Man fails, biblical womanhood, and cultural presuppositions.
by Brandon O'Brien
For many Christians stay-at-home dads are today what “Joe the Plumber” was for the 2008 presidential elections. No one really cared what Joe did, or whether he was a good plumber or a bad one. It was what he represented that mattered. In the same way, the stay-at-home dad is a figurehead, and he represents different things to different people. To some, liberation from antiquated gender stereotypes, a new and improved vision of masculinity and femininity. To others, the disintegration of biblical authority.
Owen Strachan, for example, writes here that the “‘Dad Mom’ concept is a ‘man fail.’” “Men are not called by God to be “working at home” as women are in Titus 2:5. For Strachan the Bible clearly teaches that a woman’s “intended sphere of labor and dominion-taking was the home (Genesis 3:16). This is true of the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 as well.” By contrast, he writes here that the man’s God-ordained sphere of labor is outside the home: “the men of Israel. . .leave the home to provide food for their families (see Genesis 37, for example); the husband of the Proverbs 31 woman sits with the elders in the gates while she cares for her family and home in manifold ways.”
Thus the stay-at-home dad illustrates how “the cultural decline of men continues apace” because secular values have seeped into the Christian consciousness, confusing the clear biblical message about where God intends men and women to work.
And then there’s Rachel Held Evans, whose recent book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, (Thomas Nelson, 2012), is creating quite a stir. Evans set out to live the biblical commands for women literally for one year. She seems to conclude that any such attempt will require us to pick and choose which of these commands applies in our contemporary setting. And different people pick differently.
According to Trillia Newbell, the central problem with Evans’ book is that, “God’s word was on trial. It was the court of Rachel Held Evans. She was the prosecution, judge, and jury. ... And with authority and confidence, she would have the final word on womanhood.”
"If people don't know their pastor, it's easy to put the pastor on a pedestal and depersonalize him or her. It's also easy for pastors, who don't know their congregations, simply to classify congregants as saved or unsaved, involved or not involved, tithers or non-tithers. These impersonal designations allow you to treat people not as they are, but as sociological or psychological categories."
Excerpted from "Pastor in the Present Tense" in the Summer 2011 issue of Leadership Journal. To read the full quote IN context be sure to subscribe to Leadership today by clicking on the LJ cover in the left column.
An excerpt from my new book. Are we desiring God or just using him?
by Skye Jethani
To celebrate the release of my new book,WITH: Reimagining The Way You Relate To God (Nelson, 2011), I wanted to share with you a brief excerpt. In case you're not familiar with the premise of the book, and how could you be if it's just been released, I explore five "postures" of relating to God: Life UNDER God, Life OVER God, Life FROM God, Life FOR God, and Life WITH God. The book explains why the first four are very popular, including within evangelical churches, but how each fails to deliver us from fear or generate lives of faith, hope, and love. Life WITH God, however, stands at the heart of the gospel. Below is a brief excerpt.
Thanks to everyone who helped me with this project, including my colleagues at Leadership Journal and all the Urbanites who've read my posts over the years. Your comments and engagement with my writing definitely contributed to this book.
To begin we must understand how the life with God posture differs from the other four. Life under, over, from and for God each seeks to use God to achieve some other goal. God is seen as a means to an end. For example, life from God uses him to supply our material desires. Life over God uses him as the source of principles or laws. Life under God tries to manipulate God through obedience to secure blessings and avoid calamity. And life for God uses him and his mission to gain a sense of direction and purpose.
But life with God is different because it’s goal is not to use God; it’s goal is God. He ceases to be a device we employ or a commodity we consume. Instead God himself becomes the focus of our desire. But before we can really desire God we must have a clear understanding of who he is and what he is like. The reason most people gravitate to one of the other four postures is because they’ve never received a clear vision of who God is, and so they settle for something less.
My 6 year old son has a serious sugar addiction. I came to this realization when as a toddler he spotted a blotch of powdered sugar on the floor near a funnel cake stand at a minor league baseball stadium. He dropped to his knees and proceeded to lick the concrete. (His mother needed resuscitation.) Despite his obvious passion for sucrose, if I said to Isaac, “Would you like to try some creme brulee?” he would immediately decline. The words “creme brulee” might conjure images of vegetables or some other unappetizing adult cuisine in his imagination. But I know he would respond differently if I said, “Would you like some vanilla pudding, covered in sugar, and cooked with a blowtorch?” The idea of combining large quantities of sugar with the forbidden danger of open flames is too much for any boy to resist. Even more compelling than my description would be actually seeing the dessert and it’s preparation. I would have to bind him to his chair to keep him from leaping at it.
