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August 1st, 2011 // posted in Trends

Comments on the August 1 Barna Update (“20 Years of Surveys Show Key Differences in Faith of America’s Men and Women”)

For years, many church leaders have understood that “as go women, so goes the American church.” Looking at the trends over the past twenty years, and especially those related to the beliefs and behavior of women, you might conclude that things are not going well for conventional Christian churches. In addition to the statistics reported in the Update, consider these overriding patterns:

  • From 1991 to 2011, of the 14 dimensions tracked, men’s average score declined by at least 10 percentage points on one factor (certainty that the Bible’s principles are accurate). However, women’s average scores dropped by 10 or more points on four indicators (church attendance, orthodox view of God, Bible reading, and a huge rise in being unchurched).
  • Women used to put men to shame in terms of their orthodoxy of belief and the breadth and consistency of their religious behavior. No more; the religious gender gap has substantially closed. In 1991, there were 6 of the 14 tracked dimensions in which the gap between the genders was at least 10 percentage points (and in all cases women had scores that were more positive from a biblical standpoint). In 2011, there were only two indicators reflecting such a gap. (For the record, those indicators were having made a personal commitment to Christ and contending that religious faith is very important in their life.)
  • The double-digit gaps that existed between the genders on five of the 14 factors back in 1991 had been substantially diminished by 2011 – and even reversed in one instance. For instance, while women were more likely to read the Bible during the week than were men in 1991 (50% compared to 40%) the pattern was reversed by 2001 – 41% of men read the Bible during the week in the 2011 study compared to 40% of women. While that single percentage point of difference may be a measurement artifact, the elimination of that gap is what is striking. Other notable reductions in the difference between the genders included an eight-point drop in the unchurched gap (down from 12 points) and a seven-point decline in the margin around religious faith being very important (down from 21 points to 14).

What does it all mean? In its simplest form, we can posit that while tens of millions of Americans seem to be wrestling with their faith – what to believe and how to experience and express it – women have been more radically redefining their faith contours than men in the past two decades. While the genders are far from a state of convergence, the frightening reality for churches is that the people they have relied upon as the backbone of the church can no longer be assumed to be available and willing when needed, as they were in days past.

All of this raises questions about the tenor of church proceedings. Many have noted that the typical Christian church exudes a female vibe, in aspects ranging from type of music to common language to the nature of the primary events. If women become less of a mainstay in what occurs within churches, will ministries respond by increasing the male-friendliness of the proceedings? As women become less front-and-center, will men be pressured to upgrade their church involvement?

Eras of change such as that in which we live today demand alert and courageous leadership to understand the times, know what to do, and engage in bold action. Is a different type of pastor, and more sensitive lay leadership, required to respond to these trends? Will existing church leaders see these patterns as a wake-up call that business as usual isn’t working for anyone these days? Or will church leaders interpret the trends as suggesting that it is precisely because of the changes conventional churches have undergone in the past quarter century that the trend lines are moving downward, so introducing more changes and more radical changes simply add to the problems rather than solve them?

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85 Comments

  1. Chuck Ehl

    August 1, 2011

    I fully believe that one major reason for these changes would be that we tend to teach the bible from more of a legalistic platform of knowledge and not from a personal experience of God through the Lord Jesus. Jesus came to set an example for His people in how we are to live and treat others….especially our wives. Men in general have a very distorted view of what a man is to be and unfortunately have disregarded the great responsibility of representing the Lord Jesus within our families. This has been the downfall of many marriages and also has resulted in an unfortunate competition with the gals of which they are being brought down to man’s levels through this compentence. We would do very well to seek after “The Living Life of Christ” of which we are starting up a small men’s group ministry to encourage each other towards this very goal.

    • Buckethead Baptist

      August 1, 2011

      1. We’re teaching a legalistic platform of knowledge. AGREE.
      2. You suggest that we should live according to Jesus’ example.

      Uhhhh… Jesus’ life was a fulfillment of the Law…

      You are suggesting we live according to the Law.

      THIS IS THE PROBLEM. We are putting people in a Circular reasoning path … and its guaranteed the results we see now.

  2. Susan B.

    August 1, 2011

    I am somewhat surprised. In the last 10 years I have noticed an influx of Women’s Bible Studies…especially through LifeWay. Not only studies, but events they provide around the nation. We seem to be filling auditoriums but maybe not churches…

    On the other hand I shouldn’t be surprised, as I think about female participation in the church I have attended the last 28 years, it is still the older ladies that serve in various capacities. Sunday school classes are made up of the older population of our church. It seems we don’t present Jesus to them in a way that is relevent and of priority. How sad. Much prayer is needed for our church.

  3. T. Eugene Schenck

    August 1, 2011

    I believe that women have changed in their dress. They do not wear a dress to church like they use to, but wear pants. Churches that use to expect women to wear a dress if they had part in a church service do not expect that now. Women have usually been the spiritual leaders in church.

    They say that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, so maybe the woman has let down the standards and the spiritual part in the church.

  4. regular joe

    August 1, 2011

    This trend among church-going women in the US makes sense in the broader backdrop of cultural shifts.

    Women tend to be more relational, and to view their world in a more relational way. So church going women will tend to hang onto the relationships in a church, and with the church itself, longer than men – in my opinion. This would include behaviors that the church world would approve of, such as volunteering, beliefs and spiritual disciplines.

    But what would happen if culturally Christianity becomes less approved of? What happens when the church is cast as a villain, and orthodox beliefs are blamed as the source for villainous behaviors? What if to be associated with traditional Christianity and church is to be considered a bigot; a small-minded, narrow-lipped intolerant, selfish despiser of people?

    Relational women will want to disassociate with such a profile. They will either want to associate with the culturally approved version of Christianity (which embraces the world’s mores and perspective, does not take the Bible seriously and makes any spirituality a private occupation), or at least very much downplay their own involvment with Christianity and/or church.

    On top of that, women are much more rewarded, culturally, for filling their time up with volunteering at school, and in their children’s activities (sports / arts), rather than with church activity of any kind. Add a work schedule to that, a husband who is not “into” church, important events (games, family get togethers, weekend festivals) which inevitably take place during the Sunday morning church hour….

    With little encouragement from her life as a whole, little real participation in the church body life, the big question is why these percentage point frops aren’t even greater.

  5. Peter Leenheer

    August 1, 2011

    When I read your findings, they were taken seriously. There is no need for me to corroborate what you found. Instead it would appear prudent to ask women and men specifically in town hall type groups, similar questions and to probe deeper into why the behaviors are changing.

    In my church I come every week to church and the topic has been chosen by the pastoral staff. No one, to my knowledge, ever asks what are the issues in my work and daily life that need spiritual guidance and illumination. It is assumed that the people in charge know. This gives me food for thought but not neccesarrily food I need. In fact, most changes do not take place from the leadership down until the grassroots have been listened to by the leadership. Until then leadership generally assumes all is well.

    These latest findings are indicators that all is not well. It is time to act, how we have been ambassadors of the gospel obviously needs a facelift both in personal spiritual growth, and behavior. Satan likes us to have as much knowledge of the christian life as we like, as long as our behavior does not match it. Obedience to God by His people is Satan’s downfall. Let us make the right choice and so make our behavior Christ-like!

  6. Lisa Buie

    August 1, 2011

    As a working mom and active church member, I can tell you that it’s more difficult for me to participate in church than I used to. Events such as committee meetings that don’t provide child care for school-age kids, Bible studies all targeted at stay-at-home moms (both in content and schedule) a lack of Sunday school, which is the only time I can attend a Bible study as there’s a kid’s class going on simultaneously, and events such as vacation Bible school being offered only in the morning are just a few examples of why it’s easier for working moms to give up than try to do all the juggling required just for basic participation. I think more women are also rejecting the rhetoric of complementarianism that churches push in their marriage classes and so decide not to go. The fact that many churches and parachurch organizations emphasize males as automatic leaders (an unbiblical view) and bar women from leadership roles (including that of pastor) also are turning more women off. If we want to keep from losing women, perhaps we need to take a fresh look at scripture and how Jesus treated women and adjust accordingly.

    • Buckethead Baptist

      August 1, 2011

      so… it’s all about you?

      • Lisa Buie

        August 1, 2011

        No, it’s not all about me, but I figured I could lend some good perspective on the issue being a churchgoing woman who sometimes is made to feel like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. And I can tell you there a lot more like me, too.

      • Buckethead Baptist

        August 3, 2011

        Amen sister… amen.

      • Dan Cruz

        August 4, 2011

        I come from a large Church and see a trend developing of Women leading bible classes because “The men” don’t want to do it. I see a feminest movement in the Church.

      • CL

        August 5, 2011

        Dan, women have historically taken the leadership in Christian churches whenever men didn’t want them, only to be kicked out again when women wanted them back. The early 19th Century saw a huge number of Protestant women preachers and church leaders.

    • Michael G. Halpern

      August 1, 2011

      That is an excellent idea Lisa, to review what Christ and the Scriptures have to say about men and women and their roles in life. This is a major problem in this era of time, we are quite confused about what it actually looks like to life and Christ’s followers as apposed to Satan’s followers (or a secular world-view). The Word tells us that we either serve the Lord Jesus Christ, or we serve the lord Satan. Again, Scripture brings this all into great clarity.

    • Debbie Thurman

      August 5, 2011

      That’s a most interesting perspective, Lisa. Forgive me if I infer too much from your comments, but I am picking up a feminist undertone in them. For instance, when you use the phrase “rhetoric of complementarianism,” that sets off an alarm for me.

      For the record, I am a Baby Boomer (57), and a longtime church attender and ministry leader. I’ve been a professional woman, both in the workforce (including in a military capacity) and as a business owner. I chose to stay at home with my children when they were small. That’s a choice I realize many women may not have, or believe they don’t have. We weren’t well off. My husband and I made some sacrifices for me to stay at home, and I opted for a flex-work schedule as well as doing freelancing to help. I have observed a tidal wave of materialism sweeping over our nation over the past few decades. I think it drives many moms into the workforce, or keeps them there. Add to that a quest for self-fulfillment that is not exactly a godly one. I realize that’s a strong statement coming from a woman who has navigated the tough waters of a male-dominated world herself (I’m a former Marine officer). One of my peers is a highly capable two-star general today, “married” to the Corps. She and I have observed that each of us has occasionally contemplated the other’s life wistfully, wondering what if. …

      I made some choices that I believed God wanted me to, but I am also the product of life’s flow, some of that a result of mistakes I made specifically because I bought into the (empty) self-fulfillment and female empowerment mantras. And that includes a very ugly part of my history that nearly wrecked my marriage. Sorry, but I happen to believe very strongly in the complementarity of the sexes. No, men are not all automatic (or autocratic) leaders. Women have some well-honed skills the Church needs precisely because they are the cradle-rockers. Yes, we have some things to say that men need to hear, but not because we feel we are superior in any way. At least, that’s not how I feel.

