Archives For Women and Theology

“Each time I read a well-intentioned article on how to make the most of your single years, I scan down to the author’s bio and often discover that, sure enough, he’s married to his college sweetheart, pulling advice from a brief period of adult-singleness years ago.”

This is how I opened a recent article on Christianity Today called Why Singles Belong in Church Leadership. The dearth of singles within leadership positions in churches and ministries these days is saddening to me at best, and alarming at worst. Nearly half of the U.S. population (43.6% according to the 2010 U.S. Census) is single: that’s nearly half the church. Citing Christ and Paul as only two of many examples in the bible, there should be plenty of room for unmarried men and women to serve in key roles within the body of Christ.

With this in mind, I reached out to several friends from around the world who are doing just that. They are all examples of people in different seasons of life (20s into 40s) who have not allowed their singleness to hamper their ministry, but instead use the time and freedom they have to better pursue the Lord with undistracted devotion. My hope is these interviews this will primarily encourage singles to use this season of life in richer ways, but also they will also encourage the Church to consider actively seeking to staff unmarried people in key roles. (Read the article if you want to know why.)

There are obvious limitations for each of us as we walk in our given seasons faithfully, but those limitations haven’t terminated us from ministry. One of my art professors in college used to give us very tight parameters for pieces he assigned. Something like we could only use two colors and one medium, or one color and one shape. Designing within those constraints was a life lesson as well for me. I learned to create from little and trust the boundary lines truly had fallen for me in pleasant places (Ps. 16).

I hope these interviews challenge and encourage you as much as they did me. They’ve been considerably edited for space reasons, but the entirety of the interviews will be available on Friday in a downloadable PDF. I hope you’ll consider the wisdom from these brothers and sisters.

Related articles:

Submitted Single Seeking Friends
Delivering Hope: What being saved through childbearing can mean for the unmarried
Real Men and Real Women: Tough and Tender
Three Things I’m Glad I’ve Done in My Singleness
My Church Has an Amazing Singles Ministry
Giving Singles Land to Till

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If the life of a single, as Paul admonished, is to be undistracted by the world, concerned with the things of the Lord, then unmarried ministers have a unique calling indeed. And it is one the church ought not ignore—or usurp.

Where I live, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, young marriages are common. Younger than the national average at least. Yet few single men and women are involved in ministry. My pastor leads a large church-planting network and I asked him recently, “How many single guys are planting in the network?” He named a mere few. The dearth of undistracted men and women in ministry is sad, but more so, it is alarming.

I am in no way discouraging marriage (I want to be married, after all), but I believe the church can do better in this area. If the trend of delayed marriage continues, we must have men and women who have walked the narrow path of godly singleness teaching those who come after them. The church’s tendency to primarily hire married men and women, for whatever reason—stability, plantedness, longevity—should be reconsidered for multiple reasons.

Read the whole article over at Christianity Today.

 

To Whom Else Would We Go?

April 30, 2014

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Almost four years ago I sat in the front row of what we at my church call “the HV campus,” listening to Jen Wilkin spend an hour on the first verse of the bible, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” It was the first time in my life each word in a verse made sense to me. But even more than that, it was the first time I began to understand that God was not just a man in the sky with a check-list a mile long. He was a creator. He had attributes, character, a job. He was not a genie in a bottle, nor was he the jailer of the unrighteous. He was a creator.

Over the past four years I’ve had the blessing of sitting at the feet of some brilliant expositors of the word. Pastors, teachers, elders, and friends. The bible has become more than a rule book or tool book, a handy guide to living—it has become living water and I its thirsty recipient. I know I must have been taught to think this way before, but for some reason it didn’t click in my brain until the fall of 2010.

Yesterday a modern father of preaching announced a new endeavor and I can’t stop thinking about it. Every time I see another tweet or mention of it, I get more excited. It is not enough to feed a man a fish, we must teach him to fish, and this is what John Piper and his team will be putting their hands and minds to in the autumn of his life. I could not be more grateful.

If you are daily reader of the word, checking a quiet time off the list because you grudgingly know you ought to, or if you are a weak-faithed believer, one whose constant prayer is “Help my unbelief,” or if you are a student of the word, but constantly feeling somehow short-changed in your study of it, Look at the Book is for you. Look at the Book is for me. It is for all of us.

I’ve grown more and more weary of blogs and articles and tweets and opinions on every matter, more and more thirsty for the words of life. The bible contains those words of life and, friend, they are good. They are eternally good. They are trustworthy sayings. They are, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, proclaiming the gospel and the Kingdom of God.