Anthony, the junior high youth pastor who serves alongside me at River Valley Church, is an ace car mechanic. He’s my authority on all things pertaining to my 2001 Honda Civic. He can diagnose and fix my problem. He’s good, he’s knowledgeable, he’s cheap, and I know where he works and lives if something goes wrong. His authority rests in his expertise. His ability to diagnose, fix, and anticipate future problems flows from certification, skill, and know-how. I bow to his authority. I honor it. I rely on it.
But I’m a pastor, and the authority it takes to fix a broken head gasket doesn’t seem to work as well on a broken heart. Pastoral authority is more akin to the authority of a member of the body (Rom. 12:4ff). Let’s say for sake of illustration that the pastor’s authority in the church is analogous to that of the heart in the body. The heart has no authority on its own; its authority is derived and constituted only by relation (i.e. submission) to the head and the members. Electrical signals from the head tell the heart to pump blood. The heart receives oxygen molecules from the lungs and pumps enriched blood to the rest of the body . The heart’s authority isn’t based on skill, expertise, or ability to fix problems. Rather, it rests in its submission to the head and to its members.
Similarly, pastoral authority is inherently relational; it is exercised faithfully only in the context of relationships.
Now it's Mark Driscoll's turn. In this video with his wife, he lays out why he believes it is wrong for a husband to stay home with the kids while his wife brings in the paycheck. It may even be grounds for church discipline. Watch the video and then share your thoughts.
Prejudice is like a cockroach: it is able to get into the smallest of places, and it never seems to die. What’s worse is that everyone carries the cockroach of prejudice somewhere inside of them. Prejudice is a pre-conceived notion, an irrational assumption, a judgment against another without any evidence. We believers are called to rise above showing “personal favoritism” (James 2:1), because there is “no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11). Even so, prejudice against single pastors abounds.
Prejudice against single pastors
When I press people on why they think single pastors are treated with suspicion, 99 percent of the time I get a list of fears rather than actual evidence:
“What if he’s gay?”
“What if he flirts with all the single women at church?”
“What if he tries to steal a married woman for himself?”
“There must be something wrong with him because he’s single.”
“Aren’t single pastors more likely to molest our children?”
Fear. That’s what binds these comments together. Especially the fear of human sexuality/desire. As if human desire is a monster that can only be tamed by marriage. This fear certainly doesn’t come from being bombarded by national sex scandals involving protestant single pastors! So where does it come from? It is the cockroach of prejudice creeping around in the dark corners of our mind. It’s an irrational assumption that singles lack self-control, while married people do not.
If being unmarried was good enough for Jesus and Paul…
by Mark Almlie
Is being a Protestant single pastor like being a married Catholic priest? Is it an oxymoron?
I never would have thought so until the economic crisis hit, and I had to find a new pastoral position. For the first time in my career my future was in the hands of a search committee, rather than a personal connection.
I’m ordained, 37, single (never married), with experience pastoring in large churches. Given my credentials, I had zero anxiety initially. Then I started reading “job requirement” phrases like these in pastoral job applications:
-“We are looking for a married man”
-“Is married (preferably with children)”
These churches explicitly were not looking to hire someone single--like Jesus or Paul. I then was surprised to discover that even though the majority of adult Americans are single (52 percent), that only 2 percent of senior pastors in my denomination are single! Something was clearly amiss.
Why were so many churches “requiring” a pastor to be married? Jesus wasn’t. Paul wasn’t. Almost all pastors were single until the time of the Reformation. Is it wise to “require” that our Evangelical pastors be married? Is it biblical?
A number of churches are now preaching a message I never heard from the pulpit growing up: God wants you to have sex. Lots of sex. Great sex. All for his glory, of course.
In February 2008, Relevant Church of Tampa, Florida, issued a "30-Day Sex Challenge" during their sermon series on relationships. Married couples were exhorted to have some form of intercourse - and singles to abstain - every day for a month.
