A few days ago, John MacArthur celebrated his 50th anniversary at Grace Community Church. The California pastor has written a number of books, and he’s been outspoken on a variety of topics.
At a conference celebrating his half century of ministry, MacArthur and several panelists were on stage fielding a variety of questions. Then the moderator asked them to offer their gut reactions to one- or two-word phrases. When the moderator said “Beth Moore,” MacArthur replied, “Go home.”
The reaction to this pithy response caused quite an uproar in the evangelical community; it was even a trending topic on Twitter for a short period of time. His response intrigued but didn’t surprise me, as I’m familiar with his theological perspective and leanings. I’ve used a few of his commentaries on occasion, but have disagreements about some of his views. I would also have differences with Moore on some of her teachings, but it would be related more to content than her gender.
What I did find instructive was Moore’s response to the Twitterstorm and his critique of her ministry: “I did not surrender to a calling of man when I was 18 years old. I surrendered to a calling of God. It never occurs to me for a second to not fulfill it. I will follow Jesus—and Jesus alone—all the way home.”
Over the course of my life as a Baptist pastor, I’ve discovered a wide diversity of opinions and personalities as it relates to life in the church. We are all influenced by our life experiences and come to Scripture with our own biases and limitations. What I have tried to model and emphasize, however, is that our shared core belief is the earliest Christian creed: “Jesus Christ is Lord”.
Through my own biblical and theological pilgrimage, however, I have come to believe service in the Kingdom of God is based on gifts and calling rather than gender. On a more personal level, as a father of two daughters, it is important for them (and my son!) to see this lived out in the local congregation.
Looking back on my tenure in the local church, I come to the same conclusion over and over again–there would be no church without the contributions and involvement of women.
When I talk about contributions, it’s vital to understand the leadership capabilities of women to serve in ministerial positions in the local congregation. In some smaller congregations this occurs by necessity, and there aren’t enough men to step up. More importantly, there are are numerous scriptures that can be referenced to affirm this reality, not the least of which is the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. There are numerous writings and books which do a wonderful job dealing with the milieu of the 1st century, what our subsequent understanding of the role of women should be in the 21st century.
It’s important to be faithful to the biblical witness in terms of its culture, patriarchal bias, and historical context. A version of the well-known axiom is true: “when we come to the text, without context, there’s only pretext.”
It is vital for me to be part of a Baptist church who nurtures this spirit of service and calling. I’m especially thankful for those who teach, support, and encourage my children in their spiritual formation. I am thankful for all their concern for them, as well as all the other young men and women who are part of our family of faith.
Women were the first to arrive at the empty tomb of Jesus. And, it was Mary Magdalene who was the first herald of the resurrection. I’m so grateful that she didn’t simply “go home” after she experienced the risen Lord. Her example is formative to our faith and instructive to our witness for Christ.