If you haven’t ever taken part in a similar personal exercise, I would encourage you to check your pulse and make sure that you are still breathing.
Sometimes, it is funny how moments of deep reflection come about for me. God seems to reveal himself to me in the strangest ways, but I am most certainly not complaining. I don’t know why God chooses to speak to me like he does, but I am grateful that he chooses to speak to me in any manner whatsoever.
Here is a bit of background on today’s revelation.
It all started Christmas morning at my in-law’s house. We are hanging out watching the kids open their presents (definitely my favorite part of Christmas). In short order, however, the kids had finished their assault on Fort Present at Mount Spoiled, so it was our turn to open our gifts. We opened our gifts which were great. Some new clothes, an indoor badminton set, a microwave smore maker, etc…
My in-laws always save their favorite present for last. It is most definitely always a good one. Last year it was a new grill (awesome!), but this year was a bit different. We were given our final present which came In small nondescript envelope. Immediately my mind goes to cash or something else along those lines. So my brother-in-law and I tear into our envelopes at the same time expecting some dead presidents, but to our pleasant surprise, inside we found tickets to today’s Mizzou game.
Fast forward to today. I woke up at about 8:00 this morning next to my beautiful wife in the hotel suite at the Resident’s Inn that my father-in-law sprung for at the last minute, so we could all spend some quality time together last night and prior to the game this morning. My eyes opened, and, instead of the sleepiness that normally pervades the morning state of my brain, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dream that I had.
It is rare for me to remember my dreams, so when I do, I always pay attention. Usually when I do remember, It is because the dream was focused around something significant in my life. This morning’s remembrance was no different.
The details of the dream are unimportant. The significance, instead, revolves around the people who starred in the dream. The bulk of the people were old friends that I have lost contact with over the years. Usually when I lose contact with someone who had previously been important to me, I am quick to make excuses regarding my lack of effort in maintaining my connection and moving on to “bigger and better” things. Kind of like the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that dominates the thought processing ability of narcissistic children.
I understand that people lose touch with one another and that it is ok, but, again, this is not the point.
I can hear what you are thinking…
So what IS the point, Jeremy? You dragged us over here from [insert referring website here] to talk about the point of existence. Well, what’s the point?!?!
And the answer that God gave me this morning in quiet reflection was about you. Yes. You heard me right. It was about you.
“About me?” you say.
And I reply, “Yep. I have been missing it all these years. I am supposed to be all about you.”
To understand the root of this revelation we have to go back to the first moments of human creation and look at God’s motives for our creation. So why were we created? The answer is simple. We were created for relationships. Originally, humanity was created for a relationship with God, but as Eve came along and procreation occurred, the scope of that purpose expanded.
Let me pause and say that the total purpose of our creation was and continues to be the glorification of God, but the scope of our relational responsibilities to one another falls within this overarching purpose. I wanted to clarify that before continuing.
So now the Earth is full of people. The question becomes, “Has our original purpose changed?”
The short answer is that our purpose has not changed, but you all know I am not an advocate of short answers so buckle up. 😀
The answer that God gave me this morning was one that struck me directly in the face. We were created for relationships. Duh. I know this. I have known this for a long time, but the question that our wise Creator posed to me this morning was, “If you know this so well, why don’t you do it?” I had to look really deeply inside myself to attempt to work out this flaw within my personality.
To hang out with me, you would not think that I am shy, and, in relationships that I have fostered and invested time into, I am definitely not. In fact, my beloved friends and family have nicknamed me “center of attention boy”. The problem that I experience is rooted in fostering new relationships. I do not have the gift of gab, so I can’t engage in small talk very easily. Usually I establish my relationships in a group setting and then move into individual friendships as I find some common ground on which to relate. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing on the surface, it can leave some of those people who I interact with out in the cold as far as a potential relationship is concerned.
I am not under the false impression that I will be able to befriend every person with whom I come in contact. But the rub occurs when I try to empathize with new people whom I meet. I think of the new faces that walk into my congregation looking for a connection and leave without ever linking up with someone. The faces that have come and gone that I have just put out of my mind and dismissed haunt me, but I have simply swept these feelings under the rug to this point disregarding the guilt that I feel as a result.
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately I cannot go back and change the events that have already occurred, but I can resolve to be different in the future.
So what is the reason for which we exist?
Simple. To establish relationships that glorify God. First and foremost with our loving creator, but the relationships that we have with people are critically important as well. I have been less than stellar at making new connections because it is tough for me, but that is no excuse to ignore the point of my creation.
