Feminine Fridays

On Fridays: Like a dog with a bone.

The annual summer break is over, and we’re back to regular ‘Feminine Friday’ posts. Coming up in the schedule for this term is a series on the female characters in Proverbs, but before that, let me share a few of my latest musings on women’s ministry.

Part of me doesn’t want to write about this, because I feel like I’ve written quite a lot about it already, and I wonder if I’m type-casting myself, and yet, the other part of me doesn’t care. I am a woman in ministry, so it’s a topic that matters to me.

For the last week I’ve been at UCCF’s annual conference for student leaders, which has been an absolute joy. As well as hanging out with 900 students who are responsible for leading Christian Unions across Great Britain, I got to spend time with all of my wonderful colleagues, some of whom I only see two or three times a year. And, amongst the various topics that I chatted about with a number of other staff, women in ministry came up quite a few times. In actual fact, it’s been the theme of a number of conversations I’ve had over the last couple of months. Maybe I am like a dog with a bone, but, tough.

The current thought that’s buzzing around my head has been sparked by one of my lovely colleagues, Sarah. We had been discussing various things, including a previous Friday post, where I talked about ‘complementarian feminism’, and Sarah wanted to know what I thought a complementarian-feminist church ministry would look like. We chatted a bit, and chucked a few ideas around, but we certainly didn’t come to any final conclusions, and I’m still thinking it through.

I’d love any thoughts or reflections of yours, dear reader, but in the meantime let me put one suggestion forward:

Complementarian application.

In the last year or so I was at an event where a church pastor was speaking to a group of 40 or so Christians. The group was pretty evenly split between men and women, and this pastor was leading us through a series on one of the gospels. In his talk he used an illustration about some sport, possibly golf, and then made a remark that, although not word for word, went something along these lines:

“Well, I suppose that illustration was really for the boys, what would work for the girls? Something about make-up, I suppose. I can’t really be bothered to think of a girly illustration, so let’s move on…”

Here are my problems.

  1. Many women – not me, natch., but lots of others – like sport just as much as the stereotypical man, and so a sporting analogy is perfectly acceptable for them.
  2. Many men don’t really care for sport at all, so presumably would have been just as lost with his example as I was.
  3. If you can’t be bothered to think up an illustration to help half of the people listening better understand the word of God then perhaps you ought not be teaching the word of God,

It is hard to think of illustrations and applications for people who are very unlike you, but this is where the whole complementarian thing should be a good thing.

Complementarian theology acknowledges that men and women are different to one another. But that isn’t an accident. It’s not if God made women differently by accident: a creation error resulting in a slightly substandard half of the world’s population. No, rather, he made both men and women in his image; different to one another, complementary to one another – so that they might make up for what the other intentionally lacked. And I say intentionally because that seems clear too: God could have made Adam (or Eve) to be a perfect individual, but he chose not to, he chose to make it so that it was ‘not good for man to be alone’. Our God is a relational God, and he made us for relationship.

So here’s the deal: if you’re a man who’s preaching, and you don’t know how to illustrate or apply it for the women who are listening then that’s okay. It’s okay that you can’t do it all on your own, because God has created women to help you. Don’t say, ‘I can’t be bothered’, go and ask some women for help.

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This is just the beginning of thinking about it, and no doubt there’ll be more to come. But, in the meantime, I’d certainly love to hear your thoughts on the subject…

In summary: thinking.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Sarah Dawkins September 7, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Woop. My brain is still a bit fuzzy to think more but will keep mulling. And here’s to not being a lurker anymore!

  • Reply fiona lynne September 16, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Well you know I describe myself as egalitarian rather than complementarian but I do love this point. It’s simply good practise for any preacher to be able to provide examples that are relatable for as much of the congregation as possible, and certainly not to make sexist generalisations that would take ten seconds to disprove. Goodness. Yes to asking for help when you realise your limitations. We were made for interdependence.

  • Reply kimlovesjozi September 19, 2013 at 9:16 am

    I can’t believe he said that! What a loser.

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