Tag Archives: women in ministry

It’s A Woman’s World… Too

Women in MinistryThe Gospels reveal that Jesus emancipated first-century women from second-class citizenship in God’s Kingdom; he challenged the dominant culture of his day and overturned the accepted interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures.

For Jesus, we see in the Gospels that his radical inclusion of women and his elevation of their status in society was in keeping with his overarching ministry to defeat Satan and heal the destructive consequences of the Fall.

So why have so many in the church failed to accept women as equals? Is this really a conservative versus progressive issue? And what about those restrictive verses in Paul’s letters (1 Cor 14:34-35; 1 Tim 2:11-15)? Did the Apostle Paul believe and teach in accordance with Jesus and his example?

A couple weeks ago I preached a message entitled, It’s A Woman’s World… Too: A Christ-Centered Case for Women in Ministry.

This message has seen more traffic than I usually get with sermons, so I thought I’d post it to the blog for those who are interested.

Click here for sermon audio and link to slides.

Here are a few excerpts from the message:

“When we look at the ancient world of the Scriptures, whether we are talking about ethno-centric theology (racism), the evil institution of slavery, or the oppressive view of women in a male-dominated society, the clear trajectory set forth by Jesus and the apostles (particularly Paul) is one of liberation and equality. I think this is an important point that antagonistic Bible skeptics and extreme feminists need to understand about the New Testament. Both Jesus and Paul see themselves making all things new in the midst of a fallen humanity that is in full stride with practices that don’t line up with God’s original design for creation.”

“We would do well to look not for those things in the NT that reflect first-century patriarchal society, but those places where Jesus and Paul are breaking from the norm and patiently infusing the leaven of the Gospel into what were already accepted social structures.”

“So, the trajectory of freedom is there, if you’re paying attention to the original context. Then you can see the raging current of equality that Jesus began in his life and ministry.”

It’s a Woman’s World… Too (June 5, 2016)

D.D. Flowers, 2016.


Creeds & the Local Church

I’ve been doing some thinking about the difference(s) between dogma, doctrine, and opinion when it comes to the local church.

Simply put… it looks like this.

  • Dogma — Irreducible beliefs of the Christian faith. What do we say about Jesus?
  • Doctrine — Historical or traditional beliefs on a plethora of theological issues. What sets us apart?
  • Opinion — Debatable issues that you’re free to agree or disagree upon. What do you think?

I agree with these three distinctions (leaving room for some overlap), but how do you determine what belief goes where in these categories? And is it possible for a local church (pastors & elders) to proclaim a certain view as “doctrine” but leave room for members to disagree? I think so.

One thing is for certain, this is a task for folks in community together and those who are willing to wrestle with it. That’s an invitation.

Two Ways of Dealing With It

Let me first address two common ways of dealing with these issues, and then I’ll share my working thoughts.

Group One — “Give me Jesus, not your divisive doctrine.”

Some of you know that I spent about five years meeting in homes and interacting with a network of “organic” churches. I had some great experiences. However, many of the folks I ran into sought to downplay the role of theology and creeds (statement of beliefs) for fear that it is divisive and characteristic of the beastly institutional church.

They have a point. Beliefs can be divisive. But I don’t think the answer is to avoid the need for a creed, or set Jesus against doctrine.

So, I’m saying that I know people that don’t seem to think that worrying about dogma, doctrine, and opinion really matters. In their “opinion” (catch that?), we should just wander about in nebulous fashion and refrain from any organization—church practice and theology included.

This group is imagining that there is not a systematic theology at work in the members of their group or church. It doesn’t need to be posted on a church website or posted on the wall of their meeting place, it’s alive in the hearts and minds of the saints there.

A fellowship may not discuss what they believe openly or form a statement of faith by consensus, but it’s at work among them.  Avoiding the obvious need for a creed of theology, mission, and vision will lead to a certain death. That’s if the church even gets off the ground in the first place.

You can’t escape a “theology of the people” who have decided to band together for Kingdom purposes.

Trying to do so will lead to division of another sort. Once more proving that reactionary thinking and practice is not the answer.

I suppose this groups believes that if you stay away from labels and systems of thought that there will not be any division or controversy. They must think this reflects a purer stage of the NT church.

Back when there weren’t any problems, right?

I respect the desire to not be needlessly building walls of separation between saints. I’m all for that. But I can’t espouse the idea that having a statement of belief (creed) is damaging to the church.

In fact, I believe it is healthy and necessary.

Group Two — “Let’s get back to the basics… of the 4th century.”

Then there are other folks who are rightfully fed up with sectarianism in the church but believe that we must stand firm on some basic theological truths about Christ. They believe we should only stick to the ancient creeds in our attempts to articulate the essentials of our faith.

I grew up a Southern Baptist. The SBC has a very lengthy confession (Baptist Faith & Message) dealing with just about every issue under the sun (OK, I’m exaggerating a little bit). Needless to say, I didn’t grow up reciting the Apostles or Nicene Creed. I regret that.

My wife and I attended a Methodist church for a year and we deeply benefited from the recitation of these ancient creedal statements. The recitation of creeds in worship is a healthy way of reminding everyone in attendance of what brings them together and is forming their new identity as members of the universal church.

