Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Are Women Called to Be Pastors?

One of the questions that has come up in recent days is, "What does the Bible say about women being pastors within the church?" For some people, the question alone raises some deep seated emotions, and gives way to a highly contested debate. Let me say that is not my intention. I simply want to give "a biblical perspective" on the subject and clear up some confusion and maybe even provide some council. 

The Issue at Hand: First of all let me begin by saying that this discussion is not about men verses women.  Nor is it about discrimination against a particular gender over another.  It has nothing to do with the value or worth of the individual. Rather it is a matter of biblical interpretation, and what the Bible says on the subject. 

The Blessing of Women's Ministry in the Church: Throughout the Bible we read of women taking an active role within the church. During His earthly ministry, there were many wonderful, godly women who served alongside of Jesus and the Apostles. The first person entrusted with the good news of the Resurrected Savior was a woman name Mary Magdalene.(John20)  In his epistle to the Romans Paul identified sixteen co-laborers in the ministry, and ten of them were women.(Romans16:1-16)  One of the women was named Phoebe and she is referred to as a servant. The word servant is the same word used for Deacon. Paul started the church in Philippi in the home of a prominent women named Lydia.(Acts16). In 1 Corinthians 1:11 Paul was sent a letter by a women named Chloe that informed him of some of the problems within the church that met at her house. The women in the bible played an important role within the ministry of the church. The truth is not much has changed. Much of the ministry in churches today would cease to exist if it wasn't for the  participation of godly women. 

The Parameters and Structure: The Bible does not restrict women from public praying or prophesying. (1 Cor.11:5) In the book of Acts we read of a man named Philip who had four daughters that prophesied.(Acts 21:9)  Nor does the Bible prohibit women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit.(1 Cor.12) Like men, women are called to follow after Jesus. They are encouraged to share the gospel with the lost world. But the Bible does make a distinction within the church concerning women being pastors. 

The Biblical Text: 
If you were to read briefly through the New Testament  on passages concerning the church you would discover a few things. For one thing, there is no mention of any female pastors  at all in the New Testament. Also none of the instructions that are given for the order of the church include instructions for female pastors. However when you come to the book of 1 Timothy the Apostle Paul gives an order for the church which includes a restriction.  In the book of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 Let a women learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. The word for silence is defined as "quietness, or a peaceful disposition". It doesn't mean that women cannot speak within the church. 
What Paul did say was that women were not to teach or have authority over the men. Greek scholars have pointed out that this passage in its context of church order is stating that, "the kind of teacher Paul is referring to is the one spoken of in 1Corinthians 12:28-28, Ephesians 4:11, that is God-called, and God-equipped teachers, recognized by the church as having authority in the Church matters of doctrine and interpretation." (Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Wuest pg.2 Vol.2). This calling is one that God has given to men within the church. This was God's plan, this was His design, and His order for the body of Christ. When Paul laid out the qualifications for the bishops, which is a word used for pastor, shepherd, overseer, or elder; he referred to them as being the Husband of one wife. In other words they were men. (1Timothy3) In writing to Titus Paul gave similar instructions. He informed Titus that he was left in Crete to set things in order and appoint elders, then Paul said, "if a MAN be blameless, husband of one wife etc." (Titus 1:5-6) This prohibition of teaching doesn't mean women cannot teach other women. The bible says that in Titus 2 that the older women are to instruct the younger women. Nor does the Bible suggest that women cannot teach children in Sunday School, but it does prohibit women from being pastors. 

ORDER AND DESIGN: Thankfully our God is a God of order. We see this revealed throughout the Bible  in many different ways. One example is in the area of God's design seen in Creation. Another area would be God's plan for the family. Within the family God gave different roles and responsablities to men and women. Men are called to be husbands, and women  are called to be wives. A wife is not less valuable than her husband because her role is different within the family. Yet if a wife seeks to take the role of the husband, or the husband is not the leader God has called him to be, it would create real problems within the family. So too within the church. It isn't a matter of inferiority, but of function according to Gods design. 
Can a women be a CEO of a company? Can a women be a highly decorated officer within any branch of the military? Can a women be a professor at a university? How about a surgeon? What about the  President of a Country? The answer to all of those questions is an absolute YES!. Can a women take the role of an, elder, overseer, or bishop? Can she be a pastor within the church? The Bible says No. 

REAL TIME: Today we find pastors ordaining their wives to the ministry. They have them serving  alongside of them in a pastoral role. The people in their congregations refer to them as a pastor. Some pastors have their wife teach their congregations, and handle all their weekend services.  The truth is, some of them, are great teachers. Some, may even be better than their husbands. Nevertheless I believe according to the Word of God that the position, the role, the calling, of a pastor was given to men within the church in the same way men are called to be husbands in the family.

