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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The most difficult discussion to have…don’t stone me!

Written by: on April 4, 2019

(Please forgive me; I have been everywhere but at my desk today so my response to the reading will be less than complete; in addition to a busy week thus far, I have left my copy of the book at the church building…so no quotes from it).

It seems this has been the book I have been most dreading the discussion around this semester, simply put, because of the outcome that could potentially come from it. It has been so secret over the past two years that my views on women in church leadership varies from others in the class; I was definitely raised on the highly conservative side of the tracks. However, I would like to make one thing clear before I continue with my post; my views are my own; they are not passed down from mom and dad or even an expression of the church that I preach for…they are based upon my own biblical studies and my interpretation therein.

The introduction of our reading discussed the necessity for a revision of the book simply because the attitudes regarding the “Role of Women” has changed drastically just since its first printing. Society has seen such a drastic and powerful movement toward the identity of womankind over just the last 20 years that nothing is the same as it was when I was in undergraduate school. We see women leading in nearly every field available; though I am sure it is not quite to the degree that they would like…yet. However, this very fact is the same problem that I see in dealing with the topic of women in church leadership; I do not believe they are the same issue.

As I read through this book, I was desperate to find an argument I had not heard or a bible verse I had missed; sadly…I did not find them. I have heard, read, and watched so many different discussions on the role of women, that there is only one thing that ever surprises me any more…we still fail so miserably at Christianity when we deal with it. I believe the two most important commandments in Scripture are…and they are in this order…To love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself. According to Christ, everything we do is dependent upon these two principles. Love does not mean acceptance though; it means caring communication. Christians will always be divided over issues; but the real challenge to us as God’s people is whether or not we can maintain our call to love as we attempt to sort it out. So, I am going to attempt to share my views on this topic with love; please read it as such.

  1. I recognize that there are many who may interpret scripture different than I do; however, as a professed scholar of biblical research and word usage, I have not found valid arguments (for myself) to excuse a number of leadership scriptures that are present in the Bible. I pray the Lord is still keeping my heart open to all of His Word for future revelation.
  2. I believe it is an unfair mistake to treat a person that has religious convictions on any topic as an evil person; instead, it should be an opportunity to open up the Bible and study with them further on the topic. If there is a chance that I am mistaken on something, then there is a chance the other person is mistaken too.
  3. I do not believe that women are intended to have major leadership positions in a church; however, this belief is NOT founded in a belief that women are less intelligent, less capable, or …well…lessor. I have great respect for the women in my life, church, and yes…doctoral program. I see strength and desire in them that should not be wasted. However, I do believe that God intended different roles for men and women; neither set of roles make the other one greater or lessor, but rather, dependent upon each other. The church is described as a single “body of Christ,” and yet, the Bible is very clear that we may be one, but we are not all given the same gifts nor the same roles.
  4. I believe there is a dangerous line that churches attempt to walk today, and I warn my own congregation and family about it; it is the desire to do what the rest of the world does. The world does not set the example for the church; the church sets the example for the world. Too many of the books today (this one included) begins with this reference to worldly values, beliefs, and allowances; that should automatically be a red flag to that is taught, “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matthew 18:7) In my opinion, the world is justifying a lot of sinful things today that the church should continue to BOLDLY preach against.
  5. I believe it is a disservice to talk down against women concerning the “old-fashioned” view of motherhood or womanhood. There is a fascinating reality that takes place in the OT when chronicling through the good and bad kings of Israel and Judah; when a king is great…it his mother who is praised as a result; but if the king is bad…it is his mother that is scorned. When Paul praises Timothy for his upbringing in the Lord, we are not even taught his father’s name; to the contrary, it is Lois and Eunice (mother and grandmother) who were given credit for the “genuine faith” that had been instilled in him. In my own life, my father pushed me toward the pulpit, but it was my mother that taught me how to relate and talk to people.
  6. The issue of Spiritual Gifts – this is the tough one; after all, how do you tell a woman that feels she is meant for the ministry that she is not allowed there? My answer…you don’t! HOWEVER…even with spiritual gifts, we should practice discerning the truth through those gifts. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 14 the blessing of “speaking in tongues,” and yet, that chapter is full of rules for using that spiritual gift. I had a young girl in my youth group once that was so concerned about the conservative values of the “Church of Christ,” and yet the desire that she had to work with youth in a ministry avenue. I did not condemn or discourage her; instead, we got Harding.edu webpage and looked into children’ ministry programs. To this day…she is an encouragement.

