Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.



January 2011



But Sister Cindy Is A Better Preacher Than Bro. Bob

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I remember well my first year at the University of Kentucky walking through the free speech area and hearing a woman with a high shrill voice waxing eloquent in open air.  I remember her name was “Sister Cindy,” and she was quite skilled in enumerating the sexual sins of college co-eds.

Her voice took me back to childhood when one of the neighborhood moms would yell at her son early in the morning to get the trash to curb before the garbage truck passed.

Sister Cindy in the free speech area was a first for me.   As a new Christian, listening to a woman preacher, I can remember at the time sensing something was not right about this.

Certainly, “Sister Cindy” was an aberration.  There are many gifted women in the Body of Christ who teach with great skill, and because of that coupled with cultural pressures, the last thirty years has seen a steamroller movement in the evangelical community to usher women into the role of pastor.  In our day, it is not uncommon to have husband and wife serve as co-pastors.  In many streams of the evangelical community, women are encouraged to pursue such roles, and a number of women hold prominent, global preaching ministries.

As a convention, Southern Baptists have taken a stand on this issue in our statement of faith (BF&M 2000) which reads that “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” This conviction flows from the biblical text which we believe to be foundational for our faith and practice.

The Pastoral Epistles, (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus) were written by the Apostle Paul for the purpose of establishing “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” (I Timothy 3:15)

In his letter of I Timothy, Paul asserts that leadership in the church is to be given to qualified, godly men (I Timothy 2:8-15; 3:1-7). The apostle links the argument for such practice, not to cultural customs, but to creation.  Paul goes back to the beginning, Adam and Eve, for his basis in delineating role distinctions between men and women in the Church.

The reason men are to lead in teaching, preaching, and leadership in the duly constituted gathering of the church is linked not to intelligence quotients or speaking gifts, but to God’s creative order. Paul’s statements are not the rants of a misogynist.  This text is not a scribal gloss.  On the contrary, these words are the inspired counsel of God given for the spiritual health of the Church and the joy of God’s people.

Some may ask, “On the theological landscape, aren’t there bigger fish to fry? With a world of seven billion people and with over one billion having not even heard the name of Jesus, why are you even talking about this?”  Martin Luther’s conviction comes to my mind as a response, “I would rather the heavens fall than one truth of God be lost.”  I believe this issue of understanding the biblical roles between men and women in the church is critical to the health and well-being of the Body of Christ and to our proclamation and living out of the Gospel.

Additionally, how we do theology on this issue reveals much about our view of Scripture.  I fear we are driven more by the culture and pragmatism than by submission to the biblical text. To this issue, the pragmatist says things like “Well Sister Cindy is a better preacher than Bro. Bob.”  Indeed, she may be, but that does not give warrant to place her in the pulpit on Sunday morning.

Certainly men and women are of equal worth in the presence of God. Both are fellow heirs of the grace of life (I Peter 3:7) and bestowed with spiritual gifts.  However, there exists a distinction of roles in the Body that is of such importance that Paul would admonish Titus to “speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1-5) which he immediately relates to roles in the Body of Christ.  Paul’s summation to this teaching is so that “the word of God may not be dishonored.” (Titus 2:5)

My encouragement to pastors and churches is to spend time wrestling with the biblical text regarding roles in the church. With much confusion over gender and roles, may we look to God’s word to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.  He is certainly not silent on the issue.

There are excellent resources to help in this journey. I have been greatly helped by Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem; also, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation  by Andreas Kostenberger has been a great contribution to this discussion.

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