In many cases extreme views prove problematic. In regards to gender roles (men and women and their function in the church), two ideas frequently pop up. Unfortunately, both are quite wrong.
- Women are inferior, can’t do anything, and shouldn’t be allowed to.
- Men and women are interchangeable, and women can do anything men can.
The second idea is obviously false (as any biology course will teach you). Men and women have different strengths, weaknesses, and suitability for certain tasks.
Unfortunately that truth sometimes leads to the first idea — women are inferior because they posses different traits from men.
Both positions are wrong.
An Extreme Example of the Problem
Here’s an example of the politically correct everyone-is-interchangeable idea.
Why can women only be Sunday School teachers and not preachers in many denominations? Is there some weakness, some character flaw that handicaps a female child from the day she is born, making her incapable of strong and responsible leadership in the Body of Christ? Does the Bible proclaim that women, based on their gender alone, are to be under the subordination and control of men? We answer with a resounding, “No!”
This argument is known as a straw-man, meaning proposing an idea which isn’t really the position of the person (in this case, the Bible), defeating it, and then hoping by association the more actual truth of the person (in this case, the Bible) will be associated with the straw-man argument.
It’s an error in logic, as this group rails against a position appearing nowhere in the Bible.
The Problem’s Origin
Perhaps the reason this person arrived at such a theologically wrong position:
It’s frustrating enough for a Christian woman to be told from the pulpit that she is somehow inferior to men in the eyes of God
I’d go beyond frustrating — it’s plain wrong, and that pastor should consider James 3:1.
They’ve been victims of horrendously wrong instruction, as the Bible never says women are inferior, and a pastor claiming so won’t make it true. But the solution is not to jump to the other extreme, rather it’s to find out what the correct ideas are.
Organization of the church
Leadership is military order — nothing more, nothing less.
Any large entity (like the church) must have some structure to it. Failing to understand that leads to a symphony of errors. In this case, understanding how the military organizes sheds insight into how the church should function.
The “Rule of Threes”
Much can be learned from the Marines and how they’re organized.
- Fire Team — Consisting of a rifleman (M16), grenadier (M203), machine gunner (M249).
- Squad — three fire teams.
- Platoon — three squads.
- Company — three platoons.
- Battalion — three companies.
The fire team forms the smallest unit. Notice each man carries different weaponry for different tactical situations. Yet the machine gunner with the M249 can’t complain he’s not carrying the M203 … or the unit is dysfunctional and can’t function.
It’s not superiority or inferiority, simply different tactical uses.
The Secret: “Rule of Threes” and the Church
Applying the previous example to the church, the family represents the Fire Team.
Moving up the ladder, a few families form a home fellowship, much like in Acts. Once again, someone must lead the group, and Paul lays out to Timothy the requirements for a leader, but the leader does not have superiority over others simply because he’s the leader.
A few of those fellowships come together to form a local church, with a pastor in leadership. If you’ve been in a church where the pastor isn’t really in charge, you realize how awful it can be. The pastor must be in charge or the unit (church) becomes dysfunctional.
The elders aren’t inferior to the pastor, even though the pastor leads the fellowship. Again, if you’ve been in a church where the pastor and elders aren’t functioning correctly, you know how critical correct leadership is.
I’ve yet to see a group of elders complain they’re inferior to the pastor because he’s in charge and they’re not. Remember, attempting to usurp God-given authority must be called for what it is — rebellion (a situation getting a certain angel into quite a bit of trouble, if we recall).
City churches bond together to form regions (or denominations), and eventually above all is Christ.
Organization, not Superiority
Looking at it in a military fashion, it’s obvious leaders aren’t superior; the issue isn’t superiority or inferiority, but military leadership.
Those claiming men and women are interchangeable lack understanding of (or willfully deny) organizational roles, the military structure of the church, and Paul’s clear and obvious instruction.
If you’re on either extreme (women are stupid, inferior, and weak OR women and men are interchangeable) understand this: you’re flat-out wrong, and that’s not what the Bible teaches. Jumping from one incorrect extreme to another only trades one set of errors for another. You need to stop the pendulum swinging from one extreme, and stop it in the middle with a reasonable, balanced approach.
It’s tragic these false extremes continue in the church. Perhaps if people understood the church organizes as a military organization — looking at the example of the Marines — these horrible mistakes would fade away.
Men and women are uniquely qualified and suited for different roles — you must understand both parts of that thought or you’ll end up in an area the Bible fails to support.
Solving gender issues in the church isn’t a secret, just common sense. It’s leadership, not superiority.