Is the Church a Boys Club?

This weekend we visited some friends in the Bay Area of California. Overlooking the Palace of Fine Arts, we sat in the park and talked faith, church, Star Wars… typical Christian stuff. Most important here, we discussed the roles of women in the church.

My wife, as well as my friend’s girlfriend, had some great wisdom to give. Their perspectives were shared with both frustration and grace. Women are battling issues in the church that men can’t even begin to understand.

(Hey boys!) Have you ever thought about the complexities of being a girl in the church? Do me a favor, next time you go, give every woman you see a high five.

They deserve it.

Since I am a man, I feel that I can solve this issue with a single blog post.

Girlie Stuff

My childhood church was definitely a boy’s club. Male senior pastors, male deacons, male elders. Women were allowed to be sunday school teachers, choir directors, or secretaries, but nothing more.

Paul’s words in 1 Timothy defined my views and 1 Corinthians confirmed them. I say this as if I knew scripture, but to be honest it was bleek. I listened and never questioned the general traditions of my church. Here’s what I knew (and assumed):

Women were not to teach men. Their life goals would consist of learning submission and quietness. Overcoming any resentment held towards men and any hostility held towards God would be their life’s work.

Eventually, I read the bible for myself. I read about Esther, Deborah, Mary, and Ruth. I read Luke. I read the words of Paul. I read context. I listened to wisdom and heard alternate, biblical views. I listened to my wife. I listened to my heart.

All this to say, I’m still sorting stuff out.

Your Mom was Stifled  

I recently read The Blue Parakeet by Scot McNight. In it he talks about the various ways people read the bible. He mentions that everyone picks and chooses scripture; he calls it discernment. The problem, says McNight, is when our discernments become canon and our canon becomes the lens through which we view scripture.

The modern church has done this—it has, we have, shaped our traditions into canon. The stifling of women, I believe, is a prime example Evangelicals need to repent for.

(For more on Scot McNight’s great book, check it out HERE).

I’m not an expert on the subject of women’s roles, but I do hope to continue to learn. So far, this is what I’ve got:

  • The traditional church may be a boy’s club, but the Kingdom of God is not. We all have a purpose and a reason to be here. Seek what’s inside you and let it out.  
  • We are all one in Christ—the curtain was torn, remember? There is no need for division anymore. Men need to teach women, and women need to teach men. 
  • Every faith generation experiences a change of tradition in one form or another (Thinking back to Paul and circumcision, or twenty years ago to the contemporary worship movement). Expect turmoil and kickback. Offer grace, always.

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What’s YOUR response? I encourage all with a perspective to participate. Please know, everyone’s view on the matter is welcome. Is the church a boy’s club? Have women been stifled, or am I making something out of nothing? 

Photo Credit: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/74576085@N00/6335630844/]

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27 comments

  1. “Women were not to teach men. Their life goals would consist of learning submission and quietness. Overcoming any resentment held towards men and any hostility held towards God would be their life’s work”.

    I think the first sentence has to do with a cultural context of the time it was written as does the part in the bible where Paul tells women to be quiet. The word “submission” has been so taken out of context, it’s not even funny. I think many forget to read the verse in Eph 5 where it says submit one to another. That came first before it says for women to submit to their husbands. Not to all men. Just their husbands. Then later on it tells husbands that they are to die for their wives like Christ did for the church. Dying to oneself to serve one’s wife. Hmmm, that part seems to always get left out. This is what love is. We submit one to another, we prefer the other over ourselves and to do that, we have to die to ourselves. Male or female. As for the third sentence, I think anyone who has resentment against anyone and especially towards God should learn to forgive (overcome it) and understand what He is all about first and foremost and that is definitely not a gender issue. And whoever, male or female, who is causing the resentment should ask for forgiveness from the other party and stop doing it.

    Oops, was I teaching? But you’re a guy…..I obviously can’t keep silent either. Oh dear. I fail. 🙂

    1. Adelineoh,

      Thanks so much for adding to the conversation, here. I can’t help but agree with everything you said. I wasn’t sure from your tone, but the section you quoted from my blog seemed to have rubbed you the wrong way. It was written to show the reader what my beliefs USED to be, not what they are now. I was only showing the misconceptions I suffered from (and assume others did too).

      But yes. Isn’t it funny how often we forget to quote the line: “men are to die for their wives” along with the submission part? I think that was a great point to bring up!

      1. No, Kevin, it didn’t rub me the wrong way at all. I knew what you were trying to say and that’s why I decided to comment to that specific paragraph because that’s what a lot of people still think. I’m sorry if it came off that way. I was attempting to be facetious. Wrong move.Yikes.

