Women Praying Allowed (Part 2)

Taylor kids 2012

Three reasons why we need Women Praying Aloud in the Church, my children from left, Anna, Ashley, and Jacob. My daughters, and my son need to hear and see women praying in our church.

In Part 1 of “Women Praying Allowed,” I introduced the context of women’s expanded roles in leadership at our Garnett Church of Christ, set parameters of the discussion, and looked at Old Testament passages, Psalms in particular since in 2010 we were in a series based on a book I helped Lynn Anderson finish while he was going through cancer treatment. The book is titled, Talking Back to God. It is really hard for me to imagine that my daughters cannot also talk back to God aloud. That’s the kind of church I believe God desires: one where we His creation, men and women, all people are talking and listening to Him. 

As I said in Part 1, Garnett Church of Christ is committed to the Bible, and I mentioned several of our local Bible teachers who help us dig into the Word of the Lord. I’m indebted also to Mike Cope, Sara Barton, Scot McKnight, and many others who helped to open my eyes to new things in the Word, in particular, some of the things that we’re going to talk about today. We hear God’s Voice though the Word and through these people. 

In Part 1 we looked at Old Testament WDWD (What Do Women Do) passages. Now, let’s go to the New Testament to look at both WDWD passages but also the WKSP (Women Keep Silent Passages). In the New Testament, what did women do? The third female psalmist that we’ve mentioned…we’ve mentioned psalmists Miriam and Deborah and now Mary. Mary is credited with a psalm, we call it the Magnificat. It’s sung a lot of times around Christmas.

It’s found in Luke 1:46-55. Mary’s Magnificat not only magnifies God, but also proclaims that future generations will call Mary blessed.

Frankly, because of the Protestant churches looking at the Catholic church and being nervous about exalting Mary and we don’t want to do quite what Catholic churches seem to do and exalt Mary.

But we need to pay attention to Mary and her influence. She was a very influential woman. She carried the Lord in her body.

The image of God himself was in her. She delivered the Messiah and she cared for him. She brought him up and she taught him how to pray. She had a great influence on the Messiah.

We also believe that she was a major source of information for Luke’s Gospel and also a major influence on her son James, Jesus’s brother. He was another New Testament writer.

Mary was an incredible influence in the early church. Anna is another prophet. She’s described as a prophet in the New Testament in Luke 2:36-38. She fasted and prayed and prophesied in the temple. It says in verse 38 that she proclaimed, that she spoke out about this Messiah when Joseph and Mary brought young Jesus into the temple.

Now, Romans 16 is a who’s who of church leaders written by Paul. At least three of those people are women. First, in Romans 16:1 is Phoebe. Phoebe is described as a deacon in Cenchreae and a benefactor and patron of the apostle Paul.

A benefactor would have been tasked with taking a letter of someone like Paul, a teacher. It’s understood that Phoebe took the letter to the Romans to the church in Rome.

She would have been expected to read it aloud and to explain it. Phoebe likely would have been the first commentator of Romans.

She was called a deacon and as such, she would visit the sick and relieve the poor and work on finances. Those are described in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, and 1 Timothy 3:8-12.

In verse 3 of Chapter 16, we meet Priscilla. But Priscilla and her husband Aquila are mentioned throughout the New Testament several times.

Priscilla with her husband Aquila are co-workers of Paul who risk their lives. In Acts 18:26, it records that Priscilla and Aquila explain the Gospel more adequately to a man named Apollos.

Priscilla is mentioned first in most of the references including the one in Romans 16:3. With just a few exceptions, Priscilla is mentioned first. Which is possible in New Testament in the times, the writings, a woman could be mentioned first but not always. There’s some significance to her role in the early church.

In Romans 16, further down, I believe it’s in verse 7, there’s another mention verse 7 of Andronicus and Junias. Some of your Bibles say Junias and some of them say Junia.

There’s been some discussion about whether that’s a man or a woman. If it renders Junias, that interpreter or that translator, figures that it’s a man. But some of your Bibles say Junia, J-U-N-I-A.