Let’s be like the disciples in our study of God, “To whom else would we go? You have the words of eternal life?” Why would we forsake the living water and return to broken cisterns of blogs and other books to get Living Water?

Congregant Caricatures

March 6, 2014 — 3 Comments

The thing about caricatures is you always know who it is just by looking at it:

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And yet, you know you can’t trust the likeness.

Right?

A caricaturist zeros in on several points on a person’s face. Maybe it’s a slightly larger nose, or a bit of a crooked smile, or maybe something as pedestrian as deeply blue eyes or a natural blush. The caricaturist’s aim is to exaggerate and minimize what sets the face apart. His aim is not to make ugly, but often times a caricature looks ugly. If you’ve ever had one done you know the righteous indignation that accompanies first sight,

“I don’t really look like that!” you say, and of course you don’t.

But you kind of do. Not really. But sort of. Enough that you’re recognizable, not enough that anyone who knows your face well would say it’s an exact likeness.

Within culture at large, and Church culture especially, caricaturists abound. In some ways, they’re the comedians of the inner circle; the Jon Acuff and Jen Hatmakers. They zone in on the ridiculous and ludicrous parts of the Christian life and family and help us all laugh at ourselves. They satire, and they’re good at it, and we laugh at them because they’re helping us laugh at ourselves.

When Caricature goes badly is when a sly artist studies a theology or movement solely to find the weak or shallow parts. Then they pound out a blog post heard round the world for a split second and then life goes on as normal. A moment of fame while everyone points and laughs at the funny man in the picture, asks how could he be so silly and stupid and ugly, and how could he not know he’s so silly and stupid and ugly.

Ha ha.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here’s the other thing about caricatures: we know the elongated nose or tiny eyes or stout neck are true about us; in fact, nobody sees our face in the mirror, under such a microscope as we do.

But when the caricature is passed around as truth for long enough, everyone starts to believe that’s our real face. That’s who we really are. But it’s not.

That’s not the person who wakes up in the morning, drinks their coffee while they read the bible, who packs lunch for her kids or drops the shampoo in the shower, who can’t find their keys where they left them, who buys coffee for the person behind them in line, who killed it at the meeting with his coworkers, who meets weekly with a guy who just needs prayer and a friend, who forgot to put gas in the car, who falls into bed every night exhausted and confident that they are doing exactly what God designed them to do and be and look like.

Who cares about a caricature when there are real people to be seen?

If you are tempted to zero in on a particular face of a movement and draw for the world a caricature they won’t forget, what you need to remember is at the end of the day we throw those caricatures in the garbage. Nobody really wants to look at them, and especially not the subject of the drawing. Why? Because it’s not true. It’s partially true, which makes it not true.

If you want people to listen to what you have to say, really listen, not just rally around you, or press like on your Facebook post, you have to sit with them and be true with them, and be truthful about them.

I asked an artist one time, a man who paints likenesses that almost breathe with life, how he made the paintings.

“Do you take a photo and paint from that?” I asked him.

“Oh, no,” he said, “I make the subject sit in front of me, hours and hours and hours. How could I paint them life-like if I did not see them living?”

If you came here looking for gossip, this is not where you’ll find it. I alluded to a few things in my recent post on Same Sex Attraction and Delaying Marriage, so consider these thoughts just a continuation of that post.

First, I want to say that I bear no ill will toward my parents in any way. Hebrews 12:10 says, “Your fathers disciplined you as it seemed best,” and whatever that verse means for you, for me it means I can trust my parents did what they thought best. They did not intend harm toward me or my siblings in the schooling or spiritual choices they made for our family. That does not mean we were not harmed, only that I know they were doing what they thought best.

Second, I want to say that God is not a wasteful God. He does not pile up the scraps of our lives and bemoan the loss. He is a careful artist and potter, shaping and shifting, knitting and building, crafting those made in His image to be more and more like Him. He is careful and attentive. He does not waste experiences or difficulties or joys or pains. Every single moment of my life has been held in His capable hands. I see that more today than I ever have before and I trust Him.

Now, let’s talk about homeschooling and sex scandals

If you were a part of the homeschooling revolution of the 80s and 90s, then you were most likely a child of someone who came of age in the 60s and 70s. These were the hypnotic, drug hazed years of rock n roll, hippies, bra-burning, Woodstock, and the Jesus Movement. These were people who knew how to sin big—and who came to Jesus big. For most of our parents, even if they were not part of those movements, they were influenced by them—for better or worse.