      For heaven’s sake, marriage is a one-flesh union. That’s the very picture of complementarianism. It also is the euphemism Christ uses to describe his church. It is meant to be a body that functions in harmony, but it is a marriage with Christ. Since he is the head, it is not an ideological stretch to picture church leadership as being mainly of the male persuasion. Women ought indeed to be the backbone in many regards. There is no subservience intended in that. We have gotten off track, IMHO, by injecting a competitive element into the picture. Church, the same as marriage, need not be a patriarchy. But someone needs to be the head. It makes sense in every respect — biblically and anthropologically — for that to be masculine.

      If women are disengaging from church, they are becoming the architects of their own marginalizing. I engage with men who are leaders in my church, and within my denomination (Southern Baptist). They listen. Yet, I retain my sense of place as a woman. It’s not impossible.

      What we are seeing is, as George Barna has pointed out, the predictable fallout from the ’60s and ’70s. It has led to a wholesale rejection of orthodoxy. If anyone ought to be able to read the Bible and take its truths to heart, it should be educated, thinking men and women. But education has been our downfall in many ways. The academy has gone soft on orthodoxy, too.

    • Pam Hogeweide

      August 21, 2011

      I’m stumbling a bit late into this conversation, but Lisa, my sentiments exactly. I meet women all the time who have exited church for the reasons you describe. For many women, a lifetime of messaging of subservience from their faith tribe has taken it’s toll and They Are Done. Not with Jesus, but with patriarchal Christianity. I interpret this as (hopefully) a holy wind of liberation gusting up in the house of God. Church is not a system or a denomination, but People. If half the population of the institutional church is beginning to take themselves out, maybe it’s an act of resistance, a departure from compliance within the hierarchical structure the body of Christ has evolved into. In the past month I’ve met three women with different denominational backgrounds who have left a church for these reasons….

    • Carlos

      September 25, 2012

      Totally agree with you till you wrote
      “… I think more women are also rejecting the
      rhetoric of complementarianism that churches
      push in their marriage classes and so decide
      not to go. The fact that many churches and
      parachurch organizations emphasize males
      as automatic leaders (an unbiblical view)…”

      WHAT BIBLE ARE YOU READING?????

      “… and bar women from leadership roles
      (including that of pastor) also are turning
      more women off. If we want to keep from
      losing women, perhaps we need to take a
      fresh look at scripture and how Jesus treated
      women and adjust accordingly”

      Where the apostles (leaders of the primitive church) women? They where 12 men and not a single women. How many women do you see in that position during Jesus ministry? It’s not that they weren’t leading or participating, but obviously man where responsible to lead the church. Women chose to compete with man in all areas of our society and now they believe they can do the same in church. The problem in today’s church is not inequality, it’s the same problem in the world today, man lost the support of his wife (A Suitable Helper, genesis 2:18) in the house (family is a mess) and now he is losing it in the church too. It’s going to be a big mess too. And these Lisa is the only fresh look at the scripture… and the only one… We are call to change the world with the Word, not the other way around.

  7. Fred

    August 1, 2011

    The comments provide an insight into why the statistics read as they do. Each commenting on some aspect of individual or church failure, when in fact it is lack of BIblical knowledge.

    The church will turn to programs to accomodate women and each will think that they have found the new formula…none will. Women are already making demands of the Bible that feminist are demanding of the world, and are as absolute in their demands of churches as the feminist are of worldly institutions. They have seen their demands met in every other institution and will walk if their demands are not met by the church.

    Men will continue to relinquish their role as they have done in the world. The men will become irrelevant and the women will become more and more frustrated when their new demands do not solve their old problems.

    Both will turn to teachers that suit their own passions and there will be a falling away of the church just as Apostle Paul said they would.

    Is there a solution? The coming of Christ, but until then stay alert.

    • Debbie Thurman

      August 5, 2011

      I hope this pessimism is not fully justified, Fred. But you may be right. I am hoping for an awakening, but am ready for Christ to end it all, if that’s what we’ve wrought.

    • Loralee Scott

      August 28, 2011

      Fred,

      As a woman with a degree in Bible who has exegeted in the original languages, and faithfully served in ministry for over 20 years, I pray the eyes of your understanding would be opened and you would stop accusing women who are seeking to follow the call of Christ to lead and teach as feminists deserving of judgment. You can not support that view scripturally in light of Christ’s interactions with women and in light of women who were in leadership in ministry in the New Testament even in a culture that was tremendously de-valuing and abusive to them.

  8. Shawbrooke

    August 1, 2011

    I agree with regular Joe, that relational women may choose to go along with public opinion.

    There may be wider patterns at work here. The prevalence of living together has handed many men additional power in their personal relationships. More than ever, women go along with what the man wants. Churches that engendered an environment more comfortable for women than men will pay a significant price as women have lost power in their personal lives.

    More women work out of the home and have significantly less time for volunteer work. Anyone who thinks that less volunteerism, on the part of women who are going to work,is a sign of less commitment will further drive women from the church. More women are relational and they will exit situations where they get the vibe that others are disappointed in them.

    The research should take into account the recession. In the current times many people are under stress and may be moving to new environments. It’s tough to continue in a group when your financial circumstances change drastically. The church needs to learn how to make it possible for sensitive relational people to continue in a church when they are facing serious financial difficulty.

    • Debbie Thurman

      August 5, 2011

      May I interject that serious financial difficulty has long been a recurring theme in the human conditon? It is not the church, from an institutional standpoint, that is meant to react to or solve this problem. The individual believer looks to God to provide all needs. We bear one another’s burdens in the community setting of church, always. But we “seek first His kingdom” and do not mold church around a temporal problem. This is an example of placing a corporate mentality layer over the church.

  9. Jamie Spence

    August 1, 2011

    The main reason for declining rates of involvement by women at church and corresponding activities is a lack of time. Women are now expected to be in the workforce and expected to support an artificially high standard of living. Few men are willing to forgo the lifestyle this second income affords them and support their wives staying home.

    Even my church supports dual-income couples and employs as pastors men and their wives. While this is good for equality, it sets a horrible example to the body, because these women pastors are not held to the same life demands and time demands that other working women are. The pastor’s wives can come and go as they need to, can take time off for ministry trips or vacations, can leave to go pick up their children and attend sports events, and attend bible study and other ministry events during the day. Most working women are not allowed any of these luxuries, so for our church to preach from the pulpit that women should work is being completely insensitive to the demands on real women.

    I get very frustrated because the only bible studies offered are during times that only stay-at-home moms can go. When they do offer a night-time study, many women cannot go – there is too much to do at home and for their children since they have had to be away from these duties all day. In addition, when you are able to attend, you are so exhausted that you can barely pay attention or give of yourself to encourage others.

    That’s a big problem for women today. Church involvement is down because working women are exhausted.

    If the Church would support a more traditional lifestyle and encourage people to live on one income, then women would again be free to not only take care of their families, but to be involved in their churches and be a support to their communities.

    Feminists will probably cry sexism over that comment, but the truth is – women have always worked. It’s just that in the past, we worked for the good of our families and for the good of our communities. We didn’t receive monetary payment – we received the payment of healthier families and communities. I’d take that in a heartbeat if my husband would let me. I couldn’t care less about “equality” and never did – I would rather be able to be a blessing to my family and my church over a blessing to our bank accounts.

    • Buckethead Baptist

      August 1, 2011

      Ten years ago… John Eldredge said it this way: “Look around in the average church today and you’ll see that the women are tired and the men are …bored.”

      I like how some of the more legalistic among our family think Eldredge is a deceiver… and they refuse to recognize that he’s actually a prophet.

    • Debbie Thurman

      August 5, 2011

      Amen, sister!

    • Carlos

      September 25, 2012

      I feel your pain sister. God bless you and give you the desires of your heart

  10. JaneMarie

    August 1, 2011

    As the church has becomes more and more “nuclear family” driven, is the drop in women’s attendance really a shock? If men aren’t attenting, then it is likely that a husband may not attend, so a women has to attend by herself, and in an atmosphere where family is god, those who do not fit the “nuclear family” mode may be less inclined to make a commitment. Also, as the age of child-bearing goes up, fewer younger women are inclined to “plug in” to church for the benefit of their children AND older women may no longer have a reason to attend once their kids have left the nest.

  11. Buckethead Baptist

    August 1, 2011

    Just a suggestion here… but the average for Bachelor’s Degrees for Women has started to exceed that for men.

    Perhaps these educated ladies… aren’t getting fed very well in their churches in accordance to what they are learning in the universities… and reflects some of the change in the stats.

  12. CA Pam

    August 1, 2011

    As an author for women, pastor’s wife and someone who was a Dir of Women’s ministry for over 15 years, I believe a few factors might be a part of this discussion:
    1. The economy- America’s families are hurting so both mom and dad are working harder and many might want to attend church/ studies but feel the balance of work and family and/ or marriage consumes most hours. Programs to help their marriages, parenting and finances could help, especially if they are focused and offer child care “(in and out in an hour” model)
    2. Many churches are follwoing a small group model that is doing away with women’s (and ofetne) men’s ministries. Churches that used to have a ful time Women’s Director (or even a part-time one) no longer have them or they are not on “senior staff” so the needs of women may not be respresented well on the planning level of a church. While I am a huge fan of small groups, small groups that are focused just for men or just for women are of equal value to those that integrate the genders. This can help parents tag team to cover needs of kids too.
    3. Many churches offer felt need, topic driven messages and little deep mentoring, disicipleship and focused theology training that helps a person ask questions and get answers on important reasons why the Bible is reliable, that there is a heaven/hell, why and how to share your faith, etc. We might still be reaping consequences of too much entertaining of youth and not enough equipping and releasing them to do real ministry.Youth minitires that disciple and offer intensive triaining and hands on minisrry better prepare teens to be srrong adult believers.
    4. We too often expect people to come to us, and it might be time we take great equipping to them (mix of use of technology like internet, radio, video, in connection with a PERSON who cares about his /her life is powerful.) Changes sometimes force people to rethink how ministry is done– and for this I am always grateful to George Barna– we get info to help us think through best way to make a difference. I am reading and underlining Futurecast now!

    I am from a prebelieving home– I was the first in my family to come to Jesus at age 8. (Invited by a neighbor + I watched a TV show by Lutherns so I saw what a Christian family would look like and I wanted it). It is always a mix of telling the truth in a way a person can see how God interfaces in his or her world AND love by a real live person. By relating to God and deciding to begin a relationship with God that will bring a desired life (or eternal life) change — and seeing it walked out in the life of another who loves you and cares about your life– people are and will be reached . . . each one reach one model.

