Alan Hirsch – Missional Discipleship

alanhirschI had a wild experience this week, meeting a leader in the missional church movement that has been influential in my understanding of living on mission for God’s Kingdom. I had stayed up half the night before church last week, watching Alan Hirsch videos on Youtube, trying to find something I could show during our Sunday School hour to start a discussion on missional discipleship – which requires deconstructing our Christ-against-culture/evangelism/consumerism mindsets and reconstructing a mindset of discipleship through relationship, meeting and loving people where they are, drawing them to Christ through showing up, time and again.

Anyway, I had just had this Alan-Hirsch-binge and a few days later, was face-to-face with him at my job, where he was attending a dinner! “Are you Alan Hirsch?!” I exclaimed, and when he smilingly told me he was, we shook hands and I thanked him for his work. Then I recovered my professionalism and carried on. But it got me thinking that I ought to share his work here with my blog readers. So here is the video I chose for my Sunday School class, and the notes I passed out. You can learn more about Alan Hirsch here.

“Missional Discipleship” 

Discipleship is fundamental to our faith – it is formation in Christ. Missional discipleship incorporates the assimilation of spiritual disciplines (prayer, etc.) but goes beyond to involve ourselves in the eternal purposes of God in this world to redeem it to himself.

Highly transformative missional movements throughout history, with explosive growth and high transformation (the early Church, the Celtic movement, Moravians, Methodists, Pentecostals) have been obsessed with discipleship and disciple-making.

The key to the health, sustainment, extension and renewal of the church is not more evangelism, but more discipleship.

Greek philosopher Epictetus – “It’s impossible to teach a man what he thinks he already knows.”

There’s some unlearning we need to do. We’ve used the Great Commission to mean “we do evangelism.”

Matthew 28:16-20 “All power and authority has been given to me…Go…make disciples of the nations, teaching them to obey all that I’ve commanded you, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Where do you hear evangelism here? Evangelism is implied, but it is actually about discipleship.

The way we’ve been doing evangelism feeds consumerism. People are looking for purpose, meaning, significance, belonging, community – the very thing religion offers is being sought in consumption.

You can’t make disciples out of consumers. Jesus said “die,” come to the cross. You can’t take that out of the equation and expect the same results. We must begin with the end in mind – what God intends to achieve in the world. But we must also end with the beginning in mind. It’s all about discipleship, from beginning to end.

When were the disciples born again? Right up front? In the middle? Towards the end? The Johannine Pentecost (John 20:19-23)? Jesus has a whole lot of pre-conversion disciples. That’s what we should do! Don’t focus on the evangelism part, focus on discipleship. Somewhere along the line will come the born again experience – that comes from God. That’s Jesus’ business.

First draw out the image of God (Image Dei) and then the image of Christ (Imago Christi). Once you’re born again, you’re reformed into the image of Jesus.

Definition: The answer is Jesus.

I believe in substitutionary atonement achieved by Christ on the cross. But it’s not simply that. “It’s Jesus in my heart…but there’s no agenda in my life beyond that.”

Incarnation————————————————————————————————Cross
The exemplary life of Jesus, his life and teachings, the role he played –
This is the agenda of discipleship!

Ignoring the life of Jesus is a reduction of the Gospel that damages our capacity to be disciples. The cross is where Jesus is my Savior. The rest is where he is my Lord. It is a heresy to divide the person and work of Jesus.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – “Discipleship means adherence to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship. An abstract Christology, a doctrinal system, a general religious knowledge on the subject of grace or on the forgiveness of sins, render discipleship superfluous, and in fact they positively exclude any idea of discipleship whatever, and are essentially inimical to the whole conception of following Christ. Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship. And Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

C.S. Lewis “It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, building, missions, holding services …the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ, and that everything is to be gathered in him. That is what it is all about.”


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Emily Joy – Thank God I’m a Virgin

Here is a powerful spoken word poem by Emily Joy, reflecting on the idolatry of purity culture. The Youtube byline says, “‘Thank God I’m a Virgin’ is an exploration of the logical consequences of a Christian purity culture that places undue emphasis on the status of one’s virginity, especially female virginity, over against one’s character and heart. It seeks to correct and indict those who would set themselves up as judge of who is in and who is out of the kingdom and community of God on the basis of their sexuality.”

