Women in Leadership

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 14:32 The spirits of prophets are under the control of the prophets. 33 God isn’t a God of disorder but of peace. Like in all the churches of God’s people, 34 the women should be quiet during the meeting. They are not allowed to talk. Instead, they need to get under control, just as the Law says. 35 If they want to learn something, they should ask their husbands at home. It is disgraceful for a woman to talk during the meeting.

O (Observation): My first reaction to this text is that somewhere in Paul’s setting, a group of women that were following some other deity were disrupting what was going on at the local gathering of Jesus-followers. He resorted to a general call for women to be quiet. Probably responding to a particular situation in a particular time in a particular place.

Perhaps the worship setting was becoming disorderly and folks had a hard time focusing on worship or hearing the teachings for the day. Perhaps this was a call for orderliness to a particular community. For Paul himself lifts up females in church leadership in other parts of his writings.

Not only does Paul lift up female leadership in the church, I seem to remember Paul writing something else about men and women…

Galatians 3 – “27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

A (Application): What are we looking for when we approach scripture? Tradition? New life? Forgiveness? Hope?

We can look for all of these and more.

Yet when it comes to female leadership in the church, we are stuck. And if we are okay with female leaders, we are not okay with paying them fair and equal wages.

God is revealed bit by bit for us. In our leaders – both female and male…and those who are still discovering their identity.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us towards your perfect light. Amen.

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Church Leaders – More than just White Men

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S (Scripture): Romans 16:1 I’m introducing our sister Phoebe to you, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae. 2 Welcome her in the Lord in a way that is worthy of God’s people, and give her whatever she needs from you, because she herself has been a sponsor of many people, myself included.

3 Say hello to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life. I’m not the only one who thanks God for them, but all the churches of the Gentiles do the same. 5 Also say hello to the church that meets in their house. Say hello to Epaenetus, my dear friend, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. 6 Say hello to Mary, who has worked very hard for you. 7 Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners. They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.

O (Observation): Paul does a most wonderful and honorable thing: he mentions the women who have been faithful to Christ and with whom he has worked alongside. Why honorable? This should be expected, yes? Of course these women mentioned should be included, but for Paul to do this in the first century is a bit scandalous.

After all, women were NOT seen as equals amongst the Jews. Women had little rights and certainly no claim to positions of authority, especially in relation to matters of religion.

Yet, here they are. These women mentioned by Paul are working tremendously hard in order to share the Gospel with those who would receive it.

A (Application): Yet another example given to us about God doing “a new thing” in Scripture, in the early formation of the Church.

These leaders working with Paul remind us that the obstacles before us in the Church are typically self-made. We put up parameters around who can lead / do certain aspects of organized religion. Quite often we give little to no regard for the individual’s value.

We have done much harm from WITHIN the Church, as we have denied certain people from being leaders in the church based on their ethnicity, race, language of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more.

Thankfully, we are making strides towards being more just about these things from within the modern Church. We are seeing more diversity amongst our leaders, but our congregations seem less and less willing to extend calls to those who are not “white, straight, English-speaking” pastors.

But hope abounds. Congregations throughout the ELCA (in which I serve) are wrestling more and more with these issues and our hope rests in God’s abundant and reckless grace. Our denomination repents of these harmful actions in the present and in the past.

God will continue to send the Spirit to guide us into the way of peace. And we will hope to write about these leaders on social media, just as Paul wrote about his experiences to the churches in Rome.

P (Prayer): Lord, we are all made in your image and we are all known – individually – by you. Guide us. Amen.

Measuring the Church

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S (Scripture): Psalm 20

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed one;

    God answers his anointed one

        from his heavenly sanctuary,

    answering with mighty acts of salvation

        achieved by his strong hand.

Some people trust in chariots, others in horses;

    but we praise the Lord’s name.

They will collapse and fall,

    but we will stand up straight and strong.

Lord, save the king!

    Let him answer us when we cry out!

O (Observation): The anointed one is the king of God’s people. This psalm may have been written before God’s people were conquered by the Babylonians, thus representing a general orientation towards giving thanks to God for blessing the people with a ruler to govern God’s people.

And in what do God’s people trust? They trust in the Lord’s name, not chariots and horses. Chariots and horses represented a country’s might – both politically and militarily.

The psalmist is reminding God’s people that – as illogical as it seems – strength comes not from our might, but from the Lord.

A (Application): The Church is in a precarious state. Our “horses and chariots” for years have been dollars in the offering plate and attendance. With high numbers for both, we say: “Look! God is good, because we have high attendance and lots of offering!” Is that the right metric, though?

What is the State of the Church? Are we counting the right things? How about counting how many people come to faith? Return to the faith? How about we count the numerous ways our church members impact their families and neighborhoods? How about we measure our disciple-making process? How about we measure the fruitfulness of the conversations between our adult members and our youth? How about we measure the inspiration level that some members have on others?

Some of these things we can measure…some, not so much. So what do we do? We keep on telling the story of God at work in our world. We talk about how God shows up in our lives, our politics, our homes. We show faith in God, who shows up every time.

Question is: Can we discern God’s presence? Or are we too busy counting our chariots and horses?

P (Prayer): Lord, hear us as we call out to you. Help us to count the right things. Amen.

Who Belongs Here?


S (Scripture):John 10:14 [Jesus said,] “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me – 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not come from this sheepfold. I must bring them too, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one flock and one shepherd…”

O (Observation): The fact that Jesus states that other sheep belong to his fold can be simultaneously offensive and hopeful.  The offense is to those who see Abraham as their ancestor (I.e. The Jewish leaders).   The hopeful tone is to those Gentiles who believe in Jesus (and don’t share the “privilege” of being a descendant of Abraham).

Jesus seems to want his followers to know that his own commitment to them is greater than any part of their past or present circumstances.   He is their shepherd now.  And he is the one who admits all who wish to follow.   No special ancestor required.  

The Jewish leaders didn’t like that.   The Gentile believers rejoiced.  

A (Application):  I’d say that the biggest reason for people leaving the Church is the Church itself.   “You’re sitting in my pew.”  “We’ve never done it that way before.” “That’s not how you do it.”  We say these things to new folks, then watch them walk out the door and never come back.  

Anybody who has been a part of a church long enough has seen or heard or felt these sentiments before.  And these assaults wound people, deeply. 

Jockeying for position is not required with God.  In fact, that is shunned by God.  But the world says, “Go get yours!  You deserve it!  You’ve never done anything really wrong.”

But God’s viewpoint doesn’t seem to run along the same standards as the world.  Jesus doesn’t require a certain set of practices if they get in the way of the Gospel. 

Some church practices are great: liturgy, the means of grace (Baptism and Communion), preaching, small groups, etc.   But the Church can also get stuck in detrimental practices: only certain people taking leadership roles, no children allowed to lead worship, shunning those who have divorced or who are gay or lesbian.  

We have to own the wrong we’ve done as the church and realize that Jesus is the Shepherd, not our long-standing traditions.   

What traditions have you seen get in the way of the Gospel?

P (Prayer): Lord, we are grateful that you are the Shepherd.  Amen.