Meetings: Where Do Women Fit In?
From Meetings in His Kingdom Chapter 22
CERTAINLY the question of a “woman’s role” will come up, and justifiably so. There is very good reason for the woman’s role to be discussed in regard to meetings. We know that Paul saw fit to write about it a number of times, and we too should recognize it as a very important Biblical issue; let’s not pretend it doesn’t matter.
Paranoia, arrogance, ignorance of the Scriptures, and the traditions of men are four foes in this battle to understand the women’s role, each leading to a different way of missing God.
Paranoia is that opponent of Truth and of a Celebration of God’s Spirit where men run from anything that looks like it might be trouble. “Better safe than sorry” is an ungodly motto of cowards and faithless men and women. In this mode we will stifle anything and everything that God may wish to do in our generation. Had the father of our Faith, Abraham, had this attitude towards God and the things of God, Abraham would never have taken Isaac to that mountain to be sacrificed. (“That’s murder—God judged Cain severely for such an act of wickedness.”) David would surely not have danced as he celebrated before the Ark. (“Moses never did that. It’s unauthorized.”) John would have been labeled an unbiblical fool for claiming that men should be baptized by him, since there was no Scripture in existence in his day to support such an idea. God’s viewpoint was quite different. Any who rejected John’s baptism “rejected God’s purpose for their lives” (according to God Himself), even though John baptized without any written “authorization” and no “signs and wonders” to prove himself. Am I saying “anything goes?” No way. I am saying, however, that our mortal interpretation of the Scriptures is so woefully shallow that we had better not create a rigid system of “the way things must be to please God” and allow our paranoia to cheat us out of God’s Blessings. And in this case, rob women of their responsibilities as Priestesses in the Kingdom.
Arrogance is enemy number two. Some in this camp do not actually care what the Bible says about this matter because, after all, any limitation of women’s roles is probably just a cultural thing, anyway. “I have my rights, you know.” “Paul was a chauvinist.” Please do not exalt yourself above God and His Word in this way. “The Word was with God; the Word was God.” Careless arrogance is a lethal position to take.
And Ignorance of the Scriptures leads to chaos. We make our own way and our own rules when we do not “make our home in His Word” and, instead, do whatever seems right in our own eyes. That’s clearly not God’s Will, either.
Traditions of Men, enemy number four, still, as Jesus said, make “null and void” the Word of God. It doesn’t matter one lick what you’re “comfortable” with, or the way pappy used to do it. Shocking? Seek God’s Face, not your own comfort zone. No one who followed after Jesus, in the days He visited this planet in the flesh, bypassed being shocked at His “unorthodox” interpretations and practices. Jesus hasn’t changed. Prepare to be shocked… and follow anyway.
These four foes must all be crushed in order to know God’s Way for our lives and His church. In a formal “service,” complete with a pre-programmed liturgy of songs, prayers and actors, “what role should women take” is an even tougher question. When you have a pre-set format, a printed program that’s handed out at the door, and people assigned to certain roles, many situations are far more complicated than they need to be. “Who will play thus and such a role? Do I dare allow a woman to say a prayer?” Since the institutional structure was never God’s intention in the first place, of course it is hard to know what God’s Will for the role of women is in that format! When you have a liturgy and a religious machine instead of the Family of God, it creates unnecessary tensions. In the context of life in Christ, it’s not a difficult question to resolve. When the people of God are functioning in Life, as a family, without pomp and circumstance and a program, the question can be approached from a simple family standpoint. When you have a program, a system and a machine, big-time decisions have to be made. When you’re living life together as Family, God works through that to answer a lot of questions.
Wherever you happen to be, I suggest that you yield to the leadership of that assembly on this point of a woman’s role. And yield to it enthusiastically, whatever they decide. If you choose to be a part of that local body, under the local expression of the government of Jesus (Isa.9:7; Heb.13:7, 17; Heb.12:15), be an asset to the unity and corporate life of Jesus there, not a thorn.
Simply for information’s sake, the way we have learned to relate to each other in the church here is that the women, so as not to “dishonor her head,” “the man,” (1Cor.11:5, 3, 8-9; 1Tim.2:11-15) never barges in during a gathering and takes control of a point being made or during times we are turning vertically towards God. She is never to have an outspoken, authoritative presence in a meeting, as if “over” (rather than “submissive to”) the men present. There is to be a difference, Biblically, between men’s and women’s roles in the Church—no question about it. A woman should ask, “May we pray?” rather than “Let us pray.” “May we sing ‘Majesty’?” rather than simply starting the song as many of the brothers do. With the right heart, even “May I share this scathing rebuke that God has put on my heart about…?” is not “usurping” if it is the Will of God and acceptable to the men to say what she’s seen. (In fact, it would be “unsubmissive” to not share what is on her heart if the men ask her to.) It’s okay if it’s done in humility, with graciousness, beauty and honor. If a woman is, out of frustration or pride, trying to fill the men’s role, God cannot use her to do what she is called to do. When everyone is filling the part that God designed for him or her (such a rarity!) it is astonishing how things fit together. God is honored, and everyone is fulfilled.
We should note, as we ponder this challenge, that the very nature of the second (and last) Covenant includes a prominent place for women. At least part of their role is described by the Holy Spirit as: (Acts 2:15-21) “Your sons and your daughters will tell forth the divine counsels… even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will tell forth the divine counsels.”
1 Corinthians 11:5 speaks of women praying and prophesying. It is highly likely that men were present, or the entire reason for writing the warning (the danger of “dishonoring” the woman’s head, the man) would have been of little relevance. Twenty-five years after Pentecost the evangelist Philip had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8-9).
These Scriptures, at least, do seem to venture beyond much of christendom’s normal conception of “women in the church.”
Another entire segment of christendom has very little respect for the Scriptures, and just collapses into “conforming to the patterns of the world.” Anything that the world allows or demands eventually becomes acceptable for these false churches. An expanding role for women in society and business seems to “re-write” the Scriptures in groups such as this.
I believe you’ll find, as you consider God’s Word on the subject, that gatherings like those on Solomon’s Porch (Jerusalem, mega-thousands present, Acts 2-5) and the “whole church” gatherings (Corinth, numbers unknown, 1Cor.14:23), the “daily in public” part of “daily in public and from house to house” will work out to be a little different than the “house to house” gatherings as far as the women’s part goes. While just as free (1Cor.14:26 is a “whole church” passage), the possibilities of “dishonoring the head” (1Cor.11) are much higher—and different cautions to the women are in order in this larger environment. Think about it; pray about it.
In spite of all of the pressures of the man-made rules or liberties, women must be women who tell forth the divine counsels of God. That’s the nature of the New Testament church, prophesied by Joel and repeated by Peter in Acts 2. The nature of the New Testament church includes both sons and daughters—both men and women, telling forth the divine counsels of God. God’s Will is that women, and men too, function out of humility, but do function. Don’t stop. Don’t bury your talent. Find the way and the place that seems good to the Holy Spirit and to you and the Family of God (Acts 15:28; Heb.13:7, 17), and is obviously consistent with the Scriptures.