From the upcoming album, “All Prodigal Daughters and Sons”

Get this single on iTunes here: https://goo.gl/DBLzDs

Get this single on Amazon here: http://goo.gl/iRY3BF

Lyrics:
Well thank God I’m a virgin!
Or he probably wouldn’t want me.
I thought as I listened silently
While he told me
That he just couldn’t be with someone
Who had been with someone else,
Which is like 90% of adults by the age of 25,
So your already limited pool is shrinking very quickly,
But don’t let me discourage you.
Carry on.
Tell me how you saved yourself.
How you saved up enough points with God
To buy an unspoiled bride
And you will not settle for less.
Tell me about her white dress,
How it will “mean something.”
Tell me what it means.
Tell me what it’s like to have nothing you regret,
To have made it through life unscathed
By either bliss or pain.
What does that feel like?
Is it very lonely?
Or does it just feel safe,
Like keeping your cocoon heart all wrapped up and tucked away
Hoping to God someday it becomes a butterfly
Before it dies from the frost.
I hope whoever she is,
She meets all your expectations.
I hope enough of her heart is intact
For you to feel like the wait was worth it.
I hope she never knows you wouldn’t have wanted her
If she wasn’t a virgin.
Cause everybody knows a girl is only as valuable
As the men who haven’t touched her.
Only as desirable as the experiences she hasn’t had.
But baby, when you get to her,
She better know what to do in bed.
She better satisfy your wildest pornographic fantasies,
Know all the right ways to move
Body parts she has never had the chance to use.
Cause God would never fail you, right?
You waited on his timing, now he owes you.
Anything less is not the bill of goods they sold you.
So I hope it works out for you.
I really do.
But if it doesn’t, just remember what I told you.
That a heart cannot be divided into pieces
And given away till there is nothing left.
That the greatest gift you can give
Has nothing to do with your flesh.
That love is really just grace.
That a lifetime of avoidance
Does not prepare one for a lifetime of joy and pain.
That “virgin” is not a sexual preference,
Nor is it your birthright.
Baby, your insecurity is showing.
She chose you.
What more do you want?


Thanks for visiting The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors – a place for redemptive dialogue about gender roles in the Church and world, and the plight of women due to sanctified patriarchy. Every human, as a divine image bearer, was designed for dignity and dominion in the care of God’s creation. We all submit and defer to one another, and love one another, avoiding hierarchy for the sake of the Kingdom. Believing in equality for women in the Church is not man-hating, it is restoring God’s intent for how we will live in the Kingdom of God.

If this is not how your church taught gender roles, visit our Fav Links page (at the top of this page) for lots of resources, and explore our archives for more information.

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Red Letter Christians Interview with Dr. Mimi Haddad

The following are excerpts from an interview that Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, of Red Letter Christians, did with Dr. Mimi Haddad, the president of Christians for Biblical Equality. It was so good, I had to transcribe* it for you. You can listen to the full interview here. Enjoy!

Shane: How does the work for equality of women intersect with other humanitarian and justice issues?

Mimi:  When you consider that the face of poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition is largely female, and abuse and the demand for sex slaves around the world is driven by the porn industry, this explains why 200 million females are missing from the planet, as Dr. Amartya Sen has shown from Harvard. It also explains why humanitarian organizations demonstrate that when you invest in the education, health and businesses of females, these are the communities that thrive economically. Research from Goldman Sachs shows that investing in females drives economic growth, and it lowers unethical practices. This is referred to as The Girl Effect or the Virtuous Cycle. And the World Bank says undermining patriarchy is smart economics, it’s good for families, communities, and whole countries. And that’s what CBE seeks to do, because it is almost impossible to leverage humanitarian objectives like gender equality without the support of communities and a correct reading of Scripture.

Tony:  Where has the Church hindered biblical equality for women, and where has the Church helped biblical equality for women?

Mimi:  They are intricately connected. When the Church has had a high view of the cross and has read Scripture through the atonement rather than through gender roles, you see social justice advanced across-the-board. Consider the world of early Evangelicals, of the 1800’s. This is when the word Evangelical had more noble connotations. They were advocates of racial and gender justice, because they were strong advocates of the cross. They truly believed that Calvary changed everything, and they preached on Galatians 2:28 more than any other group in history. For example, A. J. Gordon, after whom Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Seminary are named, he was the strongest advocate of Women’s Emancipation and Abolition.

Tony: The feminist movement, which in many cases is seen as a secular movement, began with Evangelical roots. Charles Finney, who Billy Graham considered the father of modern Evangelical preaching, if you became a Christian, he wanted to know if you were committed to the Anti-Slave movement and the Feminist Movement. Feminists had their first meetings in Wesleyan churches up in north western New York state, called The Niagara Movement. Maybe you can comment more on the history of the movement.

