Revised and Updated: Should Women Be Pastors?

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credit: telegraph.co.uk

We have all passed through that stage. We didn’t understand why our parents wouldn’t let us sleep over at a friend’s house, or why we had to brush our teeth, or eat our vegetables and make our beds. All our confused and pained “whys” were quickly silenced by mum’s firm “Because I said so”. Of course, now that we are older and we understand about neighborhood feuds, cavities, good diet and grooming, we can appreciate these formerly oppressive commands. Hindsight is always 20-20.

In retrospect, we can see that our parents had nothing but our good in mind. Even though we were too young to understand the “whys”, our parents were old enough, and that was enough for the time being. No, we did not enjoy the pain and darkness surrounding those commands. Deep down in our hearts, we were convinced that our parents were just plain mean, sometimes.

While a similar case can be made for why God gives us certain commands and instructions, the parallels do not always fit. Analogies are helpful, but analogies can only go so far. Even so, there is something to be said about some seemingly “pointless”, “oppressive” and “irrelevant” commands in the Bible.

OFFICIAL CAPACITY

I would like to zoom in on what I can only describe (for lack of a better description) as official commands in the Bible. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the adjective official as “of or relating to an office, position, or trust.” To say that someone is official is to say that he or she is to be recognized and treated in reference to the authority or office they claim to represent.

Whether that person has the intrinsic talents and abilities to carry out that official role is irrelevant to the fact that they already have that role. This is why Christians are commanded to submit to all earthly authorities (Romans 13), even those that are oppressive and definitely fail to qualify for that office. We are not commanded to submit only to good leaders or qualified leaders, only to people in leadership, their CVs and character notwithstanding.

At the risk of belabouring this point, consider two friends working in the same office. One friend is the supervisor or manager of the other. If one day the subordinate friend came to work late, the supervisor friend may have to deal with her in her “official capacity” and dish out the required discipline. This is fairly easy to understand in our various “official” interactions with friends and family in life. However, we are not so quick to recognize similar rules when it comes to the Bible and the different “Biblical offices.”

Consider this controversial passage:

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. [1 Tim 2:12-14]

THE PASTOR’S OFFICE

I say that this verse is controversial beforehand because it speaks to an issue that is quite divisive and hotly contested in the church today — the issue of women as pastors and elders in the church.

Some of the arguments raised against having women as pastors include the claim that Paul was speaking to a specific cultural problem and context, and that the command is not universally applicable to today’s society. This is probably right, but there are passages in other parts of the Bible that make it difficult to use this line of argument as the conclusive proof that the issue of women in church leadership was only a cultural one. Even so,

I will not be dealing with that argument today. What I am concerned about is a different line of thought. A line of thought that may actually render the whole “this was a cultural issue” debate irrelevant to the bigger picture. As already revealed in the beginning of this post, I am here dealing with the argument of “equal worth” and “equal capacity/giftedness” in men and women. This is what is commonly referred to as egalitarianism.

Basically, the argument states that “since women are equally capable and equally gifted to teach and lead, then there is no reason why they should not be pastors.” Here is my contention. Are women able to teach? Yes. Are women able to lead? Yes, of course! Are women, more often than not, better teachers than men? Definitely! Are women arguably more intuitive and better able to multitask than men? Yes. So, should they be pastors and teach the church congregation on an official capacity based on their abilities? No. Why? Because God says so, or as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, because the LAW says so:

“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” [1 Corinthians 14:34]

As a child, I was perfectly able to go over to my friend’s and spend the night. I was perfectly able to skip eating my veggies and brushing my teeth. But my parents knew better. They had reasons that my childish reasoning capacity could comprehend, let alone accept. So I obeyed them. Yet, this is also where my analogy fails.

As an adult, I am now able to perceive the direct evil consequences that could have resulted from disobeying my parents’ instructions. A visit to the dentist is one very effective way of driving home the message. However, it is still more difficult to think of any good reason why a woman being a pastor would lead negative consequences. This is probably because many of us are wired to be consequentialists: We only categorise some actions as bad when we can clearly see the negative consequences of doing them.

This is why the reasons Paul often gives for why women should not teach seem strange, offensive even, to many of us. However, if our understanding of sin and morality is guided by the Bible, then we should be able to acknowledge that sin is not bad primarily because it hurts people, sin is bad because it is against God’s order and commands. In other words, sin hurts people because it is bad (and even when we cannot see how it hurts people, it is still bad because God said so). This is why some actions like my parents not letting me sleep at a friend’s house on a school night is good, even though it hurts me at the time.