 

We all have boundaries and limitations placed upon us by God; I can choose to resent Him for those limitations or I can embrace the person God has set for me to be, and discover ways to maximize my ministry opportunities as a result.

7. Lastly, I believe the “church” is full of many ignorant, stubborn, and idiotic people who often misinterpret prejudice and hate for scripture. As a man with a mother, 5 sisters, a wife, 2 daughters, numerous nieces, a daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, fantastic female professors and so many Christian mothers, grandmothers, and sisters, I would be an absolute fool to talk down about the roles that they have played in my life, in my church, and in my ministry. To my own dismay, often they outwork the men in our congregation exponentially, and we are blessed to have every one of them.

About the Author

Shawn Hart

16 responses to “The most difficult discussion to have…don’t stone me!”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Shawn,

    I especially resonated with your point #4 – “I believe there is a dangerous line that churches attempt to walk today…the desire to do what the rest of the world does.” Right on!

    I am really going to miss all of our interactions through these Blogs!

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Jay, I hope we have all developed a healthy appreciation for the variety of perspectives that this cohort has provided. We may not always see eye-to-eye, but perhaps that is what it will take for us to become stronger ministers. I believe the best growth comes when we are challenged a little. I hope we can continue that trend beyond our degrees.

  2. mm Mike says:

    Shawn,
    I read your post last night sitting in an airplane in Chicago. For not having the book to refer to you had a “lot” to say.
    Being the spiritual warfare guy in the class I must lead with “this is not a battle of flesh and blood.” Yet, everything I read and see shows me that many of the Christians fighting this fight, have fallen prey to this scheme, and make it personal and towards each other. While the research and healthy discussions can be good, I fear that many involved in this extreme sides of this debate are not in a healthy place spiritually.
    This battle is just the beginning my friend, and we should not be surprised at what Satan will throw at us next. I don’t know much, but the little I do, I owe to the Lord. So for me, I am going to fight the good fight, fight for social and spiritual injustice, stay dependent and submissive to the Lord, and wear Christ as my armor and defense against these well devised and highly publicized schemes.
    Stand firm,
    Mike

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Happy to say Mike…that sounds great to me too. I know there will always be a spiritual war taking place, but I refuse to lose my soul while fighting it. I believe there is a loving, Christian way to handle this, and for that matter, all discussions. I hope we take the time to find it. Safe travels.

  3. mm Jean Ollis says:

    Shawn,
    Even though we have different discernment on this topic, I appreciate you owning your views as your own. Clearly you love and respect the women in your life. I’m most curious if the women in your family espouse the same Biblical interpretation as you or do you have spirited discussions? Especially your young daughters?

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Jean, thanks for that question. My daughters are some of the most beautiful (harted) Christian women I know. They are active Christians, always willing to serve, teach, and embrace their lives with Christ. However, they do share the view of leadership that hold. I am sure part of that is my doing, being that I am the main teacher of Scripture they have had in their life. However, I have always taught all my children that I never want them to take my word for anything; I want them to “study to show themselves approved.” They call me from college questioning things they have been taught and make me proud with their desire to stay close to Christ.

      My wife is a great Christian leader in our church; but she would never believe her place was suppose to be in the pulpit. However, she also knows that I could never do all that I get to do as a minister if I had not had her by my side through these years. We are partners…but I am the vocal one.

  4. Good post, Shawn!

    You mention that, “…I was definitely raised on the highly conservative side of the tracks.”

    How has that influenced your interpretation of scripture? At the church, where I currently attend, they take the same view as you. However, I’ve found the pastors to be very supportive, encouraging, and engaging even though we differ drastically on this specific topic.

    What ways would you characterize yourself as Complementarian? Would you refuse a woman to pray in public, pass the offering plate, or serve on a committee? I ask this because, in my years of ministry, I’ve come across MANY forms of Complementarianism and Egalitarianism.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Colleen, my conservative upbringing is more a positioning mark for my childhood; today, I cling to the fact that I am always digging through the Scriptures for fact, not support. I don’t want to study to find that I am right; I want to study to find how God is right.