    Don’t give up hope– there are little 8 year old girls like I was out there waiting to hear “God loves you”

    • johnie taylor

      August 1, 2011

      Great words of wisdom from a veteran soldier in the trenches. keep passing on what God is allowing you to see in these times.
      Your Brother in CHRIST

  13. MichaelO

    August 1, 2011

    Women’s declining attendance and woman’s declining volunteer un-paid work at church spells disaster for the status-quo church.
    We all know church is designed and caters to women, not men. We also know that historically women has done the heavy lifting in the status-quo scheme of things. The control oriented, top-down hierarchy, clergy dominated, church is losing their target audience fast.
    What drew and kept women adherents before does not do so now.
    IMHO I think it is more than tight times or more than women in the work force type reasonings.
    IMO I think it is the Holy Spirit.
    The Holy Spirit is simply leading christians into alternative faith experiences.
    I left the status-quo because the current system of “doing church” actually hindered me from being equipped to do the work of the ministry. And after maturing and being equipped (outside the status-quo system) I was resisted and hindered by the status-quo hierarchy (clergy) from doing what God called me and gifted me to do. Why? Because it didn’t line up with what the status-quo’s goals, aspirations, stratagies, agenda’s are.
    The church as we know it measures success by the following:
    a) average Sunday attendance
    b) size of pastoral staff
    c) average sunday collection amount
    Due to their current methodology, all 3 are shrinking.
    Notice, your not a priority in the above “success equation” other than a number in a pew.
    Your being fed a consumer religion, entertained, an attendance number, filling the money coffer, to perpetuate the status-quo, to increase the clergy staff. Meanwhile you remain essentially a dumb mute un-paid layman doing the grunt work in ineffective religious busywork that is not producing anything towards Gods goals, aspirations, stratagies, agenda.
    Newsflash: current christian religious goals are not God’s goals!
    God’s apostolic formula for church success is put forth very simply in:
    1) Acts 2:39-47
    2) Acts 4:31-35
    3) Acts 6:1-8
    It requires one to leave all, and to give all.
    Do you realize that women were too, apostles and prophets in the first century church?
    Does your church, or your idea of church, look, sound, act, perform, produce, like this historic first century model in Acts?

  14. Pastorsmate

    August 2, 2011

    Jamie Spence, I’m not usually a blog reader, but am glad I did this time. Thank you for some wise insight. I think you hit on some important points.

  15. H. E. Baber

    August 2, 2011

    Women are leaving because virtually all churches, including liberal ones, are geared up for “traditional women.” Go to any church and you’ll see more women than men BUT among the women you’ll see fewer who work full-time outside the home and far fewer who have careers rather than traditional “women’s jobs.”

    Churches are organized on the assumption that men work and so provide the money while women don’t work so contribute their time. That isn’t the way it is for most women. But it isn’t simply a matter of time. It’s the sensibility, the sentimentality, the oppressive femininity of churchiness that puts off lots of men and even more than that non-traditional women.

    If you’re a professional women in a unisex career, where you do the same job as male peers, and if socially you don’t go into the kitchen to gab with the gals while the guys sit in the living room watching TV, church is alien territory. Suddenly sex segregation is the norm everyplace but the choir, there are men’s jobs and women’s jobs, and you’re expected to do woman stuff that you don’t in real life and don’t want to do. To an increasing number of women who just aren’t used to this conservative, sex-role social world it’s alien, uncomfortable, unpleasant.

    I suppose one response would be to just write off “non-traditional” women. But this means writing of a large and growing proportion of the population. And should churches be writing off anyone?

  16. Megan Stewart

    August 2, 2011

    A few years ago, I returned to college in mid-life, During a class discussion on the medieval church with students in their early twenties, I was somewhat surprised to see that almost every member of the class fully agreed that Christianity was inherently misogynistic, and that that misogyny began with Adam and Eve.

    This went beyond biblical gender roles. These students appeared to believe the Bible taught that women are evil and hated by God, and that secular culture, by contrast, sees women as valuable. One young woman was almost in tears.

    As a journalism student, I couldn’t help wondering if this perception might have been instilled by the pro-life movement, now more heavily covered in the mass media than is the Gospel. Most of these students would have been born during the Reagan Administration, and, unless they’d been raised in the church, probably never knew a Christianity that wasn’t centered on the abortion issue.

    No matter how you spin it, when the only sin the church appears to care about is one committed by women, I could see how one could take the logical leap to Christianity as misogynistic.

    The pro-life movement has been in the church for over three decades now. Mr. Barna would know better than I, but I’ve never seen a study done on the impact of the pro-life movement on cultural perceptions of the church, both from outside and within the church.

    • CL

      August 3, 2011

      Megan, I have to wonder where you grew up. I’m 46, and I’ve heard that women were evil from Christian churches my entire life. The only place I didn’t hear that constantly was in the 1970s from the liberal Southern Baptist church before that august body was massacred with a great deal of enthusiasm by the Fundamentalist Takeover of 1978, and even there I had to endure an annual pre-Easter sermon about women’s inherent vanity and flightiness. The fact that women actually did almost all of the work of running the church but never given a chance to be heard and no one had any respect for their voice (only their labor) was one of many reasons I left the church decades ago. I read Barna to see which realization that struck the rest of the world years ago Barna is now finally able to start getting through the heads of those who won’t listen to us “apostates”.

      But it’s not just me. I recently read To Kill a Mockingbird to my children, and the notion of women’s inherent evil was so thoroughly ingrained in all the Christian churches mentioned in that book that the narrator considered it the element they most had in common.

      • MichaelO

        August 3, 2011

        CL,
        The status-quo wants you to do all the un-paid grunt work and further “the ministry”. Then after your chores, sit down, shut up, be seen and not heard, be a submissive good little girl.
        Unless you give large sums of money, then you are a “favored one”.
        Does anyone realize that there were women apostles and prophets in the first century church?
        Do you realize Jesus appeared to Mary magdelin first after His resurrection.
        It was a group of women who contributed the lions share of direct money support to Jesus ministry.
        Why do you women continue to support monetarily a church that marginalizes women?

      • CL

        August 3, 2011

        MichaelO, that is one of the reasons I left. I had no voice and never would.

        But before anyone accuses me of being all about myself, let me mention my former neighbor Mrs. G. A more saintly woman you’ll never meet, she devoted herself to caring fulltime for her infirm, elderly mother and her middle-aged son who was LD and had severe health issues, on top of keeping the books for her husband’s business. In addition to all that, she carried her local church on her back. She was the cook, the cleaning lady, the secretary, and the church program writer and editor, who’s printing she paid for herself every week. When the church had guests, they stayed at her house. She was also a wonderful storyteller who had lived an interesting life.

        Mrs. G. had had a long string of guests once as the church searched for a new pastor. All of the candidates stayed at her house while they gave their sermons and were grilled by the search committee. All of them were male, as was the committee.

        The search was taking a long time, and the strain of doing all the hosting was starting to get to Mrs. G. It seemed the committee couldn’t find a young male preacher they liked, and were having to take turns leading the service themselves. I commented that they never once asked her opinion even though she saw more of the candidates than anyone, nor did they ask her to be on the committee, and they never ever let her lead the service. They thought her good enough to take care of all their earthly needs but not good enough to listen to. They were wrong.

        She grimaced, looked away, and nodded.

        People are always going on about what Paul would say. I want to know what Paul’s boss Tabitha would say.

    • Debbie Thurman

      August 5, 2011

      I never got that message, Megan. Talk about warped theology! Adam and Eve sinned together. He was with her. The culture has spawned this view of female culpability. If we were a Bible- reading people and a praying people, we could not be so deceived. And what does the Barna survey say about the decline in viewing Satan as a real entity?

      • CL

        August 5, 2011

        Debbie Thurman, you might want to read some historical sermons. The notion that Eve bore most or all of the blame has been showing up for centuries.

      • Debbie Thurman

        August 6, 2011

        CL, I was not denying the notion. I was just saying it was an incorrect reading of Scripture, and that the message didn’t come to me in that way.

      • CL

        August 8, 2011

        It is an incorrect reading of the Scripture, but it’s been decades since I’ve seen a Christian church that believed it incorrect.

  17. The church has failed to acknowledge the growing population of single mothers and fatherless children. To do so has ensured the exodus of women in/from the church. God in His Word, requires ministry to the widow (single mothers are widows – read the definition) and the fatherless. To continue to ignore them, would mean a significant drop in church attendance – 35% of children in California being raised by single mothers. Louisiana & Mississippi are at approx. 45 -48% – But let’s continue to ignore it…..

    • Buckethead Baptist

      August 3, 2011

      Ma’am… as a former Cubmaster for the Cub Scouts… I have to whole heartedly endorse your observations.

      What happened to all the Men that are supposed to be raising the next generation of Warriors?

      one word… Sportscenter.

  18. @Lisa Buie – Your right there are a lot more like you!

  19. JOWANI

    August 3, 2011

    Religion is dying-only relationship will survive. Forever.

  20. Megan Stewart

    August 4, 2011

    @CL: To answer your question, I grew up in a mostly non-churchgoing family in a liberal, feminist city. My father was raised Mormon, I later learned by a polygamist. Dad had fairly egalitarian views toward women, and pretty much rejected his religion altogether.

    When I moved into a “Bible belt” community, it was such a culture shock that I believed I’d encountered a religious cult. Women homeschooled their children, some had complementarian views toward marriage. I tried to fit in, but after 30 years I still feel like a lonely Mary in a sea of Martha’s.

    The final straw for me was when a minister used the word “slut” in a sermon, a word that as a novelist I would use only to depict a man physically or verbally abusing his wife. It was then that I realized I was functioning as an enabler for my own emotional abuse every Sunday morning. I left the church, and within six months the depression I’d struggled with for several years completely lifted.

    I was “born again” in 1976, and so may not be familiar with the trajectory of anti-women sentiment prior to that time. I find it amusing, though, when ministers talk about how Jews, in the time of Christ, used to pray thanking God they weren’t women. Not much has changed in 2000 years.

    • CL

      August 5, 2011

      Megan, “cult” is a good term for it. I remember attending a talk on “cults” at a Methodist church in the mid-80s that defined a “cult” as any Christian church that tried to tell you what to believe — as long as those beliefs conflicted with what a good Methodist “should” believe. I pointed out the contradiction. I wasn’t invited back.

      I was fortunate to attend liberal Southern Baptist churches in the 1960s and the 1970s, where I learned about “the priesthood of the believer”, how every every individual had the right to read the Bible and come up with his or her own opinions about God based on the Bible and his or her own experience, and no one had the authority to try to stand between that individual and God.

      That branch of the Southern Baptist Congregation got axed in the late 1970s, and my family started attending fundamentalist Southern Baptist churches. All of a sudden people ostensibly belonging to the same faith were telling me everything I had learned and loved about my faith was wrong. I felt like I had fallen into some sinister parallel universe. The buildings were the same, but what people thought was totally different.

      Decades later I read a published account of the Takeover. At one point a woman who was attending a SB seminary at the time talked about how the teachers went from teaching equality to teaching feminine subservience. Many of her sister classmates not only left the seminary but “left Christianity altogether”. I can understand why.

  21. Lillith

    August 4, 2011

    MichaelO – you hit the nail on the head with this one.

    “The status-quo wants you to do all the un-paid grunt work and further “the ministry”. Then after your chores, sit down, shut up, be seen and not heard, be a submissive good little girl.
    Unless you give large sums of money, then you are a “favored one”.”

    I was raised Southern Baptist in Texas and if won’t beat the religion right out of you, I don’t know what will. Both of my parents are very religious and until I was 18, went to church every Sunday. Church was so oppressive to me that I stopped going once I left the nest when I went to college. I didn’t set foot in a church for 10 years.

    When I married, my husband suggested we go to church as a way to meet people since we were new in town. I agreed and once again, the patriarchal oppression made me miserable. After 3 years, I Ieft and never went back. Something that is “supposed” to be so wonderful shouldn’t make you so miserable. That’s when I stopped believing in any form of written religion. I will never darken the door of organized religion again. I consider myself to be spiritual – a deist. I have a personal relationship with a higher power that I pray to, I need nothing more than that.