Mimi:  The Wesleyans have been leaders in Abolition and Women’s Suffrage, and in fact, Methodist women like Catherine Booth, who was driven by Wesleyan thought, and Katharine Bushnell, who was really one of the most popular women of her day. She was an anti-trafficker, a silence-breaker of the highest order.  I published recently an article on her legacy.  She exposed prostituted girls and women chained to beds in the Wisconsin lumber mills and the iron lines of Michigan.  It is only as Evangelicals have backed away from the high view of the cross, the high view of atonement, the idea that Jesus changes everything, that we have Evangelicals like John Piper, one of the most popular Evangelicals today, arguing not that Christianity has a Jesus-feeling to it but a masculine feel. And this has really regressed our advocacy for social justice. It is viewed now as a feminist and secular agenda.

Shane: What is it that keeps this patriarchy entrenched? Are you hopeful?

Tony: And I would like you to comment more on John Piper, one of the gurus of our time. How do you think he’s effected your movement?

Mimi:  I am hopeful, because millennials have been very strong in their courage and in giving voice so we no longer normalize the silence of victims. We are seeing it as part of our moral duty to expose perpetrators, and to create systems and structures, licensing and practices that make predators less prominent in culture and in churches. Patriarchy is deeply rooted in human culture. You can misread all religious texts, as Jimmy Carter has said in his wonderful book, “A Call to Action.” We normalize patriarchy because the “he will rule over you” sin will remain present until Christ returns. But it’s Christians that have to shine through that, as these early Methodists did, and point to a higher path and point to the cross.

I think that the tragedy that because it’s so normal, people like John Eldridge in “Wild at Heart,” instead of going to a Genesis to Revelation reading of the Bible, goes to art museums and points to the glorification of the female body, which of course, humans are made in God’s image and are beautifully and wonderfully made. Instead, we tend to make masculine and gender roles more about biblical ideals than about newness of life in Christ and leaders living by the fruit of the Spirit.

Shane: I was just speaking at an event with Lauren Winner, who’s a wonderful writer, and she said even the images we have of God tend to be very masculine. For example, the metaphors in Scripture that have become prominent are like all the churches we have called “The Good Shepherd,” and she asked if we’d ever seen “The Church of the Mother Hen.” Pull some things out of Scripture for us, where you see these roots, so you can correct our patriarchal theology.

Mimi: We have masculinized our reading of the Bible. When Jesus prayed, “Our Father,” this language hardened into modern concepts of ‘father.’ When Jesus prayed to Father, it was fathers in the ancient world who gave their children identity and inheritance. So instead of walking into the gender, masculine/maleness of that, Jesus was pointing to the bequeathing of identity, gifts, inheritance, protection. We’re missing the point when we impose gender on that instead of, “What is the larger moral principle?” It’s not maleness, it’s God’s love, protection.

Similarly, when we translate the Bible, we haven’t always done a great job.  We mistranslated words. For example, in Genesis, when gender is elaborated extensively in the first three chapters.  The only bad thing about a perfect world is Adam’s aloneness, so God creates an ezer kenegdo, which should be translated “strong rescue,” as David Freedman has demonstrated. We translate it as “help,” which in English connotes a subordination or an inferior. So translation committees need to work a little harder. And as Lauren Winner has said, we need to pull out these metaphors of God as mother. Metaphors have points of contact and points of no contact. If you’re on the patriarchal spectrum of Bible translation, you harden the masculine aspect of that instead of the moral aspect.

Tony: Also recognize, when you go to the original Greek, and to the Holy Spirit, there is every indication that the word pneuma in the Scriptures, both in the Hebrew and the Greek, suggest a femininity, that the Holy Spirit is the feminine aspect of God, that God is both masculine and feminine.

Shane: Tell us what the average person can be doing to get on board with the movement for biblical equality.

Mimi: The first thing we need to do is to work at an educational level. We need to understand and be aware of the deepest, largest study of marriage in the world is “Prepare and Enrich.”  They consistently show that dominance in marriage is a key factor in predicting abuse.  We also need to address pornography.  Have you ever heard a sermon preached on pornography?

Tony: I preached a sermon on pornography. We look at it as “what it is doing to men?”, when in reality, we ought to be asking, “what is it doing to women?” How is it reducing the status of women and how is it making women into things to be used rather than partners to be appreciated and loved.

