Entitled! (Part 1)

Have you ever organized an event and had someone offer to help – only to find that none of the ways you suggest they help appeal to them?

Maybe you get the sense that the errands you need run or the simple service chores on the list are a little beneath them?

Or, perhaps they agree to do the background work but, as they go about it, their efforts are forced and grudging. Soon, they’re taking long breaks or complaining to others about their assignment.

That kind of help, isn’t help, is it?

Neither are all the little suggestions of ways they would do the truly “important” jobs – better than the ones who have already taken those tasks. Your “helper” is full of ideas that sound wildly similar to criticism but are actually just “constructive comments.”

Suddenly, you find yourself devising tasks that require this helper to be away from the group for long stretches of time so that the work can actually resume speed.

Take, instead, the rare helper who comes without any sense of entitlement and offers to help – then does.

There’s no task too small for this person and they carry out each assignment with excellence, praising and supporting others as they go about their work.

Even more impressive when this person, whether by talent or position, is truly entitled to “greater roles.” The fact that he or she serves, as needed, in other areas with grace shines on your day like a brilliant gem.

It’s odd how someone can set up tables and chairs or fold napkins in such a way as to inspire and lead others to be their better selves, but I’ve seen it.

And I’ve also seen people who have, driven by a sense of entitlement and rights, snatched leadership and influence only to destroy the spirits of those they lead and inspire them to slink away, questioning their own faith.

Which person of these three would you say best exemplifies freedom in Christ? The entitled helper? The driven leader who’s asserted the right to lead? Or the one folding napkins with joy and grace?

One problem I have with the usual discussion of gender and gender roles in the church is that the focus of the conversation too often narrows itself to one or two passages of scripture, to the exclusion of the whole of Biblical teaching.

When the dialog becomes all about rights and the freedom of personal expression, it sounds to me like the disciples when they argued amongst themselves about who was the greatest. In Mark, the story goes like this:

“They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:33-35

It has always seemed incongruous to me to “fight for my rights” within the church, since I’ve relinquished my rights to Christ.

It also seems like a misunderstanding of spiritual gifts to assert my freedom to express these gifts whenever and however I choose in order to reach the heights of my own personal fulfillment. God gives spiritual gifts so we can serve the Body of Christ as it works to build the Kingdom of God here on earth – not to help us narrow our career paths.

And if Jesus has accepted a role that is different from the Father without argument (Philippians 2) than how can I argue that a separate role is beneath me?

It’s from this foundation of understanding that I approach the verses where Paul writes that he doesn’t permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man. My current understanding of this passage is that this would involve the teaching of scripture and imply there is some authority involved in that teaching (like a lead Pastor or teaching elder).

Therefore, I don’t find it a problem if a woman is teaching men Calculus, listening skills, or church history. I’ve no problem with women on pastoral teams as leaders of women’s ministry or children’s ministries or serving teams. I think a man can read a book written by a woman about Biblical topics and learn things because there’s no implied authority in that relationship.

In fact, I think there are countless ways for a woman with the gifts of teaching, preaching, exhortation, wisdom, and/or leadership to exercise these skills within the church of Christ. I don’t teach classes that include men but I’ve never been without opportunity to express this gift in some way (and I’m not gifted to teach young children.)

I also don’t think we have to be silly about this teaching. Just as Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, so I think if a woman is on the mission field (at home or abroad), she’s going to have to teach some basic Bible to new converts if there are no men around who are competent to teach. Or if there are too many converts to handle at once (doesn’t that sound like a wonderful problem?).

Bottom line: I avoid this topic because it’s been so battered and abused and because I’ve no desire to make other women uncomfortable with their understanding of scripture but, for myself, I operate from my understanding of it and I’ve found peace and freedom through it.

Too often, men and women confuse freedom with entitlement, opportunities with rights. (Not everyone who disagrees with my understanding of scripture is guilty of these poor motives.) We should come to the church to serve and be willing to do whatever that means to build up the body and to draw others to Jesus – whatever our gender or gifts.

The gifts are not for the expression of my personality but for the building up of the body – period.

The Bible’s teaching isn’t about limiting people or legalism or rules – it’s about getting the work done in a way that models loving cooperation, mutual servanthood, order, and the heart of Jesus.

