Email Questions: Should Women be in Ministries?

So this has been in draft form since December :/ , but it is a question I’ve gotten a few times over the years, and something I’ve asked other older women (who are wiser and have seen more than me), as well for their own personal thoughts.  Even though it looks like a simple yes or no answer kind of question, it can be complicated depending on the circumstance.

In short, I don’t have a perfect, clear-cut answer, BUT I can give you some thoughts from people I admire, and using my own experience some.

Personally, and I understand some won’t agree with me, I do think a lot of good can come from women ministering to other women and using their gifts as a blessing (in general) in a community.  I think it can be grossly misused, however, like anything that is supposed to be good and helpful.  I think there are clear boundaries where women are not supposed to cross, such as being a Pastor or any kind of teacher or leader over men in a Christian environment.  This unfortunately sounds vague and unhelpful, but again, I guess why it’s taken me so long to even publish this post, even though people keep asking, is because this topic is more than I am able to define myself.

I don’t believe we can just dispense with the biblical suggestions in Titus of older women using their hopefully gained wisdom, experience, perspective from mistakes made in the past, and aged-grace they seem to possess in helping younger women to get through this journey staying in God’s will easier.  There’s a reason why these instructions are in the Bible, and when older women forgo their calling to minister in those ways to younger women who truly need their guidance, our entire society crumbles.  But then when I think of examples of the older women, even Christian ones, out there right now, they are often telling younger women the wrong things – even going so far as to mock trying to stay pure for a husband (Sheila Gregorie)!  The advice out there, from older Christian women often in self-made leadership positions, is mostly all akin to, “anti-help,” in my estimation.

The bulk of advice from popular older Christian women, honestly, makes me sick to my stomach.  It’s probably the evidence of decline toward the (more than likely still far off) end, where the Church collectively leaves God altogether, and starts officially worshiping idols (hopefully it doesn’t get that bad).  It can’t be a good sign that even the older women are leading us astray, or having public tantrums on twitter, or embarrassing public meltdowns like Beth Moore had not too long ago.

But with all the negative attention female ministries (ministers?) are getting, I have seen some positive things come from ones that seem good.

Something I’ve told an email friend in relation to this recently, is the example of a Christian Mom’s Group I’ve been going to.  It is a group with mostly larger families that (mostly all) homeschool.  It is a wonderful group and surprisingly close-knit for that many people in one place all at the same time.  We’re actually, I believe, one of the smallest family that goes, with only 3 kids!  The group is basically like a Christian-moms’ book club 🙂 with the book we’ve been reading this past year being, The Mission of Motherhood, by Sally Clarkson.

Clarkson is what I would say a real life Proverbs 31 woman fulfilling her Titus 2 role now that she’s older and has figured out how to raise godly children into adulthood.  I haven’t researched her past too well, so there could be something off I don’t know about.  But her book, filled with tons of her own life examples and advice on basically how to be a good, Christian mother, is just invaluable.  I mean seriously, imagine if the real Proverbs 31 woman took the time to write an entire book on LOTS of the topics, hard questions, faith issues etc. about motherhood – THAT is what her book has been like for all of us.  Yes, there have been some moms who have felt, “uncomfortable,” or threatened by her success and “idealistic,” suggestions, but most have used it as inspiration and conviction to do better.  Most have admitted that she’s made them a much better mom, and the group itself, has made them better moms just through the accountability.  But it wouldn’t have even been a “thing,” if Clarkson hadn’t used her gift in writing her book in the first place (and she’s written many others).

So… one real-life Proverbs 31 woman using her gifts to minister to more women than she could probably count, has had a major impact on all of our lives – in measurable, real life moments!  That isn’t a small thing!  It doesn’t just affect us moms personally, but our kids, and our husbands, and our neighbors and even strangers we end up meeting.  It’s been weird seeing the effects of just a simple group like this ripple out much farther than I ever imagined.

