Do We Follow Christ or Culture?

by Alvera Mickelsen | March 18, 2009
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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:

  1. They have been taught that the Bible forbids it—usually based on one verse (I Tim. 2:12).
  2. 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. A hundred years ago, many churches in the United States were struggling with a different change in culture. They were then composed of immigrants from various European countries, and services were conducted in the language of their former country. Swedes went to Swedish churches, the Germans and the Finnish went to churches in their own language, and so on. That’s the way they had always heard the gospel. When the surge of immigrants ceased (after World War I) the second generation wanted services in English. The change was resisted and painful. But slowly churches became English-speaking or died. Now in large cities new churches are being formed for new immigrants—(Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, etc.) who will eventually go through the same process.

But, you might say, if I Timothy 2:12 says that women are not to have authority over men, then that has nothing to do with culture. That is obedience to God’s Word, isn’t it?

But what if God himself acts differently? What if the Bible tells about women who were chosen by God as leaders and who served with great success?

God did specifically choose women as leaders in the Bible.

In the Old Testament, Deborah (Judges 4, 5) was not only the equivalent of prime minister of Israel; she was also a prophet and leader of the army. Huldah was another prophet of prominence who was highly influential in the only true revival in the Old Testament (2 Kings 22:1-23:25).

And how did Jesus respond in a culture that usually “put women down”? In the New Testament, at a time of great discrimination against women, we see Jesus persistently going against the culture of his time. The first evangelist was a woman whom Jesus befriended at a well in Samaria. He consistently treated women as he did men.

Jesus’ teachings about authority must be our standard. He taught that every person is created in the image of God and is responsible to obey him above all others. Christians are forbidden to show partiality (James 2:1-9). We are all called to servanthood. In Christ there is neither male nor female (Gal. 3:28). Jesus said we are to treat others the way we want to be treated (Luke 6:31).

What we are “used to” or what “makes us comfortable” must not determine our attitudes or actions as believers. Nor can our interpretation of one verse in the Bible excuse our unwillingness to follow the teachings and example of our Lord.