in that order. And, it has never changed.
A popular fad in the church today is plural pastors. That is, husband and wife pastors. You know, ‘Pastors John and Betty Doe’, or ‘Pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen’.
This is called presumptuous sin, and these individuals will one day give account for bringing dishonor to Christ’s church.
Do not misunderstand this author. Women are equal in salvation. Women have equal promises of heaven and eternal life. “… there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.“ (Galatians 3:28) All are one (equal) in Christ, both men and women.
However, God has not changed His order of authority in the church. Women are not to rule over men, and men are not to abdicate their authority over to the women.
* ‘Word of God’ refers to the Bible only, in all instances in this work. No other source is assumed in that phrase. The Bible is God’s inerrant, infallible, and complete and sole Word to mankind. No other work on earth appends too or replaces the Bible.
** All Bible references are from the New King James Version (NKJV) unless otherwise noted.