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.

Church 101: A Senior Pastor’s First Message to the Church

My church got a new senior pastor last Sunday. Actually, he’s been around for quite a while (at least five years) as the Associate Pastor. But Ken Mbugua officially became the Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church on October 18th, 2015.

His first message will remain etched in my mind for a long time. Not because he was particularly eloquent in his delivery (though he always is), but because I believe this is one of the few messages worth retaining in a heart that refers to itself as Christian.

The title of this inaugural sermon was “The Preeminence of Christ in the Local Church” and Pastor Ken spent the rest of the time fading into the background as he presented Christ as supreme to his flock.

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“I want us to grasp the one tune, the one foundation, the one focus and the one goal for which we exist and for which we will do all that we do: to worship Jesus in the local church,” he began as he crescendoed into the heights of what it means to be a church. Continue reading

Home …

It hit me when I was already at my doorstep. I had left my house keys at the office.

This has never happened before, perhaps it was because I was having a bad day. I couldn’t imagine going all the way back to the city center. It was 6 pm — the traffic will be unbearable. But what choice did I have?

I remembered it when I was at the main gate, on my way out. I had a spare key in the house! I hoped against hope that I could get to it — if only I could remember where I had last seen it. Desperate times call for desperate measures. After wracking my brain trying to retrace my steps in the last couple of days, I recalled that I had put the key in one of my jeans trouser pockets.

Perhaps you’re wondering how a key inside the pocket of a dirty trouser in a basin somewhere inside a locked house was going to help me. Reaching it would be out of the question. But you see, it wasn’t.

This was my house. My space. My home.

The thing about my place is that it is not very organized (ducks). That was my first clue. I ran back up the stairs hoping against hope that I had done what came naturally — left my dirty trousers on the seat in the living room. After much improvisation, I was able to open the window and push aside the curtain. I have never been more happy to see dirty jeans on the couch.

I reached in using a wire, pulled the trousers towards me and retrieved my spare key. I didn’t have to make another trip all the way back to the office.

Some things only happen at home. I like to think that I am only disorganized at home, though perhaps my colleagues may argue the point. But I am not that tidy. Clean, yes. Tidy, debatable.

But that’s the beauty of home. You don’t have to impress anyone or live up to other people’s standards at home. At home, you can be yourself. You can walk around in your baggy, holy (not the Biblical holy) pajamas without a care in the world. Your family has seen worse and they can identify you by the smell of your sweat. It is only taboo to air your dirty linen in public; nobody said anything about airing it in your house.

I am still a bachelor, and I live alone. At my house, I am the cook, the cleaner, the electrician, the decorator, the political analyst, the bread winner and the bread eater. I am all things to all chores.

Home is also where I am an expert at everything, or rather, I don’t have to be an expert at anything.

Outside the home, there is pressure to excel in at least one thing. Sometimes it’s because our survival depends on it. Only good engineers get hired, and color-blind people don’t get to be professional camera-men.

But at home, I am content to simply be me. There’s no pressure to impress. My family knows me, and loves me anyway.

Of course there are those occasions where parents are perfectionists and children feel the need, or rather the pressure, to live up to their expectations. Yes, the home can be dysfunctional. In fact, it often is. Even so, no matter how common this exception is, it is still not the rule. East or west, home is best.

Charity begins at home because that’s where selfishness ends. At home, you don’t mind having less so that your brother may have some. When you’re at home, you don’t feel the pressure to measure up or keep up with the Joneses – you’re already a Jones.

The home gives us a glimpse of how life in the church ought to look like. It is an imperfect peek into the kind of realness, fragility and openness that the Body of Christ ought to depict within itself. No need to be an expert here, no pressure to impress, no compulsion to compete. You can sing to the LORD with your shower voice and won’t feel embarrassed. You are simply being you.

I am not saying that the church is the place we let our sins slide because the Body “will understand”. I am saying that the church, like home, is the place we let our sins out in the open because we know they are covered by the blood of Christ and the Body “will prop us”.

But even as I write that previous sentence, I feel the need to edit it and punctuate it with several “oughts”. The church ought to be like home.

Charity begins at home because charity begins in the family — which was God’s original design. Could charity also begin in the church? Is your church your home? Is the church your family?

Are you a member of your church because yo signed up and a committee approved or are you a member because you owned up your sin and God approved you through Christ?

If home is where the heart is, where is your heart?

Or could it be because the church is where your hurt is?

Cornell.

The Poor Musings of a Church Mouse

ChurchMouseMy friend didn’t make it to church yesterday. No, he wasn’t busy doing something else. In fact, he woke up quite early yesterday. So, it’s not like he overslept. My friend WANTED to go to church, so his will cannot be blamed for missing church yesterday. You see, the reason why my friend could not make it to church, the reason why he resorted to just staying at home and watch TV, was because going to church was beyond his control. No, he did not have the flu, his health was perfectly fine.

The problem was in my friend’s wallet, he couldn’t afford to go to church. I am not talking about transport money. He had the 100 shillings that will get him to church and back home. He even had the 50 shillings that he usually gives as his offering. Yet, even with that money, my friend could still not afford to go to church. Continue reading

Why I Love Preaching to the Choir

love hope warYou could call most of what I do here “preaching to the choir.” Most of my writing primarily targets Christians rather than non-Christians. Of course, there are times when the occasional non-Christian bothers to spend a few minutes on my lengthy posts and begins to seek Christ. I am grateful for such moments. I pray that I will be able to generate more content that, beside feeding the Body of Christ, also draws the curiosity of unbelievers towards this Gospel that I am always so passionate about. Even so, it is not uncommon to find some people criticizing blogs such as this one for “alienating the world”.