Mimi: Right. The use of porn between Christian and non-Christian men is exactly the same. Porn of course reinforces male-dominance, female submission, and the eroticism used to be pictures of women on magazines and has moved to men inflicting pain on women and silencing their abuse. So strict gender-roles need to be explored biblically and and socially. One of four primary characteristics of abusers is adherence to strict gender roles. We need to hear sermons on strict gender roles that are enforced by groups like Boko Haram, Isis and the Taliban that tyrannize girls and enslave thousands around the world.

Shane: Yeah, I’m noticing how deeply entrenched this gets.  I’m writing a book on guns and gun violence right now.  Overwhelmingly, the predictor of women getting killed starts with domestic abuse, and women are often killed by a person who holds a key to their house, usually an intimate partner.  Looking at studies around the environment, say that when we begin to desecrate the lives of women, it leads to all sorts of other things.  But this is often the beginning sign.

Mimi: Yeah, and when governments use power and abuse, in enforcing law and even the death sentence, we see the rates of homicide rises, as Jimmy Carter has shown. That’s an important critique. We need to preach about domestic violence and abuse from the pulpit. I asked my pastor to do that last year, and he had preached for 65 years and never preached on abuse.

Tony: The thing is, we need to go to the Bible. In Galatians, as you pointed out, “In Christ, there is no longer Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, Scythian or Barbarian, male or female, all are all one in Christ Jesus.” And when the Holy Spirit comes upon the Church in the second chapter of Acts, both the men and the women end up preaching, end up prophesying. So pushing women out of the role of the pulpit preacher is unbiblical, because when the Holy Spirit comes upon the Church, women are given the same rights as men to be proclaimers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m awed and upset that certain denominations, like the Southern Baptists, have said that women cannot be preachers in the Church when men are in the congregation

Shane: When some of the first evangelists were women! The actual paradox of all this, is that women can be Sunday School teachers and missionaries, but cannot be entrusted with the pulpit. We give them some of the most precious work in the Church while still saying they’re not equal.

Tony: Our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters say they’re against the ordination of women. And their greatest missionary ever produced was a woman! Lottie Moon! I think the word that I have is, I’m against the ordination of women, I’m against the ordination of men, because all Christians are ordained for ministry.

Shane: I was talking to some of my friends about some of the things I love about Catholicism, and one of them pushed back, saying, “What have Catholics ever done for women?” And on the one hand I said, many of the great women we love from history, Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Sienna, Mother Theresa, St. Clair of Assisi, have been iconized. What would you say to our Catholic brothers and sisters as we’re thinking about this? Will women priests ever happen?

Mimi: It looks like the Pope is taking seriously the role of women as deacons, which in many traditions is an ordained office, because certainly it is hard to disprove that Phoebe was a deacon, and she was  the only woman in the New Testament that held an official office in a church. And once you start these committees to do research, it’s very hard not to fall into the deep tradition of the priesthood of all believers. When very few women serve in top leadership, there’s a lot of abuse and unethical practice. Adding women, regardless of your denomination, will help with these ethical problems. The Catholic church like all churches, education is key.

Tony: In the 16th chapter of Romans, Junia is referred to by the Apostle Paul as a fellow apostle, the highest role of leadership in the church. What’s weird is that the first edition of the NIV, they changed the name to Junias to hide that a woman held the highest office in the church!  

*transcription errors and emphases are mine, all mine.  


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Lisa Sharon Harper slays Christian patriarchy in this epic Twitter thread!

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Y’all know I LOVE sharing resources here that might empower you to answer God’s call on your life, especially if your church and culture are limiting you.  I was so excited to meet Lisa Sharon Harper two weeks ago at the Red Letter Revival in Lynchburg, VA.  Her sermon had me ugly-crying and she was extremely gracious afterwards when I went up to her and she prayed with me.  I read her book, The Very Good Gospel a couple years ago and can’t stop thinking about it.  I even bought several copies and gave them away for Christmas presents last year!

So yesterday, I saw this thread Lisa wrote on Twitter and I have to share it with you!   Follow LSH on social media, read her book, and invite her to speak at your churches/conferences/events – she is a POWERFUL and DYNAMIC teacher!!  Here, she explains why John Piper/TGC/CBMW/Desiring God are off-base in their gender-role teachings.


Thanks for visiting TBKW!  We love sharing resources that empower women and girls to armor up and join their brothers in the redeeming work of Jesus’ Kingdom!  Follow us on Facebook if you’d like to get posts from around the web each day addressing gender issues in the church and world.

And before you go, take a listen to this sermon from Lisa Sharon Harper on The Very Good Gospel!