Let me extend an apology to those people with whom I have lost contact and those with whom I failed to connect. Also, I want to thank all of those wonderful people who put up with me and remain my close friends. For you, I am truly grateful.
Here is the challenge that God presented to me, so I reciprocate it to you:
Go out today and reconnect with someone or establish a new relationship. The simple truth is that people are worth investing your life into. Where would we be today if Jesus hadn’t thought that we were worth his sacrifice on the cross?
One of the most important aspects of walking alongside God is making sure that you are continually reading and meditating on His word. I am planning on starting a new installment on the blog called Bible Study Friday. Here I will relay what I am studying and how God is moving in my life based on His amazing word. I hope that publishing this study will help you as much as it helps me to prepare for this installment. Without further ado…
What is Humility? Some would say humility is an attitude, but I would venture to say that, while an attitude of humility is extremely important, God desires much more from the Church. At the most basic level of faith, God desires a lifestyle of humility from His people.
In Matthew 23, Jesus is talking with his disciples and the crowds that were following him. In the previous chapter, he had been challenged by the Pharisees and Sadducees. In each instance, Jesus had taken the challenge issued by the men of the law and refuted it so that each group of challengers had nothing left to say. Jesus put them in their place so decisively, verse 22:46 states that, “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” With his spiritual enemies firmly silenced, Jesus was able to address the crowds freely.
For the next few verses, Jesus rips into the Pharisees and teachers of the law regarding their outward shows of spiritualism and their love of human recognition. He tells the crowds, “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at the banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them Rabbi” (Matt 23:5-7).
Are we not there today? We love ourselves to a fault and we love to be exalted before men. This is not what God desires. God would have us to live humble lives as servants. Jesus himself said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28 ). Today, we live in a society that preaches the need to take care of number one. To exalt yourself to stand out. We have a corporate world that would have you lie, cheat, and steal to advance up the next rung of the ladder. But Jesus himself stated that he came to serve, even to the point of death on a cross in obedience to the Father as a sacrifice for us. So where does that leave us today? If the Son of Man came as a servant unto this world, how crazy is it for us to be so self-serving! This attitude is even prevalent within the walls of churches today! This has to break God’s heart. We, the body of Christ, are to be His living message to the world today, but it seems like we have forgotten what that message is.
The attitudes that we express are clearly outside of what Jesus lays out in verse 11 and 12. “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” See how our self-importance and Christ do not mix? If you want to be exalted before God, you have to humble yourself before men. As Christians, our rewards in heaven clearly outweigh any reward that we could receive here. Earthly reward is fleeting, while heavenly rewards are eternal. I don’t know about you, but I would rather invest in my eternal home rather than the temporal home I have here on Earth.
God lays it out for us. If we want to be within His will here on Earth, we have to find humility. Let go of your pride. It only serves to hold you back from where God wants you to be. The gains of surrender greatly surpass the penalty of retaining your self-serving nature. The call on our lives is to love the people of the world as Christ did. And how did Jesus love? Through service. How are we then called to love the world? As humble servants putting others above ourselves. Remember, he who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.
All for His glory.
If you missed my post from yesterday, you probably should go back and review what was stated there as this will make absolutely zero sense unless you have the background of where I am coming from and the restructure that my church is currently instituting.
When we left off yesterday, I was just beginning to probe the difference between practical and spiritual leadership within the body of the church. Both of these functions are fundamental to the responsibilities of the elder body, however, many times, deacons are responsible for the day-to-day service opportunities within the church while elders are mainly focused on the spiritual leadership and teaching the Word within the body.
Through the course of my study, I have also stumbled upon several elder led churches utilizing female deacons, but this seems suspect based upon the same qualification to be the husband of one wife that is set forth in 1 Tim 3:12 for the deacon body. However, in 1 Tim 3:11 the word “wives” can be, instead, interpreted as “women.” Therefore, this may lead the reader to believe that there are two separate sets of requirements for male and female deacons. Some scholarly debate centers around the question of whether or not women can operate as deacons in a different capacity apart from male deacons. I can speculate that perhaps the qualifications in verse 11 were related to the serious issues plaguing women at that time within the culture, but I honestly do not know with any certainty that this is the case.
It would seem, if there is no clear divide in verse 11 to apply those qualifications to specifically to women serving in a deacon role, then the passage is meant for the wives of deacons and not for female deacons. This leads my thinking process in two starkly different directions.
