Saturday, May 23, 2015

Why my Wife is Teaching tomorrow.

Thursday was Rynelle's birthday. She's very easy to celebrate, and between our family and our friends, we did a pretty good job of doing that I think. In between the birthday celebrations  though, we spent a few hours discussing the theme of Redemption in the Book of Ruth. That is because she's teaching this Sunday. In fact, Jac Nethers, another of our elder's wives, is teaching too. I can't wait to hear what God says through them.

Now you may have a question about my timing. Imagine asking your wife to preach the week of her birthday?  To be honest, it's a very valid question to which I have no reasonable answer! But what if you had a bigger question about whether women should preach at all on a Sunday? Or conversely, perhaps you're asking why they don't preach more often? I want to try and thread the needle here and offer two reasons why we believe that women can teach on a Sunday, but are not the primary teachers at Southlands. One is technical and the other quite practical.

Firstly, I believe women can teach because we see more than one kind of teaching in the Bible. Teaching the Word of God to the people of God is a weighty matter no matter what the format, and Scripture clearly warns us that it's not for everyone. "Not many of you should be teachers, because those of us who teach will be more strictly judged." (Js 3:1) Moreover, Scripture also tells us that the job of teaching is primarily the realm of the elders, and not necessarily all of the elders."The elder who rules well is worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching."(1 Tim 5:14) So who teaches is not firstly an issue of men versus women, but of elder versus non-elder. The word teach here is Gk: didaskalia, which refers to the authoritative declaration of doctrine, direction or discipline, to stick with the D's!

However, this is not the only kind of teaching described in Scripture. For instance, Paul encourages the Colossian church in this way. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom."(Col 3:16) He uses the variant Gkdidaskontes here which refers more broadly to instruction and practical knowledge, and this function is not limited to elders but addressed to the whole church. Many men use the difficult verse, "I do not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man,"(1 Tim 2:12) as a reason for women not to teach in the pulpit, but again this refers to the first kind of authoritative teaching, not the second more broad sense.

When Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos into their home and taught him, Paul seemed to have no problem with a woman teaching a man, most likely because it was more instructional than correctional. "They explained to him the way of God more adequately." (Acts 18:24)  but we would do well to distinguish between governmental teaching by an elder, and instructional teaching by a gifted man or woman under the authority of the elders. More on this by Andrew Wilson here.

Secondly and more practically, I believe women should teach because the Church is the family of God, and a healthy family needs the voices of both fathers and mothers.

To be clear, as a church we are Complementarian in our understanding of the roles of men and women. Basically, Complementarians view men and women as equal in value but not interchangeable. See a more comprehensive unpacking of what this means by Gavin Ortlund here.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible shows that men and women have differing and complementary roles in both the nuclear and spiritual family, for the glory of God and the good of the family. A woman and a man reflect the image of God in different ways and these differences are essential and beautiful rather than oppressive and awful. In the nuclear family, a mother expresses an aspect of God's character in a way that a father doesn't. My children would have a lopsided view of God if I were their only teacher and Rynelle were not allowed to bring her wise and patient teaching to them.

It is the same within the family of God. All too often, churches give a Complementarian view as the reason why women should not teach in church. But I would argue the exact opposite. Being Complementarian is the very reason why women should teach at times, because they have something to express to us about God that men struggle to express, especially when it comes to His attributes of compassion, kindness, patience and humility. Now I know that there are those who would respond by saying that women can do this without teaching per se.  It is true that women  empowered to lead in worship, prophecy, prayer and exhortation can help to create a more holistic sense of family in the church, but where a passage or book of the Bible lends itself to a women's voice, we should be open to that in order to avoid a male-dominated view of God and His family.

We are poorer as a family if our mothers are seen and not heard. So I appeal to you to open your ears and your hearts to hear the word of God through two great mothers in our church family tomorrow.


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  3. Brilliant Alan. I read it when you first posted and again this morning. Very very helpful for me and FCC on our journey