Egalitarians Respond to John Piper on the Source of #MeToo

In a recent Desiring God podcast Q&A, John Piper outrageously said that egalitarianism is to blame for sexual abuse in the church.

As a leading complementarian voice in Evangelicalism (he co-founded the Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), Piper has influenced millions of Christians to follow patriarchal hierarchy in the church and home, with men holding all authority and power, leaving women on the margins to submit and follow.  Egalitarianism, by comparison, teaches that leadership roles and gifts are designated by the Holy Spirit without regard to gender, age, ethnicity, income, or any other qualifier.  All persons are equal in the Kingdom of God, and in the home, egalitarians teach mutual submission between spouses.

Implying that sexual abuse is a new development in the past five decades with the rise of egalitarianism is absurd, as we can see that sexual abuse is a timeless result of sin.

I would recommend reading these three responses to Piper’s analysis.  First, Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, Int., wrote, “Do Gender Roles Keep Women Safe? A Response to John Piper” —

It’s confusing that Piper, who has spent his life preaching the gospel, links human flourishing to male and female roles instead of intimacy with Christ. However, Scripture does not associate male/female roles with holiness/godliness. According to the New Testament, godliness is inseparable from our spiritual rebirth and flourishes through relationship with Christ.

The dividing line that separates spiritual death from human flourishing has nothing to do with gender roles and everything to do with spiritual rebirth through the Holy Spirit. It’s Christ in you—the hope of glory—that imparts holiness, as demonstrated by fruit of the Spirit (Col. 1:21-27, Gal. 5:16-25). Here is where complementarians make a catastrophic error.

By insisting that maleness qualifies men to lead and care for women, complementarians give men responsibilities that rightly belong only to those who have demonstrated a capacity for leadership. Maleness isnot morality. Maleness is not a character quality. Maleness can tell us nothing about a person’s intimacy with Christ, their character, or their commitment to holiness.

God intended humanity to flourish through male-female co-dominion, which sadly, does not endure. Adam’s sin and first failure was disobedience to God, not failure to protect and lead Eve. God did not tell Adam “protect and hold authority over Eve,” but “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat,” (Gen. 2:17). When they disobey God, their shared rule deteriorates into the “he will rule over you” of Genesis 3:16. Male rule, authority, and dominance is a consequence of sin. It is a distortion of God’s ideal for humanity. It wrecks the thriving that God intended.

According to Prepare/Enrich—the largest group studying marriage in the world—domestic violence and abuse are statistically linked with dominance. Theories that advance dominance can only fuel abuse. For this reason, humanitarian organizations “marble” gender equality into their goals for successful impact. Gender equality neutralizes the power imbalances that allow for abuse, which explains why adding women as middle managers and on boards lowers the rate of unethical practices.

Let’s turn our attention to the church. According to Kathryn A. Flynn, clergy-perpetuated sexual abuse (CPSA) is “not an issue of sexuality but rather one of a power imbalance that negates any possibility of ‘consensual’ mutuality. This distorted power dynamic has been accentuated by some clergy abusers through the misuse of significant social, cultural and even supernatural power ascribed to religious representatives as being derived from God.”[1] Further, the World Health Organization found that “traditional gender and social norms [are] related to male superiority.”[2]

The Sinnergists wrote, “No John Piper, Egalitarianism is not to Blame for Sexual Abuse”

Egalitarianism, by its very definition, is the belief that all people are equal and that there is no inherent difference of power, authority, worth, or status between men and women.

Sexual abuse, by its very nature, is about the exertion and the assertion of power. As experts have long noted, sexual abuse is not about lust or desire or even sex; it is about power and it is about control.

Egalitarianism and sexual abuse therefore, by their very natures and definitions, are mutually exclusive. A person who is truly egalitarian would never sexually abuse another person, because a person would never sexually abuse another person whom he or she truly viewed as an equal. To state it another way, a person who sexually abuses another has, by their own actions, demonstrated that they are not actually egalitarian because, as stated above, true egalitarianism is inherently and fundamentally incompatible with sexual abuse.

And Rachel Held Evans’ post, “Patriarchy doesn’t “protect” women: A Response to John Piper” is a must read! —

The #MeToo movement does not reflect some sudden increase in the abuse of women; rather, it reflects a growing awareness of those abuses, and a mounting, collective fervor to confront them. It’s a movement led by and for women, women who aren’t asking for some sort of paternalistic “protection” because they are fragile females, but rather to be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve simply because they are human beings.

