Here’s a little info on “Jen Hatmaker situation“. This post is not about her, but a response to a recent Christianity Today article entitled, “The Bigger Story Behind Jen Hatmaker“. The other day on my Facebook page, I linked to that CT article with the following pull quote from Jen Wilkin, a minister at The Village Church in Texas:
The typical church organizational structure tends to segregate women’s ministry as an autonomous unit—a mysterious kingdom that operates according to its own set of rules.
Here are some thoughts on the CT article:
1- Church leadership has the responsibility of being aware of cultural trends and influences, especially those trends and influences that impact the churches that they lead. Jen Hatmaker has not been living under a rock- she has a platform as a speaker, blogger, writer, reality show “star” and spouse of a pastor.
- I wonder, when is the last time that church leaders have looked at the bestseller list provided by the Association for Christian Retailers? Me? I NEVER have. Until today.
- Forget the “Christian” market…how about the regular market? What music, movies, and television shows are those in our churches watching? How would we even know?
- Ideas: Create a survey and ask what media people consume. Read books, watch a few episodes, give music a listen.
2- The pastor in your church will NEVER out-preach Francis Chan, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Alistair Beeg, Beth Moore, Andy Stanley, or any other pastor that you listen to through podcasting. As much as I enjoy listening to Matt Chandler, he is not my pastor. Doug White is. I belong to a local body of believers that I am called into to be an active member. And, one of the things I appreciate about Matt Chandler is that at the beginning of EVERY video from The Village Church, he basically says that TVC is not a replacement for a local church.
- Idea: Stop comparing your pastor to these people. Instead, pray for him or her. Thank God for him or her. I read somewhere that God assembled the body as He saw fit. That “assembly” includes your pastor.
3- “The typical church organizational structure tends to segregate women’s ministry as an autonomous unit–a mysterious kingdom that operates according to its own set of rules.” This is 100%, absolute truth. It’s also not limited only to women’s ministry. This is a problem because church leadership bears the responsibility of knowing what is being taught in every single learning environment within the church. Why? They will be held to account for what has been taught.
- Idea: Create a scope and sequence for curriculum and content to be used. Review everything. Is it biblical? Do we agree with the doctrine being taught? Ask “Why this?” and “Why now?” and have people defend their choices. Ask, “How does this fit with the rest of what we are doing?” Be willing to say “No”. Why? It’s your job, church leaders. Paul warned the leaders at Ephesus that not only would people sneak in as wolves, but that the wolves were already present.
4- Have an honest discussion about the role of men’s and women’s ministries within the church. Titus 2 is clear, it’s to make disciples. Yep, you can be friends, eat snacks, make a craft, shoot guns, go fishing or shopping. You can do all of those things and still make disciples. You know what else? You can do every one of those things and never make a single disciple. Just because someone says, “We ARE making disciples in our ministry” does not make it so. Look. At. The. Fruit. Are the people involved more like Jesus? Are they living Matthew 5-7 lives?
- Idea: Sit down at your next ministry gathering and read Titus 2. Ask questions. Look at the fruit in the lives of those gathered. Challenge one another. Ask, “How?”. For every instruction given by Paul to Titus, ask specifically, “How is what we are doing in this ministry being faithful to Scripture?”
5- Know and understand that there were female leaders in the New Testament church. Priscilla. Junia. Mary. At least one of them, Phoebe, was a deacon. Yep. A girl was a deacon. We know this because in Romans 16:1, Paul writes, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea” (for those of you who feel compelled to argue- Paul uses the same Greek word here that he uses in 1 & 2 Timothy as well as the same word used by Luke in Acts 6- in verb form- for “deacon”). One of the roles of church leadership is to contextualize the scriptures- we read and study them, then teach and apply them to our specific contexts. The role of women serving is something that must be contextualized. How can we ensure that everyone within the church are utilizing their gifts for the good of the entire body?
- Idea: Ask and answer these questions: How many women attend your church? How many single moms? How many widows? And the big question…who is advocating for them? How does “what you do” as a church take into account the various dynamics of those who attend? When is the last time that church leadership met with the leader of your church’s women’s ministry team to learn about the issues facing females within your church? (Which means, that discipleship MUST be the goal- see #4, above.) What roles can women hold in the church?
Clearly, many (if not all) of these issues can be traced back to a healthy and biblical leadership structure. Leaders are called to shepherd the flock, this requires us to know our flock. Leaders are called to teach sound doctrine, this requires us to know scripture. If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. Which is why James says, “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly”.