It’s corroborated by Saint Chrysostom, an early church father, who writes of Junia as a woman and one of the great early apostles, albeit one of the lesser known apostles like Barnabas, not one of the original apostles who is with Jesus.

What did women in the New Testament do? At least these examples that I’ve given you. They’re deacons. Junias may be an apostle. Influencers of Christ and the gospel writers. James, they’re prophets, theologians, readers, prayers, risking their lives, pasturing churches, helping to plant churches, coworkers of Paul.

Do we permit in our church today in the 21st century what the Old Testament and the New Testament permitted for women to do? No, we don’t, not in our church.

Because of these “Women, Keep Silent” passages, they’ve gotten us to a point where we’re not quite sure how to work that. We fear sometimes opening the circle wider.

What really is the context of these “Women Keep Silent” passages? Because to take this discussions seriously, we need to look at what do women do in the Old Testament and New Testament, but to take it very seriously, we also need to look at these “Women Keep Silent” passages, so let’s look at those.

There are two major ones that discuss the silence of women. The first is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and I’ll read both of these. The other is in 1 Timothy 2:8-15

“Women should remain silent in the churches. They must be in submission as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the Churches.”

1 Timothy 2: 8-15, says “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

Verse 11, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man. She must be quiet, for Adam was formed first, then Eve. Adam was not the one deceived. It was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. Women will be saved through childbearing if they continue in faith, love and holiness, with propriety.”

These are hard passages. They’re hard to read. They’re hard to interpret. They’re hard to understand.

The church has had no uniform view over the centuries but has made a lot of attempts to try to understand these passages because of what these texts say. As a result, to suppress women in some form or fashion because of what these texts say.

Why? For two major reasons the church has tried to do this over the years. First of all, we haven’t really fully understood what being in Christ does to our relationships, specifically male and female relationships.

There’s a difference between living under the fall and living under the redeemed in Christ life. Christ came to redeem every relationship, including the ones between male and female.

We’ll get into that just a little bit more when we look at chapter in Genesis.

The second reason is just plainly that we’ve had trouble interpreting these “Women Keep Silent” passages. We’ve done what we can to try and do what’s right. I applaud the church over the years that’s tried their best.

We’re trying our best. We do it however imperfectly. Let’s look at the context of the “Women Keep Silent passages.” That’s so important.

The context, and one of the big problems that we’ve found in these Women Keep Silent passages is they’ve been extracted from their context. They’ve been used and made into law rather than used in the context and history of Paul’s letters to specific churches in specific times.

Many of you know the commentator named F. F. Bruce. He has written commentaries over many years in the 20th century.

The conversation was recorded by a friend of mine Scott McKnight, a writer who was speaking with F.F. Bruce late in his life, who said that Paul would probably roll over in his grave if he knew that we were making his letters into Torah, into law.

They were written for specific churches, for specific times. We have problems when we try to extract pieces and patchwork and make law out of it. That’s one big problem. It’s important for us to look at the context.

Do we imagine that Paul here in what I just read all of a sudden out of the blue in left field decided to stop talking about jewelry? Do you think he had something against jewelry?

Do you think he had something against braided hair and he just didn’t like the sound of a woman’s voice? I don’t think so. There has to be a context.

Reading scripture is like listening to one side of a phone conversation as an observer. We do this every day. It’s quite annoying in some way. In public places with cell phones. But we hear one side of the conversation, even with our spouses sometimes. We even know their voice. “OK, you’re talking to your mother, right?’

We know certain things intuitively, but we still can’t interpret everything because we can’t hear what? We can’t hear the other side of the conversation.

Reading the Bible, particularly these letters of Paul, is like listening to one side of the conversation on a phone. It takes hanging up and that person explaining the context for us to fully understand.

Let me give a crack at this, the context of these passages in the early church in Rome. The new church was mixed with Jews and Gentiles. It was a huge concern with Paul to help them get along and advance the gospels. That was the top of his list of concerns.