The first direction is that women cannot serve in traditional deacon or elder offices. This is strangely refuted when Phoebe is called a deacon, but it may be that she was a servant to the body as a deacon would be, not necessarily serving in the actual office role of a deacon. Basically this means that she would fulfill the same role as a male deacon but not holding the actual title of deacon.
In my discussion this week with a good friend, she stated that seemed to be pretty unfair to be able to do all the work, but not hold the title. I tend to agree with her, but I also know that God is not fair. Rather, He is just. I also know that our eternal reward is not based upon what titles that we attain in life, so I think that this argument is fairly meaningless when applying an eternal focus on our lives and service. When we begin to base our ministry on titles, we become more and more like the Pharisee sporting our wide phylacteries and reveling in our conceited positions of power at the head of the banquet table. We cannot forget the simple purpose for which we are placed on Earth. To glorify God, and to encourage and support others. Period. When we lose sight of that, we turn our backs from the true heart of God.
The second direction that my brain takes me is one that lends itself to the establishment of women elders. If women can serve as deacons in the traditional role with the qualification of “being the husband of one wife,” then it would seem that they could serve in an elder role as well. There is a biblical precedence for a woman to be a deacon, and if that is in the traditional capacity, disregarding a possible split at 1 Tim 3:11 between the male and female qualifications to be a deacon, then it would seem that there would be nothing to hold them back from being elders. I just don’t know how the requirement to be “the husband of one wife” is ignored in that case.
Another argument that was brought forward was that the reader must consider the audience. It was stated that the letters of Timothy were possibly directed at a group of men; therefore, there needed to be no consideration for women. If what I garner from the first verse of the book, Timothy was written specifically to Timothy with instructions on how to run the church. It was not directed at a group of men. It was directed at one man with the qualifications that Paul himself used to choose elders within different congregations. I believe that Paul was attempting to teach Timothy on the proper way to choose elders from the body. I believe that he was attempting to accomplish the same goal in Titus, as Titus had taken over the leadership for a Cretian congregation.
I believe Jesus was a champion for women. I know that He respected their time, talent, and treasure. Some of the most amazing examples of biblical worship come from women. Some of Jesus’ closest companions were women. Jesus came to champion the plight of the socially downtrodden, and women were seen as second-class citizens during that time. He came and obliterated many social and cultural stigmas within the Jewish culture. However, when Christ chose the twelve who were set apart, He only chose men. I do not know what significance that this has, but I do believe that there is some significance attached to the reason behind who he chose. He picked several other socially outcast persons to become members of the twelve. Why didn’t he choose a woman? Was it a cultural stigma or was he setting forth a specific model to be followed?
I wholly believe that women can teach, but I am having a hard time with their placement in a position of spiritual authority over a man. I want to fully endorse women eldership with all my heart because some of the most amazing and valuable people who have guided my spiritual development have been women, but I have to be able to support myself with the Word, not personal experience. The Word seems to lend itself to male leadership.
The final argument that I was presented with centers around the cultural consideration of the Jews at the time. That if women cannot be in authority, then they may not wear jewelry or braid their hair as Paul forbids these. The heart of this passage of scripture, however, calls women to live modestly as all Christians are called to be of good moral fiber and to be good stewards of the resources that God has given to each of us. There is another passage stating that women should be silent. As far as this is concerned, a more accurate translation of the word silence would be settled, which seems to reassert Paul’s call for women to be submissive (not as a slave).
I have also thought through the cultural considerations, but I think that changing our doctrine just for the sake of being different or culturally relevant can start us down a dangerous path. The Church needs to be relevant, but I think that we must be truly careful about change that is based on culture and that cannot be fully endorsed by the word of God.
This is all a big mess in my head at the moment, but clarity is slowly coming as I hash this out with my friend the doctor and my spiritual wise counsel. As I stated previously, I actually lean more in the direction of allowing women to take part in the eldership of the church, but I must have the Word to stand on.
I appreciate you reading. If you have any discussion that you would like to add, feel free to light up the comments. Plan to see some follow-up on this in the very near future as I work this out in my head and come to a definite conclusion of where I stand regarding this issue.
All for His glory.
Let me begin this post by stating a few of my beliefs outright. I am not sexist. I believe that women are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do amazing things just as men are. I love women and believe that they have much to offer the church. The church has been missing out on women’s amazing gifting by misrepresenting the idea of submission within the body of Christ and reducing their ministry to that of solely children’s ministry regardless of the woman’s particular gifting.