Pain is a poor determinant of right and wrong.

So, when Paul, in 1 Timothy, says a woman should not assume authority over a man because “Adam was formed first, then Eve“, we are tempted to find another special reason for this command. It just doesn’t sit well with us. It just doesn’t seem like a strong enough justification for forbidding women to lead a congregation since “we can see all of the benefits and none of the losses” if they did.

EGALITARIANISM AND THE TRINITY

In conclusion, let us briefly look at the offices that men are commanded to hold and how qualified they are to do it. Consider this verse:

“I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” [1 Corinthians 11:3]

Keeping in mind the case laid out above, is there anything in the man that makes him intrinsically more capable and more fit to be the head of the house or the head of the woman? No. Then why don’t we oppose this passage using the same argument of consequentialism? Perhaps this argument  sounds less offensive because it appeals to the headship of God over Christ, and the headship of Christ over man.

Please, do not misunderstand me. I have sat under many a female “pastor” and gained truths about God that many male pastors could probably not have taught me better. I have listened to many sermons by women “pastors” that were solid and biblical and I gleaned treasures worth an eternal spot in my heart. Many of these women pastors are good friends of mine. Women indeed do make excellent teachers.

Yet, consider this: Can Christ do what God (the Father) can do? Yes. Does Christ know what God knows? Yes. Does Christ have all the attributes that God, the Father, has? Yes. So, should Christ play the role or serve in the office of the Father? No. Why? Because God says so. Because God has ordered (arranged) and ordered (commanded) it so!

May we learn to rest in God’s sovereign wisdom, even when we don’t get it.

A Letter to Kenyan Pastors

What will you do when the politicians come knocking this Sunday?

Dear Pastor,

He will be visiting your church this Sunday, but he won’t be a stranger. You have seen him on television and read about him in the newspaper countless times. You have never met him, but you probably know him better than some of your congregation. He is your local political leader.

Perhaps he is the area member of parliament. Or maybe you are lucky enough to get a visit from the area senator or governor. The President? Whoever he is, Sunday service will be different today. Attendance will be in record numbers and your parking lot will host some of the most expensive vehicles to ever tread on that gravel.

There is going to be great pressure to modify your order of Sunday service because this politician is around. Perhaps the singing will be shorter, the sermon will be hurried. In the heat of the moment, it will make sense to include a slot in the service for the politician to greet and address the congregants.

It seems harmless enough. It is perfectly understandable to make an exception. Special circumstances sometimes call for special actions. But dear pastor, could I urge and remind you not to forget what the Bible says about some of those moments? The following considerations may help guide you.

1. Watch where the politicians sits

The Bible, that book that defines who you are and why your church exists in the first place, says something about where the rich and the influential members of society choose to sit in the congregation. I hope you will not forget to take the words of Jesus to Pharisees into account when that politician visits:

“Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
LUKE 11:43‭-‬44 ESV

As far as Israel was concerned, the Pharisees were like a rough combination of the legislature and judiciary today. They are the ones who were supposed to understand, interpret and implement the laws set out by God. They even enacted some of the ways the laws of God applied to specific situations. Jesus noticed how self-important they were; how they carried themselves in the marketplace and the places of worship.

How will the politician visiting your church behave? Will they seat in the best seats? Are you, in fact, the one arranging for this? Why are you doing something that the Jesus you claim to be the Bride of clearly frowns upon? Or is it actually not about Jesus?

2. Watch how the politician will give

I am sure the highlight of Sunday service will most likely be the offering. Come on, with such record attendance, and with people overflowing that some are even standing outside the building just to catch a glimpse of their leader, the offering baskets will be bulging today. It is inevitable.

Buy I am not concerned about that. My concern is something else Jesus said about the same Pharisees that are the parallel to today’s politicians:

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
MATTHEW 6:2‭-‬4 ESV

Is this what the politicians visiting your church will do when it is time to give? Or maybe I am being too critical. The truth is these politicians are human, like you and I. They are also sinners. It would be unfair of me to expect them to stick to a higher biblical standard than other people. What if they want to announce their giving to your church? Who am I to judge?

But my concern is with you, dear pastor. You know better. Will you give these politicians a platform to do what Jesus clearly frowns upon? Will you change up your service to allow the politicians announce his donation for your upcoming church project? Will you give your your pulpit for the man or woman to say a word about what he has done for the community? Would you rather please man than God?