Jesus modeled servant leadership and humble service from His birth to His ascension. This is the greater truth behind any teaching of separate roles and should serve as the plumb line for any individual seeking opportunities to minister.

I know I’m rambling now – that’s because I’ve put myself wayyy out there. Your turn. Please, tell me what you think. . . I’m still learning – always.

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    The Conversation

  1. Back in the 70’s when someone would come to Greg Laurie and say they were called to the ministry, Greg would say, “Praise the Lord!” Then lead them to the broom closet and tell them to mop the church… If they passed that test he moved on to something else.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Men from ancient cultures in which male dominence was the law wrote the bible and in the years that followed their word was translated several times. The bible can not be taken as the word of God without allowing for ancient cultural influences. I know you Lori to have been very consistent in your spiritual life. You have influenced my life in a positive way more than any man ever could. Follow you heart!
    an anonymous friend (male)

    • Against the backdrop of those ancient cultures, the Bible was very progressive literature, my friend. It is the very word of God and if I’ve had the kind of influence you say I’ve had in your life (and I believe you), then I urge you to that Jesus has been pursuing you for a very long time. I followed my heart into the heart of Jesus and found freedom there. So can you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    About 6 years ago, we had a young pastor who, once he got voted on to BE pastor, began to exercise his own “Biblical” ideas on our church. One of those was to methodically take out all women from teaching positions except those who were teaching children.
    We had a few gals (me included) who were teaching mixed adult classes. This pastor’s viewpoint was that women should not be teaching men unless and only if their husbands were present and agreeable to it.
    Our church got hot over such changes, even though he backed them up with verses to prove his point, and as a result–should I say? All hell broke loose. It got ugly and the problems were far reaching from this particular issue.
    For 3/4 of a year, we battled it all until we’d had enough and he was ousted. It split our church, tore families in half, and in a way polarized our little community for quite some time. He took with him many of our younger members. Interestingly enough, those, for the most part were women who did not have a strong Christian male leader in their homes.
    Now he has a church of his own in town and a small group of followers. We call it the “(fill in his first name here)church” because he runs it dictatorially.
    Now, when I was listening to him speak on WHY he felt as he did, and also listened to the scriptures he used to back his reasoning, I could understand it, but when it came to the reality of the change…it didn’t sit well. Is THAT pride? Have we stepped so far forward that we miss God’s real plan for His church? I just can’t answer that without my own feelings entering into the mix. But I will say one thing- I felt I was blessed and a blessing teaching that class, as did the others who did the same. And there were in actuality so few men in our church who were willing to step up, that we almost HAD to!
    Is that freedom? I’m not sure what to call it.
    Donnalynn Davis

    • For me, Donnalynn, this is not an issue over which I’m willing to be divided from other Christians. I felt I needed to answer the question for myself (and I have) but I can completely understand how others come to a different conclusion (based on scripture and a true desire to serve Christ). So, on this issue, I refuse to judge. I hope that’s not “taking the easy way out.” On other scriptures where most Christians have a long-standing tradition of agreement, I do feel confident exhorting other believers but there are many Godly people who disagree with my understanding of this so I hope not to judge nor to be judged. I can’t speak to the leader who left your church because I don’t know him but I have come to know you and I know you love the Lord and seek to glorify Him in all you do. I wrote this post to illustrate my own approach to this issue and how I’ve processed it for my own life. The lack of willing and capable male teachers is a huge problem in American society! The church needs to look at that.

      Also, let me say I believe women are just as gifted and capable at teaching as men. People can be absolutely blessed by the teaching of a woman. I’m confident in my capabilities and in God’s gifting and work both in me and through me. I’m sure you were a blessing to that class. I’m sorry for the pain and division your congregation experienced because of this issue – I’ve been there myself. A lot of foolish things get said in the midst of things like that. I hope you’ve healed and that this post hasn’t opened any old wounds.

      There are many, many ways to teach and to express the gift of teaching. One reason I can see for any restriction given by a loving God is to push people to more creative expressions of the work He wants them to do. I think a lot of men with the gift of teaching head straight for the pastorate and find out too late that it’s not the right fit for them, really.

      Hope this clarifies what I believe. Message me if it doesn’t. Blessings, Lori

  4. “Take, instead, the rare helper who comes without any sense of entitlement and offers to help – then does.” Rare indeed! Angie