I have gone through some significant theological changes in my twenty years as a follower of Jesus.
I’ve moved from Calvinist to non-Calvinist.
I’ve moved from thinking the church of today knows better than the church of old to believing the church of old might have more to teach us than we them.
I’ve moved from occasionally celebrating the Lord’s Table to longing for it each and every week.
And for our purposes today, I’ve moved from a complementarian view of gender roles to an egalitarian view.
Embracing a fully egalitarian perspective was a long twelve-year process. When all was said and done, there was one final hurdle to overcome. By the time I began pastoring in 2008, I already understood that God gifted both women and men with “speech” gifts such as prophecy. I also believed women were allowed to teach and preach, even with men present.
The final hurdle was allowing women to serve as elders (or pastors) in the local church. It was Scot McKnight’s book, The Blue Parakeet, which led me across that final barrier. I am now very much convinced there are no gender specific gifts and roles in the body of Christ.
For the past seven years, I have done my best to champion women in leadership. I don’t think we simply begin placing women in leadership left and right to prove a point—and I wouldn’t recommend this practice with men either.
There needs to be a clear calling from God, a sense of personal conviction, and solid confirmation from other leaders for any man or woman to be appointed an elder-pastor in the local church. But we definitely need women to lead us, for God has appointed them to serve as apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. I believe this is the testimony of Scripture.
Still, it’s one thing to champion conviction with your words and then not back it up with your actions. That’s hypocrisy in its clearest form—proclaiming a theological viewpoint that you don’t live out. I don’t simply mean this in the traditional sense of teaching that women can be leaders but never appointing women into leadership. For me, I speak more of my own practical day-to-day life.
I’ve learned a lot about myself these past few years. I like to be in charge, to be in control, and this can come at the expense of snuffing out other voices with which I disagree. Bells go off, my defenses go up, and I find myself easily protecting my territory.
I have learned this most within the context of my own family. I have advocated plenty of times for women in leadership, but at times, I have greatly failed in allowing my wife to mutually lead our family. There have been times when I have simply shut out her voice.
Before you quickly cast stones at me, know that I was fairly unaware of it. I’ve come to learn that change begins with awareness. One cannot change what they do not know. And, so, for quite some time I was unable to recognize my own selfishness, brokenness, and sin. I had a newfound egalitarian theology, one I was excited to pass on to others. Yet the theological rubber failed to meet the practical road.
That ultimately meant that my theology was deficient.
Hypocrisy had become my friend.
Recently, I’ve come to recognize my deficient theology. My theological perspective and practical life had not properly merged together at the most important level. It’s been a humbling experience, hard to swallow at times. Repentance has had to be my friend; grace an even greater friend.
Before I want precise theology or for that theology to be real within a local church setting, I want my theology to be real within my family. I am slowly learning what it means to live within a fully mutual marriage relationship, giving space for my wife to lead, and listening to and valuing her voice.
By grace, my theological rubber is slowly meeting the road. By grace, I want to keep traveling down this road, for I’m convinced it is the true way of Jesus.