And it’s made me really look at the women who see someone like Clarkson and feel negative feelings and emotions (like envy or snarkiness), and feel so sorry for them that they’re completely missing the blessing of her kindness and gifts to us!  Yes, she’s a real life Proverbs 31 woman in many ways, yes, she’s successful in her roles, but I still don’t understand women who feel, “threatened,” or, “intimidated,” by that for some reason.  To me, she’s someone to look up to.  Another role model or type of mentor-figure, if you can call a book author a mentor (?).

I rarely agree with everything I read, except the Bible, so her book is no different… there are some topics I wish she were more honest about, but for the most part, she does stick to biblical advice.  She’s gentle when talking against feminism, moms who choose or need to work, or women who use daycare, which fits with her personality.  But she also makes it very obvious that the overall impact of her book is still dramatically pro-stay-at-home-moms, pro-homeschooling, etc.  The science-loving part of me wishes she went into more of the hard evidence against daycares on baby and toddlers’ brain developments… at the least to try to be more convincing of Truth, or the evidence against public schools on the kind of information they feed our kids.  But at least she’s confronting other topics (motherhood attitudes) that not many people seem to touch.  And it’s working, many of the moms actually feel conviction or acknowledge how they’re making changes!

The Bad Side of Female Leadership – When it Goes Bad, It Really Goes Bad

Let’s start with Lysa Terkeurst… a lonnng time ago, probably 10 years ago, I used to read her blog over at Proverbs 31 Ministries, and I liked it.  Somewhere along the way, the messages started to feel like they lacked spiritual depth, as though they were only scratching the surface, or circling the same topics again and again.  It may not still be like that, I haven’t read there in years – and it is rotating authors, so maybe some rotated out, but I longed for something deeper, something that helped in my role as a wife and mother.

But where did Lysa go wrong?  I don’t know specifics, since I’m not extremely well acquainted with everything she is or has done, but it seemed when news of her husband’s affair came out, that she was always on tour, always writing something new (she’s written 16 books total – that books take A LOT of time and energy and devotion), Bible studies (that take even more time than books to produce, sometimes with videos accompanying them – which she did do – in  different countries at that!).  Her, “ministry,” quite honestly from an outsider’s perspective inspecting it after her husband went astray, looked like it was the total and sole focus on her life while her family stood on the sidelines.  For a wife and mother of five children, this is wrong.  There’s a huge sacrifice, or, “cost,” to putting your ministry above your husband and children, and although her children deny that is what happened, it’s hard to see her schedule in those years leading up to it, and *not* come away with the thought that she was neglecting some major things on the home-front.  Is a woman, “ministering,” wrong?  No, according to Paul, but maybe part of the reason why he mentioned older women was because the demands of children and supporting a husband would be a lot less in that stage of life.  Lysa’s been doing this as they were young, little, developing, and needing her each day to be there.

Even if her neglect isn’t what inadvertently caused her husband to stray, living a life that ostentatiously puts your family on the back-burner, all so that you can promote yourself and your self-defined, “ministry,” to strangers (instead of your own family), should be seen for what it is.  A Christian woman neglecting her role as wife and mother should (hopefully) produce guilt or shame when she’s realized what she’s done.  Unfortunately for Lysa, even though she’s managed reconciliation and prevented divorce, there was no public acknowledgment of anything she may have done to contribute to their marriage problems, let alone any acknowledgment of how little she was actually a wife and mother.

Healthy shame leads to realizing what’s important… that we’ve been off on our personal spiritual journeys and pursuits, perhaps she realized this, cut back on her schedule, and just didn’t let her followers know (it did look like she cut back, but that could have been from the divorce).  One thing I LOVED about Pilgrim’s Progress was that it didn’t (at all) shrink away from confronting the necessity of shame in helping to get us back on the right path and obtain humility when we mess up, and especially acknowledging our past sins when trying to witness to others!  What a beautiful book it was and so good to read it again.  We all get off course at some point, but unfortunately right now the popular theme is to avoid feeling ashamed at all costs!  I’ve seen Christian memes from Christian women leaders that proclaim that feeling shame at all, is spiritually wrong!  In Pilgrim’s Progress, there’s even a scene where Christian and his journey partner Hopeful, were whipped so that they could learn from their waywardness, and if I remember right, the one disciplining them was an angel of God.  Discipline is good.  God disciplines those He loves.  Shame, in it’s right form to correct us when we get off track, is just as necessary as discipline is, because it often brings a turn around.

