Two Reasons Women Aren't Taken Seriously In Conservative Churches
There’s been quite a bit of internet discussion recently about what complementarianism is or isn’t. As with any theological discussion or debate, there has been some perversion of the theological terms. Some are questioning whether the term complementarian still accurately describes the biblical definitions of the roles of men and women. As I have watched this conversation unfold on social media, I have benefitted from having my thoughts challenged and I have learned much. However, the discussion has caused me to consider a base question that I believe is under the surface of at least some of this discussion –
Why Aren’t Women Taken Seriously Within the Conservative Church?
Scripture is clear that men and women are equal heirs to the inheritance of the saints (1 Peter 3:7-8; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 1:9-14). While, because of our God-ordained gender, we may hold unique roles in our earthly ministries, women are no less significant to Christ than men. Christ’s condescension to earth to die for the sins of every believer makes each of us equally significant to our Lord. Every blood-bought child of God is a saint worth the sacrifice simply because the Lord chose to redeem us. He chose us, in His infinite knowledge, wisdom, and kindness not because of who we are, what skin color we possess, or whether we got a pink or blue bow in the hospital nursery, but because of Who was sacrificed on our behalf.
If we’re all an equal part of the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:9-10), then why are some of us taken less seriously than others? Is it truly because of our gender? Or could there be issues that lie a little deeper than mere gender roles? The answer to these questions is two-fold.
We Have Placed Unnecessary Dividing Walls
In many churches, there is too much division between the men and women. Granted, there are certain teaching situations when it is wise and prudent to separate the men and women. But I think we’ve swung this pendulum a bit too far in many cases.
Women have deep, theological minds and are hungry for something to chew on, theologically speaking. Is it so wrong to invite the women to sit alongside their husbands and the other men so that they may learn of the deep things of God? Can you just imagine the growth in the Word a couple could experience if they were studying the same material and having vigorous conversations with each other in their home about challenging material? What an opportunity for the husband to disciple his wife and family!
Robust theological discussions could create an intellectual oneness that many couples may have never experienced. What an opportunity to connect as a married couple in a way that would likely have a positive impact on all the other aspects of their marriage! Even physical intimacy could improve because the spiritual connection made outside the bedroom had become so strong. How would churches benefit from couples that were deeply engaged with one another on all levels? It would change church cultures in the deepest way.
Of course, we must be responsible in our engagement of women and men within the church. There are topics that must be discussed separately. If a church was offering a class on physical intimacy or some sort of accountability program that was intended to be one-on-one, there should absolutely be a separation of the men and women. But for general exegesis and theological training, let the women in on the knowledge. Families will be stronger for it.
There are no pink passages in Scripture. All 66 books from Genesis to Revelation are for the whole body of Christ to know, understand, and apply to their lives. This leads me to my next point. Fasten your seatbelts, girls, this one might hurt a bit.
Women Aren’t Taken Seriously Because We’re Acting Like Silly Little Girls
Many women’s ministries are packed full of activities that have nothing to do with sanctification or spiritual growth. We gather around crafts tables and learn the latest Pinterest decorating tips. We have fellowship teas with a slight nod to the single Bible verse that was printed on the beautiful placemat at our seat. We host Bible studies in our homes that are really just a study of the latest book written by the current favored female author – and we don’t even bring our Bibles (but we bring plenty of husband-bashing conversation and gossip). All in the name of ministry.
Friends, this is not ministry, it is social club. Quite, frankly, the world can give us these things. Ministry is getting in the midst of the messy life of your sister whose teenager just committed a horrible sin and helping her figure out how to respond with the gospel. Ministry is gathering around the Word of God together because you simply can’t go one more second without a morsel of its goodness to sustain you for the battle of this life. Ministry is reaching out to your community with hope and help to demonstrate the gospel in practical ways as a reflection of your local body.
It’s not a wonder the men segregate from the women. While some wonderful female bonding may happen over the activities listed above, discipleship only happens when the Word of God and His gospel is the intentional focus of our fellowship.
Sister, I understand the desire to see my felt needs met. But my flesh is deceitful and wicked. What I think I need is most often not even close to what the Lord knows I need (Jeremiah 17:9; James 1:14-15; Matthew 6:8). Frankly, sometimes what I really need is a painful experience to draw me closer to my Father and cause me to depend more fully on Him and operate from His strength instead of my own. A craft table will never teach me this. I can only learn these lessons as I humbly place myself under the authority of my Lord and His Word, asking Him to search me and reveal my wicked ways (Psalm 139:23-24). Friends, I am pleading with you; for the sake of your own souls and the souls of the women we may influence, please, grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ (Ephesians 4:15). We must grow up. We must.
Practical Steps Toward Change
- In regards to the teaching environments at your local church, first, have a conversation with your own husband. Tell him your concerns and ask if he would be willing to talk with your church leadership with you.
- When you speak with your church leadership, do so in a loving, gentle manner with a view to how you can offer help and be part of the solution.
- Be patient. Depending on what your church culture is like, it may take a great deal of time to see lasting, effective changes.
- Commit yourself to prayer for your leadership and continue to encourage them Make yourself available to serve in whatever way you can to help facilitate change.
- It’s very simple. If you don’t want to be treated like a silly little girl, start by not acting like one. I realize sometimes being treated as a child is not a result of your own actions, but examine yourself to be sure.
- To gain respect from anyone, male or female, we must first treat others with respect. Communicate kindly and graciously with others. The old saying “you catch more flies with honey” applies well in this situation.
- Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought (Galatians 6:3; Romans 12:3) Sanctification is a progressive process. Be patient while others grow. Come alongside them and help them while they grow.
- While you are waiting for growth to happen within your church, work on your own growth. Feast on the Word and live in the application of the things you are learning. Others are watching to see if you practice what you preach. Let them see a faithful witness.