There was a week-long documentary put out by the Today Show where Californian first-lady, Maria Shriver, highlighted this being a “Woman’s Nation.” The topic breached was Women in the Church and other religious institutions, highlighting prominent “women of faith” such as Victoria Osteen, Taffi Dollar, and Lisa Young.
Each woman was interviewed and asked about the increasing role of women in her church. And although each of them answered in a blurring politically-correct way, none of them really touched the issue of Biblical awareness. As close to truth as each of them got, there was an element that missed the mark, biblically speaking.
Victoria Osteen, wife of the happy Pastor, Joel Osteen, author, and leader of the Women’s Ministry in Osteen’s 40,000 member mega-sized Lakewood Church, was the first to be interviewed. Victoria holds the title and position of Co-Pastor with her husband Joel. “She is a constant presence and a role model to the women,” the reporter stated, further bolstering her role when she questioned Osteen, asking, “Some say this ministry couldn’t really exist without your influence? How do you react to that?” Osteen responded with, “I hope that I’m bringing something of value to the table. I believe that I am, because I believe as women we want to identify with women who are doing things, who are making a difference, who feel like they have purpose in their life.” Yet as positive as this remark sounds, it leaves something wanting in a response from a seemingly godly woman of the Word. In fact, it left me wondering, where IS God in her answer? His name is never mentioned. And how does wanting to be a person who is “doing things, who is making a difference, who feels like they have purpose in their life” distinguish me, a leader in my church, from the compassionate counselor at the local kids club who doesn’t even know God? You would be hard-pressed to find a difference by those criteria alone.
The interviewer goes on with her report by questioning renowned author and Pastor of World Changer’s Church, Taffi L. Dollar, who pastors several satellite churches along with her husband. Dollar says, “Both spouses are out there working, and as soon as the mother comes home she still has to take on the next role with the family, with cooking, with the homework.” She talks candidly about making a difference without “sacrificing who I am, the needs of the family.” And yet I wonder, what sort of sacrifices to Biblical integrity are we making when we throw out clear teaching in order to have this ministry as women in the church? Can it be done? Can one minister to those in the local body of believers as a woman and yet still hold true to the guidelines set forth by God in His Word?
The last to be interviewed was Lisa Young, wife of enthusiastic pastor of Fellowship Church, Ed Young. Lisa describes herself as a teammate of Ed, and although she doesn’t hold the title of co-pastor, she doesn’t deny being the co-pastor by saying she’s “not that into titles.” Young admits to Matt Lauer that this is a changing role in today’s society. “Women need an identification. They need someone to look at on the platform, and I think that’s one of the things that we offer: strong leadership for women who have questions and need answers.” I would agree with Mrs. Young in her statement that women need strong leadership that will help them answer some of life’s most challenging questions, and no one can do that for a woman like another woman. However, my mind continually goes back to the role Scripture is to play in defining that leadership. Not once do any of these women play the “God-card” or the “Scripture says” card. It is almost as if God is a silent partner in all of this.
Matt Lauer asked Maria Shriver, “According to the study, women who are in the work force are less likely to have time for religious activities; the flipside of the coin is also true, the more religious a woman says she is, the less likely she is to work outside the home. What is this telling us?” Shriver answers, “I think that the study tells us that women need religion in their life; they’re turning to faith-based institutions for many of the things that community and government used to provide for them. But I think that it tells us that we’re conflicted across the board, torn in transition, and I think that’s why many churches have seen this and been progressive. This is a challenge for churches that are more dogmatic, that are not accepting of divorce, not accepting of same sex relationships. It’ll be challenging for them to survive in this kind of environment.” Whereas, I expect to hear God mentioned in the responses of my sisters in Christ, I do not have that same expectation for Shriver. It is clear the TODAY show had an agenda they attended to based on their selection of women in ministry. Additionally, the fact that those “dogmatic” churches, Shriver speaks of, will find a challenge at not accepting divorce or same sex relationships only further supports the idea that they are doing something right. After all, I believe it is Christ who told his disciples to not be surprised when the world hates them, because it hated Him first. (John 15) I would go so far as to say, if the world doesn’t hate you, you are probably doing something wrong.
Taking a step back, you can see the merit and the legitimate need for the roles these women have stepped into, and I do not doubt their desire to truly help women know and love God more. Also, I cannot doubt the possibility of choice editing taken on by the producers of the TODAY show. But the question remains…where do we draw the line? How do we set the standard? Who decides what a woman’s role should be in the church? Can one minister to those in the local body of believers as a woman and yet still hold true to the guidelines set forth by God in His Word? What are the guidelines set forth by God in His Word?
This last question finds its answer in 1 Timothy 2. The apostle Paul, under inspiration of God Himself, established a model for women in the church. But what does it all mean? There is enough controversy surrounding this small passage of Scripture to fill a bookshelf. With all of these women pastors sprouting up among our most ostensibly fundamental churches, we are finding ourselves at a crossroads yet again wondering which way we are supposed to go, mainstream or biblical?
Over the next two weeks, we are going to attempt to unpack this portion of Scripture. We will get down to the original Greek, consult our professors, and search a variety of sources all in an effort to lay before you this poignant passage of God’s Word that speaks specifically to us as women in ministry. But I ask you to answer this first:
When standing at the crossroads of mainstream and biblical, which way will you choose?