God Wants More For You. So Do We.

What Roles Can Women Take in the Church?

Ask Pastor Alex, Ep. 33

This is the Ask Pastor Alex podcast with your host, Pastor Alex.
All right, welcome back to the podcast, everyone. We’re here with another episode and another
question. And the question for this episode is, what roles can women take in the church?
And that’s a good question. This question is similar to another one we had recently on the
podcast, which asks, can women be pastors? And if you haven’t listened to that episode,
I would encourage you to do so before listening to this one, because I’m going to try not to
repeat myself too much. So if you feel like I’m not going into enough detail concerning women and
their ability to serve as pastors, or if that is biblical, I would encourage you to go and listen
to that other episode first so that I don’t have to repeat myself too much. If you remember, if you
have listened to that episode, you’ll remember that we concluded from Scripture that the office
of pastor, elder, overseer, whichever one of those three words you want to use, is reserved
for men alone. And this comes from 1 Timothy chapter 2 verse 12, where the Bible prohibits
women from teaching or exercising authority over men. It also comes from the qualifications for the
office of pastor that we find in 1 Timothy chapter 3 and Titus chapter 1, both of which specify that
pastors must be men. However, it is important to keep in mind that this prohibition was in no way
demeaning towards women or indicative of a lack of worth or value. In other words,
God doesn’t allow men to serve as pastors because men are better than women, or because men are
smarter than women, or because men are more worthy than women, or even because men are more valuable
than women. It has to do with God’s ordering of the genders in creation. He made men to be leaders
and have authority in the home and in the church, and He made women to be helpers. And listen, we
have to remember this, both of these roles are vital and necessary for the health and function
of the home and the church. You remember the analogy that we used. If I go to the local hardware
store and I spend $20 on a hammer and $20 on a pair of garden shears, and I go home and the job
that I need to do is I need to trim the hedges, well, I can try to grab the hammer, but it’s not
going to be effective for that task because it’s not made to do that. I need to grab the appropriate
tool, the garden shears in this case, in order to trim those hedges properly. Now, that doesn’t mean
that one is more useful than the other. It doesn’t mean that one is more valuable than the other,
because remember, I paid $20 for both of them. So they are of equal value, but they are to function
in different ways. And in the same way, the Bible clearly teaches that men and women are of equal
value, but they are called to function and serve in different ways. Also, if you’ll recall the
episode on women pastors, you’ll remember we said that according to the Bible, there are only two
offices in the church. There’s the office of the pastor and there’s the office of deacon. According
to the Bible, only men can serve as deacons as well. And this one, some people try to argue, is
not as clear as women not being able to serve as pastors. In other words, people will say, for the
most part, it is very clear that women are not to serve as pastors, but they will say it’s less clear
about whether or not they are to serve or are allowed to serve or can serve as deacons. And I
think in order to address that, we need to look at at least two places in Scripture that clearly
indicate that only men are to serve as deacons as well. The first is in Acts chapter 6. This is the
famous chapter in which the first ever deacons are selected. You’ll remember that there was a problem
in which some people were being neglected in the food distribution, and so they took the issue to
the disciples, to the apostles, and they said, well, we need to focus on the ministry of the Word. We
need to focus on preaching and teaching, and it’s not right for us to step away from that responsibility
that God has given us in order to go serve tables. The reason they say that is because the word deacon
literally means servant in the Greek, and that word servant actually referred to one who served
tables. And so they say, well, here’s the solution. The people who are gathered here, y’all select seven
men from among you, and they were to be men of good repute, full of the Spirit, and of wisdom, who
contend to the physical needs of the people. And so when they are selecting the very first deacons,
the disciples specifically say that they are to select seven men. Now, here’s an argument here.
Some people would say that it’s possible that this chapter in the Bible is merely descriptive
rather than prescriptive. And all that means is simply that it’s possible that what the Bible
is doing here is simply describing the events that took place while selecting the first deacons and
not necessarily prescribing how the church is to select deacons moving forward. In other words,
they’re saying it’s possible that the Bible is teaching that the first disciples required men to
serve as deacons, but that might no longer be necessary moving forward. That might no longer
be the case moving forward. They’re saying essentially that this is what happened in the
first century during the first selection of deacons, but that’s not prescriptive for what
must take place following that. And listen, I acknowledge that that is a possibility,
although I do think it’s a fairly weak argument. And so we need to look to other passages of
scripture for clarification. And the only other passage of scripture that refers to the qualifications
for deacons is found in 1 Timothy chapter 3 verses 8 through 13. And this is what we read.
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine,
not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience,
and let them also be tested first, then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless.
