Be still sad heart and cease repining,
Behind the clouds the sun is shining,
Thy fate is the common fate of all;
Into each life some rain must fall, —
Some days must be dark and dreary. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
If you let the clouds rule your life, you will never live to enjoy the sun!
For 13 years I lived in Western Washington, just South of Seattle, where I was confronted daily with the rain and clouds. After all those years, I am still amazed at how depressing it was to watch the news. Some people never seem to get their fill of whining and complaining. Even in the summer, when the sun was shining, the weather man always found the cloud in the silver lining. In the winter they would say, “32 days of rain and counting… when will we see the sun again?” In the summer on the first sunny day—I mean the very first day—he would say, “when can we expect to get a break from this heat?” No wonder people get depressed in Seattle.
The Seattle weather is a good metaphor for poverty and the need for good works. God has created for us endless opportunities to serve and love one another, but we accomplish so little because we only see the impossibility of the present or the failure of the past. Confucius said, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.” I think he is right on target. The opportunities God has for you often look impossible, and even once we set out to serve, we are frequently hit with failure and heartache. But what brings glory to God, is not that we live without failure, but that we trust Him enough to get up and keep moving forward.
Impossible Opportunities are coming your way; opportunities hidden by foreboding clouds and chilling rains. You will slip. You will fall. You will fail. Will you get up? Will you move forward with hope that behind the dark clouds shines the Son of God!
I saw this button some time ago on a website that was clearly not approving of the Christian message, it read,
God Is Santa Claus For Christians.
Even though it was intended to mock Christianity, I was struck by the fact that there was a lot of wisdom in this little button. There is a reason that non-Christians think God is just Santa for adults. Many Christians and pastors treat God as their “Sugar Daddy” who is there to provide everything they demand.
As we approach the Christmas season, I hope each and every one of you who reads this button will remember that Jesus died on the cross to become our Savior; not our Santa.
Materialsim is the idea that life revolves around the material world. Every problem is seen as a lack of having the right materials and every solution is seen as having access to more materials. Jesus lived his life another way, when people came to be healed, he would always address their spiritual condition of sin. Not because “sin” made them ill, but because he knew that making a lame man walk, was not enough… he must also learn how to walk with God.
Materialsim is the fixation on this world as more important than the world to come. Consequently, we set our goals on the short-term ideals of pleasure, joy, or “pain-free” life today, instead of on the long-term mission of God’s Kingdom.
In thinking about the challenges facing my family this year. I came across a blog I wrote during a season of struggle in Christmas 2005.
My husband had no income and we were forced to sell our home in Puyallup, WA. We couldn’t afford Christmas gifts and our toddlers knew that they wouldn’t be receiving anything from us. Without no Christmas shopping, baking or decorating on my to-do list I discovered a tremendous amount of peace and a lot less stress! It was quite refreshing and I learned some lessons.
The twist to this story is that a dear friend of mine found out this was happening and she decided to collect gifts from our MOPS group. I was given a love basket filled with gift cards, checks, tickets to Zoo Lights and much more. We were able to buy gifts for our children and even more importantly buy groceries because money was very tight. Just thinking of this beautiful expression of love brings tears to my eyes. I cried so hard when I received this gift. God did an amazing work through my friend and my MOPS group. He taught me three main things;
How to humbly receive gifts,
To trust in God no matter the circumstance, and
To never forget Christ’s loving provision. God is such a faithful God and I am very thankful for the lessons He taught me.
It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season. Sadly enough, a large part of the stress is self-induced. We spend countless hours searching for that “perfect” gift, instead of spending more quality time with our children and families making memories.
It is important to remember the true meaning of Christmas.
I am so thankful that Jesus was born and that He came to bring us the gift of life filled with joy, peace, hope and purpose! My experience all those years ago gave me a renewed perspective of what the Christmas season is all about.
Now the irony of my story from 2005 is that this Christmas I find my family in another season of struggle. In 2011 when my husband was laid off, I thought to myself, “Here we go again, Lord please help me trust in You, no matter the cost!”
People often ask me, “how do you have so much joy amidst your struggles?”