Helping Jews and Gentiles and they had all different practices. Romans behaved differently from Jews. Imagine a liberated woman, braided hair and jewelry, coming in, in all the kinds of ways that they act and dress, and a Jewish woman, who would never show her hair, never braid it, never do those things, meet up with a Roman woman.

Imagine the looks. Imagine the stares. Imagine the immediate friction that would be there and it was. Paul spends lots of time, if you read his letters over, you’ll see these conflicts, this Jew and Gentile conversation going on.

It was at the heart of the gospel for Paul, because if the gospel was for all, it had to be for all. They had to find a way to get along and be unified. That was at the top of Paul’s concerns.

That explains some of why he talked about things like jewelry and braided hair and tried to bring peace and a practice for the church.

One concern was respectability of the new church movement, not to look like the surrounding culture and fertility cults. These cults were doing all sorts of things, immoral things. In the good Jewish style, the church wanted to distinguish themselves. Why do you think Paul was talking about the childbirth in this passage? It seems from left field. It seems strange, but these cults were abhorring marriage, and abhorring childbirth. They were discovering abortion, and practicing it openly.

Paul had to address that. He didn’t want the church to be like that. They had to distinguish themselves from these cults that were going right along. The critics were saying, “You’re just another one of those cults.” You can begin to understand, with the background, why Paul had to write some of these things. When people were coming from so many different world views.

They needed to learn the way of Christ. Women would have been less educated in Rome, and Jewish circles. They didn’t get dibs on the education. The men did. The boys did. It’s been that way through a lot of history. Contemporaries of Paul — writers, historians, theologians, rhetoricians — make fun of women who were trying to be learned, who were trying to speak up.

Women were trying to attempt that. They were taking the mic, although there was no mic. They were taking the stage. They were trying to break into leadership circles, and that wasn’t taken so well by a lot of the men. That hasn’t changed in a lot of history. Contrast that with Paul. Paul seems to us, on the surface, as chauvinistic.

It seems that he has no reason for saying that women should be silent. Listen while I attempt to explain what I think, and what Scott McKnight, and others think was happening in the early church. I think we’ll begin to see Paul differently. I have. Paul wants women to learn. Why does he ask them to be quiet, then?

If women had not had the educational opportunities, and they were loose. In some ways the Roman women were loose morally, and loose tongues. They were coming into the assemblies, and they were confusing things. They were bringing chaos.

In 1 Corinthians, the whole bit of 1 Corinthians 11 and forward, about tongues, and everything, was all about Paul bringing a sense of order into their assemblies, the church could grow. That was Paul’s concern. He was concerned that their assemblies not descend into that cult-like atmosphere. Rather, they should be the body of Christ.

Paul spent a lot of time talking about the body of Christ. Paul asked these new, Christian, Roman women to be quiet until they learned the way of Christ. When they learned and understood the gospel, there’s many examples of Paul interacting as co-workers with people like Priscilla. He mentions her in Romans 16 in very glowing, and honorable terms as a co-worker in Christ.

She explained to Apollos, with her husband Aquila, how Phoebe was such a deacon, and a servant. If they were given gifts of the Holy Spirit to evangelize, and to teach, how could they possibly be quiet while they did it? When someone was quiet for a time, coming into a new church, until they could learn. They could be like Priscilla, and Phoebe, Junia, and Anna, and Mary. These women of influence.

It’s not whether they are a man, or a woman. It’s if they’ve listened, and learned, and humbly received the gifting by the Holy Spirit. That’s what matters to Paul. They can go forward, and become missionaries. If the Holy Spirit gift them with evangelism, they have to speak. Perhaps this silence was temporary.

Perhaps it was not for all women, but for those who were coming in as learners from a new culture, and they needed that temporary learning time in silence. Paul’s principle was this — teach, but before you teach, you need to learn. Be quiet, learn, and then you can go forward in serving, and leading. For a particular group of women, it seems like that’s what Paul was doing.