As any parent, and especially ones new to faith, would do, they protected their young often to the point of over-protecting. They banned rock music, R rated movies (or PG13 if you were my parents); they monitored clothing choices not only for modesty, but also for looking too much like the world; they monitored friendships—especially friendships between boys and girls (more on that in the aforementioned post).

Folks, I have stories I find laughable now, but then? In the moment? Rage inducing stories. It was tough to be a child in that atmosphere. We were ruled by the fear of what might become of us. There was little grace in our communities—in fact, it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that the word grace ever entered my vocabulary as something other than a girl’s name.

These parents intended to protect, and they did, but drawing boundary lines close around your daughter still does not protect her from herself. Naming things as off limits to your son does not keep him from delving into the darkness in his own heart.

You can monitor modesty and measure hemlines, but you cannot moderate the temperature of your child’s heart. You can eliminate songs with beats, but you cannot temper the beating of your child’s heart for artistry. You can talk about not defrauding the hearts of boys or girls, but you cannot control the trigger in their hearts that jumps when they feel chemistry.

The problem is, for many and most of these homeschooling parents, they tried to do just that.

Full disclosure for a moment here

I was not simply a homeschooled kid. My family brushed shoulders with some of the upper echelon of the homeschool movement of the 90s. My parents produced an award winning book for homeschoolers and I spent most of my youth surrounded by the most deeply entrenched in the movement. We were taking over the world, one homeschool convention at a time.

Within these homeschool circles, because there was much protection, there was much trust with likeminded individuals (I remember being disciplined and rebuked often by other parents in my family’s circle), and kids were free to roam among their likeminded peers. There was a common habit of putting the older children in charge of the younger children—but all of us still just children. And all of us bit with the curiosity that forbidden fruit offers. I had my first encounter with sexuality when I was 10 years old. I cannot even remember all the times my peers were either accused of sexual curiosity, abuse, or simply “going too far.” It was epidemic—and still never talked about.

Natural curiosity lies abed in everyone. We all want to know about things. All sorts of things. How they work, if they work, who knows how to make them work, and if they’ll work for us. For many of these homeschoolers though, the questions about sex and relationships were squelched—even the good ones.

You can protect your kids from almost anything, but if you don’t teach them that their greatest threat is self and the sinfulness that lies inside them, they’ll be surprised by it every time.

Curiosity kills the cat—and sometimes the mouse too.

In the past few years more and more allegations of sexual abuse or assault within conservative movements has come to light (SGM, ATI, BJU, and far more).

Friends, we should not be surprised.

I believe that much of the sexual abuse and scandal that’s coming to light these days is directly related to the sin of legalism. It was Eve telling the serpent, “God said we could not eat or touch.” There was so much fear surrounding the other things in life (music, clothing, doctrine, even food), that to broach the subject of sex just seemed almost other-worldly.

We added to the gospel, to the truest things God ever said. We got knowledge of good and evil, but for many in the homeschooling movement, we prided ourselves on keeping the knowledge inside and the evil locked safely out. We never let ourselves realize the heart contains all the knowledge and evil it needs to have things go very, very badly indeed.

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Note: These are just my thoughts and commentary on a bit of my own experience. I believe most parents who spearheaded these movements realize their error at this point—and most of us, the product of these movements, certainly realize it.

The solution is the whole gospel—and to flee whenever you catch even a drift of another gospel. There are “other” gospels everywhere—pet theologies, dogmatic arguments, dramatic treatises on any subject offering the real truth and real life, but Christ alone is it. Christ alone.

If you find yourself heading into a belief system that places more emphasis on any outworking of the gospel, than it does on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, flee.

Church Girls

February 8, 2014 — Leave a comment

Every time I’ve heard Christine Caine speak, she has said one phrase that sticks to my gut like peanut butter on wonder bread: I’m a church girl.

She says it with confidence, more confidence than everything else she says, and I believe her. I believe her because I think when you love the Church, you’ve caught just a tiny glimpse of what God meant in the very beginning when He said, “It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helper fit for Him.” And then the Helper bent low, thrust into the side of man, and drew out of man, the helper fit for him. And the man said, “At last.

I like to think that when Christine says, “I’m a church girl,” what she means is that she is beholding the Church in that moment in the same way Adam beheld Eve: At last. 

