Friday, January 11, 2008

Tough Decisions

On today's GenderBlog we see an example of the hard decisions that often face us and our need to exercise a Biblical worldview. Tim Challies continues his blog tour to promote his book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, and was asked today what he would say to a woman who felt that God was calling her into the pastorate. I was impressed with his answer on several counts.

First, while he pointed to the Scriptural requirement that only men serve as pastors, he did not stop there. He also noted that a call to the pastorate is never an individual call, but one that involves the local church. One needs a church before they can be a pastor, and a church that is seeking God's will is the context in which any individual operates. A church operating in this way will also make sure that it does not call an immature or otherwise disqualified candidate as pastor. A person seeking God's will, coupled with a local body of believers seeking God's will, is sure to avoid much difficulty.

Secondly, I appreciate Tim's tone. He recognizes that the question that he was asked is one that many women have agonized over. He does not dismiss them offhandedly but gently points to the truth. I have noticed this in Tim other places as well, to include a short discussion conducted between us yesterday. Tim shows great charity and grace in his answers, which is a rare treat today.


ForHisSake said...

The Question: "How would you help a woman discern whether or not she is receiving an actual "call from God" to become a church pastor?"

Tim’s concluding remarks confuse me:

"So my advice to a woman who felt a call to pastor a church would be to encourage her to speak to the leaders of a gospel-centered, church. Within that context she would have the joy of pursuing ministry, but ministry within the context of the local church, within the gifting and passions God has given her, and within the boundaries God has decreed."

Is discernment really the issue here? Scripture is clear on this. Whether she "feels" called, or "thinks" she is being called to pastor a church--it is not God calling her. He doesn't call us to ministry positions that His word clearly forbids. Am I missing something here? I am a woman who has a deep desire and longing to preach and teach, but scripture is crystal clear on this. Although, obedience to Him and His Word, may (at times) make us angry or disappointed or even frustrated, and we attempt to justify our own unbiblical desires because we feel we have so much to offer the "body", we are deceiving ourselves and really exposing our lack of trust in God to raise up faithful men to do what He has called them to do.

For a woman to "speak to the leaders of a gospel-centered church", is assuming a great deal considering the state of the "gospel-centered" churches today. A woman who feels "called from God to be a pastor" needs to be yielded to God's Word. She will soon discover, that pride, lack of trust in God, personal satisfaction, and temporal frustration may indeed be "calling" her; but, God certainly is not.

I don't think discernment is required here. In most cases, (based on my own personal experience and the honest and forthright discussions I have had with other women who "feel called to be a pastor") they have already "spiritually discerned" God's clear position on this and they simply don't like it. Therefore, they look for others (local churches) who wear His name to gain approval and permission in order to feed and to justify their disobedience; and, unfortunately, they easily find it. Women who know the Word and are truly yielded to the Spirit of God (in spite of how they “feel”), simply pray that God will raise up faithful men to pastor local churches. Knowledge of God, His Word, and the yielding to His Spirit of Truth in humble obedience (whether the flesh likes it or not) is what is required. What is left to discern is not His Word or His will, but our own motivation. Am I missing something?

In Christ and For His Sake,
D.L. Kane

Jerry said...

Dear Sister,

No, I don't think that you are missing something, but it might be a case of you and Tim talking past each other. Have you raised this question to him on his blog? I am not sure that he will see it here.

I will venture my take on what Tim is saying. This is dangerous, but I will try.

I think that what Tim is saying is the fact that a woman who feels a call to ministry may not consider all of the other avenues that are open to her and will find Godly guidance within the context of the local church.

However, as you have pointed out, it is not difficult to find a "church" that will approve any "feeling", and if one is determined to operate in opposition to God's Word it is certainly easy to find concurrence.

Yet, if one desires to live in rebellion, this is nothing new. Great discernment is called for me to rightly judge my personal motives and ensure that I am not operating outside of God's constraints. At the same time, discernment is called for within the context of the church to guide individual members, male and female, into the proper use of their gifts.

While you are correct that discernment is not particularly needed to determine "has God said?" when "thus sayeth the Lord" is perfectly clear, it is needed to properly conduct ourselves once we are within the confines of God's boundaries. No, a woman may not serve in pastoral ministry, but in what ministry is she to find herself? This is a question for that woman within the context of the local church.