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Why women aren’t taken seriously in conservative churches

Some churches treat women like second-class Christian citizens. This begs the question: why are they not taken seriously in these conservative churches?

There’s been quite a bit of internet discussion recently about what complementarianism is or isn’t. As with any theological discussion or debate, there has been some perversion of the theological terms.

Some are questioning whether the term complementarian still accurately describes the biblical definitions of the roles of men and women. As I have watched this conversation unfold on social media, I have benefited from having my thoughts challenged, and I have learned much.

However, the discussion has caused me to consider a base question that I believe is under the surface of at least some of this conversation: What aren’t women taken more seriously in our conservative churches?

Are you serious?

Scripture is clear that men and women are equal heirs to the inheritance of the saints (1 Peter 3:7–8; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 1:9–14). Though our God-ordained gender provides us with unique roles in our earthly ministries, it does not mean women are less significant to Christ than men. Christ’s condescension to earth to die for the sins of every believer makes each of us equally important to our Lord.

Every blood-bought child of God is a saint worth the sacrifice simply because the Lord chose to redeem us. He chose us in His infinite knowledge, wisdom, and kindness not because of who we are, what skin color we possess, or whether we got a pink or blue bow in the hospital nursery.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. — 1 Peter 2:9–10 (ESV)

If we’re all an equal part of the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:9–10), why are some of us taken less seriously than others? Is it truly because of our gender? Or are there issues that lie a little deeper than mere gender roles?

Don’t build walls

In many churches, there is too much division between the men and women. Granted, there are certain teaching situations when it is wise and prudent to separate the men and women. But I think we’ve swung this pendulum a bit too far in many cases.

Women have deep, theological minds and are hungry for something to chew on, theologically speaking. Is it so wrong to invite the women to sit alongside their husbands and the other men so they may learn the deep things of God?

Can you just imagine the growth in the Word a couple could experience if they were studying the same material and having lively conversations with each other in their home about challenging material? What an opportunity for the husband to disciple his wife and family!

Deep theological discussions could create an intellectual oneness that many couples may have never experienced. What an opportunity to connect as a married couple in a way that would likely have a positive impact on all the other aspects of their marriage!

You could improve physical intimacy because the spiritual connection made outside the bedroom strengthens. How would churches benefit when couples deeply engage with one another on all levels? It would change church cultures in the deepest way.

Of course, we must be responsible in our engagement of women and men within the church. There are topics you must discuss separately.

If a church was offering a class on physical intimacy or some accountability program that was intended to be one-on-one, there should be a separation of the men and women.

But for general exegesis and theological training, let the women in on the knowledge. Families will be stronger for it.

There are no pink passages in Scripture. All 66 books from Genesis to Revelation are for the whole body of Christ to know, understand, and apply to their lives. This idea leads me to my next point. Fasten your seatbelts, girls; this one might hurt a bit.

Don’t be silly

Many women’s ministries are packed full of activities that have nothing to do with sanctification or spiritual growth. We gather around crafts tables and learn the latest Pinterest decorating tips.

We have fellowship teas with a slight nod to the single Bible verse printed on the beautiful placemat at our seat.

We host Bible studies in our homes that are just a study of the latest book written by the current favored female author — and we don’t even bring our Bibles (but we bring plenty of husband-bashing conversation and gossip). All in the name of ministry.

Friends, this is not ministry, it is a social club. Honestly, the world can give us these things. Ministry is getting in the midst of the messy life of your sister whose teenager just committed a horrible sin, and helping her figure out how to respond to the Gospel.

Ministry is gathering around the Word of God together because you simply can’t go one more second without a morsel of its goodness to sustain you for the battle of this life.

Ministry is reaching out to your community with hope and help to demonstrate the Gospel in practical ways as a reflection of your local body.

It’s not a wonder the men segregate from the women. While some fantastic female bonding may happen over the activities listed above, discipleship only happens when the Word of God and His Gospel are the intentional focus of our fellowship.

Sister, I understand the desire to get felt needs met. But my flesh is deceitful and wicked. What I think I need is most often not even close to what the Lord knows I need (Jeremiah 17:9; James 1:14–15; Matthew 6:8).

Frankly, sometimes what I need is a painful experience to draw me closer to my Father and cause me to depend more fully on Him and operate from His strength instead of my own. A craft table will never teach me this.

I can only learn these lessons as I humbly place myself under the authority of my Lord and His Word, asking Him to search me and reveal my wicked ways (Psalm 139:23–24).

Friends, I am pleading with you; for the sake of your souls and the souls of the women you may influence, please, grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

Ten steps to change

  1. In regards to the teaching environments at your local church, first, have a conversation with your husband. Tell him your concerns and ask if he would be willing to talk with your church leadership with you.
  2. When you speak with your church leadership, do so in a loving, gentle manner with a view to how you can offer help and be part of the solution.
  3. Be patient. Depending on what your church culture is like, it may take lots of time to see lasting, effective changes.
  4. Commit yourself to prayer for your leadership and continue to encourage them.
  5. Make yourself available to serve in whatever way you can to help facilitate change.
  6. It’s very simple. If you don’t want people to treat you like a silly little girl, stop acting like one. (I realize sometimes people treat us like children, not because of our actions.) But examine yourself to be sure.
  7. To gain respect from anyone, male or female, you must first treat others with respect.
  8. Communicate kindly and graciously with others. The old saying “you catch more flies with honey” applies well in this situation.
  9. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought (Galatians 6:3; Romans 12:3). Sanctification is a progressive process. Be patient while others grow. Come alongside them and help them while they grow.
  10. As you are waiting for growth to happen within your church, work on your growth. Feast on the Word and live in the application of the things you are learning. Others are watching to see if you practice what you preach. Let them see a faithful witness.

Originally published at Rick Thomas.

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