She is seeing something in her mind’s eye, something few see. She sees the bride of Christ in all her splendor, gloriously robed, fully functioning, and she loves her.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the local church and whether we feel comfortable or at home in a place of worship. What kind of music resonates with us, whether the sermon sits well with us. When discussions like these rise, I feel the sort of defense mechanism in me rising, the same sort I feel when someone takes issue with one of my brothers. It’s a blood kinship I feel there, not because I think they are perfect, but because I belong to them and they belong to me. I see their foibles and falls, their brokenness, their spotted and blemished reputations—and I love them not for who they are, but who I know they are, by the grace of God, becoming.

In short bursts of expectation I say with Adam, “At last!” not because what is broken has come untrue, but because I know it will be.

I am a church girl because Lord knows, I need all the help I can get and God provided that. He made me that. He made my brothers and sisters that. He knew we’d all be wandering aimlessly without the construct of a miracle made from flesh and bone. This mix of broken and beautiful. We are not saved by the church, but we are saved with her, thank God. We are all saved with her.

This weekend I am in Austin, in body with a part of the body, but I’ll be honest, my heart has been with the IF:Local groups of women gathering all over the world. I wonder how their small groups are going and their discussions. I am praying that some broken feelings about church and belonging are coming untrue, healed by the Helper, and administered by the helpers, the local churches.

Let’s be church girls. Let’s be about what God is about.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26

Who God Is

February 7, 2014 — Leave a comment

If there is any question I am asked most about the IF:Gathering, it has been this: What is IF?

We know the question we’re asking is if God is real (and He is), what does that mean for all of life and godliness?

Let me just tell you about the last hour: Before I had time to register, meet with other women I’ve come to know and love, or even eat lunch, I had to be somewhere for a taping. On camera. With lights. And I have the pallid skin of someone who woke up at 5am this morning.

I met a woman I’d never met before, we sat across from one another in front of those cameras, asking one another questions about God, His character, His children, and what several passages from scripture teach us about these things. We explored not only who we think God is, but how He has revealed Himself in His word.

The truth is, whatever IF:Gathering is, the most important thing about us, as A.W. Tozer said, is what we think about when we think about God.

If you’re at an IF Local, gathering with women in your hometowns, or if you’re at IF Austin, gathering with more than 1000 of us, the most important thing about you and for you, is what you think about when you think about God. This weekend, I beg you, think about God. Meditate on Him. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you—even for just a glimpse. In the faces of women across tables, on couches, in hotel rooms, and in vehicles—He is revealing Himself, His character, and He longs to draw near to you.

Welcome to IF, sisters. I’m so glad you’ve gathered.

 

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It still shocks me a bit when friends confess same sex attraction.

What shocks me is not that they have same sex attraction, but that they have convinced themselves that I will be shocked at their confession. The truth is SSA is more pervasive within the church than most people know, or want to know. I don’t know the official percentages, but I know the personal ones—the myriad of girls & guys who through the years have offered their trembling secret to me. My home isn’t a half-way house, a place to get fixed up and moved on, but it sure has offered more than one cup of tea and listening ear to those struggling with SSA.

The confessions only seem to be on the rise, so tonight I have a few observations I’d like to make:

The longer marriage is delayed into the 30s and later, the more I have women especially coming and confessing SSA or the existence of a SS relationship in which they have engaged.

I don’t know how solid this hypothesis is, but I’d like to suggest that within the church right now we have the 30+ year old women who were pulled into the Passion & Purity, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Courtship, True Love Waits church culture of the 90s. We were taught to guard our hearts against those dirty-minded boys who only wanted sex, or worse, to snatch up little parts of our hearts and scatter them about, or we were taught that our romances must have the *weight and certainty that Jim Elliot brought to his relationship with Elisabeth.

We locked down those hearts real good, yo.

In the lack of healthy male/female relationships, we perfected our female engagement. We did not create soul-ties with boys. We denied our sexuality because sexuality was bad. We filled our basic physical need for human touch and engagement with other females—not in a sexual way, but an asexual way, wholly innocent.

Healthy physical touch is a beautiful thing (you will never hear me say otherwise—I’m a firm believer in firm handshakes and even firmer hugs). The problem comes when we learn only to engage asexually. The further we grow into adulthood unmarried, that asexuality has a good chance of turning into a deeper comfort. Nearly every girl I know within the church who has engaged in a SS relationship did not begin with homosexual feelings, but reacted with it after being hurt in a heterosexual relationship OR being refused the opportunity to engage in a heterosexual relationship. I am not saying this is the case across the board, and I know many women who have experienced SSA since their childhood—I am only saying from my observation within the church, this seems to be a common thread.