Last month, New Direction Christian Church (Memphis, Tennessee) conducted its own "40 Nights of Grrreat Sex" program. The pastoral staff handed out daily planners with suggestions for mixing things up. They set up a blog so members could ask questions - and presumably offer advice - anonymously. I hope they also have plans to increase their children's ministry budget in the coming months.
Have I nurtured my spouse's personality, or buried it?
When I get home tonight, I'll think awhile about Gordon MacDonald's new column. In fact, I think most pastors and leaders should think hard on his thesis: What has the dominant, big-personality, leader type squelched in his spouse? I may muster the courage to ask my wife what she thinks about it.
Those of us who have spent our lives getting close to people for pastoral reasons are quite well acquainted with the grief that floods the life of one who has lost a dearly loved spouse. We've observed the paralyzing sadness and sense of loss and know that only time will dull the pain. There are a plethora of books and seminars that speak about this experience.
What is less talked or written about is the opposite of such grief. The word that comes to me is liberation. In some cases the death of a spouse actually liberates the surviving spouse to remove something like a disguise and become a new person.
I once stood near enough to overhear a conversation between a woman and two of her adult children soon after the funeral and burial services for her husband (and their father) had concluded. Apparently, either the son or the daughter, thinking they were offering a kind of protective love to the mother, tried to take charge and tell her something that she should or shouldn't do.
The mother (freshly a widow, remember!) reacted with words wrapped in anger. "Now let's get something straight right this minute. No one! No one is going to tell me what to do any longer. I've been doing what everyone else wanted (alluding no doubt to her deceased husband) for fifty years. Now it's my turn. I'll make my own decisions from here on out. Is this understood?" I had the feeling these words has been rehearsed and that it was only a matter of time until they came out. Now they did.
Scot McKnight says the church�s problem is rooted in what we preach.��
A few weeks ago Dave Johnson questioned our adherence to a gospel that does not call forth or expect transformation in our lives. In this post professor and blogger extraordinaire Scot McKnight continues the discussion. He contends that many of the problems facing the contemporary church can be traced to the individualistic gospel we preach. Both Johnson and McKnight will be featured presenters at the upcoming Spiritual Formation Forum in June.
When I was in high school, my youth pastor ? may his soul rest in peace ? opened his home to me and my girlfriend, Kris (now my wife). David King became our personal theologian and one thing that impressed me deeply at the time was this contention of his: he often contended in a rather robust manner that every problem that he encountered as a pastoral counselor could be traced to a "spiritual" problem.
Most of us would not agree with this conclusion, but many of us would contend that we do need to do more "systemic" analysis to find the underlying issues that give rise to many of the problems we now face in the Church. I'd like to suggest a significant underlying issue that gives rise to more than one problem today.
Because of some research I did on the "gospel" in the Bible, leading to a book called Embracing Grace, I have come to a conclusion not unlike that of David King: namely, when I see "problems" or "issues" in the Church, I often say to myself, "What kind of gospel would have been preached and responded to that would give rise to this kind of practice, problem, or theology?" At the bottom of lots of our problems is a "gospel" problem. Students of mine that grow up in Christians homes often admit to me that the gospel they grew up was this: Jesus came to die for my sins so I could go to heaven. This parody of the biblical gospel, I contend, is at the heart of many of our problems.
"The nuclear family is not God's most important institution on earth. It is not the social agent that most significantly forms the character of Christians."
-Ken Fong is pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles in Rosemead, California Taken from "Our Faith Village Family" in the Fall 2006 issue of Leadership journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.
When my wife and I interviewed at my present church she asked what expectations the congregation had of staff spouses. She was told, "We just expect spouses to be church members like everyone else - serving, attending worship, and living uprightly. You know, no smoking pot in the back of the church." That's a pretty low bar, my wife thought, but one she could reach.
Of course, things have not always been so easy for clergy wives. Opinion Journal recently posted an article by Lauren Winner (author of "Girl Meets God" and "Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity") about the changing expectations placed on spouses of ministers. Below are a few excerpts. Read Winner's entire article here.
Until fairly recently, hiring a minister or rabbi was a two-for-one deal: Into the bargain, churches and synagogues got A Wife, who would host teas, teach religious-education classes, sing in the choir. All this, of course, without a salary.