3. The sheep are watching the shepherd

In the end, this is more than just a matter of personal preference and opinion, dear pastor. You have a responsibility towards us, your sheep. And you will one day have to give an answer to God. As the Bible clearly puts it:

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
HEBREWS 13:17 ESV

Clearly, God wants us, the sheep, to obey you and submit to you. When you allow God’s word to be disregarded and God’s name to be blasphemed by endorsing some of these actions in the church, we find it difficult to obey God. It is hard for the sheep to take their creator seriously when the shepherd doesn’t seem to be doing it.

Dear pastor, please consider God this Sunday and the coming Sundays as you navigate the rising political temperatures in the country. The pressure to fear man rather than God will be high. Your reputation before the world will be at stake. Would you rather please men than God? I hope you will do the latter.

If you care about us, the followers of the Jesus you preach, you would consider these things. It will be difficult. Money is powerful, and the love of it can be tragic. You cannot resist public opinion on your own. I understand that, and for this reason, I will be praying for you.

I hope you do the right thing. I hope you will fear God enough to keep His commandments.

Reaching the Lost at Any Cost

Nowadays, it seems more important to please the world than to please the church (please note I said please the “church” not please “God”) — even though the Bible says we should prioritize those in the household of faith.

We don’t care if our conservative brothers are stumbling all over our creative freedom. The important thing is that unbelievers are not stumbling over our message.

We no longer go to preach where the idols of the world are, it is much more fruitful to bring the idols into the church to lure the world in. We trick them to win them. We tease their weaknesses and manipulate their addictions because the end justifies the means. We bait them with images of wines and spirits and then when they show up we spring up the Holy Spirit on them.

It is not like we are worshiping these idols ourselves, we are not, we are simply going where the sinners are — establishing a point of contact. Like Jesus, we are simply lunching with Simon and dining with Zaccheus.

So what if our brothers in faith disagree with our strategies? So what if our brothers don’t get it? They are the ones who need to grow up, to get with the program. We will not be patient with the weak in the church (read, the “narrow-minded” in the church). Why encourage their hypocrisy? Why succumb to their holier-than-thouness?

Even Jesus faced resistance and condemnation from the Sadducee and Pharisee of his day, that is why we are confident in what we do. It doesn’t matter that the Sadducee and Pharisee were UNBELIEVERS, yes even the high priest. Somehow, it seems more appropriate to dismiss conservative Christians as unbelievers simply because they think our methods unwise.

The end is near and we need to harvest as many of the lost as fast as possible.

And as the masses stream in through the front door after their idols, those inside are being carried out in their #judgmental stretchers through the back door — their faith in a #hypocritical condition.

And it’s really alright because, well, we can see the fruit. We are winning the world.

#Selah

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“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10)

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (1 Corinthians 8:9-12)

A big shout out to J.C.

Behind the Sins (Part 1)

 ‘If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.’ – C. S. Lewis

That is the mystery clouding this man’s vision as he disappears into the shadows tonight. He needs answers; answers to questions his scholarly mind cannot provide; solutions to mysteries his experienced years cannot unravel. So he sits and waits until the quiet evening cacophony has been completely replaced by the rhythmic chirping of crickets. He tarries until his wife and the kids have slipped into the sub-conscious country of slumber land.

He doesn’t make a sound. Like a cat pad-footing through a messy kitchen, he steals into the night. Stealthily, he weaves his way through the city. Avoiding street-lights and highways, he chooses the dark alleys and back-roads. The cover of the darkness gives him the courage to go out. This perplexed patriarch seeks the truth in the dark.

After fifteen minutes of avoiding late-night drunks and street-side bums, Nicodemus senses that his destination is close by. The soft chatter of voices and the misty rays of candle-light from a house two blocks away give him hope.

“Soon I will be able to sleep in peace. Soon, I will have the missing piece — the answer to my puzzle.”

He is now at the door. He stops and takes a deep breath. That’s when second-thoughts that have been chasing behind him quickly catch up with him. This was a bad idea. Maybe I should just go back. What if one of the elders catches me here? How am I going to explain myself?

After weighing the options and the repercussions; after pre-enacting in his head the public humiliation that might result from this encounter, he decides this was a bad idea. So he turns to leave, but he is too late. The door swings open and a disciple almost runs into him on his way out.

“Oh, pardon me sir,” Peter’s apology is quick, “almost didn’t see you there.”

Nicodemus stands frozen. He opens his mouth but no words come out.

Come on, man! This is bad. Say something! Talk your way out of this fix. Pretend you are in the wrong place, apologize and leave.