    I lead a good life, support a wonderful charity, have a full time, well paying job that is rewarding and my time is better spent with my family than at church where my value is demeaned. MichaelO, Your statement sums up my feelings about church & religion all together. Don’t need it, don’t want it.

    • MichaelO

      August 5, 2011

      Lillith,
      My lovely wife of 40 years was raised Baptist.
      It has taken 40 years to get the “Baptist” out of her so she can have a somewhat healthy relationship with God.
      Her concept has been that God was up there sternly looking down just waiting to pounce on her for any infraction of the law and beat her behind with the Bible.
      Also she felt when she prayed that the answer would be no. I know every Baptist hasn’t had that experience, but many have.
      Conventional christianity has done a great disservice to women. It is largely unspoken by just not allowing women into the exalted inner circle of clergy, or any public inclusion into the normal function or participation afforded to men. It is gender bias plain and simple and needs to stop.
      Jesus did not operate that way with women. Paul didn’t operate that way either.
      There were women apostles and prophets in the first century church. Paul had many women directly actively involved in his apostolic ministry.
      There is a very good book out by a guy I respect as a Bible scholar and I highly recommend it to all women to read.
      The author is Jon Zens, the book is:
      “What’s With Paul and Women?”
      Unlocking the cultural backround of 1 Timothy 2.
      There is NO gender bias with Jesus Christ.
      It is all cultural, all man inspired.
      As to your statement about “oppresive church”.
      Conventional church, which I term the status-quo, control oriented, top-down hierarchy, clergy~laity distinction, pastor dominated, model, is actually oppresive to all believers outside the clergy class.
      There is a definate clergy-laity distinction, which relegates non-clergy to dumb mutes during the religious holy hour. And the clergy dominates all functions and participation of all believers in a control environment.
      It is wrong, and can not be found anywhere in the New Testament. I challenge anybody to do so.
      Lillith your experience with conventional christianity has led you to Deism. God didn’t inspire or authorize conventional christianity.
      If I may recommend a book to you that was authored by George Barna and Frank Viola, it is “Pagan Christianity”. In it it will explain why you went through what you did in the Baptist church and give you a complete new view of christianity. It is an eye opener and I consider it one of the most important books written in the past 30 years, maybe longer.
      There is a fresh breeze blowing in christianity and it is a return to first century model of christianity which is nothing like conventional christianity.
      I have experienced oppresive behavior at many different conventional chuches and I too as you left the conventioal model of it.
      I am not a Deist as you but I consider Jesus Christ as He whom God sent.
      Conventional christianity is misrepresenting God to mankind just as the Jews did before God allowed them to be run off and scattered 2000 years ago.
      They mean well, but that don’t get it.

  22. Debbie Thurman

    August 5, 2011

    I must say these comments are eye-opening. They represent a slice of cultural Christianity. And therein hangs the tale.

  23. excrusader

    August 5, 2011

    I was born again at 13 in a non-denominational Southern California church. I managed to ignore the nagging feeling that there was something really wrong with evangelical christianity for over 10 years. It was only after going into full time ministry after college that I was shaken into acknowledging all of my misgivings about my faith. And, really, probably the biggest issue for me was the blatant sexism both in the church and in the bible itself.

    Being a christian woman, for me, was much like being an abused spouse who’s constantly making excuses for her abuser. Having to constantly make excuses for god (why the bible clearly teaches, over and over, that women are inferior, unclean and property) got really tiresome. The mental gymnastics required to cherry pick bible verses and explain away clearly sexist church practices got to be way too much.

    I can’t tell you the freedom I found in letting it all go. I don’t have to feel like an inherently inferior creature because I’m not. Every single Sunday since my liberation from the evangelical mindset I have been overjoyed that I never, ever have to step foot inside a church again. It’s the best feeling…

  24. MichaelO

    August 5, 2011

    This is in response to Jaime Spence post of Aug. 1.
    I feel your and all the sisters angst in this thread.
    I imagine a church right now with people (men and women equally) bold and crazy enough to do what they did in the first century.
    In Acts 2:39-47; Acts 4:31-35; Acts 6:1-8. etc.
    Is it so crazy to imagine?
    I think not.
    With the current conventional way of doing christianity, no.
    But there are real apostles and prophets out there today who are organizing this. Outside conventional christianity.
    If I am hearing what I think I am hearing from the women in this topic, those 3 Scriptures above in Acts 2: 4; 6. Are the only way for us to get where we want to be with God, church, family, brethern.
    I listening to you women, I am reminded of Mary the mother of Jesus Christ.
    An angel appeared to her (yeah right the skeptics say). She is young (some scholars say 14 years old). She is betrothed to Joseph and she is a virgin. The angel says to her, “you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son and His name will be called Jesus. Mary says to the angel, ‘How can this be since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.”
    “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
    I relate that story because I think that only a woman could be able to believe something as audacious as that and go with it. There was not a more blind leap of faith in the Bible than what Mary did.
    For first century christianity to start again and Jesus Christ commission to be accomplished we need the women to be on board with it.
    It will not happen with conventional christianity.
    The die was cast in Acts on how God wants it done and we need faith filled Mary kind of faith women now!
    Side by side with the men in apostolic-prophetic based ekklesia.

    • MichaelO

      August 5, 2011

      What God orders, He pays for.
      There is a whole different economic system in the kingdom of God that conventional christianity knows nothing of. Conventional christianity is cought up in a man inspired un-Scriptural economic system which has followers of Jesus trapped in the worl system.
      In Acts 2;4;6; it is clearly spelled out how Gods system of economics is done.
      God pays for what He orders.
      The adherence to that economics system goes hand in hand with wonders, signs, miracles, healings, souls brought into eternal fellowship with God, discipling of the nations, ushering in the kingdom of God.
      I am hoping women can hear this better than the men are hearing it.

  25. Marg Mowczko

    August 9, 2011

    I don’t think it is surprising that the percentage of women in American churches is now less than men.

    Many Christian women are no longer willing to put up with the erroneous view (and annoying platitude) that men and women are “equal but different”.

    Men and women are “different and equal – no buts!”

    Women are leaving the church because they are disillusioned and discouraged from being continually treated as second-class citizens; a view that they are told is biblical.

    And the church looks very unappealing to those who have experienced genuine equality in secular society. Why would an intelligent woman want to join a church where she knows her voice has no value?

    • Debbie Thurman

      August 9, 2011

      Isn’t it amazing how many men, including pastors, revere their mothers and point to their wisdom and contributions to their moral upbringing, yet fail to bring that wisdom into the church setting?

      • nom de guerre

        April 28, 2012

        hmm… in just what ways are men and women equal? average weight, average height, hemoglobin count, total body water, driving skills…? women and men are unequal and different, from many perspectives.

    • MichaelO

      August 9, 2011

      Marg and Debbie,
      Marg wrote: “Women are leaving the church because they are disillusioned and discouraged from being continually treated as second-class citizens; a view that they are told is biblical.”

      I agree wholeheartedly with you on that point.
      The truth of the matter is that conventional christian religious treatment of woman is traditional and cultural rather than biblical. Above I recommended a book written by a Biblical Scholar John Zens, called “Whats With Paul and Women?”
      I recommend all women read it so you have Biblical truth to stand on regarding the issue. It will shed light on this error in the church.
      It is true women have a higher mountain to climb in conventional christian religious circles than men. But I would like to point out that ALL/EVERYONE who are considered “laity” are second class citizens if you will really properly assess the matter in light of the New Testament and what Jesus taught and the original apostles and writers of the New Testament.
      We all sit dumb mutes staring at the back of heads during the religious hour in the sacred building during an assembly of believers. This was not so in the first century apostolic-prophetic assemblies during the original apostolic era.
      Whatever happened to: “You are all kings and priests unto God?”
      What ever happened to: Matt 20:25-28; Luke 22:25-26; Matt 23:8-12; Phil 2:1-10.
      Whatever happened to: Eph 4:11-13? Notice it says equip the SAINTS to do the work, NOT the pastor do the work? Notice it says “until WE ALL attain”. All means women too!
      Whatever happened to: 1 Corin 14:24-26?
      Paul said the average, everyday, normal assembly, ALL functioned, ALL participated. Not just the hired gun pastor.
      In addition to the assembly meeting, everything even outside the sacred building is controlled by a singular pastor in a community of believers. There is NO precedence for this anywhere in the New Testament, nowhere!
      Nowhere, nowhere, nowhere, in the New Testament did a community of believers “tithe” to a singular pastor! Nowhere!
      It is the opinion of scholars that 80 cents of every dollar collected for christian purposes is spent on clergy salaries and upkeep of the sacred building that is used for a few hours a week.
      There is no principle or precedence for this un-Scriptural practice in the New Testament.
      The quickest way for women to bring the unjust way that women are treated in the un-Scriptural christian religion of mans traditions is to SHUT THE MONEY OFF!!!
      Stop giving money to what you know to be wrong!

      Debbie wrote: “Isn’t it amazing how many men, including pastors, revere their mothers and point to their wisdom and contributions to their moral upbringing, yet fail to bring that wisdom into the church setting?”

      Truer words were never spoken my sister!
      Contemplating the reasons for failure of conventional christianity in Barna Groups data and intrepretation of the data. I might add completely run by men historically. It begs the question. What would the inclusion of HALF of christianity (women) in the operation of christianity mean towards a different outcome?
      I’m just wondering outloud, Sisters in the faith?

  26. Loralee Scott

    August 16, 2011

    Why are we seeing an exodus of women from the church? The only shock should be that it has taken so long. Why would anyone want to commit to and follow an organization that depends on them to fill the majority of volunteer responsibilities while denying them any leadership opportunities based solely on the fact that they were born female? Then when they dare to question this, they are placed in the center of the town square as the very ones they have faithfully served pick up stones to hurl at them labeld “feminist” “ungodly” “rebellious” .
    Jesus interactions with women, every single one, were revolutionary and radical. He communicated value and empowered women in a culture that devalued them and kept them in servitude. The tragedy is that so many bright, talented, women are missing the message of Christ because organized religion has promoted a misogynistic and misguided interpretation of scripture over the truth.

  27. MichaelO

    August 18, 2011

    Loralee,
    I agree with you.
    The conventional church if it were to receive a grade it would be an F for failure.
    This conventional church I might add has relegated half of the assembly (women) to the back of the bus as far as participation and function in the day to day function of the church.
    It begs the question: who gets the blame for the complete degredation of belief and behavior in American christianity today?
    This is easy, the male clergy.
    Just the addition of half of christianity (women) to the mix would have to make a major difference. IMHO.

  28. MichaelO

    August 21, 2011

    Hi!
    I’m PamO who is MichaelO’s wife.
    It has never been men who have tried to control me and make me feel beneath them in the christian environment.
    It has always been (100%) women who have tried to control me, dominate me and tell me everything I am doing wrong.
    For some odd reason christian women think they have a license to say any and everything they want.
    My experience has been they (conventional
    christian women) think they are entitled to be your judge and jury. They have to get you straightened out, and do the Holy Spirits job for Him.