Granted there may be several objections that people make concerning this stance. But I would suggest that those who have disagreements read what the Bible says. The Bible says that a woman has a different roll and calling than a man within the ministry of the church. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pastors Part 4: Steadfast

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore my beloved brethren be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. 

The word steadfast speaks metaphorically of one who is fixed in purpose. It means to be sedentary  and unmovable. When the apostle Paul was taking his final journey back to Jerusalem he called upon the Ephesian Elders for a farewell visit. The Elders of Ephesus were worried about the danger Paul would encounter in Jerusalem, and begged him not to go. In response to their pleas, Paul declared, "none of these things move me"(Acts20:28). In writing to the Thessalonians Paul encouraged the believers not to be shaken or moved when he said, "no one should be shaken by these afflictions for you yourselves know that we were appointed unto this." (1Thess.3:3) 
In pastoral ministry there are many things that could seek to move you from where God has placed you. This never becomes so clear as when you are planting a church. In our first church plant in the South East, it seemed as though there was something daily that sought to move us from continuing. At times in came in the form of lack of resources, lack of help, or lack of opportunity. However in those seasons there is only one thing to do, and that is to remain steadfast. I have found that the ability to stay the course and remain steadfast is strengthened when I am anchored by the Word of God. It is the Word of God that increases my faith, encourages my heart, and keeps me strong. It reminds me of who God is and what God has said. 

Are you facing some challenges that have the potential to shake your confidence in the Lord and His calling? Remain steadfast, stay in the Word, and keep on abounding the work of the Lord knowing your labor is not in vain. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pastors: Part 3 When Sheep Wander

Matthew 18:12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 

The Bible says that all we like sheep have gone astray. We are all prone to wander off the right path. As a pastor of a congregation, what do you do when you receive word that someone in the congregation has gone astray? How do you respond when you are told that someone has gone back to world? Are you supposed to contact them, or let them be? 
There isn't really any easy answer. We know that the heart of the  Great Shepherd is to seek and save those who are lost. I believe we should have that same heart. We are encouraged from scripture that if we see a brother straying from the truth, to go to them in a spirit of gentleness and seek to restore them. At the same time you don't always have that opportunity. A person may not want to be contacted. They don't want to hear from you. I do believe we should make the effort to reach out, to warn, to exhort, and even at times rebuke in love. Yet I also realize that this will not always be received. In those times when a person cannot be reached, or doesn't want to be reached, it is best to intercede for them in prayer. Ask Jesus to go after the one that is lost. Pray that they will come to the end of themselves. If they are in sin, pray that they will hate it and want to return. If they have gone into a relationship that has taken them away from Jesus and are living in sexual immorality, pray that the LORD will convict them. Pray that they will be miserable in their sin, and desire to come back to Jesus. 
If a person has gotten out of fellowship, and their relationship with the Lord is now something they are apart of only when it is convenient, pray that they will sense the need for fellowship. Pray that God will show them they have left there first love, and that they will return to it.  If they leave your church bitter for reasons you are aware of or are not aware of, pray that the Lord will speak to them.. if they have left your church,  pray that they find one that they can be apart of and grow in. These situations are never easy. As a pastor, these are the things that can keep you up at night. Because you are to have a deep concern and love for Gods people as a shepherd you can feel, and carry the weight of the sheep on your heart. The Lord often brings people to your mind and you  in turn bring them before the throne of grace in prayer trusting that the Lord is working even though you cannot see Him working. 

As a pastor you do the best you can, and trust the Lord with the rest. And remember if that person returns, love them and seek to restore them. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pastors Part 2: Servant

Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…."Serving as Overseer": 1 Peter 5:1

A flock of sheep have many different needs such as: good pasture in which to graze. Also they need protective fencing that provides a safe boundary that protects them from predators. Fresh water is  an absolute must, a  average sheep drinks several gallons of water a day.  All of the needs of the flock provide multiple opportunities for the shepherd to serve. Shepherds exist for the purpose of  serving the sheep.  Jesus informed His disciples that the greatest in the kingdom was the servant of all. When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples He gave them an example to follow. 
I was raised in an environment of ministry where it was made clear to us that if we felt called to pastor, we were being called to serve. We were not there to have people cater to our needs. Nor  were we to get caught up in our title, or ordination certificates; but to be servants. There are some areas of service that are more enjoyable than others. Nevertheless we should never think that we are above even the most menial tasks. No matter where we serve, we are always to do so as unto the Lord Jesus. 
It's also important to consider the motivation for serving. The reason we serve is not for the applause of the people, or that our names will become famous. The reason we serve is because of love for Jesus, and for His glory. In our service we are not to take the bows for what God has allowed us to do. Rather we should point people to the one who gave us the opportunity to serve. 
When I was a janitor at Calvary in Costa Mesa we had a sign over the janitorial closet door that read, "You will know that you are a servant by the way you act when you are treated like one." Even though I did not always like to read it,  it was a great reminder.  
As we faithfully serve our Lord and His people, one day we will hear Him say, "well done good and faithful servant enter into the joy of the Lord." What a day that will be!