Why?

Because we are soulish beings who have been sold the story of a soul-mate, and who better to fulfill the needs of a soul than a creature who gets me like I get me?

Very transparently, I don’t know very many girls in my demographic (33, single, Christian) who generally prefer or feel the same level of comfort with men as they do with women. We prefer women. “Well, of course you prefer women,” you might argue, “You should! The last thing we need is a bunch of women going around pursuing deep comfort with guys!”

But that’s exactly what I am going to argue for.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not advocate for gender specific friendships only. I do believe guys and girls can be friends, and I also believe they should pursue marriage if they start to really enjoy their friendship. What a great thing that is! Gospel centered marriages built on a deep friendship first, and attraction second? I cannot think of a better scenario.

I honestly believe that some of the reasons we are seeing a rise in SSA (not simply a biological attraction to the same gender, but an emotional one before the sexual one) within the church particularly, is due to a lack of healthy male/female friendship and a prolonged delay of marriage.

It might be a long-shot and I welcome discussion on this, as long as it’s helpful and not hurtful. This is a sensitive topic with widely varied levels. I say that because someone who has engaged for 20+ years in homosexual behavior and holds a deep, unwavering attraction to the same gender is not the sort of person to which I’m referring. I am primarily talking about the girls and guys who delayed marriage (for whatever reason), are paying the price of that extended loneliness, void, and lack of life-partner today, and expressing it sexually, emotionally and otherwise in SS relationships.

Thoughts? If you’re single and 30+, I’d especially love your thoughts. Feel free to comment anonymously and know that I will delete without hesitation any cruel or untoward comments.

*I love Jim & Elisabeth’s story, but it isn’t mine, and it isn’t yours. It’s a description, not a prescription. 

Related post on homosexuality: What God Has Joined Together

Review of Jesus Feminist

October 28, 2013 — 3 Comments

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Sarah Bessey has done a unique thing in her book and it’s something the whole Church should try a bit more. Interwoven with thoughts on theology, history, and her vision for the future of the Church, Sarah told her story.

Raised in Canada, educated in the Bible Belt, on staff at a church in Texas, and then relocating back to Canada gave Sarah a bit of a unique story. Though she grew up in the Church, she did not grow up in the kitschy church-culture so many of our contemporary couch theologians did. Her experience is not one of “I was this but now I’m enlightened, so now I’m this,” but instead it is a story of roots and wings in healthy ways.

Jesus Feminist is not the tired story of a woman raised in patriarchy and conservative theology who threw off her shackles after a theological awakening. That story is all too familiar and, unfortunately, so often riddled with grinding axes that it is difficult to see the trees for the forest. Sarah grinds no axes, points no fingers, and brings every point of her story to the beautiful complexity that is faith in Christ Jesus.

She has woven the gospel through her story and her theology, and this is why I do recommend Jesus Feminist.

Primarily I recommend Jesus Feminist to pastors and teachers, men and women who are in positions of influence and whose duties including shepherding people. I recommend it for the sole reason that Sarah’s story is the story of every-woman in some way. Perhaps not the same path or set of experiences, but it tells the journey of a woman who lands on her theology through the lens of both experience and the word of God.

These days many words are spoken, preached, or written in pragmatic ways—I often wonder if some of our modern theologians have walked through difficult things because it doesn’t seem to come through in their message. Sermons neatly packaged with four points and a promise—even in the gospel-centered crowd. I do not doubt they have experienced difficulties, but we need to hear it said explicitly. If true shepherding is to be done, we need to sit at the table with the people and their stories.

I recommend Jesus Feminist next to women in the Church who come from a more conservative position on gender roles, but who have wrestled with their current roles as women.

Serving in ministry, I see two main types of women in the Church. The first is a woman who has no construct for theology or Church history but feels the constraints of both. Without having a robust theology or prescriptive design for their role, those constructs can feel suffocating and I see women leaving good, healthy churches in search of churches more accommodating to their personal story. The second is a woman who has a deep theological grasp on complementary gender roles, but who may struggle to feel her ministry as a woman is valid. Jesus Feminist spends copious amounts of time on the descriptive role of women in the Bible and the roles of women in our present lives. I was personally encouraged to engage more fully as a woman, to bring my femininity to the table along with my theology.