Guilty Conscience –> Conviction –> Shame for having failed God –> Confession –> Repentance –> Change

The fact that her children and husband lost out on having a wife and mother who was actually there, can’t be fully made-up for.  When Art Terkeurst (Lysa’s husband)’s affair came out, it completely wrecked their adult daughter, and almost ruined her own marriage.  So yes, our mess-ups in life and marriage even impact our children when they’re adults!  I’m not saying Art isn’t at fault for his own choice to have a long-going affair, but affairs (from what I’ve studied psychologically) almost never start without the other partner giving them an emotional or sexual reason to be that tempted.  The only exception are serial cheaters who have a character disorder/personality disorder, which Art does not seem to have (only one, very hard to quit affair).

It’s typically been a role of male missionaries or Pastors to travel or go on speaking engagements, because mothers are biblically called to be, “keepers of the home,” literally holding down the home-front.  Which brings me to the next point…

Lysa preached Sunday sermons at her own church and others fairly frequently, something I only found out when researching what may have happened to damage her relationship with her husband.  It seems the women who do this, that I’ve watched personally in real life, tend to emasculate their husbands just by simply being in spiritual authority over them in this way.  Not only is it biblically wrong according to Paul in 1 Timothy 2, but when a wife becomes her husband’s “Pastor,” even for temporary sermons, she’s completely inverting the kind of natural relationship the Bible says a wife and husband should have, where she submits to him in everything, as she would unto the Lord.  When Lysa became Art’s Pastor, he was suddenly thrown under her spiritual authority and leadership.

For a marriage, I think it could possibly turn the husband completely off sexually, to have to abdicate his role of leadership and headship over her, submit to her leadership publicly as he supports her disobedience to Scripture – it sounds humiliating and emasculating, even if only subconsciously (some men may feel this, but they’d never admit this).  We know a family member who chooses to live this way, as a female Pastor, and no surprise, they’ve had recurrent issues with his infidelity.  It sounds like the perfect recipe for an affair… if another submissive, feminine woman comes along and decides she thinks the emasculated husband is perfect – looks up to him and follows his lead on things, it can spark feelings he doesn’t feel anymore for his emasculating wife.  Men need to feel needed, masculine, and capable as both provider and leader over their wife/household.

Loud and Proud Divorcees are Leading the Way

I’ve been sent links to other female ministers, one even somewhat connected to the old church social circle we used to attend a couple of years ago, and it’s amazing to me how so many divorcees are holding themselves up as leaders to be modeled after, and at the same time, wanting younger women to respect them and their mistakes as part of their, “journey.”  Their mistakes are holy and glorified.  Their, “hot mess,” (messy divorces) as they call it, is held up as a role model for their capitalized success at leadership.  There’s zero repentance, zero focus on whatever they may have done wrong to contribute to their divorce, and a very strong, “you don’t need no man,” vibe from their blogs/websites.  Most are still single and divorced, or married a second time, but to a man they disrespect publicly.  It’s extremely disheartening to read the blogs like this.  I’ve only come across one older leader of a women’s Bible study who was divorced, who actually was humble enough to talk about what she did wrong and how she personally contributed to the demise of her first marriage – it was so refreshing.  And her honesty was beautiful, and so needed as she gave it to us as a warning not to be like how she was in her past!  How many female ministry leader divorcees do you know who are like that?  Again… I’ve only encountered one!

This post is already too long, but other examples are:

Beth Moore –

Sheila Gregorie-

And I’m also including the many other authors who are in agreement with these women.  We are having an epidemic of Christian female leaders who are destroying biblical Truth, even going so far as to mock it, unchallenged.

