The Lost Voices: Patriarchal Exclusion in Community Outreach Missions

The Lost Voices:  Patriarchal Exclusion in Community Outreach Missions

We live in a neighborhood which is within walking distance to the largest Baptist church in our county.  Although we don’t belong to the church or attend services there, we do participate in the sports programs, which also serve as a major outreach for our community.

When we registered our son Matthew for his first soccer league at age four, we opted for this church’s league for two reasons.  One, we’d be able to walk to practices, and two, we valued the Christian perspective of the program.  My husband and I felt Matthew would learn about the game of soccer while hearing more about God.  When children carry God with them into every arena of their lives, it’s a win, regardless of the final score.

Our experiences that first year with the soccer program were so positive, we decided to sign Matthew up for additional seasons.  He played in both the spring and fall leagues for the next three years.  He formed friendships and bonded with his coaches. His soccer skills improved, and he looked forward to every practice and game.  Most importantly, he heard about God in a nontraditional setting.  The Bible appeared on a soccer field, and the word was taught while he and his teammates sat on the grass, drinking from their water bottles and wiping sweat from their faces.

My son isn’t the only child to benefit from the church’s outreach.  On average, the seasonal soccer and basketball leagues host over 3,000 children from the area.  Some of the families are members and enjoy their church’s programs, others attend a different local church, while others have no church home at all.  Many are Christians, like our family, but just as many are not.  It’s a true opportunity to meet people where they are, to bring the gospel to every family and child who steps foot on the fields and courts.

When Matthew reached the minimum age to play basketball for the church, my husband and I joined the ministry as coaches.  After layup drills and scrimmages, we gathered the boys together to share the week’s devotional.  Bridging the world of sports with the word of God through devotionals on sportsmanship and teamwork taught each player the invaluable, real world application of scripture.  It reinforced the living, breathing, timeless nature of the Bible.

The indoor facilities of basketball also allowed for halftime testimonials from members of the church which were not possible during the soccer seasons.  My husband and I were unable to view these testimonials our first season because we were in a different room with the players.  This past season, however, I observed the games as a parent, not a coach, so I was able to see the halftime outreach ministry firsthand.

For six weeks I heard witnesses share their various faith journeys, and although each of their testaments was unique, one unvarying similarity made the outreach the same; all of the witnesses were white men. 

For six weeks, the recorded attestations of white males in the church played during every halftime of every game, games which began at eight o’clock in the morning and concluded late in the evening. Although thousands of members from our community attended these halftimes by day’s end, men and women, boys and girls, representatives from every namable minority, the outreach represented a single voice and perspective.

The homogeneous nature of the outreach was no accident but a product of a theology of patriarchal exclusion known as complementarianism.

Complementarian theology creates boundaries of authority in many evangelical churches nationwide.  There’s an understood and accepted hierarchy of spiritual headship which begins with God the Father, proceeds to man, and ends with woman.  A separation of roles based on gender strengthens the church’s patriarchal hierarchy by disallowing women in positions of spiritual leadership over a man. Jory Micah, popular egalitarian blogger and online professor for SUM Bible College and Seminary, further explains this exclusion in her post “The Actual Four Dangers of Complementarianism,”

Complementarians continue to interpret the Bible in such a way that limits God’s daughters in how they can serve the Kingdom. Often, they can be children’s pastors, but they cannot be youth pastors. They can sing God’s message as worship leaders from the stage, but they cannot preach God’s message as teachers from the stage. They can be famous preachers that write Bible studies, books and lectures (that both men and women learn from), but they cannot be teaching pastors or elders at their local churches.  (jorymicah.com)

The limitations of complementarian gender roles extend to community outreach, as well.  Women forego the opportunity to witness to audiences which may include men because complementarian theology teaches it is not biblical for a woman to be in a place of spiritual authority over a man.  Complementarianism instructs women to silence their witness in the presence of a man, to marginalize their outreach and reserve their teachings for female-only audiences.

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection teaches the opposite.

Believers cling to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  God sent Jesus into the world to save the world.  When we read further into John, we see the purpose of Jesus’ life is salvation, not condemnation (John 3:17).

Each and every person who has witness to this salvation, to God’s grace, love, and forgiveness, is free to share it with anyone, male or female, who doesn’t know the hope of Jesus Christ.  Reserving soul-saving testimony and witness for the approved gender audience hurts outreach because it limits when and with whom the good news of Jesus is shared.

When Jesus, God incarnate, walked among man, he witnessed to men and women alike.  While speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus demonstrates what’s more important when he ignores two customary practices of that time.  One, Jews and Samaritans did not speak to one another, and two, a man did not speak to a woman without the covering of a male authority figure, like a husband, father, or brother (John 4:9).

As the woman stands by the well, Jesus requests water. The Samaritan woman’s question, “How can you ask me for a drink?” alludes to Jesus’ rejection of both of the aforementioned cultural expectations (John 4:9).  In other words, how can you, a Jewish man, speak directly to me, a Samaritan woman? Jesus’ request for water shows the words he longs to share with her supersede cultural law, religious law, and gender barriers.

The dialogue between Jesus and the unnamed woman at the well provides her with some of the best witness in all of the Bible.  Jesus shares with her the secret of the living water, which, unlike the well water she procures, satiates completely (John 4:13-14).  He edifies her on worshiping in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and near the end of their conversation, after proclaiming His knowledge of her marital past, He reveals himself as the long-awaited messiah (John 4:26).  The Samaritan woman departs from Jesus and returns to her village, where she shares her witness with all who will hear (John 4:29).

In his sermon “Journey to the Well,” Rev. Larry R. Hayward notes, “We do not know if she (the Samaritan woman) fully comes to belief or not.  What we do know is this: Because of her initial message, because of her initial willingness to tell her story, others believe, in a way even deeper than she believes.”

Jesus’ exchange with the Samaritan woman and her subsequent witness show prominence should be on the sharing of the word of God and the news of Jesus as our savior, not on legalistic cultural practices like complementarianism which restricts women’s outreach with the chains of gender roles.

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:12-15)

Community outreach is a beautiful thing when all of God’s witnesses, male and female, are free to preach the good news of the gospel to the lost; as “the (Samaritan) woman’s story reminds us. . .our words and witness to Christ may bear fruit more nutritious than the faith from which we speak them” (Hayward).

Female involvement in community outreach is biblical.

We need to free the voices lost in a maze of man-made gender roles and patriarchal hierarchies. God purposed our own encounters at the well so we may share, and souls may be saved. 

 

 

 

Citations

 

Hayward, Larry R. “Journey to the Well: John 4: 1-30, 39-42.” wpc-alex. Westminster Presbyterian Church, 27 February 2005. Web. 18 March 2016. <http://wpc-alex.org/worship/sermons/2005%20Sermons/2.27.05.htm>

 

Micah, Jory. “The Actual 4 Dangers of Complementarianism:  A Response to The Gospel Coalition.” Jory Micah Breaking the Glass Steeple. n.p. jorymicah. 18 March 20016. http://www.jorymicah.com/the-actual-4-dangers-of-complementarianism-a-response-to-the-gospel-coalition/

2 Comments

  1. Barbara C
    Apr 19, 2016

    This article was well written, so easy to read and understand. Thank God for people like you Carrie You are a special person in my life. Thanks for sharing. Love you B

    • admin
      Apr 19, 2016

      Thank you! You are a blessing as well.

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