I love Jesus and am a faithful member of my church. But I sit in the pew every week and feel so frustrated at all the ungodly stuff I see going on – the man who is supposed to be leading my church! And no one is saying anything! Or they don’t notice it, which might be worse. These things that are going on are clearly unbiblical and are negatively affecting our church, especially the youth. I don’t know what to do, but someone needs to do something! I’ve tried to point out things, nicely, to this man, but he just throws 1 Timothy 2:12 in my face and says women are to be silent in the church. I am so frustrated! What should I do?
You are right, that is a difficult situation. And it is very important that you, as the believer who is aware of the sin problem in your church, keep yourself from sin – such as gossip, slander, dissention, or anything that would further destroy the unity of the body of Christ. It is important, too, that as women of God, to make sure we don’t disobey God’s commands about how we are to function in the church just to try and right a wrong in the church. If we do that, we become just another powerless believer, hypocritically living in sin against our God. Our attitude, in all things, should be “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way…by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God.” 2 Corinthians 6:3-7
It sounds like the underlying question is, What is your biblical role in the church, as a woman, if a leader is in sin? While there is no specific passage addressing this topic, there are several passages of Scripture that address the two elements of this question.
First, how is sin to be addressed in the church?
The Bible is very clear on the issue of sin in the church – it should not be tolerated. Sin in one member of the body will affect the entire body of believers (Gal. 5:1-15). The sin should first be addressed privately by 2 believers, then by more if the church member does not repent (Matthew 18:17, 1 Thes. 5:14). This process should take place as soon as possible, so that the sin does not spread to others in the body of Christ (Titus 3:10, 1 Corinthians 5:6-7). If the sinning church member does not repent, they should be publicly identified as walking in an unfaithful manner (2 Thes. 3:14, Romans 16:17) and the church is to withdraw from them- but not abandon them- in an effort to move them toward repentance (2 Thes. 3:6, Galatians 2:12, Matthew 18:17, 1 Corinthians 5:4-13).
Second, what is your biblical role in the church as a woman?
1 Timothy 2:11-12 tells us that a woman should not teach or have authority over a man in the church, but remain quiet. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 says that women should learn in an attitude of submission while at church, and if they have questions to ask their husband at home. 1 Corinthians 11:3 tells us that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 refers us back to the creation account, where God created man before he created woman. These scriptures clearly show that God has established an order of headship that applies to both church and home. It is not merely that man has authority over woman. God is the ultimate authority, Christ submits to God, man submits to Christ, and woman submits to man. This promotes order, unity and complete trust in God. This headship structure is vitally important, because through it we reflect Christ to the lost world in a powerful way. Headship is not about my worth as compared to the worth of a man – we are equally valued in Christ. Rather, headship is God’s chosen way of revealing Himself to the world, established with the creation order. It is an honor for us, as women, to have the opportunity to reflect Christ to the world in our role of submission to our authorities. So in all that we do in the church, we must remain in submission to the men God has established as head in our lives.
Based on these two clear principles in Scripture, we have an answer. Acting in submission to our God-ordained head does not mean ignoring sin. But addressing sin does not mean ignoring God’s established headship and dragging your best girlfriend into the pastor’s office to confront him. When we, as a godly woman, become aware of sin in the male leadership of the church, we go to the man who has direct authority over us and together pray and address the sin issue. But of course, that brings up another question – who is your head in this situation? What if the woman is single? Or married to an unbeliever? What then?
Woman married to a godly man:
She should appeal to her husband, make him aware of the sin issue, her concerns about how this will affect the church and together determine how to address the faulty leadership. We see this modeled by Priscilla and her husband Aquila in the book of Acts. There was a young, passionate preacher that came to town and began preaching about Christ, his name was Apollos. But he did not completely understand the work of Christ, and so was teaching some inaccuracies. Priscilla and Aquila, as mature believers, did not publically speak against him, but as a couple brought him into their home and mentored him. “They took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Acts 18:26
Woman married to a Christian bound by sin:
Diane does a beautiful job of addressing this situation in depth here, so I will be brief on this issue. Scripture is quiet clear, we must address issues in our own lives and our own homes before we address sin in the lives of others. Matthew 7:3-5 says, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
As the wife of a man who is living in a pattern of sinfulness, he obviously is not acting as the spiritual leader that God called him to be. Ask God to soften your husband’s heart to repentance. As a woman of God, do not engage him again and again as the nagging wife, but when the time comes and you have pure heart and you have sought His timing through prayer, asking God to prepare the way for your words, then you engage your husband with a spirit of gentleness, meekness, self control, love, and a desire to see Him live His life in accordance with the commands of Holy Scripture. Let him know that you will not and cannot be the spiritual leader in the home because the Bible forbids it. If you are acting as “interim spiritual leader” – stop it. Until your husband sees that you have started living in accordance with the Scriptures, he will find no reason to do likewise. Then wait for the Lord to change his heart (Proverbs 3:5-6). You cannot change him, only the power of Christ through his sinless blood can do that.
Single woman with godly mentors:
We are all children of someone, and until marriage, when headship transfers to the husband, women are under the spiritual headship of their father. In both the Old and New Testaments, God commands children (of ALL ages) to honor and obey their parents as their authority (Eph. 6:1-3, Exodus 20:12). Now, what to do if the woman is not at her home church, or if her parents are not following God, or if they are deceased?
Paul refers to himself as a “father in the faith,” to the believers at Corinth, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:15-16). Paul makes it clear that when earthly fathers are not an option, a single woman should seek to adopt “parents in the faith” through her local church. They will be the ones whom she goes to for guidance, in life decisions, spiritual growth, and to grill her perspective husband! So, the single woman can speak to this man and his wife and the man can then go on the behalf of his “daughter” or with her to confront the sin issue in the leadership of the church.
Single woman with no ties to the church:
If a single woman has not cultivated relationships with godly mentors, “parents in the faith,” she should do so. Proverbs is filled with verses about the importance of having godly counsel (Proverbs 11:14, 12:26, 15:22, 24:5). Scripture tells us that to grow into wise believers, we must surround ourselves with wise believers (Proverbs 13:20). This woman should prayerfully seek out a godly, mature couple in the church and build a relationship with them. After the relationship is firmly established, they can together address the sin issue in the church.
If there are no Godly couples at this church to begin with, do not seek a mentoring relationship with any of them! Scripture is adamant; avoid people who cause division in the church! (Romans 16:17) Their sinful behavior will corrupt you (1 Corinthians 15:33). This is an unhealthy church situation and should generally be avoided. As a single woman with no godly influences in this church, she is responsible before God to find a body of believers that is seeking to honor Christ with their lives.
As women seeking to follow God, it is vital that we honor his established order of headship by appealing to a spiritual leader to assist us in addressing sin in the church. This also fulfills the admonition in Matthew 18, that it should always be two believers confronting sin in another believer.
God’s design for headship actually protects women, both married and single. First, in taking appealing to our spiritual head, our integrity is protected during the confrontation. Second, we are guarded against the attacks of male leaders in sin, who might lash out at a woman.
Amazing, isn’t it? How God’s design for headship actually serves to protect women?
Personally, I find it liberating.