Hear me out. I like reciting the ancient creeds, but I do think it’s important to remember that the Apostles & Nicene Creeds (4th cent) were written against their own contextual issues of heresy and debated ideas of Christology in the church from ages ago.

Let’s remember the ancient creeds and recite them together in our churches. I’m cool with that. I think there is something deeply beneficial that comes with this practice. But I submit to you that a healthy church will continue to wrestle with dogma, doctrine, and opinion in every age and culture.

The local church can do this by amending the ancient creeds to better address our 21st century issues and challenges.

It’s necessary for a church that wishes to be a relevant organism seeking to make a Kingdom impact in every culture and context. Our evolving world demands it. We must not be afraid to speak to, for, and against issues of our time. We must move forward with courage.

Finding a Third Way

If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I have intentions to plant a church in the near future. I do this with fear and trembling. It’s not gonna be easy, but I’m convinced the Lord wants it.

The church today is fragmented in many ways. And I don’t wish to add to the problem by doing more of the same. But a new church plant is gonna require some line-drawing when it comes to dogma, doctrine, and opinion.

For example, some issues of “classical” theology, especially as it relates to our view of God in Christ, need to be revisited in order to reflect a change in the 21st cent church—a church that presently finds herself forced to accept views about God which contradict the revelation of God in Christ, or leave behind belief in a good God altogether.

The church that humbly professes the better view of God in Christ is being a faithful church, not a divisive or dogmatic church.

If we don’t speak up about these matters and courageously hold our ground against competing views that undermine the revelation of God in Christ… what good are we? What Gospel are we proclaiming?

There are other issues related to our culture and context that should be addressed in our creeds. We can’t afford to avoid these issues.

Some positions will need to be taken in response to culture, most others in response to misguided Christians propagating views about God and his sovereignty that don’t look like Jesus. It will require us hold positions that may not be popular, but are necessary to maintain the centrality and supremacy of Christ for authentic faith and practice.

Here’s what I’m saying… what may have been considered “opinion” or a non-essential in one generation can move into the realm of accepted doctrine worthy to be included in a church’s creed and statement of faith if it is needed in our response to bad theology and pagan culture.

The creeds of the local church should move forward in every cultural context, though never away from Christ who is eternal in the heavens.

The way forward affirms the importance of beliefs, expands on matters critical to our confession of Christ, and is willing to draw necessary lines in order to be faithful to the Kingdom.

This third way looks like Jesus Christ of Nazareth—Truth for the church and culture, saturated in love and grace for every age.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


What’s With Paul & Women? (Book Review)

1 Timothy 2:11-12 has been used as a “clear” mandate to silence women in the church for over 1500 years. And enough is enough!

In What’s With Paul & Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2, Jon Zens, author of A Church Building Every ½ Mile, exposes the fallacies of this interpretation, and opens up the meaning of 1 Tim.2:9-15 using insights gleaned from the Artemis-saturated Ephesian culture where Timothy was left to stand against false teaching (1:3).

Going beyond 1 Tim.2, this book covers the major issues in gender inequality with three Appendices: one on the Ephesian social world in which 1 Timothy was written, another on 1 Corinthians14:34-36 and an extensive review of John Piper’s What’s the Difference? Manhood & Womanhood Defined According to the Bible.

If 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 have puzzled you, What’s With Paul & Women? will help in your quest to discern the mind of the Lord as the gender debate lingers.  For those who believe that women should keep their mouths shut and tend to the children… I challenge you to read one of the strongest presentations that early Christianity was a faith of  “women and widows.”

I have had the privilege of getting to know Jon over the last year.  And I have recently read What’s With Paul & Women? I firmly believe that…

“Jon is one of the church’s best kept secrets today.  This little book presents a colossal challenge to years of subjugating women in the name of Christ.  It is a theological bulwark against those who would use the New Testament to teach a second-class citizenship in the kingdom of God.”

What others are saying…

“This is an important book. It provides new insight into a topic which has sadly divided the Church for much too long. I have been greatly enlightened by the work Jon has done in this book and I strongly recommend it to everyone who takes God’s Word seriously.” ~Keith Giles, Orange, CA
author of The Gospel:For Here Or To Go?

“This passionate, well-researched work is not only a fair treatment of the subject, but one that is biblically sound, drawing from the entirety of the Word of God. Intelligent, captivating, covering new ground — a must read!” ~Stephanie Bennett, Ph.D.
Palm Beach Atlantic University 
W. Palm Beach, FL

“In this engaging and careful study, Jon Zens provides a thoughtful and unique examination of the thorny passage in 1 Timothy 2 that deals with a woman’s ministry in the church. A hugely insightful read.” ~Frank Viola, author of From Eternity to Here, Reimagining Church, Pagan Christianity, and Finding Organic Church

Jon Zens

Jon earned his B.A. from Covenant College (1968), an M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary (1972), and a D.Min. from the California Graduate School of Theology (1983). He became the editor of Searching Together in 1978.  Since 1979, he and his wife, Dotty, have traveled world-wide sharing with assemblies their insights about living under grace and extending grace to others.

What’s With Paul and Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 by Jon Zens will be released in paperback by Ekklesia Press during the first week of April, 2010.

The book is now available for preorder at www.jonzens.com!


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