Women Praying Allowed in Church (Part 3)

Oklahoma is about to have a governor in November that's a woman, regardless. No matter how you vote. Unless there's an Independent, or something. Women come to us, and many of you are teachers, and superintendents, and principals of your schools, and business leaders, doctors and nurses. You lead where you are, and you come into the church, and it seems that there's a different environment from a natural environment. Why is that? Unfortunately, over the years, these short passages taken from Paul's letters extracted, have been taken permanently, and extracted from their context, rather than taken contextually, and viewed as temporary injunctions for specific reasons by Paul.

So that a particular group of women can learn, and begin functioning as a body of Christ, gifted to teach, and lead in the mission of spreading the gospel worldwide. Women did that all throughout. Women helped Jesus throughout his ministry. They were right alongside of him, all the way to the foot of the cross.

In fact, women were the majority at the foot of the cross of Christ. There were male followers of Jesus mentioned at the foot of the cross, other than John. Viewed as permanent, these passages still--they've caused churches to clearly define leadership speaking as man's role, and women's as quiet service. In other areas where authority is not over men. But, taken this way as permanent, it still contradicts these, "What do women do passages?"

In Paul's own instructions in 1 Corinthians 11:5, where he instructs women and men when they pray, when they prophesied, "Women you should cover your heads." He regulates it because of some cultural concerns of the way Jews and Gentiles, and different people were experiencing one another. Those head covering issues are still -- goodnight, France is still dealing with that problem.

These are cultural things that occur, that Paul was trying to address, but sometimes we get wrapped up in discussions of head coverings and silence, that we forget that he's talking about how to humble ourselves, men and women, as we come before the Lord to learn as disciples, and then to go out, and lead.

We looked at the context. We've looked at Paul's concern for the gospel spreading. Let's look at one more aspect of a doctrinal teaching that is super important, and that is the fall versus the new creation. The fall versus life in Christ. That is so super important for us to understand. We've looked at these, and we'll look at three major views of the way we view women in ministry and leadership.

First is the hard patriarchy. Patriarchy, meaning male leadership. Hard patriarchy says that there is a divine order that is ordained for all time, and males should guide and lead, and the females should support and serve. In doing this, peace will reign.

That's a concept that's very crucial to hard patriarchy, that if you mess this up, then that's why we're getting problems in marriage, and churches, because people have not held to this hard patriarchy.

Soft patriarchy is a second view, and basically where Garnett is, in what I read earlier in our heritage documents.

That's, basically viewing male leadership as important, but expanding participation of women in leadership, and speaking roles, and praying. To a degree, Scot McKnight says, "Both of the above views, hard patriarchy, and soft patriarchy, to one degree or another, are stuck in the fall of mankind."

In other words, they take statements like Genesis 3:16 as prescriptions, rather than predictions of the rivalry that is now going to exist under the fall. What does Genesis 3:16 say? It says, "And it is part of the curse." God curses the serpent after the sin of Adam and Eve. He curses Eve, and then he curses Adam. 3:16 is part of the curse of Eve.

It's the last line of the curse. It says, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." This is not supposed to be. This is part of the fall. It's part of the curse. It's a prediction of what's going to happen. That males will dominate, and try to rule over women. One of our problems, however, is that we read passages like Genesis 3:16, and we think this prescriptive for all time.

Rather, Genesis is describing a falling condition that God very much intends to redeem in Christ. In the falling state, men suppress, oppress, and abuse women. That still happens, very much today, worldwide. But, women try to work around it. They do a lot of working around. That includes things like, saying one thing and doing another.

While men oppress and abuse, women have had to adapt to that suppression. Sometimes with passive aggression. To live in a new creation state--if we were to live in this new creation, instead of under the fall--it changes every relationship, and gives us news ways to communicate more directly to one another.

If we're going to do that, we're going to have to develop those kinds of things, because we've been accustomed to learning how to communicate under a fallen state, not acknowledging enough what Christ has done for us. In a fallen state, men yearn to dominate women, and fallen women yearn to dominate men.

Which brings up the question, if a man speaks in the woods, and there's no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong?

