Leadership 101

What makes a good leader? Who should be a leader?

If you ask most Protestant sects, a good leader (deacon, elder, etc.) is mature (usually older, but not necessarily by any means), weekly church attender, has a family, and is intelligent (knows the Bible well). This leader must also be male. Why?

Individuals in favor of sole male leadership often quote this verse to solidify their arugment: “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.” (1 Tim 2:11-15 NRSV) We must never take a verse out of context. A good analysis of Scripture will be exegetical—considering the audience, the author, the time written, and the meaning of Greek words. Allison Young wrote an interesting analysis using the parameters I mentioned above that needed to be involved in a good critique of Scripture. The full article can be found on the CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) website. Please read it with an open mind, pray, and read the Biblical texts yourself. Do not accept centuries of church tradition simply because it is tradition. We are told in 1Thess.5:21 to test everything. Test this article. Test the years of church doctrine you inherited. Measure it against Scripture and exegetical interpretations, then you can have a reason for why you believe something not just saying what you believe.

Now that you are open to listening, let’s examine this text. Paul was writing this letter to his fellow missionary, Timothy. What was occurring at the time Paul wrote this letter? Timothy was struggling with combating the false teaching that was erupting in his mission field-Ephesus. Also, since the time period was largely patriarchal, women were often not taught the tenants of Scripture. Women then were most likely disrupting worship and dominating the service without the faintest knowledge of what they were saying (arguing against what the fellows were preaching, but having no framework of understanding for what they were arguing against). Those who don’t know what they are speaking about should always be silent, regardless of gender.

The phrase “no woman to have authority over man” must also be analyzed with exegetical measures (as all Biblical texts must be). The word authority used in 1 Tim 2:11-15 is authentes in the original Greek. The word authentein is used once in the Bible, in this verse. Etymology is unclear about the specific meaning if taken solely from Scripture since authentein is a hapax legomenon—occurring only in the Bible. As such, other ancient texts from which the word might have been derived must be considered. When doing so, it is found that authentein is from authentes and is derived from the combination of autos (self) and hentos (thrust) [as proposed by Phrynicus] or autos (self) and theino (kill). Thus, the word would mean self-thrust or using self to kill (as in murder by one’s own hands, tyrant). When read this way, it would appear that force of oneself over others is the problem. It is not gender, but the act of dominance that is the issue. (The same proponents for male authority also agree that men should not be domineering, at least the one’s I know.) The condemnation of dominance is most likely what Paul was alluding to when he references Adam and Eve. Men and women are partners, not to deceive the opposite gender and try to rule over them (whether you are male or female). This is further verified in the meaning of the Greek for the word authority. Lexicographers often state that this word was referring to dominance or violence. In fact, Vulgate translations render the term dominari (which looks very similar to dominance). So if we look at this in context, it would seem Paul is commenting on women ruling over men through force rather than teaching them in a cordial fashion.

When Paul says a woman will be saved from childbearing, this does not mean a woman’s role is to produce children. If it did, I might question my faith entirely as I know many barren women mentioned in Scripture and having to deal with it at the moment myself. Instead, if we critique the verse through exegetical means, we would seek to understand the history under which this statement was made. Ephesus was known for its pagan rituals and worship of a fertility goddesses. Paul was most likely stating that fertility worship was unnecessary and that the true gospel was found in Christ alone. That or we could interpret it to mean that women are saved through Christ since Mary birthed him and if we continue in faith and love of Christ we will be sanctified and receive salvation. I liked this latter definition for a while since I didn’t know the history the first time I read this text. However, the critique of fertility worship seems to make sense since the rest of the passage is a rebuke of idolatry and false religion with advice on how to combat the rising distortion of gospel truth.

A friend also made comments on other areas of 1 and 2 Timothy. He pointed out that a pastor should be married because the advice for deacons is that the leader be a man of one wife. I take issue with this not because of gender but because he said pastors should be married so as not to have distractions from the females in the audience. Shouldn’t the male have enough self-control and devotion to God to not constantly be contemplating who he will date in his congregation? I found it degrading to my single male friends who are pastors, insulting to both men and women. I might have misinterpreted his intentions with him making such a remark. Please understand I might not have understood what point he was making before you gawk at him and being furious with his statement. This man is a strong devoted Christ follower. He loves his wife and treats her well. He just happens to come from a patriarchal culture (not American). (I am not referring to Frank as the reason for this post. In fact, this note is being written because of a conversation with church friends last night and later, pillow talk with hubby.)

In the same conversation, my friends stated that a man is to take the leadership role in a marriage. I have ascribed to this thinking in the past as well. The verses often used to support such an argument come from texts which state women should be submissive to their husbands (often neglecting the other portions that state “as unto the Lord and husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church”). The more I’ve prayed, read Scripture, and articles with opposing views (thank you Rachel Held Evans), I became challenged to question my position.

