Sunday, May 3, 2009

Women in Ministry?

I was interviewed by the Iowa State Daily about women's roles in ministry. Here's our interview...

1) Can you describe your call into ministry? Also, how did you take on the pastoral role in your church?

I grew up in a real Christian home. By "real," I mean that for my parents, Christianity was not a thing to do, but a person to love. Jesus was central to everything my parents did, and they did their best to raise us to have the same love they had. But love and passion are things that cannot be forced. Therefore, I rejected them and became a skate punk. But God took my young heart, and broke it while I was on a youth trip to Mexico, and again on a youth group trip to Minneapolis. At that time, I would say God helped me get to the point of saying (and believing), "I am yours, lead me wherever you want me to go." I discovered this "call" less as an event, and more as a process. There's a lot more to share for another time...

2) What roles do you fulfill at Cornerstone? Day to day tasks, etc. Do you have an assistant or secretary?

My title is Director of The Salt Company. I'm basically a college pastor. I oversee a staff of about 11 (it depends on how many interns in any given semester). In the fall we'll have 5 women and 5 men on staff. I have a spectrum of ministries I lead- everything from TSC to being an elder at Cornerstone Church, to leading Anthem (our next generation worship event), and many things in between. My time is spent meeting with TSC staff, student leaders, Bible studies with students, counseling, studying for messages, preaching those messages, etc

3) What positions are only/mostly fulfilled by men of the church--Women of the church?

   -what is the attendance of the men groups vs. female groups. (if uneven) why do you think this is?

-congregational attendance (men vs. women)

We have an all male elder team, per 1 Timothy 3:1-7. All of our pastors who teach at our weekend services are men. Women also give leadership in certain areas. Their importance is seen in the TSC staff ratio... we have about 700 students involved in TSC, and it takes a lot of work to try to mentor that many people. Our women on staff do an amazing job of leading, teaching, and mentoring women.

On Thursday mornings at 6:00 am, well over 100 men from church gather for prayer, accountability and Bible study. In the Thursday women's bible studies, I think there are similar numbers. In general, there's probably a few more women than men in our church, but the ratio is probably not as uneven as the national averages. We strongly fight against the passivity, complacency, and abdication of responsibility that is so prevalent among men. I would say there is peer pressure in our church for men to lead like Christ, laying down their lives for those they're leading. Genesis 3 gives some insight into why men struggle to lead.

I have no idea what the exact ratios are, but if you were to scan the crowd on a weekend, I don't think you'd notice more women than men or vice versa.

4) What roles in ministry are particularly women 'called' to partake in, if any.

I think women are called to lead, teach, prophesy, serve, give... I think what you're looking for is, "What are women not called to do?" Let me preface my answer by saying that there are brothers and sisters also serving Christ that have a different view on this. This is not a matter of orthodoxy. But we would not feel comfortable having women serve as elders and teaching in front of the whole church on the weekends. It's the "exercising authority over" that seems to be the issue in 1 Timothy 2:11-ff.

5) There has been a large movement of female ordination within many of the protestant denominations. Do you see this movement/interest within your church? Do you see female ordination overall increasing or decreasing in the future?

I can see why more women are pursuing ordination... The apathy and languid service among men in our culture is heart wrenching. Men would rather look at porn, watch sports, surf the internet, pursue hobbies and hang out at the bar than love  God, their wife and kids. This is the problem I'd like to address, not necessarily the problem of women wanting to be pastors. Bless them for their desire to serve God. But I also think some of their pursuit of ordination is because fundamental churches have not rightly valued their roles. Moreover, women should pursue ministry. We have 5 full time women on our staff team. I've seen women serve in total obscurity at orphanages in third world countries. They will be more known in heaven than Billy Graham and Rick Warren. The women I serve with have just as much impact on the lives of college students than any man I know. Interestingly, almost half of the people that Paul greets in Romans 16 were women. That's not to mention the role of women in the ministry of Jesus.

6) Do you view female ordination as a social problem or a positive gain for women?

This question may be a false dichotomy. If there are any problems in the church- the church is to blame, not the culture. So I wouldn't say, "Ordination of women is a social problem." Has the church been influenced by post-modern thought, feminism, and the low view of women that pervades our culture? Of course. But we need to fight this battle by affirming Biblical womanhood, not by bashing denominations that are compromising. I think we often generate more heat than light in those discussions- especially when we use the media to have those conversations. USA Today and N.Y. Times are not good mediators for the church.

7) In male focused/male only bible studies at your church, is it taught that men have religious/spiritual authority over women? Do you believe this has a negative or positive affect on women entering ministry?

The question seems to imply that "men in general have authority over women in general." I don't think that's a Biblical paradigm. In Ephesians 5, Paul encourages mutual submission in the body of Christ. However, God has wired the world in a way that all of us need to submit in some way. You could make the case that our unwillingness to submit is one of our core problems as humans. It's what made Satan, well...Satan. No one wants to take orders, but that is essentially what being a Christian is. Namely, trusting the infinite goodness of God enough to trust Him to lead our lives. His goodness is seen in the person of Christ. There is authority in the husband/wife, parent/child, employer/employee, teacher/student relationships, to name a few. But the Biblical view of authority shows a man who gets on his knees to wash dirty feet, spends his life to serve others, and ultimately takes nails to the hands. Rather than "authority", you might call it "loving leadership." God's leadership is not soft, weak or tame, but it always leads us to the good thing. But remember the agony Jesus faced in the Garden of Gethsemane- submission is not always peachy. Sometimes its sweats blood and says, "Yet not my will, but Yours." (Luke 22:39-44). Now we are getting closer to a biblical model of authority...

8) If there was a woman in your congregation that felt called to enter ordained ministry, how would you guide her to her vocation? Have you ever guided a woman through her discernment who had a similar situation?

I would encourage her to pursue ministry, but not to be ordained and/or take on a role where she is having to teach in a way that she's exercising authority over men. There are so many full time ministry opportunities that don't require ordination.

9) Do you see any differences between 'male leadership' and 'female leadership'?

There are women who are much better leaders than men, and vice versa. Generally, I would say men and women have different leadership styles. One is not better than another.


WendyPierce said...

Thanks for sharing this. It's actually related to a lot of things I've been trying to think through lately. Next I want to read your thoughts on Moms in ministry. Okay, GO!

Anonymous said...

This is so sad. Women don't just go into ministry or become ordained because men are only watching sports and looking at porn instead of paying attention to women, they do it because God has called them to ministry. Women are called just like men to ministry and to teach men and women and to lead men and women. I think it's a shame that men like you tell women where their place is in the church when they are sometime more qualified and gifted then men. I guess if it was me I'd never want God to look at me and ask why did you tell people not to serve me with ALL their gifts (even if those include preaching on a weekend to men and women) due to their gender. Women don't believe this stuff, God has called you to more!