He didn’t really have to say this to the men, because they had the privilege of learning, but I think that principle applies to everyone. It applies to youth. It applies to adults. It applies to men. It applies to women. It applies to Jews. It applies to Gentiles. Learn in submission before you teach. That was the principle.

The best explanations of scripture are usually the ones that make the most sense. We’ve been part of a bunch that tries to take the plain, literal sense of the bible, but it still leaves you with all kinds of quandaries that don’t make sense, that don’t add up. I’ve got to tell you, this one for me does not add up.

That women should be totally silent. It just doesn’t. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make plain horse sense, for one, because of the, “What do women do?” passages. Then, when you don’t just take it and extract out something, you look at it in a context, it begins to make more sense.

In terms of good theology, good doctrinal teaching about who God is, and his character, and how he wants all people, from all time, from the very creation. It all got messed up. He’s been trying to get it back to what he created in the first place, a mutuality and oneness, instead of enmity and rivalry that the fall has brought.

When you look at it from all those different standpoints, it begins to make more sense. Paul comes out looking a little better, he doesn’t look so much like a chauvinist to me. That’s good news, because I didn’t want to think of him that way, but I didn’t know how else to think of the guy.

Keep in mind that Paul — his main concern was not silence, per se, specifically, but his concern was for the order in the churches. This gave them respectability, new people could hear, and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. That was Paul’s desire. He was a missionary.

He told us, in his letter he told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, “I will do anything to advance the gospel.” Believe me, and he did. Even if it meant telling a group of women to be quiet for a while. I truly believe, according to 1 Corinthians 9:22. I’ll read that.

“To the weak I become weak. To win the weak I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I may save some. I do all of this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” I believe Paul would have done whatever it took to honor, and to advance the gospel. That was his main concern.

Make sure that the Jews and Gentiles get along. That they have order in their assemblies, and that those assemblies can receive new visitors, and that they too can share in the blessings of Jesus Christ, and be a part of the body. That the church could go into other places, and advance into new cultures. In Spain, and in different languages.

They would have to figure it out there, but where they were, they needed to have certain cultural guidelines in order to advance the gospel, and that was Paul’s concern. This huge concern, the gospel preached, and Jesus known in all of the world. The great irony today, is the way we have limited women has in many ways served to stagnate and repel people from the gospel, rather than advancing it.

 

Women Praying Allowed

Greg Taylor - Gracing One Another-posterThe following is the first part of a sermon I preached in the summer of 2010 called, “Women Praying Allowed.” I will post this in three parts over the next few weeks. Here’s part 1. It’s a transcription so please read as such and know it has near exact wording of what I actually said. After posting the last part, I’ll also post the audio of the same transcription. Feel free to use this in your churches or personal use to further the kingdom, and also feel free to comment lovingly and directly with your opinions or questions in the comment area.

The title of today’s sermon is “Women Praying Allowed.” I grew up in a church where women did not speak in our assemblies and many of you did, too.

One night at my home church, we had a Sunday night singing. That’s where anyone — any boy or man — could get up and lead a song and they did.

The women, they could shout out song numbers. Some didn’t take too kindly to these numerical outbursts by the women, but they tolerated it. One night, a woman who was new to our church and our traditions, she commenced to walk toward the front to lead a song.

One of the youth was on the second row and he knew enough about our code of silence for women that when she walked past him on the aisle, that young man audibly said, “Uh-oh.”

[laughter]

To the credit of our home church, she sang the song, she led it and everybody — a lot of people — sang along and she finished. Afterwards, one of the ladies took her aside and told her a little bit more about our traditions. Believe it or not, over the centuries, since the early church, churches have had no uniform or unified view of the role of women leading in worship or leading the church.

Because of certain interpretations of a few disputed passages in scripture, notably in the letters of Paul, many have learned a knee jerked “uh-oh” impulse when we talk about women leading in churches. Today, in our series, “Talking Back to God: Speaking Your Heart to God Through the Psalms,” we’re going to experience women praying out loud.