Now here’s where it gets really important for our conversation. Their wives likewise must be
dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the
husband of one wife, managing their children and their own household as well. For those who serve
well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in
Christ Jesus. Now clearly as we are beginning this conversation about how women can serve in the
church, we’ve already addressed the issue of women pastors. Now we’re addressing the issue of can
women serve as deacons. It’s important to note that within those verses, the most important parts of
those verses for our conversation are the parts that mention the wife of the deacon and the fact
that he is to be the husband of one wife. If deacons could be men or women, the Bible could have
simply used gender-neutral language such as spouse, but it specifically refers to men and mentions the
characteristics that his wife must also have. This indicates that when they are giving the
characteristics and the qualifications for who can serve as deacons, they only had men in mind.
And so when we put these two passages together, it does become very clear that the office of deacon
is also reserved for men. Now the office of deacon, deacons are servants, so they aren’t leaders,
they aren’t exercising authority if they’re operating biblically, and they’re not teaching
necessarily. You don’t necessarily have deacons teaching, so they’re not restricted from that
because of those reasons, but they are, but women are restricted from the office of deacon according
to what we find in the Bible as it relates to the qualifications of who can serve as deacons. The
Bible clearly says that the first deacons were men, and then when it later lists the qualifications
for deacons, it specifically says that he must be the husband of one wife, and then it goes on to
describe the characteristics and the qualifications that his wife must even have in order for him to
serve as a deacon. So then we come back to that question, well then where can women serve in the
church? How can they serve? And I want to make this very simple. Women can serve in any role or
capacity within the church that is not the office of pastor or deacon, and that does not involve
teaching men or exercising authority over men. Which means not only would it be inappropriate and
unbiblical for a woman to serve as a pastor or a deacon, but it would also likewise be equally
unbiblical for a woman to teach an adult male Sunday school class or even a mixed Sunday school class.
Occasionally you’ll have adult Sunday school classes that are mixed and made up of couples
and men and women, and oftentimes there’ll be a woman who is teaching the Sunday school class.
Well that would be in violation of what we find in Scripture because she would be teaching and
exercising authority over adult men. But women can teach and lead women’s Bible studies. Women can be
children’s directors. Women can serve as missionaries and praise God for that. And there
have been some great women missionaries. I mean I think of some like Lottie Moon, Elizabeth Elliott,
Ann Judson, Sarah Judson, Annie Armstrong, just to name a few. I mean you can go and you can read
some of the biographies and memoirs of some of these great women missionaries. They served the
Lord to their fullest capacity because they were doing what God had called them to do, and it was
in accordance with Scripture. And they’ve got some great stories. I especially recommend if you can
read some memoirs of Lottie Moon. Elizabeth Elliott has a great one. If you read To the Golden Shore,
which is the biography of Adoniram Judson, you hear a lot about how essential his wife Ann was
during his ministry. And then when she died, how essential his second wife Sarah was to his ministry.
These are great women missionaries, and they were serving in a way that is biblical and to the glory
of God. Not only that, but many women have the gift of evangelism. And listen, I want to just pause
right here and say I know that when we think about an evangelist today, we typically think of someone
like Billy Graham, who was a traveling preacher. And I’m not saying a woman could serve in that
capacity since it would be in violation of Scripture. A woman couldn’t serve as an evangelist
in terms of how we think about them today. But that is to say that many women do have the gift
of evangelism, which simply means they are exceptionally gifted at sharing the gospel
with others. And so we don’t have time to go into every single opportunity that women might have
within the church. But suffice it to say that women are able and called and gifted to serve in a
variety of ways in ministry. We can even go so far as to say that women are essential to ministry.
They are necessary for ministry because women are saved just as men are saved. We are all saved by
the grace of God in Jesus Christ. And the Bible tells us that when we become Christians, the Holy
Spirit gifts us with certain gifts that are to be used in the church. And so if you are a woman and
you are a Christian, you are to be serving in the church in some way. You are to be engaged in
ministry in some way. That is biblical. The only ministries that are restricted from women
are the office of pastor, deacon, and anything that would cause them to teach and exercise
authority over men. Other than those, the door is wide open. And so if you’re listening to this,
I want you to be encouraged and I want you to know you are essential for ministry. You are needed
for ministry. You are necessary for ministry. And if you are a Christian and you’re a Christian woman,
the Holy Spirit has gifted you with certain gifts that are not to be kept for yourself. They are to
be used for the church and for the ministry within the church. So look for opportunities, get involved
and serve with all you have to the glory of God. Appreciate the question. I hope that this answer
has been helpful and I look forward to answering more in the future.