Well, because now you know this is not the first time I have been in this difficult place and I have experienced God’s great blessings as He provided for my family! My faith was strengthened and I saw great things happen. At the end of our trial in 2006, my husband and I went on to plant a church, start a MOPS group in a new city, and make life-long friends… God was FAITHFUL!
So here I am again, in the past 13 months, I have been blown away by the love of our church family in San Diego. I have experienced tremendous blessing from the ladies in my bible study… yet it hasn’t been easy. There are many days when I get discouraged and wonder why God hasn’t provided a full-time job for my husband with insurance for our children. But then I am reminded of what we experienced in the past and it gives me hope for the future!
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
How will you give a gift that makes a difference this Christmas season?
Will you lean on God and trust Him to get you through a difficult time?
In what way will you share the love of Jesus Christ?
Today I am taking on a simple question with a lot of controversy; is it God’s design that women be pastors in the church? As you can tell from the response Michelle Hollomon got from her guest post, “The Woman’s Place in Church” there are two main camps:
“I value women as pastors in the church, and therefore I have a low view of the Bible.”
“I value the Bible, therefore I will never accept women as pastors in the church.”
Let me say clearly that I believe both of these views are in error! The good news is that there is an alternative to the above.
I believe in the authority of the Bible and trust it as the source for my doctrine, ethics, and ministry practice AND BECAUSE of my love for the Scripture, I believe the church needs recognize that some women are gifted by the Holy Spirit as pastors.
Okay, but what does that mean for women to be a pastor?
Am I suggesting that we need more mega-church, super-star paparazzi women-pastors like we have men-pastors? No, I am not arguing for the status quo. I am arguing for a biblical order to the church, and to do this I must work hard to faithfully apply the Scripture;
Where the Bible speaks clearly, I need to speak clearly.
Where the Bible is silent, I need to be silent.
And in all cases I need to speak and act with charity.
If then I am faithful to the Word, I must accept that women are pastors in the church. But, I am going to apply that truth in a way you may not expect. To do that, I need to clarify what it means to be a pastor. As I pointed out in a previous post, “My Title is NOT Pastor”, the Greek word ποιμήν is used only 1 TIME in the NT in reference to a gift from God’s Spirit and nowhere does it say this gifting is only for men (Eph 4:11), but we do see examples in the New Testament of where women are given the charge to shepherd (pastor) and teach well the doctrines of the Faith (Titus 2:3-4).
The problem we have in the church today in the West is that too much of our ministry practice is based on guess-work about what the word “pastor” means. the guessing needs to stop. We need to cut out the false expectations put on women by Western culture, and discard what is a fundamentally flawed view of ministry. So allow me to address each of these areas.
Unload Cultural Expectations
When it comes to the role of pastor, the church has made too many decisions based on culture and not enough from Scripture. We have built a system of “Pastor as CEO” that is not in the Bible and then forced that system onto the Scripture. Until this problem is corrected, we will never accept women into their proper place in the church.
In a previous post, I make some observations about the word “pastor” and so I will add to those ideas here and apply them to women.
“Pastor” is NOT a title of leadership.
This is true for both men and women, I don’t think either one should hold onto the “title” of pastor. This does not mean I reject biblical authority and leadership, it just means that biblical authority is deeper than the titles we create for ourselves.
“Pastor“ is NOT the name of church-office.
Over the years, I have had many women friends point out that because they cannot hold the “office” of pastor, they cannot get the Government benefits of the housing allowance, tax deductions, and other societal benefits. In my opinion, women doing ministry should be able to get these benefits. but this has nothing to do with being a biblical pastor. Tax breaks are not what it means to be a pastor in the church.
“Pastor” is NOT a synonym for “Elder“.
Elders in the church are given the task of shepherding the flock in a unique way that keeps the church ready for the return of the Chief Shepherd who is Christ (see also John 10:16).
1 Peter 5:1–4 (ESV)
1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
But, the ministry of Elers to shepherd, is not the same as the gift of shepherding. As mentioned above, Eph 4:11 tells us that “Pastor” IS one of five foundational gifts given by the Holy Spirit to help build Church. This gift IS given to some mature brothers and sisters in the Church so that they can guide their younger siblings into maturity.
Older women are to pastor the younger women and older men are to pastor the younger.