We’re going to look at three different psalms that were written by women. We’re going to have to go outside of the actual “Book of Psalms” to find those, but there are, at least, three psalms written by women in the Bible.

At the same time, we’re going to tackle some teaching that we’ve talked about in classes and we have discussed informally, but in the 41-year history of Garnett, we haven’t fully laid this out from the pulpit, a new examination and a biblical overview of the participation of women along with men in leadership in worship assemblies.

Garnett has broken a lot of ground over the years in women participating in worship. Women lead worship on the Praise Team, they lead ministries, and, in fact, a few years ago, the name was changed was changed from deacon to ministry leaders to avoid some thorny territory of whether or not we should call women deacons.

But women led ministries and have led ministries for many years at Garnett. At Garnett, we have core beliefs, things like God and Christ and the Holy Spirit and, “We believe our faith in God is displayed in our love for each other.” That’s one of our core beliefs.

But we also have Heritage Commitments. Those are things that we do not believe are salvation issues and, from time to time, these need to be re-examined. It’s an important healthy part of what we ought to do.

One of those Heritage Commitments is both men and women serve in positions of leadership. Only the roles of lead minister and shepherds are male-specific. That’s what our documents, one our Heritage Commitments says.

This does not limit women from praying, leading worship, speaking publicly in different settings. We do mission reports and various things. We do these often, but we still have that “uh-oh” response when it comes to women being in front and doing certain things, like leading prayers and leading in worship.

We’re going to take this one step at a time. We’re going to take our Heritage Commitments, we’re going to take those things, like preaching and shepherding off the table. We’re not talking about those today.

For those of you worried about that, breathe a sigh of relief. For those of you who want to hear more about that, that’s a discussion we can have.

It’s an open discussion, but for today, we’re going to talk about women praying aloud in worship. It’s incredibly important that we enter these discussions with humility and we stand on this holy ground that we just sang about.

That these core beliefs that we so believe that God created the universe, that Jesus is the Son of God, who imparted the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We believe in the Church as the body of Christ called into the world to love others and to spread the gospel of the love of God. We believe the Bible as God’s Word to us in our only rule of faith and practice. Those are the Holy Grounds, the core beliefs that we stand on and it’s important that we mention those. This is sacred ground for us, but our Heritage Commitments are something we should re-examine from time to time.

Today, we’re going to look at Women Praying Aloud. As we do that, we’re going to use a prayer from Paul, in “Philippians 2:1-11” as our prayer, as we enter into this.

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.” Amen.

That passage speaks of the humility of Christ that we all, regardless of where we come from in this discussion, need to have. It’s not humble for me to think that all of you will agree with me today, but can’t you try? I don’t expect you all to agree with me, in what I’m going to say today. Nor do I expect everyone to agree with me any day that I speak because full agreement is not the point.

The unity that’s spoken about and prayed for does not mean full agreement. It means standing on these core beliefs, bearing with one another, and hearing one another out. It’s also not humble for you to cross your arms and refuse to hear another view, from God’s Word today. Today, as always, we approach God’s Words and we will look deeply into God’s Word. That’s what we do every Sunday and I encourage you to bring your Bible.

We have great Bible classes, a new one by Beth Moore, John Heart’s class, James Lawrence’s class, all the students’ and children’s classes. We dig into the Bible in those classes and we dig in the Bible in our worship. I encourage you to bring your Bible. It’s the Bible and people who have explained the Bible to me and have taught me, and people that have taught you.

We hear God’s Voice though the Word and through these people. I’m indebted to Mike Cope, Sara Barton, Scot McKnight, and many others who helped to open my eyes to new things in the Word, in particular, some of the things that we’re going to talk about today.

Remember that we come through different experiences in life and we need to hear our brothers and sisters. After we’re finished today, I hope that you will not make a beeline to me with positive or negative, you can talk to me in time, email me, talk to me any time, but that you pay attention to your brothers and sisters, some that may struggle with what I’m going to say today, and that you’ll go to them, first.

