“I felt angry as I observed a woman dressed in a robe seated where our pastor normally sits. Was she actually going to preach from behind the pulpit? Women never addressed women and men in our church, let alone clothed as a pastor and from behind the pulpit.
“Listening attentively, I waited for her to utter something heretical to confirm my feelings that God had not called women to preach or teach adults. Even though it was surprising to hear a female voice, I had to admit that I really couldn’t find anything wrong with what she said. Her message was definitely biblical, and she was excellent! The more I thought about it, the more it made sense that women could talk about Jesus too. After this I began to seriously study the Scriptures, and I found that the Bible doesn’t condemn women in ministry; it actually supports them! I continue to ponder my prejudice.”
How many of you have had a similar experience? This example reminds us that egalitarians essentially face the same challenge encountered by the abolitionists and suffragists. Not only did they have to argue that the existing social structure was inferior and unbiblical, but they had to actually show that the new idea was superior and more closely aligned with Scripture. As egalitarians, our burden is not only to offer a theological defense of biblical equally, but we also face the challenge of living out a biblical model that is often foreign to the evangelical world, while inviting others to join us. As with the abolitionists, we too need to provide others with an opportunity to taste and see that biblical equality is of God and thus very, very good.
Those who study the adoption of new ideas suggest that righteous revolutionaries succeed in helping others embrace their dream if they observe a few simple principles.1 In the last few issues of Mutuality, we explored the need to eliminate jargon and complexity, speak to the advantages of becoming an egalitarian, and connect to the values of non-egalitarians. In this issue, I would like to discuss the need of modeling the message and providing others with opportunities to try it on for size.
First, modeling the message makes it clear and observable. Observability “is the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others.”2 Christians call this “walking the talk,” and it’s a form of communication we see in the Bible. As God made himself known to us in the form of Jesus, the rhetoric of equality also needs to be enfleshed. We all need models to emulate, so the idea of biblical equality must walk, live and breathe on Sunday morning, in church committees or on the mission field. For others to adopt the truth of biblical equality, we the evangelists will do well to take every opportunity to model it in our church, organization or marriage.
Second, we must provide safe places for others to take their first steps as egalitarians. Create workshops, house groups, Sunday school classes or conferences where folks can learn to behave like egalitarians, perhaps for the first time. Husbands and wives often need a safe place where they can make their first big decision as egalitarians. CBE’s marriage conference is structured with this principle in mind. This process of trying the truth out is also called trialability: “the degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis … The personal trying-out of an innovation is a way to give meaning to an innovation, to find out how it works under one’s own conditions. This trial is a means to dispel uncertainty about the new idea.” 3
It was C.S. Lewis who said that people, in their best moments, mirror God to one another, and to a world hopeful that God does exist. Taking biblical equality to the next level will require more than an intellectualization of ideas; it requires a lifestyle. Like the woman sharing God’s word with an unsure audience, it is an invitation for others to try, taste and see that God is good.
- Everett Rogers, The Diffusion of Innovations, Fourth Edition (New York: The Free Press, 1995).
- Ibid. p. 244.
- Ibid. p. 243-244.