    • CL

      August 29, 2011

      PamO, I agree that women are more often than men the “enforcers” of women’s inferior status. A woman who has bought into such a position will fight tooth and nail to defend it against any woman who dares question. Naomi Wolf refers to such women as the “Dragons of Niceness”, and they’re about as hard to deal with as a nest of dragons.

  29. Deb Martin

    August 22, 2011

    Great discussion on this topic! Wondering if anyone has, or can point me to data regarding the percentage of believing women whose husband has yet to know the Lord? As I look around my church on Sunday morning, and in my conversations with Christian women, I am amazed at the number of women who came to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, and who are still waiting/praying for their husbands to begin following the Lord. I think this has a tremendous impact on the church, but don’t see any reference to this in the Barna research. (Have I missed something?)

    • MichaelO

      August 22, 2011

      Deb,
      There is a book out called “Why Men Hate Church”.
      It will answer some of your questions I suppose.
      Conventional church as we know it is set up for, directed to, and appeals to women much more than men as a general rule historically.
      There is another book called “I Love Jesus, But I Hate Church”, which will answer a few questions also in this vein.
      My wife will probably be able to add her take on the subject, but mine is that my experience has been that many (NOT ALL) married women alone in church is due to the fact that they are many times domineering types or they have beat their husband to death with the Bible.
      Most men don’t want to go to a top-down, control oriented hierarchy, type setting, because the only kind of activities they are allowed to do that the clergy don’t, just does not appeal to the greatest cross section of males. In fact it is a bit sissified with a fem twist, to tell you the truth. We can’t see ourselves doing the clergy type stuff either.
      Especially the churches where the clergy dresses up in gown looking stuff with lace and such and special funny looking clothes that most men wouldn’t touch with a ten foot candle snuffer. It creeps us out. We would rather stay home and watch large neandrethal knuckle draggers slam their bodies into each other at high rates of speed between the hash lines, or cars crashing into each other at 200MPH. Now if you want to start talking stuff like making disciples of the nations, thats a different story.
      We men can relate to world domination type stratagies.
      But no sissy stuff!

  30. Deb Martin

    August 23, 2011

    Thanks Michael. I appreciate your perspective. I attend a church that is very intentional about NOT doing the things you mentioned. In fact, the teaching is very Scripturally based, and presented in an “intellectual”, yet humble manner – if that makes sense. I live in an area that is populated by well educated people…lots of IT, pharmaceutical, medical and education professionals. My church understands this, and does a great job not to “talk down” to people, or claim an heir of superiority.

    I seem to notice that many women seem to come to Christ (and engage in church ministries) before their husbands. This is a very different situation than say 100 years ago, when entire families attended church together. (Whether all members were actively pursuing the Lord, I don’t know, but the dynamic has certainly changed.)
    I have even spoken to women who woould describe themselves as the “spiritual leaders” in their homes, as their husbands have not yet come to faith. This is somewhat frightening to me, as the potential for marriages to be divided over religious matters only increases if the wife assumes this role (over the husband!).
    I will check out the books you recommend; up until now, I have not seen any serious statistics about this phenomena, and even worse, no attempts at addressing the situation in a Biblical, yet practical way.
    Blessings,
    Deb

    • MichaelO

      August 23, 2011

      Deb,
      Hi!
      Please don’t misinterpret my questions. I am on your side and want to stimulate a healthy dialog amongst women with current conventional church policy. And make women and men think in line with Scripture and challenge conventional christian thinking. We may find that the conventional thinking is indeed not Scriptural.

      You wrote: “I seem to notice that many women seem to come to Christ (and engage in church ministries) before their husbands.”

      Which “ministries” do you mean?
      What are you as a lay woman allowed to do in church, in ministry? What do you think you should be able to do?

      You wrote: “…the teaching is very Scripturally based…”

      This is a loaded subject indeed, small christian wars have broke out between one guys “Scripturally based” VS another guys “Scripturally based”.
      Who does the teaching all of the time in your church?
      Would a women for example be allowed to teach in pulpit, regularly? Would she be allowed to prophesy in church? Could she as instructed By Paul in 1 Corin 14:23-26 stand up and do her thing in church?
      What is your church’s position on 1 Tim 2:9-15 for example? Women historically have been relegated to the back of the bus in christianity, just like Rosa Parks in Alabama in the 50′s. There is a very good book out on this subject called “Whats up with Paul and Women?”, by John Zens, I highly recommend it.
      Personally I think women can be apostles and prophets and evangelists and teachers. Most conventional church groups don’t.
      What do you think about that?

      You wrote: “women seem to come to Christ (and engage in church ministries) before their husbands.”

      Let me offer an insight. Men so often are not, not, wanting Christ so much as they are not wanting that thing that comes along with it! Namely that church thing that is very unappealing to most men. The whole conventional church scene and all of the additional stuff that goes along with it is very creepy to most men. Conventional church as we know it is really more appealing to women for the most part. Which I don’t understand because women are really treated like second class citizens in the status-quo church.
      If one really thinks about it women are allowed to do the grunt work stuff that the holy clergy won’t do! Unless they (women) are blood related or a huge tither of bucks.
      Try to start an outreach as a “lay” woman sometime, say to orphans or widows or women prisoners etc.
      It will be an education for you.
      My wife and I were consistantly shut down on such things at numerous churches of various flavors over a period of many years in various geographies.
      They aren’t going to do it but they don’t want you doing it either. Not in their realm of influence (church).
      Men who supposedly don’t want to come to Christ, much more so don’t want any part of that scenario. It is creepy to most men.

      You wrote: “My church understands this, and does a great job not to “talk down” to people, or claim an heir of superiority.”

      An heir of superiority is not the issue, IMHO! They (top-down, control oriented, hierarchy, clergy) would never give an heir of superiority or talk down and chase away potential tithes and consumers.
      The problem is the system of hierarchy that is entrenced and sustained since Constantine embedded it in the DNA of the religious, conventional, traditional, man made church in 340 something A.D. It is systemic however nice anyone is and says all the right things and acts all the right ways. I am not saying clergy purposely does the control thing. But it is the natural result of the system of how church as we know it operates. No matter how pure the intentions. It is a systemic problem.
      I can give lines and lines of Scripture supporting what I am saying.
      Blessings, your Bro Mike.

      • Deb Martin

        August 24, 2011

        Mike,
        Hmm… I think we may be both on the same side too, perhaps the inadequacies of “posting” language getting in the way.

        I do think my church is rare in embracing the idea that we are a body of believers who come together as a community to grow in the Lord and serve Him. I think we are sensitive to both male and female attitudes that permeate our culture, and do not want legalistic bonds to get in the way of true faith in Christ. With that said, we also take care to “interpret” the Scriptures faithfully, (that is, through a grammatical-historical perspective) and try not to simply justify what we want to do with Biblical reference. I think you would agree that this is a good thing. (?)

        However, personally my heart is for women with husbands who are not faithful believers and participants of the body of Christ, the church. While I can understand all the turnoffs to church that you mention, (and were addressed in the books you previously referenced), My goal is to get at the heart of how the church addresses the “split families”, where the woman is the primary (sole?) spiritual member. Hence, my inquiry about any serious reserach on the subject…is the church addressing this demographic from the standpoint of educating and leading women on how to biblically manage this situation in their lives.

        As for women in ministry… There are many places in Scripture where women are instructed or guided specifically: #1: 1 TIm 2:12. Women are not to instruct/teach or hold authority over men. The qualifications for elders/bishops and deacons – i.e. church pastors and elders – are to be qualified men. I may be in the minority, but I agree with this; it is biblical. We can try to pretend Paul wasn’t talking to the church today, and he should have stated more carefully what He meant so that it would fit with yet-to-be cultures, but I think it is clear. I do not think women should be at the pulpit in front of the congregation unless for a specific duty that men are not qualified (or called) to perform. Leaders of childrens ministries, leaders in women’s ministries, mentoring, senior missionary positions, worhship, leading small groups of other women, yes; pulpit before the congregation doing regular teaching/preaching, no.

        #2: 1 Peter 3:1-2 Wives, submit to your husbands. I know…every woman’s favorite verse (ha ha). Yet this is not a “submit because you are inferior” instruction; it is an instruction out of practicality. When a husband and wife disagree (after they have carefully and graciously discussed a situation together), someONE has to make a decision and be accountable for it. Peter goes on to give the example of Sarah as being submissive to Abraham; he does not say that Abraham was perfect, or never made mistakes, and that Sarah only submitted when she thought Abraham was right. The advice is to submit in a godly way, so that God can work on her husband!

        #3. Titus 2:3-5 Women are SPECIFICALLY instructed to encourage younger women. This is a big job and cannot be overlooked. I do not think the passage means “women, since you cannot teach in the church, you can stay home and simply hang out with other women”. NO…I think it is a significant call from the Lord to care for His daughters, with the expectation that this is how women will grow in their faith. For a woman to be able to teach another woman all the things she is called to by this passage, there is an enormous amount of study, prayer, preparation, reserach, discernment, compassion, wisdom and love that go along with this job description.

        OK…sorry for my rambling. My points are: 1) Men are given a speicifc role in the church; if women step into these roles, the men will not step up; they won’t have to. 2) Women are given a speicfic role in the church that is every bit as important as men’s. If women keep taking over men’s roles, who will take over theirs? 3) The role a woman has to fill (i.e. teaching other women) is not simply a ‘second hand’ job for a ‘second hand’ participant of the church; it is crucial to the Biblical growth and spiritual life of women, and requires much more than the ability to make coffee and finger-sandwiches…that is if women will step up to the call.

        To your point that “Men so often are not, not, wanting Christ so much as they are not wanting that thing that comes along with it!” I offer that wanting Christ, and accepting Him as Lord and Savior, embracing the grace and eternal blessings that He make available means “loving God, and loving others”. If someone (man or woman) comes to true faith and surrender to Jesus Christ, wouldn’t you agree that their zeal for Him should overcome his/her dislike for the policies of the church? Wouldn’t you expect that the life-giving transformation that the Holy Spirit has accomplished through the work of salvation would give one a different world-view, and that the failings of Christ’s body would ignite sadness, compassion and a desire to change all they saw was wrong? Instead of responding to ‘all that is wrong’ in the church by (unbiblically) staying away, would not a believer who has accepted the gospel do everything possible to engage in, embrace, defend and serve the body of Christ? Do you see my confusion? Perhaps instead of men turning away from His body, they should step up and lead. (Oh that’s right…the women are doing that…they don’t have to.)

        Is the church perfect? No, but it is still the representation of the believing community, based on the testimony of Christ, Son of the Living God. Wouldn’t one who loves Him do all that is humanly possible to ensure that the body (of which he/she is a part of) is sincerely representative of the grace He bestows?

        In all of this, let us remember that while we (the church) argue, mess up and flounder in our ways, God is still at work doing what He does…reconciling sinners to Himself. He has invited His body to join Him, and has given us corporate and individual guidance through His Word. Whether we (collectively or individually) adhere to His Word or not will have an impact on OUR blessings, not His work. He will prevail despite our shortcomings.