But what’s most dangerous about this posture is that Piper seems to assume that because evangelicals aren’t confronting sexual assault and abuse the way that Hollywood is, then those things must not be happening in their churches, that abuse only occurs in egalitarian communities where women have more power and influence. I would posit that, based on the many stories I hear from women who have left evangelical churches, it’s far more likely that abuse is flourishing in patriarchal homes and churches where women are given little voice and little recourse; it’s just getting swept under the rug rather than named and confronted. After all, Piper has said in the past that a woman in an abusive relationship should “endure verbal abuse for a season” and “perhaps being smacked one night,” before seeking help—not from authorities, but from her (male-led) church. As we have seen in the unfolding story of Sovereign Grace Ministries, in highly patriarchal churches where women have no power and where abuse claims are typically handled “in house” by the men in leadership, abuse runs rampant.

That’s because contrary to Piper’s argument, patriarchy isn’t about protecting women; it’s about protecting men. It’s about preserving male rule over the home, church, and society, often at the expense of women. 

In addition to mishandling his analysis of the #MeToo movement by blaming sexual assault on egalitarianism, Piper grossly mishandles Scripture in an attempt to proof-text his claims. For example, he points to the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis to suggest that an order of authority was established at creation wherein men are designed to lead and protect women, and women are designed to defer to and follow men. The Fall, as Christians sometimes like to call it, was the result of Adam’s failure to live into the masculine role of leading and protecting his wife. This is an…innovative….reading of the text for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the Hebrew word used in Genesis 2 to describe Eve, (typically translated “helper”), is formed from the Hebrew word ezer.  Far from connoting helplessness or subordination, the word ezer is employed elsewhere in Scripture to describe God, the consummate intervener—the helper of the fatherless (Psalm 10:14), King David’s strong defender and deliverer (Psalm 70:5), Israel’s shield and helper (Deuteronomy 33:29). Ironically, in Genesis, the woman is literally the “strong protector” of the man!

In conclusion—

Banning women from the pulpit and silencing their voices in the church doesn’t protect women; it harms them.

Instructing women to submit to their husbands by “enduring abuse” doesn’t protect women; it harms them.

Handling abuse and assault allegations “in house” by reporting them to the male elders of a church instead of to the police doesn’t protect women; it harms them.

Misusing Scripture to reinforce gender stereotypes based more on white, American, post-World War II cultural ideals than biblical truth doesn’t protect women; it harms them.

Calling for a return to patriarchy doesn’t protect women; it harms them.

I particularly appreciated C. Allen’s responses to Piper’s tweet (posted above):

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God’s Vision for His Daughters

The following is a talk/sermon I gave in February at a ladies luncheon and in a service at our church.


I used to think that teenagers were the only ones who struggle with identity issues, as they are expected to be “finding themselves,” questioning authority, pushing boundaries, etc,  but I’ve discovered that the search for identity can continue beyond adolescence, and even be a lifelong journey.

The reason we struggle so much with our identity is that the Enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy us, constantly using lies that tell us to find our identity:

We are what we do.
We are what others say about us.
We are what we have.

As long as we are experiencing success and people are saying good things about us, or we are living comfortably and enjoying good relationships, we can feel OK.  But when we face failures, when others disapprove of us, when we lose people and things that are dear to us, then we may experience an identity crisis.  We may discover that we’ve been finding our identity in what we do, or in what others say about us, or in what we have.

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We can be laid flat when an identity crisis comes, and may feel like the fool who built his house on sand instead of a firm foundation.  Or it can feel like we are standing face-to-face with a wall that doesn’t want to budge, and we have to push through by sheer will or just give up and walk away.  And that’s what many people do – they drift away from the Church or their faith when they lose their footing in one of these crises.

When I was in high school, one of my best friends became a Christian and I went through a Bible study with her about core doctrines of our faith. And then we went off to different colleges and she messaged me that she was doubting her faith.  I had no frame of reference for doubt, I had never had a single doubt in my 19 years of Christianity at that point.  So I had no idea how to meet her where she was.  She was having an identity crisis.  A couple years later, she died tragically, and I found myself having an identity crisis.  I was angry at myself for “letting” her drift from God.  I was angry at God for letting her die before I “fixed” her.  I didn’t walk away from my faith, but instead this was a catalyst for spiritual growth for me.  I learned that God was a loving Shepherd who pursues his lost sheep.  He didn’t need me to save my friend, so I lost my Savior complex.

This is what an identity crisis can do – it can be a time of spiritual growth as God chips a lie from the Enemy off our identity.  These crises are a natural and necessary part of our spiritual development as we mature and are sanctified more and more to be like Jesus.

