After several years of studying what the Word of God says about women for myself, I no longer buy into a lot of the traditional views that I hear being taught about women such as: women can’t hold certain positions in the church, the unbalanced teaching on submission in marriage, etc. However, I currently attend a church that espouses many of those views and it bothers me to no end. What do I do?
– BN from North Carolina
Get to the bottom line (Part 1)
You are at odds with your church’s stance on women and their roles. Please allow me to answer, however, from a broader perspective in case any are struggling in the same circumstances with a different issue. (If you want more information on my views of women and the church please see: Women’s Roles in the Church.)
The real question is: what do you do when that happens? Do you speak up? Do you leave? Do you sit quietly and submit? (From your question, it appears that is the tact you have taken so far but your patience is wearing thin.)
In order to answer the question of “what do you do”; you must answer another question first. It is: why are you in that church to begin with? Are you there because it is where you have always gone and it would be uncomfortable to leave? Is it convenient? Are you there for someone else? OR, are you there because God has called you there? That is the bottom line.
You must settle the matter inside yourself because that will give you the next step. If you are there for any reason beside obedience to God, I would say that your “bother” should send you looking elsewhere. That may be the very thing the Lord is using to prompt you to a new church home.
If you feel God has specifically called you to stay put, the next thing to do is ask why. What are you directed to do? Going against the grain of a church’s theological and social culture is a difficult position to maintain and I would not attempt it without a healthy helping of God’s grace. He will give you that if he chooses you to stay.
Submission (Part 2)
I have a few words of counsel regarding submitting to church authority in general. When you choose to join a church, you are placing yourself under its spiritual authority and there are advantages on each side.
Think of a shepherd and a flock of sheep. The sheep have the responsibility of following the shepherd but the shepherd has the responsibility of protecting them. When you are in the right flock, you feel safe and you are willing to go the way the shepherd leads.
The closer your theological stance matches your church home, the happier you will usually be. In the end, if you can’t agree with everything you must decide what is essential for you and what you can live with (agree to disagree). No matter what though, you can’t undermine the church.
God may place you in a church to be an agent for change but if that is the case, it must be done with open honesty – no murmuring or undercurrents. In your case, for instance, you can’t make little aside comments every time the women issue comes up and you are irritated.
You don’t have to stew in silence either. Instead, you can openly and courteously say what you believe and why. You can have a discussion with the pastor as he should be aware of your views. Be honest but don’t be divisive. If you can’t handle the difficult balancing act, leaving the church is the best option.
Once you feel clear on God’s will for you, proceed to obey him without delay. You may stay or go but either way; your heart will be at peace.