We come from a lot of different angles. There’s Lindy. Lindy was a missionary in the Bronx, in New York City. When she went to her supporting church to do a report, as she walked up to the stage to lead, when she got up to do her report, a family walked out just because she was a woman.

There’s Rayann. A woman who experienced a seven year old boy praying in the church assembly, in her church in Texas, and she wondered why a little boy can pray, when she, a mature Christian adult, could not. There’s Judy, who hears people say, “Women’s role, issue, is a salvation issue,” and she’s scared to move off traditional views, fearing for herself and her children, and her grandchildren. That if women’s roles are expanded, they might spend eternity in hell.

There’s Duane, an elder who is caught between his wife, and his daughters, and a son with all different views on gender roles in the church, and can’t agree. He feels caught in the middle. There’s Donna, who for 40 years has been teaching Sunday school, and making her best dish for potlucks, and visiting the sick and widows, and praying.

She takes these seriously, but she also takes some statements about expanding women’s participation as offensive, because do her contributions not matter? There is Katy, she’s a biblical studies major, who easily accept that there is some culturally limited, and temporary explanations for Paul’s silence passages.

She thinks the male dominated way we do things is weird, and even unjust. There’s Robert, he feels that his marriage will come apart if mutuality and equality is discussed, and practiced in his home. Then there’s Ida, who has spoken to us in our church twice when she was in the United States. Our Ugandan friend, Ida.

She is the first to show up at funerals, cook, and help the family, grieve with them. She’s a great song leader, speaker, and reader. Very spiritually gifted in these areas. And then a short-term missionary a few years ago took Ida aside, and told her that it was sinful for her to speak in front of the church.

Then there’s Kenneth, and he just gets mad every time the topic is brought up. There’s our Garnett students, a few years ago, they helped to lead — not lead even, but just to serve communion, and they were criticized to their face by some of our members. I don’t know if those members are still here, but if you are here, I want you to think about that deeply, today.

Then there’s — I think about my daughters. I have two daughters, and I have two sisters. In ways of spiritual formation, they’re being raised in such different ways, and different times, but I deeply want them to be spiritually formed. All four of those women. My sisters, and my daughters, my wife, my mother.

I think of all these women, and the need for them to be spiritually formed, and to be able to pray out loud, and be fully valued in the church. Today, we come from a lot of experiences, and we’ve sketched a few experiences, but it’s important for us to look at scripture. That’s our bread and butter.

That’s where we need to come from, and so we’re going to look at a couple of kinds of passages in scripture, on women in ministry. Those two kinds of passages are these types. I’ll just throw up this slide. WDWD and WKSB, that clears it up, right?

[laughter]

The two different kinds of passages are, “What do women do?” in the Old Testament, and the New Testament? We’re going to look at passages about what women do in the Old Testament, and New Testament. Then we’re going to look at the “What women keep silent,” passages in Paul’s letters. It’s important to look at both of these, and also to look doctrinal teachings beyond those.

Let’s go first to the Old Testament. What do women do in the Old Testament? Exodus 15:20. Do you remember Moses’ sister who stood by hiding as Moses was put into a basket in the river? She watched Pharaoh’s daughter take Moses out of the river. It was then that she approached Pharaoh’s daughter, and then she went to get her mother.

They ended up caring for Moses. From all indications, that was Miriam, Moses’ older sister. If you look closer into that story. Then in Exodus 15. Miriam comes up again, and then in Numbers 12, speaks of Miriam.

She is described in Exodus 15:20 as a prophetess, and credited with one of the oldest Psalmic lines in history, and that is this, “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider, he is hurled into the sea.” Sean spoke about those times in our life. Those markers when Psalms come out. For the Hebrew people, those markers were victories in battle.

They were times of exile. That’s when those Psalms would come out. This was a Psalm of victory Miriam helped to write, and she’s credited along with Moses as writing. She leads the assembly in worship. Later Miriam and Aaron challenge their brother Moses, because they too were prophet leaders of Israel, but God was not pleased with them, and called them to the tent of meeting.