These examples, as you can see, are so bad they promote the idea that women shouldn’t be using their gifts at all!  This is the consequence of Christian women like Beth Moore, Sheila Gregorie, and Lysa Terkeurst recklessly misusing their opportunities to teach Titus 2 concepts.  Who is going to trust them?  When Christian female, “leaders,” act in these completely unbiblical ways, they lose their witness and rightfully so.

***

Hopefully with all these examples above, a reader and fellow Christian can see it just hasn’t been working out too well to hold up females as pseudo pastors, because that’s what they’ve become in effect, when growing such large ministries.  Maybe it goes to their heads in a way, but one thing is for certain (and I’m sorry in advance that it sounds so unkind to these women and their families, but this needs to be said):

These women grow such large ministries that they become almost like heads of the households for other Christian wives to follow.  This in effect leads other men’s wives to follow that female minister (like Beth Moore) on theological questions or topics, instead of her husband’s leadership.

Paul made this statement for a reason: ” let the wives ask their husbands at home”

It’s not that I believe women can’t minister to others in different ways and in maybe using their gifts, but in teaching biblical things outside of Titus 2, it does seem to get fuzzy on what may be right, and what may be wrong.  I don’t hold all the answers, but I did think this was a good question I’ve gotten from readers a few times in the past.

Can Women Minister in General?

YES!

Are MANY of them getting it wrong, acting unashamed, embarrassing fellow Christian women who are supposed to look up to them.?  Yes 😦

May we pray for God to give us a revival, where older women who are actually qualified will start teaching and helping younger women to what God’s called them to.

14 thoughts on “Email Questions: Should Women be in Ministries?

  1. “…they are often telling younger women the wrong things – even going so far as to mock trying to stay pure for a husband (Sheila Gregorie)”

    Joshua Harris, of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, is separating from his wife. His wife did not stay pure for him and he compromised on his IKDG principles in order to marry her. Now another marriage is ending. He recanted IKDG, but this wasn’t enough to save his marriage.

  2. Derek that is soooo sad!!! I remember that he married someone who had had sex, it actually discouraged me (I was like 17 or 18 so immature… she WAS a widow, so not the typical pre-sex thing going on). Being that young though, it discouraged me that even the author couldn’t do what he was prescribing – because his book (even with all the bad rap it gets) really did help me want to stay a virgin until marriage. He was right in many ways that dating, the casual way we do it, is wrong and sets people up to divorce easier if something doesn’t go right.

    My dad bought me that book, and was VERY glad when I took it seriously. But he wanted me to wait until after I had a graduate degree to get serious about any man, which was extremely hard lol when I met my husband. It was either a choice of 1) get married NOW or 2) fall into cohabitating/being constantly tempted… so we chose marriage, and I’m extremely glad we did.

  3. I found the book helpful and influential as well. I married my wife while we were both still undergraduates attending schools in two different states. I don’t regret any part of following his advice, but I regretted a few things where I didn’t follow his advice.

  4. As I understand it, Harris’ wife gave up her virginity at 14. She had sex with many men. She was chaste for 3 years prior to marriage after she became a Christian. (source)

    I think this is relevant re: Sheila Gregorie and others because Harris didn’t follow his own advice. He confused God’s grace and a person’s self-worth with their fitness for marriage. In doing so, he joined Gregorie in mocking the notion of staying pure for your husband. This was shown fully in the way he recanted IKDG.

  5. this also raises the question as to whether or not sex makes one married, as Artisanal Toad had so firmly stated (his blog has been removed by wordpress).

    if i remember correctly, according to AT, God gave a way for loss of virginity to be made right if she went to her father and he forbid the ‘vow’ she made. but it did not remove her loss of virginity.

    our culture has totally devalued female virginity and the power of sex and the power of the connection a girl has with the man who takes/gets her virginity. i *knew* this in my head, but i did not understand it until my first husband died – the one who got my virginity.