God laid out a vision for his sons and daughters, so that we could live by the firm foundation of the identity that he intended for us.  Living in a fallen world, that vision is obscured by the lies of the Enemy.  But it is right here in Genesis chapter one and two.

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One of the first aspects of our identity is that we bear the image of God. That means we are representatives of the character of God on earth.  We are the eyes and ears, hands and feet, and the voice of God.  As such, every voice matters in the church.  Every one of us has a unique aspect of his character to share with the church.

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Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, he left his disciples with a Great Commission, to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).  Here in Genesis, God lays out the first Great Commission – our mission to manifest God’s kingdom here on earth.

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The essence of God’s mission for human beings can be boiled down to four words:

Fruitful – Jewish scholars decided that in order to fulfill this command, men and women should marry and have at least two children.  By this standard, Jesus failed, because he never married or had any children.  And if you divided the worlds’ population by married and unmarried, you’d discover that half are unmarried, and one in four couples struggle with infertility.  As we see in the perfect life of unmarried and fatherless Jesus, who demonstrated perfect image bearing for us, this command is not only about procreation, but goes along with the biblical theme of the “fruit” that comes from being a faithful witness.  A faithful life bears good fruit.  And Jesus never faltered, even when tempted by Satan to believe the same lies he tries to tempt us with.  Jesus always drew near to His Father and prayed for His Father’s will to be done.

Multiply – We multiply image bearers through creative action, as representatives of the character of our Creator God.  We must allow our imaginations to draw us into doing unlikely and beautiful ministry for God.  The Night to Shine is a great example of creative action that puts God’s loving character on display for the world to see and multiplies image bearers in the process.  In Jesus, the perfect Image Bearer, we see creativity on every page of the Gospels.  His stories and parables drew crowds.  His miracles never ceased to surprise.

Rule – God has given us authority over all Creation.  Again, this is a mission for both men and women, boys and girls to fulfill.  We are God’s eyes and ears, his hands and feet, and his voice in this world.  It is a position of authority to represent God.  Every one of us is a born leader in God’s kingdom.  That manifests through our different gifts, talents, and callings – and it looks like servanthood and humility, as our perfect image bearer Jesus demonstrated.  But we need to root our identity in that fact.  We are kings and queens!

Subdue – This is about pushing back against the lies and destruction of the Enemy to God’s good creation; to be activists for the redemption of his creation.  Jesus was not passive when he saw people hurting – he was moved by visceral compassion and then he acted to heal, to feed, to teach.  As God’s representatives, we too need to be moved to ACT.  We need to “Let our hearts be broken by the things that break the heart of God” ( as Bob Pierce said, the founder of World Vision and Samaritans Purse).  If we begin to imitate Jesus, the perfect Image Bearer, in small ways each day, our capacity to be fruitful, to multiply, to rule and to subdue will grow.

Not a small task!  This is the mission for all image bearers – male and female, young and old – to be fruitful, multiply, rule and subdue.  God knit each of you together while you were in your mother’s womb, giving you everything you need to accomplish the good works he planned for you to do (Ephesians 2:10)!  Often times we can get too comfortable and busy here in America, and are content to worship God, to spend time with God each day, to lead a “good” life, and we may miss that God has a MISSION for us to do!

That was the chapter one creation account.  The focus there was vertical, about the relationship between human beings and their Creator.  In chapter two, we see a horizontal focus, on how males and females relate to each other and function together as partners.

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Not good for man to be alone –

  1. He was alone in his relationship with God, no other creation called to live by faith
  2. He was alone in his mission to be God’s image bearer and to build God’s kingdom

God is Trinitarian, three-in-one, so Adam’s aloneness meant he missed a big part of image bearing and was impeded in revealing God in the world.

“God is entrusting his reputation to our male/female relationships.  We are telling the world what God is like by how we interact, value one another, build his kingdom together, and move towards Trinitarian oneness” (Carolyn Custis-James).

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If God is entrusting his reputation to our male/female relationships, we need to unpack what it means for women to be “suitable helpers.”

And here, I’m going to remind you that the Enemy attacks our identity with lies.  Lies that make us feel less-than, unworthy.  The Enemy tells us we “should” find our worth in our accomplishments, appearance, education, femininity or masculinity, occupation, race, spirituality, wealth, etc.  He lies to us, telling us we are what we do, we are what others say about us, we are what we have.

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And these lies get ingrained in our psyches through SOCIALIZATION.

We live in a Fallen world, where the Enemy prowls around looking to steal, kill and destroy.  And he’s been very effective, even in spreading lies even in the church.