Titus 2:1–5 (ESV)
1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
This passage of course does not say that all older women are given the Spirit-gifting of “pastoring”, but since it does make clear that women are shepherds, it is not unreasonable to conclude that some of these women will be especially gifted by the Spirit as pastors to help equip the church to grow in holiness.
The Gift of “pastor” is not the same as the office of Elder. So while all Elders are gifted as pastors, not all pastors (men or women) are called to the office of Elder.
A Right View of Ministry
Our culture is obsessed with power… the church is obsessed with power… but the Bible is not!
“Pastor” is NOT about wielding power over others.
One argument I often hear is that women need to be pastors so they can share the power with men. The problem here is that pastoral ministry is not about wielding power—at least not from a biblical perspective. In practice, unfortunately, the pastor has chosen to imitatie the World and set-himself up as the “man with power” and in seeking equality women have fought to get a share of that power, but this is not God’s design for biblical leadership. So when I say women should be pastors,
I am not saying women need to “share” the power…
I am not saying women need to be “empowered”…
Contrary to the ways of our World, any man or woman who wants to be a pastor must be about “dis-empowerment”… that is giving up power so that they can serve, sacrifice and love the church. Jesus is our example, as the Head Pastor he gave up all his power and equality with the Father and laid down his life for his flock.
Philippians 2:3–8 (ESV)
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Same Spirit-Gifting; Unique People
The same hermeneutic that leads me to conclude only men are Elders, leads me to conclude that women are gifted by the Spirit as pastors in the church. However, this does not mean we need to accept the World’s view that men and women are the same…. they are not. Both Men & Women are created in the image of God and BOTH are needed to reflect the fulness of His glory. The reason God created men and women, is because each sex has unique qualities that are necessary to be the Church. So while women and men can both have a pastoral gifting, that does not mean they both function the same way in the church. Acknowledging the high call God has placed on women to help lead in the church, does not mean we have to blur the distinctive beauty between the sexes.
To help make this point, I will give the last word to Mary Kassian using some quotes from her book, “True Woman 101: Divine Design“. Each quote emphasize that biblical womanhood does NOT, as Mary writes, “consist of women squeezing themselves into a cookie-cutter happy-housekeeper-with-husband-and-kids mold.”
“The Bible presents a design for True Womanhood that applies to all women—at any age and at any stage of life—old, young; single, married, divorced, widowed; with children or without, whatever. Its design applies to women of every personality type, every educational level, every career track, every socioeconomic status, and every culture. God’s design transcends social customs, time, and circumstance.” (p. 16)
“The solution isn’t to try to rewind the clock to the 1950s, and squeeze women back into that culture’s “Leave it to Beaver” stereotype. No. The solution—the biblical solution—is to embrace the Word of God, and ask Him to help us figure out how to live out His divine design in this culture.” (p. 155)
“The Bible doesn’t give us a simplistic, prescribed set of rules about what womanhood must “look” like. It doesn’t tell us, for example, how long our skirts should be, or whether we should pursue advanced education, or that women must be the ones who clean the toilets and cook all the meals, or that we should never work outside of the home, or that all women should get married, or that we must educate our children a certain way. The Bible doesn’t contain such checklists.
“Women are not the same. Womanhood will look different from woman to woman. It looks different for Mary than it does for Nancy. It may look different for your friend than it does for you. It may look different in Nigeria than it does in Canada . . . for a married woman than a single one. . . for a twenty-year-old than a sixty-year-old . . . for a gregarious woman than a quiet, reserved one. . . for an athlete than an artist. . . for an outdoorsy type than an indoorsy type . . . You get the idea!
“That’s not to say that our decisions don’t matter. In His Word God has given us timeless principles about womanhood that transcend culture. It’s important that we wrestle with how to implement these principles. We need to rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance to help us figure out how to apply them in our particular situation. But we must avoid a cookie-cutter mentality. We are all unique. Every woman’s circumstances are distinct. We each need to carefully discern how to apply God’s principles in our own lives, and we can encourage one another in that process; but it’s not up to us to determine how they must be applied in other women’s lives.”(p. 210)
I know there is so much more that needs to be written and discussed on this topic so I will close now with great anticipation of your feedback.
For a discussion of the Office of Elder and the role of men, CLICK HERE
For a discussion of the pastoral gift and men, CLICK HERE