Have you ever written into a specific ministry hoping for a “yes” to your question? Or were you writing to one looking forward to them telling you “no”? Even little kids understand, depending on which answer you want – you ask a specific authority. For me, if I wanted a “yes” I’d ask my mom for something. If I wanted a “no”, then I could usually count on my dad. Christian ministries work pretty much the same way. If you read their material long enough, you can get a sense of what they’re going to say. So this one lady wrote into this one blog to get a confirmation that it wasn’t okay for a woman – a deaconess, no less – to use the announcement time to segue into a mini-sermon where she recites scripture to the congregation and probably, accidentally, teaches men. She was pretty sure that this wasn’t okay and she wanted a confirmation … and she got it.
First the blogger told her her thoughts about whether or not women can be deaconesses – that is, hold the title ‘deaconess’ and by that it means that she can’t preach or teach men. She talks about the Greek word diakonos and how: “this is a position of humility, anonymity, and servanthood, not power, influence, and rulership.” So in her book – women can be deaconesses if they’re more like servants who have no teaching or leadership role.
Then she says: “First, it’s not this woman’s (or any other woman’s) place to be instructing the congregation.”
It’s a well established rule that women are forbidden from teaching men. (I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. – 1 Timothy 2:12)
It’s a wonder women are even allowed to give announcements or to read aloud from the pages of the Bible (actually, in some churches they aren’t even allowed that much.)
Secondly, she adds, every minute a woman wastes in unauthorized “preaching” is a minute that the pastor has to cut his sermon short where he can’t do the official, authorized preaching! (Oh the travesty! Can you imagine how horrible it would be to have God’s word in your heart and not being allowed to preach it? Oh … wait – lots of men and women know what that’s like.)
She concludes with bringing down the hammer: “It doesn’t have to be a big, major ordeal, she just needs to be quietly taken aside for a few minutes by whoever is her immediate “supervisor” (the pastor, the elder who oversees ministries, etc.) and told that she should simply and briefly make the announcement she’s responsible for and leave it at that. If she’s not clear on why, she needs to have the aforementioned two reasons why explained to her. (Don’t wimp out and blame it on time constraints alone. This is a teaching moment, and it’s important she be instructed on the biblical aspect of her error.) If she abides by this instruction henceforth, super. If not, she doesn’t get to make announcements in church any more.”
Here is this grown adult being chastised as if she were a child for speaking out of turn. (On further reflection, wouldn’t it be biblically inappropriate for a woman to tell the men in charge of the church how to do their job and correct this other woman?) I couldn’t resist the chance to leave a comment and pointed out that there is a Biblical outlet for women having a speaking role in church:
If she is speaking to them to strengthen them, to encourage them, and to comfort them, then she is prophesying to them – which as 1 Corinthians 11 points out: women should prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14 further says that prophets should speak – one at a time, each taking their turn. It’s a beautiful gift that strengthens the whole congregation. Prophesy was well-respected back in the day. It was recorded that Phillip had four daughters who regularly prophesied. The way I see it, when people prophesy, it’s God speaking to us through various vessels – each with a piece of the puzzle the body needs to prosper. To silence a vessel is to shut up God and to silence the Holy Spirit. If God meant her words to encourage someone and you demand that she remain silent, who are you really ordering around? Who are you to deprive a person from God’s message meant just for them just because you don’t like the messenger?
Sure, technically 1 Corinthians 14:34 says, “ Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” But last I checked, nobody – male or female – can prophesy silently. And really, what’s so wrong with a woman citing 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” to a guy going through a tough time? She might not have known that it was his late father’s favorite verse and just the thing he needed to hear to know that God hadn’t forgotten him. If she were ordered to remain silent because she’s a woman, then she wouldn’t have been able to speak to him words that God had meant to comfort him.
I guess it reveals this tendency to think of everything out of the Bible as teaching – as if nobody had ever heard of the Bible ever before. It’s true, not everything culturally familiar to Americans is actually Biblical – like “God helps those who help themselves.” But it really doesn’t serve the church well to treat every word of the Bible as if it’s too holy or precious for just anybody to teach. After all, it’s almost as bad for men to teach the Bible the wrong way as it for women to teach at all. It’s really nothing like the “good order” of worship that Paul talked about:
“What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” – 1 Cor. 14:26 (Maybe he meant to add: “excluding so-and-so, of course.”)
Maybe just maybe he thinks all of us have a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or interpretation – that we each get to use in turn in order to build up the whole congregation – not just some of us or only a few of us. What if it wasn’t just the pastor that preached, but three or four people each spoke a word of instruction? What if it wasn’t just the worship leader who sang, but three or four people each who had a hymn? What if it wasn’t just spoken English, but translated in to Spanish or signed so that deaf members of the congregation could understand the Word of God and what God is doing in each persons’ life?
Just the other day I was told about ‘a God thing’ going on – it wasn’t pastors who were supernaturally teaching the authorized, official Word of God – but a series of small coincidences using ordinary people going about their everyday business. It seems like the church could use more of God things going on and less things going on in the name of God.