July 29, 2010

Complementarity and Team Partnerships (pt2)

In a previous post I began to open the topic of Complementarity and Partnership, it was the first in what will be of a series of posts. 

I now come to considering it's application. 
I begin by exploring the important question: 'how may our theology of complementarity be expressed in our teams, with men and women together in servant ministry'?

Here is the 1st of a series of proposals.

Proposal 1: Complementarian partnership means viewing each other through the scriptural lens of ‘family co-workers’ in the kingdom, not as ‘other’.

At times I think there can be an unhealthy fear about men and women working alongside one another. While it’s imperative that we always act and relate with unquestionable purity, integrity and wisdom in all relationships, with no hint of “sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or greed, as are improper for God’s holy people” (Eph 5:1-5, Col 3); there’s also a danger that out of fear or ‘over reaction,’ we may employ practices of relating that can diminish the richness of fellowship and reduce spiritual realities to something 'less than' God actually intended for us.

What do I mean?

1 Timothy reminds us that God has given us to each other primarily as a ‘spiritual family,’ members of God’s household where certain rules of conduct apply (3:15) and which knit us together as a ‘spiritual community’. As such we’re called to no longer view one another in fleshly or earthly terms but through a spiritual lens and through spiritual relationship (1 Cor 12:12-14).

In chapter 5 of this letter, Paul commands us...
“to not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (v3). 
This passage calls each of us to treasure and regard each member in Christ with all the appropriate honour, respect, and wholesome genuine love and care that family relationships bring. We’re commanded to view and relate to those older in the faith as parents’, likewise neither are we view our male and female peers simply as ‘colleagues’, ‘ministry partners’, ‘workfellows’, or even ‘friends’, but as ‘siblings’ (Matt 5:28, 1Pet 3:8, Rom 12:10).

What we find here is that on our entry into the family of Christ we’re called to, and brought into, a radically new and profound relationship with one another. We’re called to review our understanding, perception and practice of all male female relationships at every level, whether that be husband to his wife, wife to her husband, parent to child, man to woman, slave to a master, team member to team member (1Pet 2&3,1 Cor 11)

At every level of our social and relational strata we’re no longer to consider ourselves, or one another, as mere individual entities, objects of sexual interest, or biological units of connection, but as spiritual family.

This radical re-think of relationships was a challenge that even Jesus’ own mother and brothers had to come to terms with …
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.
He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."      Matt 12:46-50 (cf Lk 2:48-50,Jn 19:26-27)

Once we begin to view one another through the Biblical lens of ‘familial relationships’, rather than as potential objects of ‘danger’, ‘suspicion’ or of ‘incomprehendable difference’, we lessen the likelihood of abusing, mistreating or distorting those relationships. 

It is also less likely that we will neglect the many ‘helpful’ and ‘edifying’ ways of serving and caring for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, as members of our spiritual family with whom we have a spiritual relationship as well as God- given spiritual obligations (1Cor 12:12-27).

For example as brothers and sisters in Christ we are called…
*To faithfully and committedly encourage each other as a means of spiritual protection (Heb 3:13).

*To abound in deep and sincere brotherly or sisterly love towards each other (Rom 12:10, Heb 13:1,1Pet 1:22).

*To help carry each other’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ (Gal 6:2).

*To consider how we can spur each other on to love and good deeds (Heb 10:2).

*To be loving, sympathetic, compassionate and humble towards each other (1Pet 3:8).

*To actively and regularly pray for each other      (Jas 5:16, Eph 6:18).                                                        

These are just some of the deep truths, obligations and responsibilities that come from being woven together into the body of Christ. Forever inseparable and indispensable members of God’s family, just as the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family…” (Heb 2:11) so men and women share in a unique relationship and familial bond that is not of the flesh, but of the Spirit.

It’s worth noting in passing the wholesome example of Jesus friendship with Mary and Martha. We’re told in Jn 11 that Jesus “loved Martha and her sister ” v5, and it is patently clear that as he fellowshipped, taught, encouraged and engaged with these women that there was never any hint or suggestion of relational impropriety or improper sexualization of their friendships (cf Lk 10, Jn 12).

Likewise Paul, who speaks of his many female co-workers with great honour and affection in Rom 16 and elsewhere, noting the special reference to his dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lordin v12. The Apostle obviously deeply valued, not only the kingdom work of his female colleagues but also their personal friendship and support as well.

So, while we must never ignore the scriptures counsel to safeguard our minds and hearts, to wisely and actively protect ourselves from sexual misconduct or impropriety, as members of Christ's body labouring together in the work of his kingdom, we're also called to foster wholesome, appropriate and relationally rich ways of relating.  

So, as ‘family co-workers’ in Christ, let's take to heart Hebrew’s exhortation to...

“keep on loving each other as brothers (and sisters)” 
                                             (Heb 13:1)

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July 19, 2010

Women Discipling Women

I was fortunate enough to have been raised in a Christian culture where growing as a disciple of Christ meant becoming a disciple-maker. It was a concept welded into my Christian psyche from my very first redeemed breath, it was grafted into my spiritual DNA, it was 'Christianity 101' so to speak. It never occurred to me that this was not the case for every believer.

To my surprise as I’ve moved about in ministry circles, I’ve found myself having to convince others as to it’s necessity and needful priority in Christian life and ministry. It appears that for some, ministry is just too busy, churches too big, and discipling has become almost an optional extra for when and if you have the time to do it.