        In Christ, with all humility,
        Deb

  31. MichaelO

    August 24, 2011

    Deb,
    Sister in Christ.
    First I think one should actually define church Scripturally first.
    Define church?
    Does it (your church) look anything remotely resembling this: Acts 2:39-47, Acts 4:31-35, Acts 6:1-8.
    Then one should define leadership Scripturally next.
    Define leadership?
    Does your leadership exhibit these qualities and example them within the context of the conventional system: Matt 20:25-28; Matt 23:8-12; Luke 22:25-27. They can not because they are mutually exclusive.
    How do you explain women apostles and prophets in the first century church while the original apostles were around? Paul said in the church first apostles second prophets third teachers etc.
    I think the statement you made is relativism in the second peragraph above, everyone thinks that about their group (one of the estimated 40,000), including Mormons, Jehova Witnesses, Children of God, Church Of Scientology, Christian Scientists, Catholics, Lutherns, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentacostals, Charismatics, Brethern, Evangelicals, Independants, etc. They all make the same statement. In my travels for the Lord in and out of the country, I run into more Mormons than I do Evangelicals out proselytizing by far. Jehova Witnesses are about to drive my wife, neighbors and I to distraction beating our doors down.
    Your statement: “I do think my church is rare in embracing the idea that we are a body of believers who come together as a community to grow in the Lord and serve Him.”
    Why is it rare, doesn’t all the above do that?
    Define community? Do you know how Paul defined community and exampled it? They met house to house daily breaking bread and devoting themselves to the apostles teaching becoming disciples and then were scattered discipling others.
    Define “grow in the Lord”?
    Define “serve Him”?
    Is this the picture in your group of servanthood: Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-25; Luke 14:33.
    The first century historical Scriptural apostles and prophets church that founded christianity doesn’t look anything like, or do anything like what your or all of the above described groups do!
    If yours and theirs did what the apostles and prophets first century church did it would not be the subject of these four topics of discussion we are blogging in. And men would be much more likely to be a part of it rather than primarily women.
    In Barna Groups polling all 14 areas of belief and behavior are on a swift decline in conventional christianity. I assume you are a member of a conventional christian group?
    What does your group do with money collected?
    I was told if you really want to know the true story about a group, follow the money.
    Original christianity did this: Acts 2:44+45; Acts 4:34+35. Notice they did not tithe to a pastor.
    They brought it all and laid it at the apostles feet. Apostles plural, not a singular pastor.
    God is very serious about this: Acts 4:35 thru Acts 5:11.
    If you are like all conventional christian groups you tithe to your church. According to experts 80 cents of every dollar goes towards clergy salary and building expenses.
    How can a community of believers become disciples of the Lord, be trained and live without the community money support, and be thrust out into the work of the ministry when the money is all spent on a few privalaged clergy and a great big building or buildings which are used a few hours a week? And remember the apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, elders/shepherds, are supposed to be equipping the saints to do the work, not them doing the work.
    I found out that everything my “rare”, “sensitive”, “non-legalistic”, “true faith”, “faithfully interpreting”, “non Biblically justifying” church, was in fact doing all of the above and involved in traditional religious relativism. Now I am not saying this intentional of course. But if one is operating under the status-quo, conventional, top-down, control oriented, pastor run, dominate system. It is inevitable that it is doing all of the above.
    Barna Groups statistics over a 20 year period bear that out.
    The following are Lukes summary statements with the state of belief and behavior of the apostles foundational running of the church in the first century: Acts 6:7; Acts 9:31; Acts 12:24; Acts 16:5.
    The same statements can not be said today with our current, dominant, conventional, model.
    The summary statements of Western American christian conventional church go like this, in every area of belief the word of the Lord decreases and is believed by less people, and the behavior of the saints becomes more like the world everyday, and the church shrinks, and discipling is a thing of the past, and the nations are not being discipled thanks to the American Laodicean church.
    Your concern about women going to church alone and coming to the Lord before men and men not wanting to participate might be remedied, if we adopted the apostles model. They turned the world upside down in their generation’s turn. We are going backwards. Men get interested in turning the world upside down.
    They don’t want to sit in pews a dumb mute listening to some guy drone on about something that he can’t relate to, paying alot of money for a guy that works one day primarily and for a building that gets used for a few hours a week. It doesn’t make sense.
    The big question is are you being discipled and equipped to disciple the nations, are you and your family being healed of all of the things in your life so you can adequately serve the Lord?
    Is the supernatural happening around your leaders as a confirmation of their gifting and sold outness and death to self? Healing the sick, deliverence of demons, response of salvations by the numbers, equiped fired up disciples propelled out into apostolic ministry of planting churches?
    If not, your just another christian group.

  32. Deb Martin

    August 25, 2011

    Mike,
    Wow.
    Didn’t expect this. Thought we were both on the same side; Christ’s.
    Short answer, since clearly we are not on the same page Scripturally.
    I am thrilled to see people around me come to true salvation in Jesus Christ, and have their lives transformed, so my church must be doing something right.
    Don’t see much compassion or grace in your response…surprising coming from an adament Christian. When Mormons and JW comes to my door, I invite them in and share the gospel; being around unsaved people doesn’t annoy me, it saddens me. I pray for them.
    Praying for you too that in the defense of your faith you can appeal to the name of Jesus Christ (the living Word) in addition to your interpretation of the Written Word. His name is more powerful than whatever we think.
    Blessings, dear brother.
    Deb

  33. MichaelO

    August 26, 2011

    Sister Deb,
    We are on the same side, Christ’s! I serve Him too.
    I didn’t expect this: 20 years of declining belief and behavior within the conventional American system of christian religion in every area measured. We (America) seem to have it all going for us, wealth, freedom of religion, large christian institutions with large libraries, large christan seminaries, government that doesn’t meddle in the religion, chritianity is untaxed, our culture says it is christian and it is the norm, laws somewhat based upon Judeao Christian Bible principles, no persecution, our society lives in relative peace within its borders. Then why this disconnect from what the Bible says what we should be doing, and what we are actually doing?
    You seem offended by my dialog? You shouldn’t be! It was by no means intended to offend you but encourage dialog and look at the problem from a fresh old apostolic first century perspective.
    Is the scientifically collected data on the state of American christianity an indictment on your church too? Then you as I should be open to well reasoned Scriptural analaysis of the issues. Not be offended.
    I remind this is a blog, a forum, for open free exchange of thought between christians of all groups.
    We are not at your church where everyone basically agrees with what is going on in your church.
    This blog is all aspects of the Lords Body coming together for discussion. An open mind is the order here.
    A look back at the church will empower a look forward for the church.
    Given; that Western American christianity is going backwards. We need to examine what American christianity is doing presently, because, it is not working.
    It begs the question, why?
    I will address specifics.
    A) Presently a singular pastor running things.
    First century apostolic, Paul said:1 Corin 12:14.
    What the apostles did: Acts 2:14, 42-43; Acts 4:33, 35, 37; Acts 5:12, 18, 29, 38-42; Acts 6:2, 4, 6, Acts 8:14-15, 17-18, etc, etc. If you will notice a first century apostolic pattern a model it is not a singular pastor, but apostles plural, several, many. If your group are apostolic cessationists: Acts 2:39; 1 Corin 14:39. etc.
    B) Presently the pastor dominates the assembly liturgically, plus gives long sermons, relegating the saints to dumb mute audience observers.
    Paul says: 1 Corin 12:7.
    C) Presently the saints are locked into a liturgical mechanism as silent observers controled by clergy during the assembly of believers.
    Paul expressed what an assembly of first century believers looked like and acted like here: 1 Corin 14: 23-26. Notice the freedom of all participating all functioning in their gifting.
    D) Presently believers have bake sales, classes on personal growth, Sunday school, etc.
    Apostolic first century believers were equipped by a plural co-equal apostolic leadership by example and then by doing: 1 Corin 12:4-26.
    E) Presently we are taught personal growth to “draw closer to the Lord”?
    Apostolic first century believers were taught to be disciples and were equipped to do the work of planting churches, discipling others and scattered to disciple the nations within an apostolic ministry, functioning in their gifts and ministry learned by example from apostolic leaders.
    F) Presently pastor or clergy pray for people and no one ever gets healed and never do pastors cast out demons out of people.
    Apostolic first century leaders had miracles confirming their ministry all the time as commonplace. Acts 2:43; Acts 3:7-8; Acts 4:33; Acts 5:12, 19; Acts6:8; Acts 8:6-8.
    Are your leaders having signs and wonders following them confirming what they are preaching?
    G)Presently money is given to a church or a pastor. The distribution of that money is 80% of every dollar goes to a pastor and staff and a building or buildings.
    Apostolic first century money was laid at the apostles feet and distributed at the apostles direction by deacons chosen by the assembly and distributed as needed to the disciples (not believers) (not pastor) and everyone had everything in common. Acts2: 44-45; Acts 4:32-35; 6:1-8.
    H) Presently American christianity meets for a couple hours on Sunday and a couple of hours on Wednesday to hear a sermon.
    Apostolic first century christianity did this: Acts 2:43, 46, 47; Acts 4:31-32; Acts 5:42; Acts 6:1-8
    They met daily from house to house. Daily taking their meals together, daily devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and prayer.

    As you can see they did things differently than we.
    They discipled the nations in their generation. They preached the Word, planted churches, and discipled
    the whole inhabited world!
    We are are presently going backwards and are not even holding out own in this country by not even keeping pace with the American demographic.
    It is a systemic problem and it is hindering the accomplishment of the Lords Commission.
    What is more important your mans failed traditional methodology? Or accomplishing what the Lord has set before us according to his historic apostolic model recorded for us in the New Testament?
    It is time we humbled ourselves, and repent from our departure of His ways of Ekklesia.
    No generation but the first apostolic one has accomplished the discipling of the nations and if we continue as we presently are in American christianity we not only will not accomplish that but as Barna polling indicates we will lose the very sole of the church in America!
    It is time to repent and get on with the hard work of turning this mess around.