[laughter]

Yes. OK. Get that straight. The story of the bible is about a new creation in Christ, over against the old creation, the fall, and what happened at that time. Christ has come to establish, and return all of us in the church, and body of Christ into a new creation where oneness rules, and not the rivalry, and the enmity.

The third view--there's the hard patriarchy, soft patriarchy, and the third view is based on new creation. Christ has come to redeem relationships, and the whole creation. Mutuality is the third view. Mutuality, in this view, in the life in Christ returns us to the mutuality God intended for all creation. Mutuality believe that women's responsibility is to give God glory, to love her husband and children.

Similar, or same as patriarchal views, but also believes the gospel makes men and women one again, in many ways. It doesn't mean the genders are merged together. The genders are still intact with strengths and weaknesses that we should honor. In church, and society, and marriage, it touches all these areas.

The spirit leads women and men in our roles, and breaks down some of those traditions that bind us, but the spirit must decide that. What are women allowed, and permitted, and gifted to do? In the Old Testament, and New Testament we've looked at some of those passages. God created them to be as equals, but opposites for relationships, and companionship.

That's what happened when the creation of man and woman occurred, but also relationship with God. To bear the image of God, and to bear that image at birth, and marriage, and to honor husband and wife. And for women themselves to reflect the image of God, to be co-creators along with men.

Another quote from FF Bruce, who said--when asked about women participating in church leadership, FF Bruce said, "I am for whatever God's spirit grants women gifts to do." That's what I'm for, is whatever the spirit of God grants women gifts to do. It's the same as men. We have to pay attention to that in the local church.

We don't have anybody looking over our shoulder in a local church. We get the honor of being autonomous, and deciding these things for ourselves with our leadership, with input from the congregation. That's a wonderful honor. Galatians 3:26-28 should guide us in this.

In Galatians 3:26-28 says this, "In Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus." Paul is not the chauvinist I once thought he was.

Now, he's not -- I believe -- bent on silencing women. Even more, he's more forward-thinking than his contemporaries, wanting women to learn, and then teach. He's concerned for the spread of the gospel, and mutuality, and the upside kingdom, returning men and women to good relationships that were intended from the very creation.

When I was young -- I'm going to go back to where we began, to that little church where I grew up. A wonderful church. On Sunday nights, and Sunday afternoons, the boys would go to something called Timothy class.

Where we learned to blow a pitch pipe, and wave our hands in some kind of different ways, and lead a song, and do a devotional talk, and say a prayer, but my two sisters were not invited to the party. There was a separate, but equal kind of class for the girls in some churches.

I wouldn't necessarily call Timothy class spiritually forming, in so many ways, but it was a beginning to a vocation and calling for me in ministry that I value, but my sisters didn't get to have that. They weren't allowed to speak. Even to do something as basic as saying a prayer. To communicate with God, publicly, in our church.

Now, these traditional roles of women I mentioned, and many of you have been doing these for so many years. I should be ashamed of myself if I did not emphasize the glory God has received through the gentle hearts of you women who have been serving in this church, and in many churches all over the world for many, many years.

I think of the gentle heart of my mother, who has served quietly in her church for six decades. Creating places for fellowship, cooking, and baking, and doing -- no doubt -- what would stack up to be a mountain of peach cobblers and cinnamon rolls for the bereaved, and the sick. My mom has done twice the stuff that I'll ever think about doing in my lifetime.

She taught me how to pray, but she couldn't get up and pray in our church. I always wanted to hear her do that.

My dad was wise enough to ask her to do that at home. My sisters got to pray at home, too.

The last thing I'd want to do is hurt my mother's heart or any of your hearts or the body of Christ. Hear me say loud and clear that God has worked and is working and will continue to work in traditional churches, like I grew up in, and he'll work in this church. No matter what we do as long as we stay close to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

But it's people, like the faith of my mother, whose voices I believe we ought to hear praying aloud in church. The women at Garnett are some of the most prayerful, intentional and faithful prayers we have in the congregation.

They've served and taught and prayed and led ministries, gone as missionaries and do all that male counterparts in Christ do in ministry and service. Women's group meets specifically to pray over the church.

They met last night. They met today to send forth reapers into God's harvest to pray for leaders in our community. Why not fully open the door to allow them to pray regularly in our assemblies?