God caused Miriam to become white as a sheet with leprosy, but this was not because she was a woman. It was because she disrespected, and dishonored God’s anointed. God said, “I speak to Moses unlike I speak to any other prophet. I do that through dreams, and visions, but I speak to Moses face-to-face. You had the audacity to question him.”

As a special case, but it didn’t have anything to do with Miriam being a woman, that she was punished. Later, Moses prayed for her, and she was healed. Another female prophet is named Huldah. How would like to have a name like Huldah. I hope nobody’s named Huldah in here.

[laughter]

If you are, please forgive me. 2 Kings 22:14 records a story of Josiah, king of Judah, and his royal court officials finding the book of the law. The needed a prophet. They needed someone to come in, and authenticate this, because it had been ignored and neglected for so long. Josiah could have called any of the contemporary prophets that were of that day.

There was a choice from Jeremiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk. He could have called any of these holy people, these prophets, but Josiah picked Huldah to come and interpret the law, and authenticate it. Which she did. We don’t have time in this brief survey to mention leaders like Esther, and models of faith like Ruth, but we’ll look at one more female prophet in the Old Testament, Deborah.

Judges 4:4-9 describes Deborah as a prophetess that led Israel. Like Miriam, she is credited with a battle victory song in Judges 5. It’s a little more — It’s pretty detailed. It’s pretty graphic, what happens in that text, and in the Psalm. Writing Psalms, and singing is connected with prophecy, and influence in the Old Testament.

What did women do in the Old Testament? They did many things, but we’ll mention these. They spoke for God. They led the nation in all ways. They sanctioned scripture, guided Israel, prophesied, which is to say they preached. They led Israel back to ways of righteousness. They acted courageously and they risked their lives.

Acts of the Church 1

Garnett Church of Christ is going through an important movement right now. We are selecting new elders, we are selling our building, and we are seeking some restructuring in our staff to more fully live out our mission “to invite all people into Christ-centered lives.” We believe all people–inside and outside of the church, staff, elders, members, non-Christians–must take steps closer to Jesus. We want to become less self-centered and more Christ-centered everyday.

As part of this new movement in our church, we are returning to the roots of the church in the book of Acts in the New Testament. So January 19, we began a new preaching series on Acts, then directly after the worship at 10, we are digging deeper into study of the book of Acts in an all-church auditorium class.

In this auditorium class I’m teaching like I taught in villages in Uganda. Different men, women, teenagers will read the text we are studying, some will go out of the room to practice a skit they come up with to act out the text, others will ask good questions of the text. We will pray over the text, be confessional, ask our honest questions, be willing to say, “I don’t know,” and focus on questions that help us become more Christlike.

During this study, we are also looking for themes about leadership, because our elder selection process calls for study of elder qualifications and selection. Acts contains good stories about how the early church selected leaders.

Sunday we enjoyed laughter, good questions, and a skit by three men–Conner Fields, Clarence Davis, and John Dickmann–that showed how the apostles prayed, asked the Holy Spirit to direct them, nominated two men, then drew straws to select one man to replace Judas so there would be twelve apostles, symbolic of the twelve tribes and a continuation of Christ’s selection of twelve apostles who would lead the first church.

Here are the questions class participants asked with any comments I can give right now.