Are you a shepherd or a hireling? Are you a servant or a tyrant? Are you above the people or under them? Are you motivated by love for your master, or by the recognition of men? Why do you do what it is that you do? 

These are all questions that I have had to prayerfully ask myself before the Lord Jesus. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pastors: Part 1

Shepherd the flock of God which is among… 1 Peter 5:1 

The bible draws a comparison between the people of God being like sheep. Sheep are not the most intelligent animals in the animal kingdom. They are prone to wonder. They can easily eat things that are hazardous to their health. What you come to realize is sheep need a shepherd. Thankfully Jesus is the "Best" Shepherd there is. He not only loves and cares for His sheep, but He also died for His sheep. 

The bible tells us that the Lord has called some in the church to be "under" shepherds to the "Chief" Shepherd. Pastors are placed among the congregation to do their best to care for the needs of the sheep. The care that is provided goes far beyond simply getting up and giving a sermon on a weekly basis. Although that is an important part of the job, its not the only part of the job. When you really think about it, the shepherds life is about the sheep. That is why he exists. The sheep do not exist for the shepherd, the shepherd exists for the sheep. 

The pastors ministry is about people. I heard someone once say, "I love the ministry accept for the people." How sad that statement was, especially when ministry is about people. If we loose sight of that it will have a devastating impact on the flock. I am often reminded in my own life and ministry concerning this truth about the importance of caring for Gods people. Recently I got to spend a little time with a brother and who has ALS. We also went to the hospital someone in the congregation had a heart attack. The same day we saw a sister who has a mass on her brain. Again went to the hospital to see someone who was going in for a surgical procedure. Another evening ministered to a young lady coming off of drugs and in need of salvation. I say all this to point out that the shepherds life is about ministering to and caring for the sheep. Its about people. Long after people forget the sermons you preached, or the blogs you post, or the conferences you share at, they will remember the time you spoke to them. The times you stopped what you were doing and came to their side. The moments you were available to listen. Granted, a shepherd can't minister to every need, but he should try to minister to as many as He can. 

The church doesn't need entertainers to amaze the sheep, nor does flock of God need activities directors to put together social gatherings, it needs shepherds. Shepherds that have a heart for the flock of God. Shepherds that will feed, tend, and care for  God's people whom He purchased with His own blood. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Prepared to Launch in San Clemente

Jesus said, "No one having put his hand to the plow,
and looking back is fit for the kingdom. Luke 9:92

In our staff meeting we have been studying through the book of Nehemiah. It has been a tremendous blessing in light of where we are headed as a church. We are now a little over a week away from launching our San Clemente Campus. I am so thankful for the support of our staff, and church family. There is an excitement and anticipation of the Lord doing a greater work in us, and through us. We are going forward together on our knees. We are looking to the Lord for His continued guidance and provision.   

One of the things we noted in looking at Nehemiah was once he was given a clear vision from the Lord to build, he moved forward. The people also caught the vision to build the wall around the city that had laid desolate. But as they began to build they were opposed by their enemies. 

In Nehemiah 2:10 it says that the enemies of Nehemiah were "deeply disturbed" over the fact that he came to the city and sought the well being of the people. The enemy of our soul is always deeply disturbed when Gods people set out to do a work in His name. You can expect and anticipate some spiritual pushback from the adversary. But the enemy was not only deeply disturbed….. 

When you come to Nehemiah 2:19  you read "they laughed and despised" the work.  First they were disturbed by it, then they despised it. How many times the enemy tries to stop us before we ever get started. He suggests all the reasons why we shouldn't move forward. It's simply another weapon in his arsenal. 

Yet for all that the enemy intended to do in discouraging Nehemiah it actually backfired and fueled Nehemiah. Because of the opposition, Nehemiah was now even more determined and focused upon building the wall around the city. 

Listen, perhaps God has called you to do something. He has placed a burden on your heart. Given you a vision that you know is from Him. Don't listen to the enemies chatter. You do what the LORD has called you to do. Put your hand to the plough and don't look back. Respond like Nehemiah did with confidence and faith: 

"So I answered them and said to them, the God of Heaven Himself will prosper us, therefore we His servants will arise and build…" Nehemiah 2:20

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Keep Looking Up

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up… Isaiah 1:1

The King of Israel had died. This was a very difficult time for everyone, including the prophet Isaiah. Nevertheless, in the midst of this national tragedy Isaiah looked up, and when He did he saw the Lord. The Lord was seated upon His throne. The Lord was still in control. How important it is to keep our eyes upon Jesus. To stay focused on Him in every situation. Once Isaiah got a clear picture of the Lord he was prepared to go wherever  the Lord would send him. Isaiah was available. I read a quote that said, "I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward."