On the Road Again!


San Salvador

After a relaxing summer, my fall schedule is heating up.

Today, I’m heading to Central America to speak at the Centro Internacional de Alabanza’s Women Congress (Ministerio Entrenosotras) in San Salvador. This will be my second visit to El Salvador. The first was in my pre-Frank James, pre-seminary, pre-writing days. I spent two months in Central America—mainly in Guatemala where I stayed and worked with my aunt and uncle, Don and Pat Rutledge, who were missionaries there. I also spent time with missionaries in San Salvador and Nicaragua.

The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules class is up and running in the Women’s Bible Study program at Calvary Church, Souderton, PA. Classes go into November (doesn’t meet October 4 and November 8). I’m teaching the class both morning and evening to accommodate different schedules. If you live anywhere in the area, I’d love for you to join us. For information go here.

September 29-30, my destination is Louisville, Kentucky for the Missio Nexus 2016 Mission Leaders Conference.

From there I’ll head straight to Boston for two events at Christ Church of Hamilton and Wenham:

     Sunday, October 2, Adult Education Classes
“Is Jesus good news for women?”

     Monday, October 3 Gathering for Hope/North Shore‘s 5th Anniversary Celebration
(Starts at 6:30pm)



If you haven’t already heard about the MissioAlliance She Leads Conference there are multiple ways of attending.

This conference is open to both men and women. The Blessed Alliance is a subject that is vital to all of us.

The live conference, “Reclaiming the Blessed Alliance for Faithful Mission,” is in Chicago, which we hope you’ll come if you possibly can. Multiple sites will be live streaming this event or you can view the conference from your own home.

How I wish we had done this when we were holding Synergy conferences.

Chicago (live conference)

  Livestreaming in several cities:

Boston, Dallas, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Nashville, Philadelphia, or Seattle

Go here if you’re interested in hosting an event.

Speaking of Synergy . . . lots of Synergy friends will be there. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect and to make new friends. So make plans and sign up to come!

[Photo credit: Renemgb, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9732284}


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Lost in Translation


One of the first (and usually embarrassing) lessons we learned during my family’s four years of living in England was the absolute truth of the statement that “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.”

All of us North Americans made gaffes. No matter how astute we thought ourselves, there were always stumbles.

A Canadian friend of ours won the prize for the most embarrassing gaffe. After her interview for a new job, on hearing the good news that she was hired, she asked her proper English male employer, “Is it alright if I wear pants to work?” She was puzzled by his awkward reply and only later discovered to her chagrin what had been lost in translation. In Britishese, “pants” refers to underwear. Our friend had just asked her boss if it was permissible to wear underwear on the job!

If different meanings to the same words isn’t enough of a challenge, there is the fact that even within a single culture, words have a way of changing. How many kids have rolled their eyes when their parents used some out-of-date expression?

Earlier generations were quite comfortable using the word “man” or “men” for all humanity. Today, it sounds a little odd to our modern ears to hear our own Declaration of Independence remind us that “all men are created equal.” Never mind the fact that, despite the universal meaning of “men” in the English language back then, that revered statement actually didn’t ensure equality for Native Americans, slaves, women, or other males who didn’t own land.

If that important American document were being crafted today, a modern Thomas Jefferson would ignite a firestorm of protests if he chose the same outdated wording. Language is dynamic.

Enter the world of Bible translations, and the linguistic stakes are even higher.

Bible Translations Divided by a Common Language

Crossway recently released the 2016 and final edition of the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible. After edits to 29 out of more than 31,000 verses, they declared the 2016 version to be “the Permanent Text of the ESV Bible.” Their statement goes on to assert,

“In making these final changes, the Crossway Board of Directors and the Translation Oversight Committee thus affirm that their highest responsibility is . . . to guard and preserve the very words of God as translated in the ESV Bible.”

The changes they made are listed here.

The most controversial change is to words of curse in Genesis 3:16. ESV editors changed their earlier translation from “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you,” to “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”

Others are weighing in on the serious implications of this translation change and the thinking behind it. See here and here.

What also troubles me, however, are the changes that weren’t made in the new version. According to General Editor Wayne Grudem, a major motive that led to the first version of this “essentially literal” (word-for-word) translation was what he calls the “gender-neutral” language he found in other translations—specifically the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), but also found in other popular translations such as Today’s New International Version (TNIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT).

This final version of the ESV continues to resist what Grudem labels as “gender-neutral” language. The translations he opposes are matters of serious concern for female readers in particular.

Consider two examples.

When an apostolic letter begins with a greeting to “the brethren” or “the brothers,” the author is not addressing males only, but both men and women. The ESV translates Colossians 1:2 “To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae.” Unless “saints” refers to women, the female members of the church appear to be suddenly excluded. The TNIV more accurately translates the same text to reflect Paul’s intended audience. “To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Because of the awkwardness of the ESV translation, I’ve heard pastors in churches with ESV Bibles in the pews abruptly interrupt their public Bible reading to explain that the actual meaning of the text is “brothers and sisters.”

Another example is in the creation narrative, where God says “Let us make man in our image and likeness,” defining “man” as “male and female,” (Genesis 1:26 and 27). The Old English term “man” describes all humanity. Yet the ESV retains the Old English language, while the TNIV and NLT substitute “human beings.” That modern linguistic clarification doesn’t make the text gender-neutral, but rather gender-accurate—reflecting the actual meaning of the biblical text.

Evidently, the original ESV translators were unbothered by modernizing the Old English word “ass” to “donkey” (cf., Numbers 22:22; Joshua 6:21). Apparently their editors deemed it more important to clarify the meaning of “ass” than “man.”

In his Systematic Theology, Grudem defends his complementarian rational for insisting on retaining “man” for human beings:

“The theological issue is whether there is a suggestion of male leadership or headship in the family from the beginning of creation. The fact that God did not choose to call the human race “woman,” but “man,” probably has some significance for understanding God’s original plan for men and women. Of course, this question of the name we use to refer to the race is not the only factor in this discussion, but it is one factor, and our use of language in this regard does have some significance in the discussion of male-female roles today” (440)

As you may surmise, I feel strongly about the importance of gender-accurate translations. The ESVs “gender-exclusive” language obscures an accurate understanding for modern readers that impacts multiple texts in the Bible and can lead to false interpretations. Gender-accurate translations answer legitimate questions women are asking when we read the Bible: “Is this text addressing me? Or am I eavesdropping on a message that only applies to men?”

Modern readers must not be left in doubt as to whether the text is addressing everyone or just some of us. It is misleading to describe this kind of clarity as making the Bible “gender-neutral,” when it is a clearer literal statement of what the author actually intended. The 2016 ESV cements into the final version words that obscure the true meaning of the text.

Readers need to be aware of that.

Missing Daughters?

But here’s what makes this gender issue so complicated and, why it is important to consider carefully our translations.

In a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to believers in Turkey, the same translation problem surfaces. What the ESV translates as “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God,” the TNIV translates “So you are no longer slaves, but God’s children; and since you are his children, he has made you also heirs” (Galatians 4:7)

This text follows the often-quoted statement, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28).

Paul was writing to a mixed audience. So to make sure readers understand that Paul is also including daughters, gender-accurate translations substitute “children” for sons. The sonship offered through Jesus is not just for sons (versus daughters). This has the unfortunate effect of obscuring something powerful Paul is communicating.

Ironically, the ESV sticks to “sons,” evidently unaware that they have unleashed one of the most powerful counter-cultural gender statements in the entire New Testament. Given the fact that in the first century patriarchal culture sons were prized above daughters—who didn’t inherit, didn’t show up in genealogies, and were married off to build another man’s family—the fact that Paul is telling a mixed audience that they are “all sons” is not diminishing women in the least. To the contrary, Paul’s words are elevating them to the same high status in God’s family as their brothers. Paul is telling women, Gentiles, and slaves that, in God’s family, they are all sons!

Jesus’ gospel is a revolutionary force in human society that re-establishes human equality. We are all sons!

This is why I keep saying, “Patriarchy is not the Bible’s message. Rather, it is the fallen cultural backdrop” that reveals the radical nature and potency of the Bible’s gospel message in contrast to the patriarchal world. We need to understand that world and patriarchy in particular—much better than we do—if we hope to grasp the radical countercultural message of the Bible.

So choose your Bible translations carefully. Important ideas can get lost in translation. Gender-accuracy matters and is important for all of us.

Earlier versions of this article were posted at www.missioalliance.org and HuffingtonPost.

For further reading, see Mark Strauss and Gordon Fee’s book, How to Choose a Translation for all it’s Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions.

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Something to Ponder …


From www.preemptivelove.org

Their latest blog post, “Loving Your Enemy, Even When It’s ISIS. Yes, Even Then” proves this is not an empty platitude.

Lynne Hybels urged, “Read this slowly…prayerfully…let these words undo you.”

This is the imago Dei. This is hesed.

No word in the English language captures its exact meaning [of the Hebrew word hesed]. Consequently . . . we end up with a smorgasbord of words like “kindness,” “mercy,” “loyalty,” “loving-kindness,” “loyal, steadfast, unfailing (or just plain) love”—words that certainly touch on what hesed means but by themselves don’t begin to do justice to this powerful, richly laden word. As a result, we easily skim over references to hesed without realizing we have just stumbled over one of the most potent words in the Old Testament.

With a little help from Hebrew scholars, we can come a little closer to the meaning of hesed than a llama is to a lamb. They tell us hesed is a strong Hebrew word that sums up the ideal lifestyle for God’s people. It’s the way God intended for human beings to live together from the beginning—the “love-your-neighbor-as-yourself” brand of living, an active, selfless, sacrificial caring for one another that goes against the grain of our fallen natures.

Two parties are involved—someone in desperate need and a second person who possesses the power and the resources to make a difference. Hesed is driven, not by duty or legal obligation, but by a bone-deep commitment—a loyal, selfless love that motivates a person to do voluntarily what no one has a right to expect or ask of them. They have the freedom to act or to walk away without the slightest injury to their reputation. Yet they willingly pour themselves out for the good of someone else. It’s actually the kind of love we find most fully expressed in Jesus.

In a nutshell, hesed is the gospel lived out.

—from The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules


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Evangelical—When a Good Word Goes Bad

apple-455436_1920Anyone who has a finger on the pulse of American evangelicalism has to be wondering if the patient will survive.

During the current presidential election cycle, American evangelicalism has suffered what may prove to be a potentially lethal setback at the hands of a few evangelical leaders. Prominent evangelical figures that include such notables as Jerry Falwell Jr., Franklin Graham, Richard Land, James Dobson, and Eric Metaxas have drawn national attention by publically endorsing Donald Trump, a man whose actions, values, lifestyle, and rhetoric run counter to the life and teachings of Jesus.

How can American evangelicalism survive when, like an immune system gone awry, it begins to turn on itself? Yet, despite Trump’s racist, Islamophobic, misogynist, and xenophobic rhetoric, they have rushed to the Republican nominee’s side, pledged their support, and seem intent on influencing the rest of us to join them in violating our evangelical convictions.

More Evangelical Defections

In the aftermath, and despite an online outcry of resistance from appalled fellow evangelicals, things have only gotten worse.

In late July, Professor Wayne Grudem released his lengthy diatribe for endorsing Trump—“Why Voting for Donald Trump is a Morally Good Choice.” In it, Grudem glossed over the long list of Trump’s offenses, calling him a “flawed” candidate and affirming him as “a morally good choice.” His essay caused another dumbfounded evangelical to retort,“ How “Trump” and “morally” can meet in the same sentence defies the imagination.”[1]

If the shock waves created by Professor Wayne Grudem’s 5000+ word rationalization of his endorsement of Donald Trump weren’t enough, shortly afterwards Dr. James Dobson doubled-down on his earlier support of Trump with a video endorsement of the real estate mogul. Dobson, founder and former president of Focus on the Family, stated he is “deeply concerned about the direction our country is headed.”

In our republic, there is maximal freedom to express political preferences. But it is a good deal more troubling when an evangelical leader plays off their identity as an evangelical with the clear intent of influencing others to follow their lead.

With so many offensive statements radiating from the nightly news, evangelicals are right to protest these endorsements and to call these evangelical leaders to account. As a woman, I find it especially troubling that not only are both Grudem and Dobson willing to dismiss those offenses, they are sabotaging core values of their respective lifelong ministries.

Here’s what I mean.

Family Values and Biblical Manhood?

As the evangelical guru of family values, Dr. Dobson’s endorsement strikes a double blow to the fight against some of the most serious issues facing American families—battles he has historically engaged. Significant efforts are underway to combat the destructive plague of bullying. Bullying has lead to suicides even of adolescents and has been a factor in some mass shootings. Dobson himself expressed alarm over what is happening. “Kids are regularly committing suicide because of the horrible bullying they endure.” Likewise, many are working vigorously to prevent young girls from hating, cutting, and starving themselves because they don’t conform to some culturally embraced ideal of the female body. Yet James Dobson would have us cast our votes for an unapologetic bully who routinely belittles his opponents, ridicules a disabled man, and a man who objectifies women (including both of his daughters).

What possible explanation can we give our children and grandchildren if we follow his lead and vote for Trump?

Grudem—a founder, formulator, and relentless defender of complementarian manhood has written tomes advocating the view that real men protect women. Finding any alignment between Grudem’s diehard complementarian stance and his advocacy for Trump is difficult to imagine. For goodness sake, Trump is a strip club owner. But there is more. Trump openly boasts of his sexual conquests and adulterous escapades and he degrades women with misogynist remarks. Grudem’s logic for supporting Trump escapes me.

You would think that if protecting women and girls truly mattered to complementarian Grudem, he’d be defending his endorsement for Hillary Clinton, who has done more than any politician in this entire election cycle to lift up, protect, and defend the rights of women and girls globally. Instead, Grudem wants to defeat her.

Better Trump than a woman president, I guess.

These endorsement reflect a fundamental failure of complementarianism. The commitment to protect women and children—a central tenant of evangelical family values and the complementarian manifesto—is all too easily abandoned.

The rise of Donald Trump and the abandonment by evangelical leaders of their own core convictions surely compel American evangelicals to reflect on what it means to be a Christian. In a very real sense, Trump and his evangelical advocates provide an opportunity for the rest of us to rethink where our true loyalties lie and to ponder how following Jesus defines our values and shapes our engagement in the public square. That same standard applies to how we as Christians evaluate every other candidate.

Reclaiming our Christian Identity

In his NYTimes article,  “Why Values Voters Value Donald Trump,” Daniel K. Williams raised the obvious question facing Christians.

“If conservative evangelical support for Mr. Trump requires [evangelicals] to retract their convictions about the values of decency, marital fidelity and Christian virtue in public life, are they at risk of attempting to gain the Supreme Court at the cost of their movement’s soul?”

Perhaps instead, the current evangelical crisis signals the demise of the distorted American version of evangelicalism and compels us to reclaim our true allegiance to Jesus and to recommit to be bearers of the good news of his kingdom.

The word “evangelical” comes from the Greek word euangelion (εὐαγγέλιον) which means “gospel” or “good news.” Historically for Christians the word evangelical identifies the followers of Jesus and connects them with the good news of his gospel—a gospel of God’s love and mercy for the world he loves through Jesus and the kingdom Jesus brings. Tragically, in America the word “evangelical” has been politicized to reflect white, right wing Republican values. The current election cycle has brought the misuse of that good word to a head where Christians must rethink what it means to be a follower of Jesus. For many evangelicals it means (at least for the moment) abandoning that label.

The need to rethink what it means to be an evangelical prompted me to reread Walter Brueggemann’s book, Truth Speaks to Power: The Countercultural Nature of Scripture. In it, he explains the fact that the kingdoms of this world are not nor ever will be the kingdom of God. He demonstrates in powerful ways how all through the Bible courageous individuals are confronting and speaking truth to the powerful and rich. Those voices belong to the ancient prophets and ultimately to Jesus who refused to play along with the powers that be, but instead confronted them with their responsibility to pursue justice and mercy for the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the marginalized. Most notably this meant widows, orphans, the poor, and foreigners.

“‘Isn’t that what it means to know me?” says the LORD  (Jeremiah 22:16, NLT).

Grasping for power, as Brueggemann notes, “is never innocent or disinterested; it is always, to some important extent, a front for self-interest perpetrated through violence” [p.47]. That violence, as we well know, comes in many forms.

The evangelical church detours from its true mission by seeking alignment with the rich and powerful instead of calling them to account and speaking for those whose voices have been silenced. Self-interest and self-protection run counter to the gospel. So does silence in the face of injustice.

Every time we kneel to pray the words Jesus taught his disciples to pray, we affirm our pledge of allegiance to Jesus’ kingdom—an allegiance to which all other loyalties defer. Our commitment is to the reign of God, to the advance of his kingdom on earth, and for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. As God’s image bearers, we are called to be agents of that kingdom first and foremost.

We have our work cut out for us. I would not presume to tell anyone how (or if) they should vote. That is a matter of conscience for all of us. But if we understand anything, it is that our starting point is not with evangelical leaders who are endorsing Trump or any other candidate, but by listening again to the ancient prophets and to Jesus . . . especially before we pull that lever in the voting booth.

Let’s make “evangelical” a good word again.

[1] “Is American Evangelical Christianity Sinking on the GOP Ship?”

For further reading:

A revised version of this article was published at Missio Alliance and at Evangelicals for Social Action.

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The Past Breaks into the Present

41xqAd4R2+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“If I had known you were going to talk about her, I wouldn’t have come!”

That’s what a woman bluntly told me at a conference after I’d spoken on the life of Mary of Bethany. She followed her remark by expressing her surprise that there was so much more to learn about and from the Mary of Bethany she’d heard about ad nauseum. 

It’s easy to feel that way about the Old Testament book of Ruth. Who of us hasn’t heard that story so many times, we’ve become somewhat tired of hearing about Ruth and her undying devotion to her out-of-sorts mother-in-law Naomi? Maybe you’re like I was—loving the beautiful romance between Ruth and Boaz, but finding the “happily-ever-after” ending a little “too Cinderella” to stomach.

Let me assure all skeptics in advance that The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules, and the class based on it that I’ll be teaching this fall will bring this ancient story into the the present with astonishing relevance. The Bible isn’t teaching fairy tales and the book of Ruth isn’t a Hallmark card tucked into the Bible “for the ladies.”

Written for the whole church to ponder, the book of Ruth is one of the most powerful portrayals in all of scripture of the transforming power of Jesus gospel in the lives of his children. It puts pressing contemporary issues front and center—brokenness and loss, the plight of women in the world, widowhood, infertility, single parenting, marginalization of women, power and powerlessness, poverty and wealth, immigrants and refugees, male/female relationships, and the radical courage and good that comes from living as God’s child in this fallen world.

If you live anywhere near Souderton, I hope you’ll consider coming and finding out how this ancient book touches down in your story.

And if (for whatever reason) you can’t come, read the book anyway! This isn’t the same old Ruth, Naomi, or Boaz we’ve always known. Based on the impact of their story on me and what I’m also hearing from readers, I have no doubt their story will change your story too.

Tuesdays, September 13-November 22

Morning Class:  9:15-11:15am (child care provided)


Evening Class: 7-8:30pm (no child care)

No Charge

Calvary Church
820 Route 113
Souderton, Pennsylvania 18964

The Women of Calvary Church
welcome any interested women to attend!
For more information and to register, go here.

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Black & White Bible, Black & Blue Wife—A Review


It isn’t often that I feel compelled to stick a warning label on a book. Having read Dr. Ruth A. Tucker’s memoir, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse, I’m convinced this book needs one–not because the book is a disturbing read (although it is), but because reader reactions can cause us to miss the crucial main point of the book.

41e-MAlLDsL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_It takes courage to read Tucker’s gut-wrenching account of the horrors of domestic abuse she suffered at the hands of her pastor-husband. But courage alone won’t be enough.

Reading this book also requires a willingness to reconsider one’s view of marriage. This is no simple task because her story raises questions regarding deeply held beliefs about marriage roles, male headship, and female submission that many evangelical Christians consider sacred and nonnegotiable. Yet the “silent epidemic” of domestic abuse that concerns Tucker is so dangerous and life-threatening within Christian circles, and so easily concealed, we cannot afford to brush her off and refuse to listen.

Going Behind Closed Doors

Tucker, a highly regarded seminary professor and author, situates her memoir at the intersection between her all-too-real nightmare of domestic abuse and her own preconceptions about Christian marriage. Her training and experience as a seminary professor equip her to tackle the theological issues involved. But she brings a needed perspective to what might otherwise be a theoretical discussion of the theology of marriage. Tucker writes from inside the subject as a survivor of 19 years of spiritual, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse.

In her memoir, she is asking readers to enter into the horrors of domestic abuse with her and, to ask how Christian theology of marriage and gender contributed to her abuse. What this book requires of the reader is complicated by the fact that Tucker’s story of domestic violence is also her journey from traditional complementarian thinking to egalitarianism.

Already complementarian reviewers have reacted defensively, insisting that complementarianism has nothing to do with the abuses Tucker suffered and by refusing to recommend her book to readers (e.g., here and here). Thankfully, one of their own, Aimee Byrd, has taken them to task for this and urges her complementarian colleagues to read and fearlessly engage the questions Tucker raises. Byrd writes,

Here’s the problem: the “that’s not complementarianism” critique doesn’t have a leg to stand on when some of its most well-known proponents are quoted in the book teaching devastating applications of complementarianism. And while their teaching doesn’t advocate abuse ostensibly, it doesn’t protect women who are abused—at all. It exposes them to more abuse. And so it is fuel for an abuser. These are devastating quotes that need to be addressed. We must ask—what is being taught in the name of complementarianism? Are all of its teachings biblical? That is a question I have been asking the leaders in the movement for a while now.

Egalitarians, on the other hand, can experience a false sense of complacency, assuming egalitarianism is a cure-all—that abuse is no longer a threat where mutuality in marriage is embraced. Let’s be honest. Domestic abuse happens in egalitarian marriages too. The truth of the matter is that all of us have more work to do.

4 Takeaways from Tucker’s Book

  • We urgently need to prepare young women to spot the warning signs ahead of time and run. The naiveté and mysticism with which many young Christians approach marriage is on full display in Tucker’s story. Early in their relationship Tucker’s prospective husband exhibited controlling behavior towards her. But the power of infatuation tragically enabled Tucker to overlook the red flags. Looking back, she mused, “The most dangerous circumstance in any woman’s life is . . . the heart-pounding thrill of falling in love. Senseless infatuation” (31).
  • Domestic violence can happen to anyone. If a highly educated, professional woman like Dr. Tucker can end up in an abusive marriage and remain stuck there for nearly two decades, it can happen to anyone.
  • Christian leaders need to educate themselves and seek help from experts in addressing abuse situations. As Aimee Byrd describes, some of the most breathtakingly ignorant and dangerous statements in the book come from the lips (or pens) of well-respected Christian leaders—men who, instead of wisely offering safe-haven to abuse victims, make female submission both the problem and the solution, sending desperate women back into harms way to try harder. The tragic truth is that this dangerous pastoral counsel comes from the mouths of some of the most influential evangelical leaders.
  • We must reexamine the connection between domestic violence and complementarianism. Tucker recounts that her husband “repeatedly quoted Scripture to defend his headship and to enforce my unconditional obligation to submit—from ‘the kitchen to the bedroom.’ . . . His rule was absolute and final—most notably during his violent moods” (22). Violence was the response when she failed to submit to his satisfaction.

A Marriage Revolution

St. Paul’s teaching brings Jesus’ gospel into marriage and constitutes an overthrow of patriarchy. In this regard, I don’t think Tucker takes the discussion of marriage quite far enough. In the end, she maintains some vestige of patriarchal thinking with power shared between husband and wife. At one point she refers to “the beautiful picture of patriarchy” (63).

“the beautiful picture of patriarchy” (63).

Here’s the problem: So long as patriarchy is retained, Christian marriage remains stationed on a relational continuum that when taken to extremes opens the door to (if not enables) abuse.

The problem is in thinking patriarchy (albeit a “kinder-gentler” version) is the Bible’s message for marriage, when patriarchy is the backdrop to the Bible’s message. It is not the Bible’s message.

Against that patriarchal backdrop, Paul’s teaching regarding marriage is a radical departure from (not a softening of) 1st Century marriage mores. In that culture, a husband had life and death powers over his wife/wives. Dr. Roy Ciampa’s eye-opening article, “Identity Mapping,” is an excellent resource that belongs in this discussion.

Now Paul calls a believing husband to an entirely new lifestyle—to love his wife as he loves his own body and to lay down his life (a.k.a, live sacrificially) for her.

Try selling that idea in entrenched patriarchal cultures today—Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia for example. They’ll tell you this is radical.

Paul’s first century teachings don’t get 21st Century couples off the hook. Instead, his teachings raise the bar for how we take the gospel into our marriages today. His first century example escorts believers into a whole new revolutionary gospel way of relating to one another in marriage—to “put the interests of others ahead of yourself.”

Consider yourself forewarned. Buckle up and read Tucker’s book!

My Endorsement:

This book could save the lives of women trapped by domestic abuse. By courageously reliving in print years of degrading violence at the hands of her “Christian leader” ex-husband, Professor Ruth A. Tucker exposes a problem of epic proportions that tragically exists unchecked behind closed doors within evangelicalism. Worse yet, she demonstrates how such violence is actually fueled by so-called Christian theology that empowers men with authority and privilege over women and children under the guise of “husbandly headship,” “servant-Leadership,” and calls for “wifely submission.” At great personal cost, Tucker drives a stake in the ground insisting that abusive behavior is both unacceptable and indeed criminal. Tucker’s book is nothing less than a damning indictment of the church’s tendency to justify or turn a blind eye to abuses happening within our own ranks. It is a prophetic call to re-think our theology of male and female. The church belongs on the forefront in the battle to root out and end abuse, to provide safe haven for the abused, and to see that abusers are brought to justice.

For anyone currently in an abusive situation
or sensing red flags:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline
or phone 1-800-799-7233.


Originally published at www.MissioAlliance.org



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Indispensable: Women who Plant Churches


This article (first published at MissioAlliance.org serves as an introductory framing to the series, “Band of Brothers: A Case Study of Church Planting in Boston.” To understand Missio Alliance’s commitment to women in ministry, you can read more here.

Church planting is as old as Jesus.

That is to say, church planting is part of historic Christianity’s DNA. In modern parlance, church planting is a core value. I would argue that Jesus’ Great Commission itself provides the marching orders for planting churches. What is church planting if not making disciples?

Somehow along the way, church planting became a man-job.

Articles posted on church planting websites refer to church planters as “guys” or “dudes.” For the most part, women are not viewed as church planters. Instead, references to women typically center on how the church planter’s wife can support her husband’s demanding ministry. Even in denominations that ordain women, the majority of church planters are men. The notion of a female church planter has become an oxymoron. But this was not the case in the beginning.

Apostolic U-Turn

One might easily assume that the Apostle Paul would not be favorably disposed to women serving as church planters. After all, he was a Pharisee by training and a former hardcore religious terrorist. Add in those controversial statements in his letters: “Women should remain silent in the church. They are not allowed to speak” (1 Corinthians 14:34) and “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet” (1 Timothy 2:12), and it’s a safe bet that Paul was not inclined to advance women. He didn’t even marry one.

It is true that Paul planted churches with “dudes”—Bartholomew, Silas, Timothy, Luke, and others. But everything changed when the Holy Spirit disrupted Paul’s second missionary journey and turned his views of women right side up.