  6. “this also raises the question as to whether or not sex makes one married”

    AT understood the importance of sex, but was unable to separate the concepts of God’s joining of flesh and civil marriage. I’ve written about this on my blog (link). If you follow the second link in that article, you can read my debate with AT in the comment section.

    Regardless of your take on that issue, everyone acknowledges that sex is more than merely a physical act. This is why rape is considered so much worse than battery. It’s a physical, emotional, and spiritual violation of the deepest kind. They know this intuitively and yet many still engage in meaningless non-marital sex. Only death of a spouse severs the bonds that sex creates.

  7. OK, so you’re asking specifically about vocational ministry, and my take is that (while I’m firmly complementarian/male headship) the disasters of women taking leadership really aren’t a reason to eschew women in vocational ministry. The reason is simply that the male/female headship relationship models the nature of God for the world–and in that light, anyone in leadership ought to be very sober about the responsibility he’s been given.

    And regarding Harris, I of course do not know all of the reasons for this tragedy, but I’m tempted to wonder if, just as too many elite athletes flounder in life when their epic touchdowns are forgotten, a lot of our fundagelical heroes flounder because we’ve elevated them to prominence without them training well, and without our looking carefully at their ideas. You become famous and full of yourself, and all of a sudden, there’s your wife laughing at you because you just farted.

    I’ve only experienced the last part of that equation. :^)

    Regarding IKDG, I never read that, but I did read Doug Wilson’s book Her Hand in Marriage, which states much of the same thing. The good of these books is that it will remind you of the importance of family/peer involvement in the courtship/dating process, and Mrs. Bubba and I had that in spades. Most of our friends knew both of us well. The down side is that it can be rather formulaic, adding all kinds of criteria to the basic “is this person available?”, “is this person a believer with decent job prospects?”, and “do I find this person attractive?”

    And so you get people who check off all kinds of irrelevant criteria and never get around to the important issues (especially attraction, that’s supposedly not holy to ask in some circles), and then they wonder why they never get married, or they find themselves married to someone they don’t want to…..and then they wonder why things aren’t going well.

  8. Update on the divorce; her Instagram feed is listing her as an “exvangelical” now. So there is a crisis of faith, and he is, per 1 Cor. 7, letting her go in peace.

  9. I think this all comes down to there’s a difference between *ministry* and *promotion* (especially self-promotion). Writing endless books and studies on cutesy themes in the Bible, going on tours, piling on in the outrage du jour and shame-games on social media is not ministry. It’s seeking celebrity and wealth. A minister is not about name recognition. A minister is at home talking to people under a bridge as he is on stage. It is hard work to be that kind of person. To not blast your own righteousness but remain a humble, quiet servant. To be a vessel instead of a logo.

    It should not be surprising that people who engage in this behavior start taking unholy positions and outright promoting evil. Once you let evil in the door, it makes itself at home. It gets to know your spouse and kids. The worst thing about sin is that the pain is transferable.

    Frankly, I think these are all related to people increasingly seeing religion as something that makes them “feel” a certain way, or regarding it in a purely therapeutic sense (as opposed to a transcendent relationship that requires discipline and obedience and isn’t asking you to define what those terms mean, for yourself or for others).

    You get a lot of people who are promoting themselves as the Dr. Phils of the Bible belt. I’d say the people you mention here fit into that category. What does Jesus have to say about weight loss? How can Jesus help you prosper with your MLM scheme on Facebook? God’s just their vocabulary and nothing more. A means to the end of self-promotion. Do they feel guilty when their marriage collapses? No, that’s another opportunity for self-promotion. Do they feel guilty when their children suffer because they were subordinated to selling books and speaking engagements? No, that’s opportunity to write about how their professional obligations collide with family and throw in some Bible quotes.

    There is a seemingly insatiable demand in the current environment – where we are in a war to preserve virtue in our country, in our schools, in our homes – for things that can re-connect and re-enchant us and remind us of who we are and give us strength. But that legitimate need has also created a marketplace for false authorities that treat faith as a commodity. We need to be the ones who discipline that trend, who differentiate between this behavior and bona fide ministry. I think asking what God expects from women is a great starting point. How do we protect our purity of mind in this context? How do we help other women to do the same? How do we protect our children? I agree with you that this is not it.