My wife is one of the most amazing spirit-filled people who I have had the pleasure of knowing. It has been an amazing joy to minister with her and several other amazing women that I have been privileged to serve with in the past. So, I do have a strong background of taking part in ministry with women; however, this post is directed at exploring women in a position of spiritual leadership over a church.
I do not know exactly how I feel about all of this. I am just presenting the facts that I possess and what I believe scripture says. I am currently corresponding with a man who has his doctorate in the early church and working through this issue in my own head as well. Now for a bit of background.
My church is currently undergoing a restructure of the way that we conduct the general business. This encompasses our spiritual leadership and our practical leadership. What we have gleaned thus far from scripture is that there is no necessarily wrong or right way to do church government.
I do attend a Southern Baptist church (although we are the most non-Baptist, Baptists that you will ever meet) and the traditional governing body within a Southern Baptist church is the congregation. Business is conducted through business meetings (YUCK!) and congregational vote. This style of government is not scriptural. It is not necessarily wrong, but it is definitely abiblical.
Through our study, we have determined that an elder body is the scriptural model for government that Paul initiates during his travels and later gives specific instructions to Timothy and Titus regarding the selection and function of elders. As the restructuring process has continued, we have called several key Baptist beliefs into question that we are looking into the scripture behind these long-lived traditions. We are not necessarily looking to destroy tradition for the sake of destroying tradition, but we do want to our governmental structure and our core beliefs to line up solely with scripture and not worn out, unnecessary tradition.
That being said, we are looking into installing women as elders. This concept is not accepted within the Baptist denomination, but I have never been a huge fan of denomination anyway. As my study of the scripture in the original language continues, I have one main issue that I cannot seem to get over. Where is the scriptural justification for women filling the elder role within the body of Christ?
The thing that I can’t seem to get passed is the passage of scripture where the requirement is set forth to be the husband of one wife. Even in the Greek, this means a “man of one woman” or a “one woman man.” Perhaps there some language syntax that I am missing, or there an alternate translation, or a cultural consideration that I am unaware of that would allow a woman to step into an elder role. However, if this scripture is taken literally, this would totally disqualify women from eldership as they cannot be “one woman men.”
I know that Phoebe and her patronage in Corinth is often discussed as a key marker for this issue, but I don’t know if what is stated within Romans 16 conclusively proves that she was a governing elder within the church as her scope of ministry is not discussed in detail. The research that I have seen regarding Greek patronage in the time period where Phoebe would have been active leads me to believe that, while we can rest assured that she did act as the patron for a church in Corinth using her social and political power to further the body, it is possible that she held no official office within the church. This specifically came from a parallel of Junia Theodora.
This is not the Junia found in Romans 16. She was a patron for the Lycian immigrants coming into Corinth at the same time that Phoebe was acting as patron for one of the house churches in Corinth. Phoebe and Junia probably knew each other, or at the very least, knew of each other. Evidence of her patronage was unearthed in the 1950s during an archeological dig. While she undoubtedly wielded her political and social power for the betterment of the Lycian immigrants, there is no evidence that supports her holding a specific office, civic or otherwise.
It is almost assured that Phoebe applied practical leadership within the church, as they were most likely meeting in her home, but the question is, did she give spiritual leadership? I know that elders, traditionally, are in place to apply practical and spiritual leadership, but the most important function of the elder body is to set the spiritual vision for the church and then make sure that the congregation is in line with and pursuing the vision that God has given to the body. Did Phoebe assist in this? Did she help to direct the practical day-to-day business of the church? If so, does this make her an elder in spiritual leadership or does it specifically make her a deacon, as stated in Romans 16, serving the body?
This is just one of the concerns of scripture that I have been dealing with regarding this issue. There are several more, but I will tackle those tomorrow as this post has really taken on a life of its own. If you can’t tell, I have a really hard time telling any story or academic musing with a truly concise presentation. I like to hear all sides of every issue, so I present as many sides as I possibly can to you.
I hope that you enjoyed the read and will tune in tomorrow for more follow-up on this issue that has been dividing brothers and sisters for many years. Tomorrow, I will present several of the other arguments that have surfaced during the course of my study and what I believe scripture says regarding these issues. Feel free to comment if you have anything to add to this discussion. I am seeking clarity for this issue within my own brain as well. Thanks for your time!
All for His glory.