  34. Deb Martin

    August 26, 2011

    Dear Mike,
    My difference here is that no, I don’t view the apostolic era as comprable to today, and do not think it should be. I do not think the signs and miracles of the first apostolic church are alive today; signs and miracles were given during that period of time to authenticate the authority of the leaders. While I do not doubt that God can perform miraculous healings, ministers of today cannot; this was a time-sensitive gift to the early church to validate their teachings. THat is where our differences lay; in our interpretation of Scriputre on this piont. This is not to say that we shold not learn from the apostles teaching however we should not view the apostles’ work in the book of Acts as a template for church ministry,but as a body of revelation given to substantiate what God was doing through them in establishing His new body of believers. In Acts, the apostles don’t explicitly say “do things this way”, whereas Paul does. I belive the epistles are the primary place for church guidance.
    I must say I was a little put off by your questioning of my church practices, as if I had to defend them. My church is thriving, growing and creating disciples aplenty through sound teaching in the Word. My original question was regarding the unsaved men whose wives are believers. Not why saved men don’t go to church. Two different questions.
    Through reflection, I must admit that it would be unwise to further my conversation on views of the apostolic chur, as it is distracting from my real passion…helping believing women walk with the Lord while their husbands are yet to be saved.
    Blessings,
    Deb

    • MichaelO

      August 27, 2011

      My Sister Deb,
      If miracle healings are not for today then why have they happened to me and around me?
      Why are they happening around the world?
      I have prayed for a woman who had cancer and was healed, God gave me words of wisdom, words of knowledge, a prophetic word, as to what was causing her cancer and we prayed for her and it was healed verified medically.
      I receive supernatural words of wisdom and knowledge about people regularly when I pray for people. I have cast demons out of people in the presence of clinical psychiatrists at their request in hospital clinics with people demon possessed in straight jackets that the psychiatrists have given drugs to that could not be controlled with drugs or restained in straight jackets with numerous orderlies and pshychiatry isn’t working in this case. I prayed for a close sister in the Lord who was having severe anxiety and fear problems and was married to a brother in the church who was the most involved helper in the church. When I started to pray for her I kept getting visions/similitudes/pictures of her husband holding her down on the bed and blocking her in rooms and locking her in rooms etc etc. I said to her: “Your husband is physicall/emotionaly/mentally controling you isn’t he! She broke down and then the situation was taken care of of a period of time with her and her husband and individually.
      You don’t know what you are talking about you are parroting your groups doctrine that is not Scriptural and your leaders are reading their opinion back into the Scriptures making just another of one of another million doctrines that are not true. They are making excuses because God is not confirming what they are doing with signs and wonders. You have been lied to by religious clergy that is powerless in conventional christianity that is lukewarm and dead. If miracles if signs and wonders are not happening around your leaders than your leaders are not doing what God is blessing (which is obvious by Barna Group scientifically collected data over a 20 year period of decline)! But they are still like everybody else, they are asking God to bless what they are doing. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t tell God what to do, He tells you what to do.
      God is blessing what He is doing, the trick is to know what that is.
      Here is what Jesus Christ says:
      ” He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpants, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:16-18)
      This doesn’t say anything about leaders/original apostles/special people/clergy/people in only a certian time/people in only a certian place.
      It say’s, “believers who have been baptised”.
      In My name? Are you: operating/believing/functioning/participating, in His name, or your name, your pastors name, your bishops name, your popes name,Martin Luthers name, John Wesley’s name?
      It leads one to ask, if those signs are not accompanying you or your leaders, are you baptised believers, or disbelievers?
      Can you show me where the 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians has been stopped but the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians has not. I assume you think love is still in operation? I am not able to find the qualification? Maybe your group has found that Scripture? Please make me aware of it.
      As to your theory that the supernatural in the church has ceased which is called a cessation doctrine, which theologically has been determined to be false. Adressing that from a purely common sense approach.
      We presently are approaching 7 Billion people on the planet and people are in every geography on the planet. There are more cultures to deal with, more religions, more nations, more laws, and many more people than in 1 A.D.
      To say that in 1 AD they needed the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit given to all believers on the day of Pentecost more than we do now is ludicris. It is preposterous. It is not Scriptural.
      We presently have a bigger job to disciple 7 Billion people than they did of 1 Billion.
      We dearly need supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit NOW!

      • CL

        August 29, 2011

        DM, I’m glad for you that your church works for you, but I would never settle for a second-class citizenship in a church that believes itself not to be as “vibrant” as the apostolic church. If I tried to attend such a church, my husband would adamantly refuse to go or to take our children. He can’t stand any place that treats some people differently the others, especially when those people are his own wife and daughters.

    • Debbie Thurman

      August 31, 2011

      I just want to take a moment to thank Deb for her earnest thoughts here, should she return for a visit to this discussion.

      First, let me to say that you are a woman after my own heart! Apparently, we are a rare breed among Christian women today. I say that not to glorify myself or others in any way, but to point out how far the Church as a universal body of faithful believers is from an accepted historical-grammatical view of Scripture. I agree that Paul’s epistles were meant to be more instructive for the Church today than the Acts of the Apostles, which is more of an inspiring history of the church’s birth and Paul’s missionary journeys.

      I recently read the late John Stott’s (yes, I’m a late bloomer) “Between Two Worlds,” written in the ’80s. His recent death drew me to his work, and I praise God for his life, which goes on living in his amazing teaching and preaching! The book was ostensibly written more for pastors to instruct them in the art of preaching, but I found much that applies to the layperson or anyone in ministry, male or female. Stott taught that we are to read Scripture with a view to the purpose of the authors who wrote it down under God’s inspiration and authority, as well as seeking to apply it to our present culture. The ideal pastor/preacher is a bridge, then, between the biblical world and the contemporary world, helping us to better understand one vis-à-vis the other.

      I realize there are compelling cases to be made for a more authoritative role for women in the Church, but I cannot get around the downside of that. Deb has pointed it out so well in her comments. I do believe that within our churches, just as in the marital relationship, God ordained one head and that head is to be male. A woman can easily submit (i.e., eschew the role of being THE leader) to a man who is himself submitting to the authority of Christ in all things. Will she sometimes be right and he wrong? Yes. I think God can handle that. We do not need to step up and do His job for him by rushing in to fix what is an ebb and flow that ought to right the thing in the end.

      Gender-complementary roles make for a more effective marriage and church, in my humble opinion. Women are natural nurturers, and that gift surely is meant to be used in specific ways. I am older than my pastor, so I look on him and pray for him with a motherly concern, but I edify him as the leader of our church body. We can perhaps sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron, but I willingly submit to his authority as a pastor, called and ordained by God. Not all men serving as pastors today are called, or perhaps they fail to realize what the call truly means.

      Our church isn’t perfect — none is — but how dare I run out on it unless it becomes downright apostate? I am a link in the chain that is the body.

  35. MichaelO

    August 27, 2011

    My Sister Deb,
    You seem offended again.
    You wrote: “I must say I was a little put off by your questions of my church practices, as if I had to defend them. My original question was regaeding the unsaved men whose wives are believers.”

    I don’t mind at all if someone questions my practices, my attitude is bring it on I am open to new revelation of God and His word anytime any place.
    Deb, what I have been saying to you in the past 4 posts is the answer to your question. This is a blog that people dialog freely. We are instructed to not be easily offended. Obviously your church is not reaching men. You said it not me. If you will listen to what I am saying to you, men will be reached and the environment will not be inclusive of women, and exclusive of men. If you continue to be offended, you will not hear the answer. I am not going to just tell you what you want to hear but the answer to your question.
    Men don’t want your church experience! You may feel all warm and fuzzy inside with it, but men don’t.
    I can’t say it much planer than that.

  36. MichaelO

    August 29, 2011

    I suppose there are nice warm and fuzzy’s about tradition such as mom making hot chicken noodle soup when you get a cold or flu. Or Turkey and dressing with cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.
    Or Bing Crosby singing the classic songs at Christmas.
    But I find it just plain ludicris to argue for grandpappys tradition in religion when the conventional status-quo church thing is causing the christan church to cave in at 14 distinct measurable ways in belief and behavior in America for the past 20 years. And people argue to continue the status-quo. But they can’t back the dominant, conventional, top-down, control oriented, hieriarchical model with one Scripture.
    It reminds of what Jesus Christ said:
    “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying,
    ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
    But their heart is far away from Me.
    But in vain do they worship Me.
    Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ ” (Matthew 15:7-9; Mark 7:5-8;)
    Paul wrote:
    “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than accoding to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8.)
    It is obvious this present dominant status-quo method of christian religion devised by men is leading us down the wrong path.
    We need to return to the Scriptural apostolic foundational model as clearly defined within the New Testament.
    I’m looking for the historic first century God inspired apostolic orthodoxy.

  37. MichaelO

    September 1, 2011

    I believe the following statements speak from silence, and are factually untrue.

    Quote: “I agree that Pauls Epistles were meant to be more instructive for the church today than the Acts of the apostles, which is more of an inspiring history of the church’s birth and Pauls missionary journeys.”

    Quote: “…however we should not view the apostles’ work in the book of Acts as a template for church ministry, but as a body of revelation given to substantiate what God was doing through them in establishing His new body of believers. In Acts, the apostles don’t explicitly say “do things this way”, where as Paul does. I believe the Epistles are the primary place for church guidence.”

    Would you both substantiate those statements for me in the Scripture? Or even conceptually show them?
    This opinion is dangerous and a contributing factor in the conventional chuch failure in belief and behavior.
    The Epistles speak specifics about the things in the context of the Acts. I remind that Luke a contemporary and traveling companion of the apostle Paul to the Gentiles wrote two volumes. The first the Gospel of Luke narrates the story of Jesus when He walked the earth in the flesh from Galile to Jerusalem. The second volume Acts narrates how Jesus-now through the Holy Spirit was working through His Body-from Jerusalem to Rome.
    The Epistles if read chronologically in concert with Acts gives an accurate picture of one continuos story.
    One can’t seperate the Epistles from the Acts and say one is just historical and the other just instructional, that is just untrue.
    Luke and Acts are two volumes of one work. In fact Acts is not a history of the early church. Luke tells nothing about the churches in Galilee (9:31) or about the evangelization of Egypt or Rome. His narrative is not the Acts of the apostles, for only 3 of the original 12 appear in his narrative-Peter, James, John; and the latter two are only mentioned. It is the Acts of Peter and Paul. Peter is practically dropped after the conversion of Cornelius. Apostle Barnabas is talked about more than the original 12. Acts is not a historical book. It is Luke telling a story, not writing history. His story is that of the main outlines of the expansion of the church from Jerusalem to Rome.
    Therefore; if one were to surmise a “template” for the church, where would one find one?
    The Epistles don’t offer a different “template” than Acts, but in fact support and agree with Acts.

    I would conversely ask, where is the “template” for the current, conventional, Western, American church?
    I do not see the current, conventional, status-quo, church in the Epistles or the Acts or the Gospels or the Revelation? Where did the current “template” come from, it did not come from the New Testament?
    Can you show me where your pastor is in the New Testament expressed or implied? Where is his “template”? I can’t find it anywhere in the New Testament?

    Quote: “I believe the Epistles are primarily the place for church guidance.”

    Does your church look, act, feel like the Epistle
    1 Corinthians chapters 12; 13; 14?
    Paul said when you assemble you should look like this: 1 Corin 14:23-26.
    Paul said this about your pastor: 1 Corin 12:14
    Paul said this about you and your silent friends sitting on pews: 1Corin12 :7
    There are 58 “unto one another” in the New Testament. There are 0 pastor unto everybody.
    The “template” is clear in the Acts and the Epistles and the current staus-quo failing model is not it.

    16 “but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
    17 ‘And It Shall Be In The Last Days, God Says,
    That I Will Pour Fourth Of My Spirit Upon ALL Mankind;
    And Your Sons and Your DAUGHTERS Shall Prophesy,
    And Your Young Men Shall See Visions,
    And Your Old Men Shall Dream Dreams;
    18 Even Upon My Bondslaves, BOTH Men AND WOMEN,
    I Will In Those Days Pour Forth Of My Spirit
    And THEY shall Prophesy.
    19 I Will Grant Wonders in The Sky Above,
    And Signs on The Earth Beneath,
    Blood And Fire, And Vapor of Smoke.
    20 The Sun Shall Be Turned Into Darkeness,
    And The Moon Into Blood,
    Before The Great And Glorious Day Of The Lord Shall Come.
    21 And It shall Be, That Everyone Who Calls On The Name Of The Lord Shall Be Saved.’ ” (Acts 2:16-21)

    • Debbie Thurman

      September 2, 2011

      “In fact Acts is not a history of the early church.”

