But Sister Cindy is a Better Preacher Than Brother Bob
Written by Pastor Jim Law
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 a childhood memory of a neighborhood mom who 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, and certainly she was an aberration. Indeed, 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. This month Saddleback Church, one of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention with 53,000 members, ordained three women into pastoral ministry. 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 (Baptist Faith & Message 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 asserted that leadership in the church is to be given to qualified, godly men (I Timothy 2:8-15; 3:1-7). The apostle linked the argument for such practice, not to cultural customs, but to creation. Paul goes back to the beginning, Adam and Eve, as the foundation for his argument 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. These texts do not suffer from 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 nearly eight billion people with many never hearing 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, “Well Sister Cindy is a better preacher than Brother Bob.” Indeed, she may be, but that does not give warrant to install her into the pastorate or 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 that are to be used in the building up of the Body of Christ. 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.