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“. . .The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things” (Gal. 5:22-23, NRSV). In examining the biblical qualities of a leader, last week we considered the similarity between the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and the qualities Paul requires for elders and overseers (1 Tim. 3:2-3), deacons (1 Tim. 3:8), and widows who also held leadership (1 Tim. 3:11). While many churches today have specific gender requirements for leadership, Scripture is far more concerned with character than gender. Shortly after making this point, a reader wrote in to say that while gender should not be the primary issue, to “leave gender out of 1 Timothy” is not a fair... Read more
“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation” (Gal. 6:15, TNIV). Does it seem curious to you that when the issue of leadership in the church is discussed, gender is frequently cited as a primary element to consider? In fact, when determining who may or may not serve as an elder, deacon, pastor, or church board member, gender rises to the foreground so quickly and so often that some churches are reluctant to discuss the issue for fear their churches will divide as a result. What are the most important qualities leaders should possess, according to Scripture? Is it education, wealth, experiences, or a person’s capacity to influence others? Is it a certain gender, age or ethnicity? No! The “must have” qualities in a... Read more
“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:13-15, TNIV). Have you ever noticed how problems become worse the longer we ignore them? Perhaps this is one reason why a gifted attorney, now a judge in Chicago, frequently reminds her family and friends of the importance of being proactive. As it relates to biblical equality, this is never more the case. Here are a few examples of how valuable it is to have an answer for those who ask for the r... Read more
 “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well” (Rom. 16:1-2 NRSV). In last week’s Arise, we argued that because the apostle Paul commended the work of Phoebe—a deacon (Rom. 16:1-2)—the tradition of female deacons continued throughout the early centuries, as noted both by the archaeological evidence and also in Christian literature preserved from this period. For example, Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), Origen (185-242 AD), John Chrysostom (347- 407 AD) and Egeria—a fifth century pilgrim—refer to female deacons without reserva... Read more
"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:31, NRSV). Have you noticed how God selects the most unlikely individuals to accomplish extraordinary feats? Defying human standards and expectations, we discover God’s power working in astonishing ways in the lives of people we might consider less than ordinary. There are so many examples of God’s power among people who would never make it in Hollywood! Consider the remarkable leadership of the stuttering Moses, the elderly and barren Sarah, the young Virgin Mary, the impetuous Peter, or the slaves Andronicus and Junia. These biblical leaders, and many others, were not impressive by any earthly standard. Yet God seems to delight in countering human prejudice by accomplishing more than we might “ask or... Read more
"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NRSV). As friends and I met for dinner to enjoy pictures of mutual friends’ wedding, their four-year old joined in the fun. At one point I asked this child which picture was her favorite, and she quickly pointed to one saying, “This one!” When I asked why, she pointed again and uttered the name of her best friend. Her parents and I strained our eyes to have another look. We’d been focusing on the images of adults and failed to observe a little girl—her best friend—poking her head just slightly around her mother’... Read more
Is gender the most important factor in the equation of life? Do you find yourself reluctant to attend women’s retreats because they tend to focus on things like fashion, women’s emotions, crafts,and new forms of stomach exercises? Are you confused by so-called Christian blogs for women, where again, the discussions center on fashion and emotions? I was recently invited to develop a women’s track as part of an international conference for evangelicals, only to learn that the conveners intended to include workshops for women on fashion, beauty, and women’s emotions. Is that what inspires us today as Christian women?When I consider how Christians might better mentor women today, I reflect upon prominent Christian women such as Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), Pandita... Read more
Many Christians are uncomfortable in a church where a woman is a designated leader. She may be the pastor, associate pastor, chairman of a board, teacher of an adult class, etc. She may be skilled in the Scriptures, deeply spiritual, an excellent speaker, a good listener, and concerned about the needs of others. But to some people, it “just doesn’t feel right.”  Why not? Usually it is because of one or both of these reasons: They have been taught that the Bible forbids it—usually based on one verse (I Tim. 2:12). They have never been part of a church where women hold such positions. It is a change in “culture.” It is not easy for any of us to accept changes in important parts of our lives. And to Christians, church is very important.... Read more
Look at these astonishing verses from Romans 16: I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well. Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampl... Read more
"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-13, TNIV). When we think of mega churches, very often we imagine large evangelical congregations—numbering in the thousands, located in the United States. But, do you realize that five of the ten largest mega churches are located in South Korea?! According to last year’s research by the Economist, the Yoido Full Gospel Church claims 830,000 members, and continues to grow by 3,000 members each month! Astonishing, isn... Read more