  10. That’s a really well thought out point. I do believe some self-promotion isn’t a bad or unholy thing, otherwise many people would never find some of the great ones out there if they didn’t take the initiative and get published, get promoted, etc. None of that usually happens unless they’re putting themselves out there, trying to get published, etc. But other than that small issue, I agree with what you said.

  11. @bikebubba said: Update on the divorce; – re. Josh and Shannon Harris.

    A number of announcements of this concious uncoupling have stressed that there has not yet been any mention of “divorce” by either Josh or Shannon – just an announcement that they will be living apart for now. Here are a few other points for those who may not know them.

    Josh is from the West coast (Oregon), and I believe his extended family is still there; Shannon is from the East coast and her extended family is still there. To his credit, Josh came to understand that he needed some more substantial scriptural teaching than what he had acquired, and so stepped away from his church on the East coast to go to Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia – a beautiful but rainy city. Josh would be used to that weather. Shannon was not. There is a very well-recognized pattern of suicides in the Pacific Northwest that are triggered by the gloomy weather. For some, desireing to escape that region because of the gloom is a logical choice. Desiring to be back around her own family makes it more of a logical choice. (Not a correct choice, just a logical choice. Women want to be around their family.)

    Shannon is a musician of some talent (whether she can find an audience remains to be seen) and apparently set those talents aside in order to support Josh and raise their family. Their children are pretty much grown, and Shannon’s writings show that she thinks it is now her turn – to try and see if her musical talents can bring her an audience. It may be that Josh agrees with her and that she is leaving with his blessing. At any rate, Josh is no longer providing her the ride she signed up for (from superstar in certain church circles to studious theologian / developer of corporate messages), and so it seems she’s out to recapture the spotlight on her own. I don’t agree with that, but perhaps Josh does.

    Shannon has left enough comments in her on-line writing that we know she feels / felt restricted by the conservative church (Josh’s church and governing body follow the Reformed doctrines). It bothers me that she phrased it that way rather than pointing to the author of those restrictions – God. Although I accept that the Reformed folks have made up some restrictions that are not stated outright in the Bible. Saying that she is rejecting the restrictive conservative church allows her to potentially keep an audience that would likely reject her if she flat-out stated that she was rejecting God (which is what she is actually doing).

    Google on “Shannon Bonne” to find her marketing efforts if you are interested. (“Bonne” seems to be her maiden name.)

    Josh’s church that he stepped away from was in Gaithersburg, MD. Wife and I left Gaithersburg to live in Los Angeles some years back. We attended Josh’s church a few times before Josh took over. The message of the church was mostly for new / young converts. Those types of churches are necessary, but we opted for a church that had a message for more mature christians.

  12. RichardP, I’ve been trying to figure out what happened… it looks like they were part of a very strange church called Sovereign Grace Ministries… there’s an entire network of people who have been spiritually abused (involving quite a few child sex abuse cases) involving these churches. They seem to have forced Josh to go to seminary as a break, because he was starting to stand up to the abuse, allowing victims to be heard, the leadership, quite frankly sounds crazy.

    If it’s true, like some of the members are claiming that he was booted out, made to take a lot of the blame for the decades that came before him regarding SGM, I can understand the toll that would take on a marriage. His wife apparently was bullied by the former pastor’s wife, who refused to leave her position (that should have gone to Shannon). Shannon has a music video about some man, “seeing,” her when she was still invisible. I took that to mean she started an affair (emotionally maybe even physically) while still married and trying to make it in that church, but that’s just a guess. Does sound like a good affair song though.

  13. Richard–unfortunately, at this point, Mr. Harris has used the “d” word, and has also said he’s rejected the faith. But why should they divorce if they’re agreed on the matter of rejecting evangelical faith? The other shoe is in the air, and the question is whether we’re going to hear it when it drops. I’m guessing we will, and that we will be saddened.

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