I’ve always been an opinionated extrovert. I’ve also been extremely conflicted with this personality. Most churches make it seem that a good wife will be docile, reserved and having the opinions of her husband. I felt like I wasn’t a good wife, especially because some church members (albeit very few) would tell me how I wasn’t being a good, submissive wife. What is submission anyways? Does it mean that I always think Frank’s opinions are good and follow his thoughts on everything? Well I don’t and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t expect me to. (Correct me if I’m wrong honey and not in a joking manner, be honest and serious in your response.) Does submission mean I let him lead- controlling our spiritual, physical, and emotional needs? I hope not. What if he’s weak at a particular moment? Wouldn’t I be weak then too? During pillow talk (review of our day, nothing vulgar about it when I say it), I asked Frank if he felt relieved since I told him that our spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being wasn’t his responsibility alone, it was mine too. He said yes. I have given my husband the freedom to struggle. He has the freedom to learn rather than just teach. He has grown in prayer (and I think it is because it is a passion of mine), but sitting in meditation has never been something he felt drew him closer to God. (Again babe, correct me if I’m wrong. I’m only saying this out of observations which could be misinterpreted.) He also told me he never knew what my interests for a Bible study were so he didn’t want to direct one unless he knew specifically. I have passions in several areas so I was never direct in what I wanted to study at a moment in time. Now I can pick topics that interest me, teach them to Frank, have him ask questions and he can do the same. It is mutual rather than weighing on the shoulders of my husband. He doesn’t have to feel pressure when he can’t think of what to study or how to teach me. I can do the thinking too. Also, we can share household responsibilities as well- wage earning, cleaning, cooking, etc.

A few nights ago the scent of perfumed sheets delighted my senses as I opened my drawers, full with folded garments. Then this morning I awoke to the crackling sound of a sizzling pan. A sweet aroma of salted meat drifted through the open bedroom door and nestled into my nostrils, arising a sleepy, tired body. The scented goodness drew me towards the kitchen where I was excited to see a lunchbox packed with my midday nourishment and a breakfast bowl with BACON (I could totally go vegetarian if not for the delicious taste of this non-kosher goodness). My sleepy eyes drifted lazily open to see my husband stitching together torn shorts. I smiled. I realized I should get ready as it was almost time for work. After dressing, I went to the kitchen, fetched my lunchbox, and found it beside a sink with soap resin and a drying rack of last night’s dishes sat. My net worth pays the hulk of our bills (his salary also helps living costs) whereas he is much more domesticated and helps the chores get completed (I will do dishes and non-fancy dinners when he’s busy at work or on Army details though). Teamwork really does make our dreams work.

For us, leadership isn’t ascribed to a particular gender. He is strong when I’m weak (for instance, I’ve been struggling much more with the whole miscarriage thing then him) and vice versa. Leadership to us then is a partnership more than a hierarchical tier.

A good leader will never seek entitlement to lead, male or female. A leader can come in all shapes and sizes (for one Frank is tall and I’m short). We can all learn from each other. A pastor and elder board should never be in charge of the ministry alone anyways. We all have to work together. A leader always delegates. Leadership is more of a fellowship than anything else. I think leadership then looks more like a community of men and women, adults and children (children of course being instructed by parents but still listened to when they say something profound), blacks and whites all striving to seek Jesus in this messy, beautiful world. At least that’s what I see when Christ teaches me in his word. It is not letting any one person have power over others, instead I’ve observed, that leadership is everyone joined together, seeking to become more Christ-like. Leadership is never done alone and that’s why I have concluded that Paul wasn’t saying women can’t be leaders. (Not that a woman couldn’t do it herself if leadership was an individual role. There have been many influential women throughout history. I just have found, through my personal experiences, that insights and accomplishments haven’t ever been achieved without support from friends and/or family.)

(Also, Junia was a woman and an apostle—research her more as church history usually couldn’t reconcile with that and have turned her name to Junias frequently (the male version). A good resource to start would be: http://www.cbeinternational.org/?q=content/junia-woman-apostle)

The grunt of the research for 1 Tim 2:11-15 came from the following sources:

http://www.wlsessays.net/files/PanningAuthentein.pdf (an essay in favor of male authority only and sadly most of the article argues against the sexual connotation of the word authentein found in a few literature sources rather than as it pertains to Scripture, or so I thought)

http://www.cbeinternational.org/?q=content/1-timothy-211-15 (Allison Young, a woman in favor of women in pastoral and deacon roles)

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One Reply to “Leadership 101”

  1. “Does it mean that I always think Frank’s opinions are good and follow his thoughts on everything? Well I don’t and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t expect me to.”
    You are right, I do not expect you to follow all my thoughts. I don’t want to be married to a mindless spouse.

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