      2. Adding to my reply to what you replied to, I guess I was thinking when I was writing out my comment that if someone who believed in that paragraph quoted read my comment, I would have broken everything in it in what I said right there. It wasn’t directed at you at all. Now that I re-read it, it does seem like that but no, that was not my intention. 😦

  2. Thank you for stopping by my blog – thought I’d check out yours.

    I’ve always thought you should do what God has called you to do, whether male, female, rich, poor, sinner, good guy or donkey… If you’re not called, don’t do it. But if you’re called, well, get on with it. This all seemed perfectly reasonable. And then He called me. Which was and is bizarre. Still waiting to see what will happen. But that ‘calling’ grows o_O

    1. What a beautiful addition to this conversation. I especially like, “if you’re not called, don’t do it.” This requires us to align with God’s will the best we can. I’ve struggled with hearing the voice (or direction) of God, which can make that difficult. When we are called, I too believe that we should all rise up and fulfill our various missions.

  3. I saw this on your side bar: “Please comment, share, and make yourself known.”

    I have a blog too, and I’m so curious to know who my visitors are. So I thought I’d say “hi”, make myself known, and most importantly say “I love this post!”

    I agree that the Kingdom of God is not a boy’s club. The New Creation is my paradigm for relationships and ministry, not patriarchy. (2 Cor 5:17.)

  4. I once was having a conversation with a youth leader at a church my husband and I had been attending. I asked why I never saw any female elders helping during service. He informed me that it is because Jesus had no female disciples. I said, ” Who sat at the foot of the cross while Jesus died and who took off? Who did Christ first appear to when he was resurrected? And wasn’t the longest conversation Jesus had in the Bible with the woman at the well in Samaria?” Then I threw a Bible at him and ran (in my fantasy at least).
    Great post, by the way!

    1. Stacy, thank you for sharing. It’s a tough situation. I think a lot of men in the church battle with insecurity. I feel that maybe we over compensate by latching on to ways for us to dominate, so to speak. As this conversation goes forward, we’ll need to understand both sides of the argument. It’s easy to get worked up because it all feels so obvious.

  5. Reblogged this on Theolo-Gee! and commented:
    Certain churches, yes, are a boys clubs. But I think there has been an long history the true spiritual teachings coming from moms in the homes. What I had a hard time getting used to when I became Christian were the fight clubs.

  6. Like this post! I, too, struggle with this topic and am still learning where my place is or is not. I am a woman and can hear and listen to God and as all should, wait on HIM to decide what my role should be. MARANATHA (Behold HE cometh!)

  7. It was really funny reading this because in my experience, church has always been a girls club. The women sing the loudest, they are the ones involved in the ministries. I actually find a lot of the time the men are so bogged down by the female leaders that they just drop out of leadership or ministry and just let them take over. They can multitask anyway.

      1. I find Jed’s comment interesting too.

        I truly believe that, just as a family is better off when a father and mother leads together, churches are healthier when leadership is shared by men and women.

  8. I have definitely always seen the Christian path as a male dominated religion. I think the reason being is that men have usually always taken on the role of the “hunter” while the women “gathered”.

    It would be extremely hard for a woman to lead a group while in the midst of labour and I think that is the main reason for the separation. Although not all women are like this. History shows many women in the role of leaders have had men who followed.

    I do not believe in your God but have respect for your beliefs. I am also a lover of history and it is history that shows how times are changing.

  9. amazing post. Thanks for being a guy and addressing these issues. As a girl that has no singing talent what so ever, is horrible with children and single at 26 (because you can’t be a single women at 26 and be right with God, right?), I often have struggled with finding my place in church. I honestly think I have a lot to offer but finding the opportunities to do so is really hard. Recently, while sitting with my mom I had a small epiphany. We were watching a mini-series based on King David’s life and after seeing how some of the women were treated (concubines and all that stuff) my mom said “Thank God the Jesus came, because women didn’t have it easy.” My jaw dropped, my mom is very conservative and quite the traditionalist. She’s never been submissive to the point of oblivion but she sometimes struggles with my loosely feminist sensibilities. Hearing her say that made me thing that Jesus died and resurrected so that I can be an equalist. If I one day I get married I will honor and respect my husband but I’m sure as heck hoping that he will do the same to me. I will also offer what God has put in me, even if it means doing it outside the church’s four walls. Isn’t that where it counts anyways? I thought of writing a blog post about, reading yours has reignited that inspiration, look for it soon for it will be written!

    1. Refreshinbold, your comment says sooo much. I love it and would like to repost some lines of it in on my blog and fb page. May I have your permission?

  10. Pingback: Single and Equal
      1. I guess I should have elaborated. I grew up in a church that allowed women to be ministers and teach men. I have also been involved with a group that did not think women should be in positions of authority over men, thus they could not be preachers or even teach adult classes that were mixed gender. I think that is narrow minded. Gender shouldn’t matter; being called by God to minister is the important element, not whether you are male or female. So, my original comment was coming from the perspective of churches that limit the areas of ministry for women to teaching children or other women (both of which are worthy ministries). Hope that clarifies where I was coming from. So, I guess the short answer to your question would be no, it’s not any different. 🙂

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