Tag Archives: deacons

Thoughts on “The Bigger Story Behind Jen Hatmaker”

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 Timothy and Titus 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”.

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On Widows and Hospital Visits- 1 Timothy 5:1-16

To see previous posts from this series: Chapter 1  Chapter 2  Chapter 3  Chapter 4

I believe that one of the key struggles in the American/Westernized version of Christianity is that while we believe the Bible is true, we often do not act as though it is sufficient. One of the markers of the early church was the way that they cared for others, especially other believers in time of need. Specifically, how the church dealt with widows. There are 2 key texts, Acts 6, and 1 Timothy 5:1-16. Let’s discuss these texts:

Acts 6:1-4:

“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men form among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

We can learn several things from this text:

  • People were being reached for Christ
  • There was racial discrimination in the early church that led to needs not being met
  • The early church met the needs of people, specifically widows
  • The role of Elders (whom the Twelve essentially were) was to proclaim and teach the scriptures
  • They called a meeting of ALL of the disciples and discussed the issue
  • They named seven men who had BOTH the Holy Spirit and the gift of wisdom to manage this process
  • After this was handled, verse 7 tells us, “So the word of God spread.”

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A Trustworthy Saying: 1 Timothy 3

As we’ve already seen, in his first letter to Timothy Paul has warned Timothy that there are false teachers among them- these are leaders that may know God, but do not know His power. When they speak, they are mere historians simply recounting what has happened in the past. He challenges Timothy to not be like them, to remember what was said about him when the elders laid their hands on him in sending him into ministry.

Paul also gave bold instructions on behavior in worship. Prayer should be at the forefront, and the people had a responsibility to act appropriately in it. But…what next? There’s a wrong way to worship (preacher as historian, knowing ABOUT God but not knowing Him) and a right way to worship (prayer, behavior). There are some within the community of God who are leaders. Paul has this to say:

If one desires to be an overseer (elder), he desires a noble task. Paul then lists out the following traits:

  • above reproach
  • the husband of but one wife
  • temperate
  • self-controlled
  • respectable
  • hospitable
  • able to teach
  • not given to drunkenness
  • not violent, but gentle
  • not quarrelsome
  • not a lover of money
  • must manage his own family well, and see that his children obey him with proper respect (if anyone does not manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)
  • not be a recent convert, as he may become conceited (prideful, arrogant)
  • have a good reputation with outsiders (non-believers)

There are others in leadership roles in the church. Paul called these men “deacons.” There’s a list for them as well:

  • worthy of respect
  • sincere
  • not indulging in much wine (an interesting statement)
  • not pursuing dishonest gain
  • keep hold to the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience
  • they must first be tested, and if there is nothing against them, they may serve
  • their wives must be worthy of respect, not gossips but temperate and trustworthy
  • the husband of one wife
  • manage his own household and children well

Paul writes all of this because they need to know how to conduct themselves, how to operate as “God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” A few things of note:

  1. Most of the things listed above are character traits, not skills. If we were to look at the fruits of the Spirit Paul would list in Galatians (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) we see how the lists above are simple manifestations of the inner work of the Holy Spirit.
  2. These roles are more than roles, more than positions. There is a difference between “positional authority” and “leadership.” The difference between the two is character.
  3. Only people of proper character should desire this “noble task”, because only they can conduct themselves properly. Only those of high character can speak and demonstrate the truth from a position of integrity.

Jesus has this to say in Matthew 20:25-28- “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for the ransom of many.”

Jesus clearly knew the difference between positional authority and leadership. Those in positional authority lord, while leaders serve. Jesus was not merely a historian, but a demonstrator. The reason that Jesus is trustworthy in his words and instructions are because he lived it personally , which is why he used the phrase, “just as the Son of Man…” Jesus’ message was valid only because he lived it. Jesus was not self-deluded.

The self-deluded ones (1 Timothy 1:7) are the ones that proclaim the message without living it. The self-deluded ones are the historians. Paul handed men like this over to Satan in 1 Timothy 1:20 so that they may see the error of their ways- this happens through personal repentance, personal reconciliation, and personal restoration. To be clear, a church will NEVER rise above the spiritual maturity of its leadership. A leadership who fails to demonstrate these things will not, cannot, lead their church to do so.

May the church not fall into the hands of those in mere positions of authority, but men of godly character.

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