  1. Where does it say 120 followers? (Acts 1:15)
  2. Should non-apostles cast lots to make decisions? While the idea of apostolic succession has been strong in the Catholic Church, in order to keep biblical interpretation and direction of the church strong, the weakness of this approach is that it leaves the 99% of non-apostolic leaders weak. I believe Christ left us the Holy Spirit to fill us and lead local communities of followers, and apostolic succession tends to rely on men and not the Holy Spirit.
  3. How were lots cast? This can be easily looked up online. I don’t know exactly how, but it was a kind of chance, like drawing straws or throwing dice, but the apostles nominated, prayed, then considered this method the word of the Lord.
  4. Is this the last time angels appear in the New Testament? Not the last time there is a vision (Peter received a vision and heard “a voice” in Acts 10; Paul received a vision from Jesus, later “a man” telling him to go to Macedonia, then a messenger to encourage him, “I have many people in this city,” one time when he was discouraged.
  5. Is Acts the last book written chronologically in the New Testament? No, written around AD 64, and books were probably written from AD 50 – 94.
  6. Why is Judas’s death account again added to Acts and does it agree with what’s in the gospels. Acts is more of a commentary and reason given for needing to choose another man.
  7. Who are the women disciples? Acts 1:14 says “women and Mary the mother of Jesus.” It’s significant that the women are mentioned, that women would take a role in the new church, an increasingly important idea throughout the gospels, with Jesus often interacting with women, women following, caring for Jesus, being the first to witness and tell of the resurrection.
  8. Why so little written about the 40 days of appearing? We find some mention and additional stories in the gospels, particularly John’s gospel (John 20-21), very powerful stories.
  9. What was the difference between John’s baptism and the baptism the church practiced beginning in Acts 2. For a discussion of this, see the book I co-authored with John Mark Hicks, Down in the River to Pray. Basically, John’s baptism was about preparation for the Messiah and repentance. The baptism in Acts is baptism characterized by three important things: into the name, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for forgiveness, and to impart the Holy Spirit.
  10. What is the significance of the twelve apostles? Without a doubt the twelve was a significant number because of the famous 12 tribes of Israel, so it’s no accident that Jesus selected 12 apostles, and it’s no accident the apostles wanted to remain 12 as long as possible as the new church began.
  11. Was there an apostle from each tribe? I don’t think so; this is not explicitly said or denied in Scripture, but these guys are not the famed patriarchs of their tribes but fishermen, tax collectors, and they probably would not have been considered as leaders of tribes at that point in Jewish history, but I have not researched this good question much.

Next week I’ll preach on “An Acts 2 Church” and we’ll look at what it means to be an Acts 2 Church more deeply in our class, act out the pentecost events, and ask more good questions. See you next week.

Recipe for a Great Church

Thank you to Janet Collins and Charlotte Burk, who published the 2013 Garnett Family Recipe Book. They asked for a recipe from me, so here’s what I gave them that you can see in the front of the book when you buy yours! Proceeds go to pay down Garnett debt! Ask about the cookbook by emailing Janet: garnettinfo@gmail.com. Get copies at the Tulsa Workshop this weekend or after a Garnett worship Sundays in Cafe Mosaic.
Recipe for a Great Church
by Greg Taylor
 
Ingredients
Wash All Dishes Inside and Out
Add Overflowing Cups of Grace
Blend in One Box of 100% Truth
Pour on Heaping Spoonfuls of Love (To Taste)
Stir in Egg Whites of Encouragement (No Cholesterol)
Melt on Mercy in Abundance
Squeeze in Patience, Fully Peeled
Cover with Kindness (Non-Fat Substitute: Gentleness)
Scoop Patience Even When Grated
Saute Endless Supplies of Forgiveness
Pinch of Salt
Directions
Mix Ingredients Together with Joy
Sprinkle with Laughter
Fold in Godliness in Endless Supply
Have Faith and Let Mixture Rest
Baste in Hope
Bake in the Son
Serving
Serve with The Spirit and While Hot, Never Lukewarm
Enjoy with Fellowship and Hospitality
Optional When Needed: Serve with Crow or Humble Pie (Also Fat Free)
Share Freely with Friends and Loved Ones
Always Makes Enough to Go Around
Recipe for a Great Church by Greg Taylor

Reading: Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor

Cover of "Leaving Church: A Memoir of Fai...

Cover of Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

“. . . the call to serve God is first and last the call to be fully human . . .

“Like every believer I know, my search for real life has led me through at least three distinct seasons of faith, not once or twice but over and over again. Jesus called them finding life, losing life, and finding life again, with the paradoxical promise that finders will be losers while those who lose their lives for his sake will wind up finding them again.”

–Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church