I want something for my daughters and my granddaughters and for all of our daughters, for the women at Garnett, for our sisters. My sisters turned out to be great people, but I want something in addition for my daughters and for yours.

I want them to be spiritually formed and I want them to be able to pray aloud in church without us saying, "Uh-oh." I know of people who have left the church because we don't do enough for women and I've known some that have left because of the things I'm saying today, the kinds of things.

The concern that Paul has is also the leader's concern that we have order in our church and so the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be preached. We can all live out our calling and spread the Gospel, including the other 50 percent of our body that we sometimes squelched.

We want to see women spiritually formed and taught and then to lead and voice prayers of the psalms and recite scriptures and pray aloud in our worship, our small groups, our Bible classes. Our shepherds, our church documents and scripture do not prohibit women from praying, let us begin to practice what neither we nor scripture prohibits.

Let's give women and men, who are taught and gifted, opportunities to pray during worship, to lead the Praise Team Women, lead the Praise Team, that even to take that step in front and do what Shawn's doing and lead us, lead the whole Praise Team, pray when we have collection and communion and say the "The Lord's Prayer" and give mission talks.

We've done much of that, but it would be great if we could give up that "uh-oh" response. Women and men must both learn in submission of Christ and be led by the Holy Spirit and then freely lead here at Garnett.

Men and women taught the way of life in Christ and led by the Spirit ought to pray aloud. Today, as we enter into the communion, Karen Garland has no desire to stand up here in front of people, but I asked her to do so anyway.

She's going to come up and say a word and then voice the prayer before our communion. When we go to the tables, we go as equals in Christ, according to Galatians, Chapter 3, Verse 26 and 28. "We are all one in Christ and may we be one."

May we work out what it means to be the body of Christ today. After Karen’s prayer, if you'd like to stay seated, the ushers will pass the communion to you or you may get up and go to the table.

Karen, go ahead and come on up. Karen's going to say a few words and then pray for us.

Karen Garland:  Uh-oh.

[laughter]

Karen:  Hello to all of you who don't know me. I want to introduce myself. I'm Karen Garland. I'm Robert's wife.

I'm the Garland that does not have the gift of public speaking, but I am, however, the only Garland that truly speaks German.

[laughter]

[applause]

Karen Garland:  I've been thinking lately about Greg's sermons, that maybe I'm not the only woman here that likes to hide behind the unwritten law that we, women, should be silent in our church. When, in reality, I actually greatly fear standing here speaking publicly.

Did you ever consider that when we don't participate in church by teaching, praying or speaking out loud, that what we're really doing is failing God? Remember that he told us to be a shining light into the world.

We must not hide ourselves under baskets of our making. We want our children to come to us, to talk to us daily because that's how we create a strong bond with them.

God wants us to come to Him daily for the same reason. Just as we are expected to teach God's lessons to our kids and grandkids and even people we don't know, God wants us to stand up and speak up when the opportunity comes our way.

I know there are many others out there, even among you guys, who are silent for many reasons. We're just plain shy or think we don't know enough and we're never taught how, or whatever the reason is, all of these are crutches.

Trust in God that He can lead you the right way to speak out loud to Him. There are people in this church that can help you, too, if you ask. They can teach and encourage us.

It's no crime or shame in asking for help. God would want us to do that. The fact is we need to get over it and get on with it and do whatever it takes to participate in our homes, this church and the world, irregardless of our fears.

Why should we pray out loud? Excuse me, I told you. We should pray out loud in our homes and in our church to honor God, trusting that with His help, we'll get better at it.

We need to step up and not be watchers, but be doers for God. Will you pray with me?

Dear Abba, Father, you're an awesome God, and I pray to you today, Lord, to confess a sin that I've been committing all my life. I've been putting myself before you by not learning to pray out loud in church and at home.

I know that each time I do that I fail to honor you. Please forgive me, Lord. Help me to draw closer to you and to honor you by being the kind of child that honors you in prayer, out loud or silently, at home, at church, and in the world.

In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Audience:  Amen.

Greg:  Let's go to the tables. [whispers] Thank you.

Karen:  [whispers] I did it.

Next I'll post the audio of this sermon, "Women Praying Allowed," and then post some further observations and the story of the Garnett Church of Christ's development in expanding women's roles in the church since 2010.