      I don’t believe anybody here said it was, Michael. I referred to the birth of the church (please reread) and Paul’s missionary journeys. The biblical narrative is not an exhaustive record. But it serves its purpose well.

      Churches will be fine if they are built upon the firm foundation of Scripture — all of it. The epistles are not necessarily a template, but are instructive. I see some of the very same relational and doctrinal problems in our churches today that Paul was dealing with in his day. Paul told Timothy “all Scripture” was useful for instruction. And he exhorted him to “preach the Word.”

      In this day and age, Christians banding together as churches after selling all they own and sharing everything communal-style would be looked upon as a cult by many, and as offbeat, at best. Maybe during the future Tribulation that will be necessary for believers who are saved.

      Some apostolic believers advocate for a return of the Pentecostal gift of tongues. Never mind that Paul said there must be someone to interpret the language or it is useless. I have a friend who claims she goes around speaking in tongues without a clue of what she is saying! I’ve heard tongues being uttered in a similar fashion. Now I confess I find no reason not to believe Jackie Pullinger’s amazing stories of miraculous conversions and healings during her missionary work in Hong Kong. “Chasing the Dragon” is a fascinating read. Can a sovereign God still do that? Of course. Can Christ still build his church in that way? He could if he chose to. He is building it now with great success underground in nations where Christians are persecuted. They don’t have the luxury to sit around and analyze surveys. They cling to pages of hand-copied Scripture and to each other as lifelines.

      An Acts kind of church will not gain traction anytime soon in the Western world, I’m afraid. We lack the missionaries to our own field. Great revivals and miraculous goings-on have broken out here and there over history. And miracles quietly happen all around us. We cannot direct where and when the Spirit will do such things. I say let us all be in prayer for it. The greatest need today is for preachers to preach the Word! That is the greatest failing of the modern Church. God will have His way, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church. That’s hope we can hang our hats on. Satan wants us cowering in fear and suffering from paralysis of analysis!

      We can’t exactly know when and how Joel’s prophecy will be fulfilled. That is why it is foolhardy to ever claim to have this knowledge. Both Christ and Paul spoke to the futility of knowing when this would happen.

      You can’t paint all Western churches with one failing brush or speak of some template they are built upon. Many are missing the mark, but not all. There is yet hope.

      I have much more to do with my time, including being actively at work in the ministry of reconciliation and prayer. And this discussion ain’t it (ref. paralysis of analysis). Peace, brother.

      • MichaelO

        September 2, 2011

        Debbie Thurman,
        My Sister in the Lord. Whom I love and appreciate.
        You still didn’t answer my questions?
        You did not support your opinion/doctrine/analaysis/teaching with Scripture in context with broad contextual support.
        We are talking about the basic foundational precipts for the operation of the this thing called christianity, church, ekklesia, body, kingdom.
        I am telling, challenging, you to show me the “template” (others words not mine) for how, where, what, why, when, who, you do church.
        I prefer ekklesia rather than “church” because the word “church” is to vast an iconic image (little building on the corner with a steeple on top) to overcome in talking about this thing called christianity in all 40,000 divisions, denominations, sects, groups.
        In my earlier post I talked about Luke who wrote two connected volumes, two halfs of a whole to a Greek fellow called Theophilus to give a basic groundwork backround for what he had been taught.
        The first what Jesus did in His flesh while on earth. The second what Jesus did through the Holy Spirit through the original and subsequent apostles and prophets (the church) while in heaven.
        The conventional church has rejected/dismissed/ignored that model laid down as foundational by Jesus Christ the Head, King, Lord, Messiah, Bridegroom, through the apostles.
        And (conventional church) instituted an alternative model that is: materially,conceptually,fundamentally, purposefully, different.
        Therefore; it behoves the conventional church to justify this blatant disregard for obvious clear Scriptural precedence for what constitutes “church”.
        I think the conventional church (which you and others are defending) is in rebellion! It has missed the mark! It has no leg to stand on! It does not have one Scripture to base it’s deviation from God’s revealed will as to what constitutes church and what it to be doing and being.
        Since you seem to be convinced that it (status-quo, conventional, church as we know it) that it is right.
        Would you please or anyone else please provide Scriptural evidence for the position.
        I will provide Scriptural evidence by chapter and verse in broad concepts that you a seriously mistaken, and in rebellion against the Head Jesus Christ.
        Hint, argument that it will be culturally painful for Americans will not hold water.

      • MichaelO

        September 3, 2011

        Debbie my Sister in Christ,
        I am very busy also. My whole life is in service to the Master Jesus Christ and His creation man.
        I will take your and the other sisters quick departure from dialog as the answer that you have no Scriptural basis for how you do church and can not answer my questions. Which I already knew to be the case.
        Conventional church which is a top-down, control oriented, positional, hierarchical, model, is failing, shrinking.
        If one wants to continue in it, and can’t even explain why they do it? Is curious.
        One can explain a hobby better. Perhaps that is what we should actually characterize status-quo christianity as? A hobby.

      • Debbie Thurman

        September 4, 2011

        I suggest you refrain from making irrational assumptions, Michael. Your hubris is showing. Backbiting is not moving the Church forward. Just go do church. Pray for those who get it wrong.

      • MichaelO

        September 4, 2011

        My Sister in Jesus, Debbie,
        Perhaps I could help to tone down the rhetoric a notch?
        Lets talk of conventional American christianity in general terms rather than specifically your church. I assume your church is a typical conventional American church model. And your church experience is generally the same as most in America that it has and does the following:
        a) A pastor seminary trained and ordained by some institution.
        b) A church building where church is done.
        c) Church is done on Sunday morning and possibly Wed eve. Approx 4 hours a week.
        d) Sunday school on Sunday morning.
        e) Tithes and offerings are collected at church.
        f) 80% of the collected money is used for clergy salary and building expenses.
        g) There is a liturgy or (order of worship).
        h) There is a choir or (worship team) music chosen by the worship leader or choir director.
        i) Seating is arrainged auditorium style for the spectators or viewers.
        j) A sermon is delivered by a pastor (clergyman) from a pulpit of approximately 45 min in duration by monologue and the members sit mute in observation.
        k) A nursery for infants.
        l) A young peoples pastor (minister) and church.
        m) Some type of special christian education taught by clergy.
        n) A distinction made between clergy and laity, clergy handles sacred, laity handles secular.
        0) Laity works secular jobs and provides the money for the clergy to do the sacred.
        p) The pastor is in control of all church functions.
        q) Evangelism is gathering potential or saved converts to bring them to the pastor or clergy in his church.
        r) Extra-church activities are at the direction of the pastor and controled by clergy.
        s) The Lords Supper is a thimble of grape juice and a wafer, and the elements are dispensed by a member of the clergy typically at church.
        t) Clergy (pastor) does the ministry.
        I assume you argue for this general model and general look of 99% of what goes on as what constitutes church generally in America?
        There may be small differences here and there but this explains generally what christianity does in this country.

        Can you or anyone else for that matter please show me this model expressed or implied in the New Testament in specific or even broad concepts where it was commanded by the Lord?
        Can one be discipled by these activities to fulfill the great commission which is:
        “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;” (Matthew 28:19-20.)
        Where is the above a) thru t) commanded by the Lord?

  38. MichaelO

    September 4, 2011

    To the two Deb’s, or anyone,
    In your church what would you do if this happened?
    41 “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41)
    If three thousand entered the door and were baptized in your church, what would you in reality do with them.
    The only qualifications I would put on it are what the apostles faced.
    a) They didn’t have a building.
    b) They didn’t have a pastor.
    c) They didn’t have a childrens ministry.
    d) They didn’t have a nursery.
    e) They didn’t have a Sunday School.
    f ) They didn’t have a deacon board.
    g) They didn’t have a Liturgy.
    h) They didn’t have a choir.
    i) They didn’t have a public address system.
    j) They hadn’t been to seminary.

    What would you do in that circumstance.
    Most American churches had an influx of people in their church after 9/11 and did not maintain them. And it wasn’t anywhere near three thousand.
    What would you do with them?

  39. MichaelO

    September 8, 2011

    Conventional, status-quo, top-down, control oriented, positional, institutionalized, clegy ~ laity distinction, sacred ~ secular distinction, pastor dominated, church, can not justify itself Scripturally.
    The conventional status-quo is relegating women to diaper changing infant watching, toilet cleaning, chores. And all of us to pew sitting dumb mutes in expensive buildings. Listening to expensive droning monologue sermons and expensive second rate entertainment.
    All areas of belief and behavior are declining rapidly in the conventional church world.
    The only area of tiny miniscule growth is in mega-church world because the level of entertainment is superior. Conventional Christianity is not even keeping pace with the American population demographics.
    Yet we still have people arguing in favor of this embarassing fiasco of a failing institution.
    But what is most surprising is women arguing for it after suffering the worse of marginalization of the whole tribe.
    Traveling with Paul and Barnabas and working closely with them were women apostles and prophets.
    Why would a woman or women argue for the present status-quo?
    You are second class laity, marginalized out of the loop, of the male inner sanctum.
    I guess it is like the Patty Hearst syndrome of relating to and then joining her captures.
    When will christians both men and women wake up and realize that the cross of Jesus Christ set them free from controling people and institutions and mechanisms in christianity?
    And wake up and realize the status-quo apparatus is not fulfilling Jesus Christs commission of Matt 28:18-20. The status-quo isn’t even keeping those it has.
    And I am the one having “hubris” and “irrational assumptions” and “backbiting”?
    Quote: “Just go do church.”
    How can the church “go do church” when it already is the church? I stopped going to church and started being the church.
    Quote: “Pray for those who get it wrong.”
    I do! Therefore; it qualifies me to speak truth in love to them!

  40. Jimmie

    December 23, 2011

    I agree with several of the earlier comments. But I’d like to take a different slant on this:

    I see the decline in woman’s attendance as a demographic shift. It reflects the decline in white Christian attendance overall. Women are more religious than men, so their decline is about 10 years later than the men’s is.

    White Christianity is aging (65% of evangelical Christians are Baby Boomers or older). The next two generations are fairly small.

    To make matters worse:

    1. Today’s lower marriage rates have resulted in a large group of unmarried Christian women. (The marriage rate has dropped by 30% in the past 30 years). Some of these women drop out because they don’t feel that they meet the gold-standard of evangelical Christianity–being married.

    2. Christian women are cohabiting at higher rates today. (57% of divorced fundamentalist Christian women cohabit; 86% of non-religious divorced women do). This often leads to them dropping out of the church.

    3. Highly religious people *do* tend to marry and stay married a bit more than non-religious people, but our churches *ought* to have at least 30-35% singles, based on demographics alone. (Right now 50% of the American population over age 15 is single.) But it doesn’t.

    In many churches singles make up no more than 10% of the church attendance. It’s obvious that this group — and possibly others — is missing.

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