“Would you like to come in?” Peter opens the door a little wider and motions him in.

Nicodemus’ scared gaze wanders onto the group of men huddled around the table. A single candle illuminates their attentive faces. The conversation stops. The people turn and look towards the door. Then the man seated at the farthest end of the table, directly facing the door, motions him to get in.

Too late now. They’ve seen me. Might as well face them.

“Oh, thank you,” he says politely to Peter, lifts up his robes and steps into the room.

The silence is deafening. Everyone recognized him the moment he stepped through the door. And everyone held their breath. They had seen him before. He was always hanging out with other Pharisees. When Jesus had claimed to destroy and rebuild the temple in three days, Nicodemus was among the members of the council who confronted him. Though he didn’t say a word then, they knew he shared in their verdict. The disciples knew him, and they knew he was up to no good.

Nicodemus, trying hard to ignore the stares, finds a place to sit at the table. But the moment he settles down, the two seats on either side of him are quickly vacated. It’s clear that no one wants to sit next to him.

He is not welcome here.

To be continued…

Pillars of Prosperity (Sunday@MHC)

Joseph (the old testament one) spent most of his youth in slavery and prison. What do you think is the one item that featured in all of his prayers while in prison? Did he pray for freedom? Did he pray for an easier time? Did he pray for justice? If we only consider a single item that may have featured in each of Joseph’s prayers, we suddenly realize that we don’t have many options. He probably didn’t always pray for freedom from captivity. Now and then, maybe, but not every time. He probably didn’t always pray for justice. What is the one prayer he might have made every time he prayed?

This morning, our senior pastor, Charles Ng’ang’a, preached a message from Deuteronomy chapter 8. The sermon title was “PILLARS OF PROSPERITY” and in order to guard against the dangers of presuming that this might turn out to be another ‘prosperity gospel’ message, he quickly added a disclaiming sub-title: “THE PITFALLS OF PRIDE”. Touche Pastor C. 🙂

“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deuteronomy 8:1-2)

rememberPastor C reminded us that the act of remembering is pro-active. That we often forget to remember: “Remembering means not forgetting. Forgetting is not just a lapse of memory, it is a failure to give the lessons of our past a significant place in our present. A failure to guide our choices in the present by the truths learnt in the past.”

The Israelites were urged to remember their wilderness journey because that journey was meant to teach them great lessons, not about the promised land, but lessons about the promise-maker. Using an anecdote from Neil Armstrong’s trip to the moon, Continue reading

This Is My Testimony (Sunday@MHC)

“I fell out with my wife on 31st December 2012, after a crazy night out with friends,” the man choked out the words into the microphone, as an ominous hush fell over the crowded sanctuary. “We stayed together for a few months, but it was more a room-mate situation than a marriage.” He continued.

He related how him and his wife eventually separated and she moved out of the house.

power-testimony

Today was testimony Sunday at my church, Mamlaka Hill Chapel, and members of the congregation were standing up to share the different ways God had revealed and glorified Himself through their lives and experiences. The service leader for the day, Pastor Isaac Murage, began by laying down the ground-rules concerning the testimonies. This was a prudent measure to protect the privacy of some members and to discourage any tendency to claim any glory in our testimonies rather than ascribing it to God.

I found the inclusion of ground-rules a necessary measure — one that was a teaching moment in itself. For example, we often fail to testify about God, not because we do not have a testimony, but because we think of them as our own achievements. We claim the glory to ourselves.

The man who stood to tell the story of his failed marriage did not paint himself as the victim in his story. But neither did he paint himself as the hero. Continue reading

A Cut ABove the Rest: A Lesson from Ruth Matete’s Dress

For something so short, the commentary on Ruth Matete’s dress is rather long. This post, then, can only come as a thread in an otherwise elaborate fabric of feedback. For those who don’t know Matete, or “didn’t see” her dress (no pun intended), she was the winner of last year’s season (5) of Tusker Project Fame. And last Sunday, she graced (or is it disgraced?) the stage in the finals of the just ended season 6.

mateteMatete (as a friend put it on Facebook) was too long for her dress. Now, this is not a problem, or even surprising. Contestants and performers wear short skirts and dresses all the time at Tusker Project Fame. However, Ruth Matete is a professing Christian, and she even leads worship sessions at her home church. The uproar over her dress was that it did not befit (again, no puns) a Christian. The general feel of the critical feedback (from both the church and the world) was that Matete’s dress presented Christians in bad light. Continue reading