We are socialized to believe certain lies about our identities through three processes:

  1. Modeling (how we observe others behaving)
  2. Overt Instruction (how we were instructed to behave)
  3. Reinforcement (positive or negative responses to our behavior)

Then, our socialization results in cognitive lenses, like bifocals or rose-colored lenses, that impact the way we understand the world and ourselves.  The Apostle Paul says that now we see as through glass, in heaven we will see face to face.

Socialization is POWERFUL.  Through our cognitive lenses, we learn to associate or assign meaning to words in a process that happens nearly instantly, in one-seventh-of-a-millionth second.

I want to do an exercise with you.  I’ll say a few words, and I want you to pay attention to your immediate association.  CHURCH; WORSHIP; LEADER; WOMAN

You may have thought “helper,” because every Bible translation you’ve ever read of Genesis 2:18 and 20 render the Greek word ezer there as “helper.”  The Holy Spirit inspired the word ezer to be used here to describe God’s daughters, so we want to understand it properly.  And sometimes, our modern English just doesn’t convey the same meaning as the original Hebrew.  This word ezer is a pretty striking example of this.

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“The word ezer is used twenty-one times in the Old Testament. Twice it is used in the context of the first woman. Three times it is used of people helping (or failing to help) in life-threatening situations. Sixteen times it is used in reference to God as a helper.  Without exception, these biblical texts are talking about a vital, powerful kind of help. Yet when ezer is applied to the first woman, its meaning is usually diminished to fit with traditional and cultural views of women’s roles.” – Marg Mowzcko

Every instance where ezer occurs, it is in the context of warfare.  And the Garden of Eden is no exception.  God intends for his daughters to be a “strong help” in the war against the Enemy and in building his Kingdom!

Similarly, the Hebrew word kenegdo that is translated “suitable” or “meet” actually means “corresponding to, signifying equality.  God has not created a subordinate assistant for Adam but rather, a strong equal.  Men and women are neither inferior nor superior to each other. Both bear the image of God, both share the mission of human authority over creation.

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Our final passage doubles down on the equality of male and female:

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Like the translation of ezer, the word translated “Rib” here doesn’t actually refer to a bone, but means “good portion of Adam’s side.”  Some theologians have argued a strong case for this meaning that the first human was divided in two.

Oneness is the point here, with God at the center of their oneness.

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So as we see in these Creation stories, our true identity is as image bearers, here in Appomattox to represent God’s character and mission.  As his representatives, we are at the center of what God is doing in Appomattox—not as spectators but as kingdom agents and as leaders responsible for what is going on around us.  We are God’s eyes and ears, his hands and feet, and his voice in the world.  We are ezer warriors, and as his representatives, we need to see the world through his eyes, love what he loves, grieve what he hates, and join his cause.

He gave us Jesus as the example of a perfect image bearer, showing us exactly how we are to be fruitful, multiply, rule and subdue.  Everywhere he went, Jesus was the embodiment of love, mercy and justice. We too must embody the gospel in our relationships and work.  And I believe this little army here today can be a catalyst for revival in Appomattox!

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Thanks for visiting TBKW!  “Like” us on Facebook where we post articles from around the web everyday, dealing with gender issues in the Church and world!

I was reading Carolyn Custis-James’ book, “Half the Church” when I prepared this talk, and her influence is all over it.  I would highly recommend you read her book!

10 Awesome Women Pastors from History

I was so excited to write an article for CBE International’s Arise blog for Women’s History Month!  I researched dozens of women to narrow this post down to ten notable early women pastors from United States’ history.  Please pass the article on to others if you like it!  I would love to have future opportunities to write for my very favorite organization, Christians for Biblical Equality!


10 Awesome Women Pastors from History

WHM10pastors

During Women’s History Month, and especially on International Women’s Day, we have a unique opportunity to correct the marginalization of women’s accomplishments and influence. Those blindspots exist in the church too, especially when it comes to women pastors. Women pastors are not a new phenomenon, but many Christians aren’t aware that there is a long tradition of women pastors in the church.

Women in history were faithful to their pastoral callings—against all odds. Many pursued ministry against the cultural tide of patriarchy in the church. These tenacious women are a vital part of our Christian legacy. But also, when we celebrate women pastors in history, we open doors wide for women in ministry today. With that in mind, here are ten awesome women pastors from early American history you should know.

Read the rest here.


Thanks for visiting The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors!  “Like” us on Facebook, where we post articles from around the web dealing with gender issues in the church and world.