      As for my complimentary approach:

      I believe there is a leadership that was established in Scripture that leaves men as the head of the women just as Christ is head over the church. However, I do not believe that alienates women from ministry, just some forms of primary leadership. Women are given the role of teaching the children and young women; for this reason, I believe children’s ministry is very acceptable. Committees: I have not problem with women serving on committees; in fact, their perspectives are always welcome and desired. Ladies work with the ministers side by side for camp, VBS, and many of our benevolent programs. My primary limitations fall around elders and preacher.

  5. Shawn,

    Thanks for your well-presented post this week.

    Even though we have different interpretations on this topic, I’m very impressed with the way you hold this controversy. You stated, “I pray the Lord is still keeping my heart open to all of His Word for future revelation.” That is a prayer all of us need to pray no matter what side we end up on.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Amen Mark! I hope that I have figured it out the best I can today…but leave room for God to teach me more tomorrow.

  6. Dave Watermulder says:

    Hey Shawn,
    Thanks for the clearly written post, numerating out your points. I think you do well to honor and lift up women’s roles (from the Bible and in your own life), even as you hold onto a more complementarian view in the end. Always glad to be in relationship and conversation with you.

  7. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Shawn,

    Your position is thorough, reasoned, I believe humble (though I am coming to this as a male), and compassionate. I understand your perspective and recognize that the Bible continues to be less descriptive and more interpretive than any of us might like.

    And like you, I do not want to take on a view or perspective simply because that seems to be the way society is moving. However, for me the biggest concern is the potential loss of the next generation. As Jay in his post, I don’t think this is a hill worth dying on. I don’t believe it is a matter of salvation or sanctification. Therefore if emerging generations are abandoning the Church because they feel excluded or dismissed as a result of this issue or similar ones than I stand with Paul to become “all things to all people that I might win some”. Again, because I don’t believe it to be critical for salvation I think there is more flexibility then there might be in understanding something like the divinity of Jesus or works/grace.

    One more question……as a scholar of Biblical research and word usage what do you make of the Trinity? It is never specifically laid out in scripture and yet was adapted in the 3rd and 4th centuries as orthodox. The Church grew INTO that understanding why could it not grow OUT OF limiting the role of women in leadership? This is not a dig at you or your position but a genuine question regarding interpretation. Thanks for your integrity.

  8. Shawn Hart says:

    Dan…you had to be tough didn’t ya? LOL.

    I believe there are many debates over what I refers to as “issues” rather than over “salvation”. However, the sad reality is that they way we deal with those issues could end up a salvation issue for the one entangled in it. I believe there are role stipulations in Scripture, but I would never say a woman was going to Hell because she was a preacher. Interestingly, the issue of role of women is almost never an issue at all in the Church of Christ; but rather by those who are judging the church because of their stance. I thoroughly appreciate the servant heart of all of the women that dedicate themselves to ministry; regardless of whether I agree with them completely.

    Second; some might say that we are still growing into our understanding concerning the operation of the Trinity. It’s not a word that is actually defined in the Bible, and yet, there are many scriptures that undeniably mention all three personas in different roles. When seeing that in relationship to the topic at hand; even they can demonstrate that different roles does not make one lesser than the other; but rather compliment and strengthen. My greatest problem with the role of women debate, is that I believe that for women to neglect that which God designated for them, leaves a gap in the perfect design. The role of women (according to me) should not be ignored because of the extreme value it holds on the integrity of both family and church.

  9. Greg says:

    Shawn. I am appreciated reading your blog and the many responses. I also appreciated you being willing to take a stance and hold to it. I know that you fall on the conservative side in many of our discussion. I have always appreciated that you approach these differences in love and respect. Thanks brother.

  10. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Thanks Shawn, we defintely fall on the opposite ends of fence on this one, but I really appreciate your multiple affirmations of women. I often wonder how much of my theology has been affected by culture. In this regard, feminism has had a huge imapct on the USA and I wonder how many of us would be egalitarian 200 years ago, ya know?

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