But I don’t see the scriptures treating discipling and growing disciple-makers as anything less than imperative, as an activity that should be a priority for every Christian in the faith, not just those in paid ministry.

Over the last few years I have spoken to many women’s groups on how to re-build a ministry of ‘women discipling women’ into their ministry mindset, practice and structures, and to purposely foster and develop a disciple making philosophy amongst the women in their churches. There are many scriptural passages I draw upon in this teaching, but the most obvious starting point for the ‘who’ and ‘what’ of women discipling women is always Titus 2:3-5.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

Below are some brief points to note and some principles to guide.

Points to note:

…’but older women are to be teachers of what is ‘good’ v3

The ‘but’ here stands in contrast to everything that preceded it, by contrast older Christian women are to ‘teach what is ‘good’.

The focus here is on 2 things-

-the character of the woman

-and the activity of becoming a teacher of others.

Firstly, character

Rather than engaging in behaviour such as slandering, or dependence on drink etc, we are to 'teach what is good’. In other words, by our character, our demeanor, our lifestyle, and our actions we are teach ‘what is good’, what is ‘godly’, what it looks like to be - ‘reverent’.

By our words and by our lives, we are to teach what it means to be a woman who is “living in accord with sound doctrine” spoken about in 2:1 (cf 1:9). “Then” (notice the qualifier here)  ‘then’ we are able to ‘train younger women’ to do likewise (v4).

2 The older woman is also called upon to be- a teacher of others-

Who are we to teach?

Well, our own families no doubt, our children and grandchildren, just as Lois and Eunice probably did with young Timothy (1Tim 1:5). But Paul explicitly gives these women a responsibility beyond their own family to become teachers and trainers within the family of God.

Paul calls upon the older women (by that we mean spiritually mature, godly women who know the “truth that leads to godliness” 1:1) to specifically take responsibility for teaching and training those younger in the faith what it means to - live godly lives.

Notice here, that like older men, both older women and younger men are specifically to be instructed by Titus himself, this disciple making activity is given to him to fulfil, but the responsibility of instructing young women in the way of godliness is specifically given to older (spiritually mature) women in the church to fulfil. This task is to be their specific disciple making responsibility.

Notice that Titus to teach these older women certain aspects of discipleship so they can become effective 'disciple makers' of others, then they are able to 'urge the younger women' to 'be' and 'do' likewise (2:4). This teaching and training Titus is to do is to be a purposeful disciple making activity that is then passed on by mentoring, teaching, modelling and discipling others.

Likewise, just as the ‘young men’ are to learn from Titus’ example (v6-8), so too, young women in the faith are to learn ‘what is good’ from knowing older women, listening to what they say, and by watching their example. This is to be the older women's purposeful disciple making activity and responsibility.

Principles to guide:

This teaching, although addressed to ‘older women’, is really for every woman, whether we are 18, 48 or 88. Whether married, single, widowed or divorced…as Susan Hunt puts it …

“The passage does not give a specific age for the “older women” who are to disciple the younger women. Given the content of what they are to teach, their main qualifications would seem to center on spiritual maturity. Of course chronological age provides life experiences and perspective that are valuable, but the reality is that every Christian woman and girl should consider herself an older and a younger woman. We should seek out women who can encourage and equip us to live for God’s glory even as we seek to disciple other women in biblical womanhood.” *

The point is, we are all older in age, or older in the faith to someone else aren’t we, and therefore, each of us is called…

- to ‘set an example’
- to teach ‘what is good’
- to live out- the ‘truth that leads to godliness’ (1:9)

We’re all probably younger than some in the church as well, and therefore, we may also have some things yet to learn! The scriptures call upon us to continually open ourselves up to that on-going learning.

Can I say, that if we are a woman in Christ, then this teaching, this training of women, is OUR responsibility. It cannot be, and should not be, abdicated or outsourced no matter how busy we are.

The Scriptures call upon you and me, as women of the faith, to take special responsibility for the young, to nurture, to encourage, to teach and to train them in the ways of the Lord. And if that isn’t happening where we are, then we need to address that, and work out how it CAN be happening. Nothing, nothing, is more important in life than growing like Christ and helping others to do the same.

Again, Susan Hunt puts the challenge well when she says…

Spiritual mothering relationships come in all shapes and sizes. There is no formula.

A Titus 2 relationship may be regular or intermittent, consist in two people or a group, occur between older women or young girls, but every Titus 2 relationship will be purposeful.

It will be an intentional effort to encourage and equip another woman or girl to live for God’s glory by living under the authority of God’s Word, and it will train her in biblical principles of womanhood.

This disciple making ministry is not a program, it’s a lifestyle.
However, it sometimes takes more programmatic efforts to jump-start these relationships. A women’s ministry is one vehicle that a church can use to challenge and equip women for this calling. If a church already has a women’s ministry, they can begin by asking some strategic questions:

* How is your women’s ministry enabling the church to obey Titus 2:3-5?

* How does your disciple making ministry reflecting the principles set in Titus 2?

* How are your women being equipped to train younger women in biblical principles of womanhood?

* What opportunities do you provide to develop nurturing relationships between older and younger women?

Whether a church takes a more formal, programmatic approach, or seeks to encourage Titus 2 'disciple making' relationships informally and organically is up to each church ministry to decide.

But whether we do it formally or informally, as Christian women we need to ask ourselves

   ...am I taking up the biblical mandate to be a woman who disciples women?


* Ref: See Susan Hunt @9Marks. Website: www.9Marks.org.
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