Alien Citizens is not a popular blog, and there are many reasons for that. Apart from the obvious fact that I am not the best writer out there, there are other reasons including the fact that I am not very relevant, entertaining or attention grabbing in my titles and subject matter. It can get quite discouraging at times. We start off saying that we are only exercising the gift that God gave us for the good of the Body. But after a few posts, we find ourselves caring about the traffic and the site stats. Idolatry is a crafty chameleon.

I know that if I wanted to redirect massive traffic to the blog, I just have to focus on controversial topics, politics, latest gossip, and of course… naming names. That’s always a great temptation. I do address some of these popular topics now and then, but I always have to hold myself back not to be swept by the tide of relevancy at the expense of truth and faithfulness to mission. God has specially equipped me to minister to His Body, the church, and I strive to do my best with the help and leading of the Holy Spirit.

I guess this is why I found myself relating deeply to Da Truth’s song “Jesus Is For Everybody” (J.I.F.E). Question: What usually comes to your mind when you hear an expression such as “Jesus is for everybody?” It usually has something to do with why we should strive to reach out to the last and the least, the poor and the lamest of the society; as opposed to the rich and comfortable members of our church. But Da Truth’s focus is different this time, and quite unexpected:

They say I love the church, I don’t care about the streets. That’s so far from the truth, why they lying on me? I’m where am supposed to be, trying to play my role. Staying faithful to the gospel seen a lot of growth…

It used to be a gift, now it’s criticized, if my heart is for the church, why is this a crime? Whatever happened to the days when ministers cried when speaking life to the Body, am a bit surprised…

No doubt is in my mind, it’s making perfect sense. Am I doing something wrong talking to the saints? Am just giving it my all when am in my own skin, while am building up the Body, walking in His grace. And while am talking to the church I hope they overhear, we want the whole world to know we’re over here… am talking from the lawyers and the doctors to the corners with the choppers to the hommies in the barber’s chair.

I guess I relate to Da Truth’s frustration. His song may be a bit defensive, but it communicates a great truth. Jesus is for everybody, and some of us have been specially gifted to relay and relate His truth to His Body, the Church. Sometimes I may prefer to do this because it’s comfortable. At such times I need to repent and be a little more intentional about my evangelism. However, that should not derail or disqualify me from preaching to the choir. The truth of the matter is that the church of Christ, especially the 21st century church, needs the Gospel now more than ever before.

“I open up my eyes to the church and I see, some automatic weapons and they’re aiming at me. They say I’m preaching to the choir, people dying in the streets. You’d be preaching to ‘em too if you seen ‘em lately.”

Yes. Jesus is for everybody, including the church.

Blog Break (18 Apr 13)

Here are some great reads that are bound to make your Thursday worthwhile:

  1. GET TO CHURCH EARLY. I think this article was written with me (Cornell) in mind. I’ve been getting to church and meetings quite late lately. This is not good. I need to change this. I am going to change this. Starting yesterday. How about you? Do you need to work on your church arrival time? Please read this post and find out why this is important.
  2. Yesterday I shared an interesting quote on marriage, by Francis Schaeffer. I thought this Boundless article on SETTLING might clarify some questions that many of us may have about the possibility of not having your ideal marriage: “Everybody settles when they decide to get married. Or nobody settles. Or is it both-and?”
  3. REPENTANCE VERSUS DEFENSIVENESS. Gavin: Our default mode – in and out of the church – seems to be defensiveness. I know mine is. Nothing is more natural when we feel threatened by a criticism than to divert, distract, and downplay. Its as instinctive as flinching when a punch is coming.”
  4. Lastly, in PEACE-MAKING: A GOSPEL NECESSITY, Caroline Albanese exhorts us to pursue reconciliation as a Gospel imperative: “It’s a strange thing when you see believers in the church who will not speak to one another but talk to everyone else about the person with whom they have conflict. If God has reconciled us to himself through Christ, how can we not pursue reconciliation with one another?

Have a blessed reading time and don’t forget to read your Bible!

Blog Break (6 Mar 13)

It’s been awhile since I posted the last Blog Break. I guess the tension after the general elections here in Kenya have re-organized all our schedules as we wait for the final poll results to be announced. Here are four links to articles that I found worth sharing and re-reading:

  1. TEACHABILITY. This post was written for me. It hit the nail right on the head (and into my heart). David Murray; “No matter how much talent and gifting we have, if we are, or become, unteachable, we will never reach anywhere near our full potential in our careers, our callings, or our relationships.”
  2. HOW TO ROCK TWITTER LIKE A PHARISEE, I don’t know about you, but I find myself doing it all the time. Human beings have a natural tendency to draw “envious” attention towards themselves, even under the guise of humility and innocence. Mike Leake hits home with this one. I particularly loved the examples he used in the “SmugPharisee” mock twitter account. Plus I got to learn a new word from the post: Facebragging.
  3. CHURCH SHOULD BE A PLACE OF UNDISTRACTING EXCELLENCE. Stephen Altrogge; “In worship, children’s ministry, preaching, coffee, sanctuary temperature, lobby greeters, and ushers, we are aiming for “undistracting excellence”. If our service to the Lord is sloppy, disorganized, late, and smells bad, it will distract people from communing with God. If the worship team sounds like a walrus seal massacre, people will have trouble focusing their attention on God.”
  4. Finally, in WHY I DON’T LIKE CHRISTIAN MUSIC, Michael Patton takes the question right out of my mouth, “Why is it that when people become Christian in the music business they feel pressured to only sing songs exclusively about Jesus?” The answer could be controversial. read and find out.

Enjoy your reading, friends.