God gave Paul a powerful vision of a man imploring him to “Come over to Macedonia (Greece) and help us” (Acts 16:9). Expectations had to be riding high when Paul and his all-male church planting team arrived in Philippi. What would anyone expect after such an incredible vision? Yet instead of a stadium packed with Philippians eager to hear the gospel, Paul and his cohort found a group of praying women.

I once heard a pastor describe the scene as “the ultimate letdown.”

Luke’s eyewitness account of the event doesn’t even hint at disappointment or reluctance at the prospect of interacting in public with women. Instead of looking around in search of men, Paul sat down and began speaking the gospel to the women—Gentile women—as though leading a women’s Bible study was normal for him.

The Holy Spirit moved. The women, beginning with Lydia, embraced the gospel. A church was planted, and history made. The first Christian church in Europe was established—with a team of believing women.

There is more.

[bctt tweet=”The first Christian church in Europe was established—with a team of believing women.” username=”missioalliance”]

The Apostle Who Loved Women

Later, from a Roman prison cell, Paul penned a letter to the Philippian church. The power of that letter gets lost when it is disconnected from its historical context (Acts 16). Readers must bear in mind Paul’s remarkable vision, the rerouting to Greece, the women who embraced the gospel, the violent persecution, and the church gathered in Lydia’s home. With those historical facts in mind, the letter to the Philippian church reveals a surprising transformation in Paul’s regard for women church planters.

To Paul, women church planters aren’t just permissible. They are indispensable.


The Apostle Paul, c. 1657, National Gallery of Art, Washingon DC

Paul’s opening words place his stamp of approval on and indebtedness to the founding mothers of the Philippian church.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5, emphasis added).

Clearly, that “first day” was especially meaningful to Paul.

Paul valued women as indispensable church planting partners because they ministered the gospel with him. Just as things were moving forward, a brutal wave of persecution broke out inflicting physical harm on the apostles and ultimately driving them out of town.

Turns out those church planting women were equal to the task. Not only did Lydia provide hospitality for the apostles, she courageously hosted the threatened fledgling church. After the apostles left town, the women steadfastly carried the gospel mission forward.

Paul singles out two Philippian women—Euodia and Syntyche—and describes them as indispensable allies—“women who have contended [or labored] at my side in the cause of the gospel” (Philippians 4:3). Paul’s words speak metaphorically of gladiators fighting side by side in the arena and imply united struggle in preaching and suffering for the gospel.

The women of Philippi stood with Paul for the gospel in the face of persecution, and he stood stronger in battle because of them.

Paul also valued the women as indispensable church planting partners because they ministered to him. No other Pauline letter is as vulnerable or affectionate. They held a special place in Paul’s heart. Even for Paul, it was “not good for the man to be alone.” They opened the door for Paul to be honest with how he was doing. Without the benefit of cell-phone pings, they doggedly tracked his whereabouts and showed up to care for his needs—something no other church did for Paul.

When he was driven out of Philippi to Thessalonica, they followed him with aid and support. As he writes to them from a Roman prison cell, a Philippian, Epaphroditus, is by his side, sent to Rome from Philippi to find Paul, minister to his needs, and deliver gifts.

A Stronger Affirmation?

It’s hard to imagine a stronger affirmation of women as indispensable church planters than Paul gives the women of Philippi. Church planting efforts multiplied because he broke with tradition to partner with his sisters in Christ.

The mission Jesus entrusted to his church is demanding, so demanding that it requires a Blessed Alliance of men and women working together. In this challenging post-Christian world, we are learning afresh of God’s desire for the partnered ministry of women and men in seeing the gospel embodied and advanced through the planting of new churches. We must reclaim the biblical and apostolic conviction of the indispensability of women in church planting!

8d7e0-ma-logo-horizontal-300x225 Originally published at www.MissioAlliance.org

churchleaders.com-logo-e1416970621175  Republished 8/9/2016 at www.churchleaders.com


This video was filmed and produced by Nate Clarke of Fourth Line Films, script by Carolyn Custis James, and was shown in a plenary session at Lausanne 2010 in Capetown South Africa on behalf of the Synergy Women’s Network. Synergy is now part of Missio Alliance.
Read the full article @MissioAlliance —>


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