Jesus Feminist, contrary to its provocative title and subtitle, does not seem to be a book meant to convince the reader of a radical position on gender roles. Instead it seems to be a book intended to point to the character of God, the purpose of His creation, and the journey He takes His children on toward the fullness of His kingdom. Is there a theological bias in the book? Yes, absolutely. Sarah is an egalitarian and believes in roles for men and women without distinction in the Church. But the book does not terminate on her bias, because her true bias is the name and renown of Christ, and a robust Church filled with all kinds of people fully used by Christ.

If there is a caution to potential readers, particularly ones from a more conservative perspective, it is this: let us not be so quick to ascribe definitions to words and catch phrases that we miss the deep complexity behind them. Feminism has brought with her many good and right things; she may have left the back door open too long, letting in the draft of culture’s sway, but I think we can agree we are grateful for the breeze of freedom, equality, and voice.

What Jesus Feminist does not do is explore the ways in which modern feminism has taken its toll on the people of Jesus. This could be because Sarah doesn’t believe it has, or it could be because Sarah believes to do much good there has to be an uncomfortable itch under the hem of the Church’s robes. I think Jesus Feminist is a fair handling of feminism in the Church, but I think to properly discuss what a Jesus Feminist is, we have to wrestle with feminism’s origins. This is my only critique of the book. I think if you’re going to title a book thus, the subject at hand should be handled in its own respect, historical and modern implications. Otherwise, if what Sarah espouses to be feminism is this Jesus Feminism, count me [nearly] all in. There’s a lot more to it, though, but I’m grateful she set the table and invited us in for discussion.

Acknowledging

October 28, 2013 — 3 Comments

Before beginning a book I read the acknowledgements. Not every book has them, but the ones that do hold a litany of treasure. Here, at the end of a book or at the beginning, you have the list of people who made the work possible. While it is a personal touch, I think it can hold the potential for much more meaning if we readers will give it a thorough look.

When I opened my advance copy of Sarah Bessey’s debut work, before reading the table of contents or back cover, I paged through to those acknowledgements. I knew within them there would be some men and women whose names I do not only recognize, but whose lives and words have touched my life in impacting ways. As I read the last words of her acknowledgements, I felt the tears rise in my eyes: here was a woman whose heart beats as strongly for Jesus as mine does. In that alone, she is kindred, and I need nothing more to reach across the table of friendship.

Why am I telling you this? Because Sarah’s book is titled Jesus Feminist, and it already has some people around the table rearing back their heads and huddling together with a rebuttal after a mere glance at the subtitle (an invitation to revisit the Bible’s view of women). I am telling you about Sarah’s acknowledgement because the blurb on the heading of the book is an important one for all of us: Exploring God’s radical notion that women are people too.

So before you read any further, stop. Just think about that. We are all people. Women are people. Men are people. We, the collective, are a people. And we are persons. And that is a beautiful thing. Feminists, even Christian ones, are people. Those acknowledgements of Sarah’s hold a hundred names who are not just names or bloggers or agents or friends, but people.

I asked Sarah if she would allow me the opportunity to read and review an advance copy of her book because I think there’s a better way we can have the conversation about things of this nature. I don’t think it has to be enemies pitted against one another furiously writing blog rebuttals to rebuttals to rebuttals. Sarah has been nothing but gracious to me in the past—even in areas where we are diametrically opposed theologically. Why? Because Sarah understands that behind avatars and platforms and theology and -isms and -ists, there are people. And that is a beautifully rare thing.

Tomorrow I will post my review of Jesus Feminist.

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Discerning Disciples

October 24, 2013 — 5 Comments

David Murray is posing a good question over on his blog. I’d encourage you to read it, but not get lost in the names or issue he has with the book or author, and instead think about the heart of the question. I left a comment there, but haven’t stopped thinking about his question and just thought I’d flesh out my comment a bit more here.

His questions had to do with reading/reviewing/recommending a book he liked, by an author who he feels is in serious error in other areas. The questions:

1. Don’t read anything by [this author] on any subject because he’s in such error in a central Christian doctrine.

2. Read the book and learn from it, but don’t tell anyone, share anything from it, or review it favorably.

3. Read, review, and even recommend the book but point out that [this author] is in error on [another subject].

My thoughts:

One of the greatest problems in the Church today is, I believe, a lack of discernment. My generation absorbs and then spews out soundbites. I read so many blogs by my counterparts in which they will quote one line from someone and spend a whole post ranting on the out of context line. I’ve talked before about the importance of context when writing or responding, and maintain context to be my growing concern among my generation.

Because of this, it is not enough have men and women in leadership simply reading, but not helping us parse the material at hand, and especially not modeling what a discerning reader does. A truly discerning person does their absolute best to gain a full picture of the idea, person, or theology at hand.

We need men and women to teach us to parse material and model that for us. My testimony is in part the result of learning to parse information discerningly, to be set before a smorgasbord of theological views and have to wrestle with all of them before I could see the gospel plainly.

The wise man built on the rock, but he didn’t just set his house on a big boulder—it would have been just as shaky as a house built on sand. A wise man digs down deep until he hits rock. A discerning reader does the same.

We don’t want to make little parrots, we want to make disciples who dig down deep. Part of discipleship is discernment.

Read on, I say, and review on. And warn on too.

My fiance asked me out for the first time on a Facebook message. Once he finally got my number, he texted me a few times with other suggestions for hanging out. Of course I turned him down every single time, though, because “Real Men Don’t Text” (and other junk I thought about real men…).

Girls, can I be straight with you for one minute? Whatever your idea of a Real Man is, it would be better for you right now to drop the man and just get real.

A real man is flesh and blood, made of dirt and the breath of God.

He was created in the image of God, made to reflect the many faceted aspects of God. He is merciful and just, he is gentle and fierce, he is strong and tender, he is like a father but he gathers his young like a mother, he is holy, he is sacrificial—these are the ways in which he reflects his Maker.

He is also made. He was created from the ground, the dust, the particles of the earth’s first rubbish. But nothing is rubbish to God and so He took something from nothing and made it good, real good. Real, tangible, touchable, malleable, fallible, but real. So real that you can stand beside him and know that all your realness, your curves, your imperfections, your flaws, your failures, are not more or less real than his. You are the same. And different. There is nothing else on earth as real as the two of you in this sense. Souls and bodies, minds and hearts.

It’s astounding.

As I learn what it means to be joined with a man, I am having to unlearn what constitutes real men and real women. In our relationship I am the internal processor, he is the verbal; I am the risk-taker, he is the solid, steady; he is romantic and nostalgic; I am no nonsense and overlook his many expressions of love. There are so many ways in which we are not what could be termed as Real Men or Real Women, but we are the realest man or woman in one another’s life right now. We are the realest expression of the image of God to one another—and also the realest mirror to our own selfishness.

The only way to be a real man or real woman is to be real in the very essence of what the word means.

Actually existing or happening. Not imaginary, not fake, false, or artificial. Important and deserving to be regarded or treated in a serious way.

You are real because you exist, you are happening. You are not fake or false or artificial. You are not wired for anything except to bring glory to your Maker—and even this is so vast and incomprehensible, how could it be contained?

You are important because you make much of the One who is Most Important.

You are a person, bearing the image of God, the Imago Dei—therefore I treat you seriously, whether or not you text first or email first or ask me out to coffee first or work from home or are a mother or a father or can bear children or will never bear children.

You are real because He took dust and bone and made you real.

Men and women, go. Be real.

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Try as I might, I’m not sure I can hold the identifier “Single Complementarian poster-child” at bay much longer. We’re a rare breed—some of us sold a barefoot and pregnant mantra since we played dress-up in our mamas’ clothing and learned to make a perfect omelet. It’s hard to let go of dreams as big as these.

For those of us who made it past 25 without a ring on our finger and a bun in the oven, more schooling seemed to be the only option. Slap an MA on the back of our name, we’re still casting sidelong glances at our sisters with misters. Many graduated with honors, fidelity, and an MRS, while most singles are pounding the pavement looking for a job to secure us some semblance of a future.

You ask why we’re a rare breed and I’ll tell you this: we’re not. Well, we are, but that’s just the nature of any conservative position in a swiftly tilting planet. But within the church we’re not all that rare. You don’t hear us talking much, though, and that’s something I’d like to talk about today.

Three reasons (of many) why single female complementarians may not be speaking up.

1. For too long the Church has relegated submission to what happens in the home and the sanctuary. The concept of submission to one to another (Eph. 5:21) has been glossed over in our rush to get to the juicy stuff in the following verses. Who wants to talk about something like submission to one another when there are husbands to be submitted to and wives to be loved? Well, I do. I want to talk about it because we don’t have a framework for life in Christ if we don’t understand being in something brings with it a certain amount of submission (sitting in a driving car, for example—you go where it goes.).

In the broad conversation we have often placed the discussion of submission firmly within the confines of marriage or our relationship to Christ, and not in regard to one another. This has created a generation of women who want to submit but are waiting to submit until Prince Charming comes along. In theory we’re complementarians, but we don’t have anyone standing in that gap, so practically, we’re egalitarians. It becomes difficult to talk about something we believe when because of brokenness in the family and an overwhelming absence of fathers, we’re not given a clear framework to practice it.

2. Speaking of frameworks, in the absence of the marriage we were nearly promised, we’re floundering a bit. I’m not going to make marriage out to be a cup of tea, but in marriage there comes a security and measure of certainty that simply doesn’t exist within singleness. Accidents and sin happens, yes, but if death comes in old age and fidelity is kept, there is the promise of a long-term security.

Godly singleness, on the other hand, is actually intended to be the opposite of long-term security. To be “concerned with the things of the Lord” (I Cor. 7:34) gives a wide berth, open pasture, and a degree of flexibility for the unmarried to discern what is the good and acceptable will of God. Our culture, however—and even in the church—lauds a security that will keep us constantly at odds with the things of the Lord. Single complementarians who have been primed for the simple security that marriage affords, might spend years trying to gain their footing in a world that wasn’t what they expected—even for the ones who understand Christ is their ultimate security. So where are we? Still trying to recover from the whiplash that is singleness in our 30s and on.

3. Single complementarian women simply haven’t needed to commit mental energy to contribute to the sort of study and scholarship necessary to defend a conservative theology of gender roles. Many married complementarian women are making radically different choices in the way their marriages look and so live with a constant awareness of the counter-cultural choices they’re making. But for singles unless their lives look radically different from those in the world—and a growing number in the church—they have nothing to defend. The biblical paradigm of singleness we’re given is one who is concerned with the things to the Lord, how she may please the Lord—this is a radical call in a tepid world, few rise to it fully, and even fewer defend it well. Without the pressure to defend, though, many won’t rise to the occasion of sound, biblical defense.

Don’t be discouraged. There is hope here and I think many complementarians are chomping at the bit to see a change in the conversation:

1. Change the culture of submission. Reframe the conversation. Speak of mutual submission, teach young people the value of covenantal living, helping and protecting one another in Christ. There are a few things we don’t have to wait for marriage for.

2. Change the expectation of marriage. Encourage it, yes, but don’t epitomize it or idolize it. Don’t allow those creeping cultural expectations to overtake what God is doing today. Today is a rich, rich day in the life of every person, single or married. Expect God to move today.

3. Encourage singles to be faithful with their concern for the things of God. It is no small thing to study to show ourselves approved. Christians ought to do everything within our capacity to help create a space for good scholarship and dialogue.

Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before kings.” Singleness is a special and beautiful gift, and we need singles to come before the rulers of this world, standing firmly for the gospel in an ever-shifting culture.

She is Beautiful

September 22, 2013 — 8 Comments

I met the Church this week and she is beautiful.

Her hips are wide and she sways to the praise of her God. She laughs loudly, her head thrown back, two rows of gleaming teeth; her sound is joy. She is too short or too tall, too much, not enough. She sips her wine slowly, savoring the taste of life. She gulps the last drops, never afraid to do anything boldly. She is half a century old, she is twenty-two. She is a writer a speaker a story-teller a friend. She adopted her children. She lost hers.

I met the Church this week and she is beautiful.

I gathered with some women this week, thinkers, dreamers, ministers, travelers, speakers, writers. They are half the Church and there was nothing halfway in our gathering. There was robust fullness, women fully there, fully present, fully themselves. There was no competition, no idle chatter, no small talk, and no shortage of prayers or tears. There were rooms fully alive in the fullness of God.

I am a Church-girl, I have always known it. There is nothing, nothing, I love more on earth than a diverse community of believers wrought together by one common thing: an uncommon man. On a local level, this means I serve her, I love her, I pray for her, I believe in her. On a broad level, this means I see her place in the manifold plan of God.

We are His plan. The Church is it. Without the Church we are factions of individuals broken by the things that set us apart. With the Church we are reminded it is our brokenness that binds us together, planting us deep on the level ground before the cross.

The Church is beautiful because she has met with God. She has seen Him and been seen by Him—fully, all her blemishes and beauty, all her brokenness and bravery, all her boldness and belief.

I met the Church this week and she took my breath away.