Sometimes the way God lines things up for me to write is just perfect. Here are the four triggers for this morning’s post:
- Yesterday I wrote about the offense to scripture that is selective biblical literalism.
- Later, I heard a strong example of it in the paternalism and sexism spouted by evangelical pastor John MacArthur in his dismissive response to Bible teacher Beth Moore.
- Then I saw this amazing photograph of our granddaughter, Beks, with the book she Pulled off the shelf. Her love of learning – and reading in particular – must make the “boys’ club” members who control the evangelical right nervous; believe me, it should.
- Finally, as an affirmation, I opened Bible Gateway to find the following gem from Proverbs as the verse of the day.
Everyone enjoys a fitting reply;
it is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time! – Proverbs 15:23 (NLT)
A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word! – (NIV)
But first – before my “timely word” – here is the caption our daughter posted over the photograph of Beks with her book: “She picked out this book for her homework reading this evening and I am just so proud! 🌈🦄🦋💜 She says ‘JUST like my Grandmama!'”
Rebekah sure persisted!
Before Grandmama Rebekah as born, her parents dedicated the coming child “to Gospel ministry.” When she was born a girl they said, “Never mind.” But God persisted.
As a little girl, Rebekah felt a distinct tug from the Holy Spirit inviting her to be a minister. When she shared this with one of the leaders at her church she was told, “The Bible says women are not to preach!” Of course, being a curious budding student of the scriptures, she persisted. She asked, “But what else does the Bible say?”
The man was not, it turns out, interested in having that conversation. So Rebekah had to find out for herself. And as we all know the Bible has a lot of different things to say about the subject of ministry, and leadership, and who God calls, and preaching, and prophesy, and the church, and culture, and teaching, and authority, and so much surrounding the question of who gets to speak. I am glad she listened to God and persisted.
The bottom line is that it is God who does the calling, and the equipping, and God who grants authority, and God who offers the invitation – not the people who seem to enjoy finding every possible way to exclude. So she persisted.
The Bible is full with stories of women who God called into leadership roles and who spoke with authority. But the passages affirming women in ministry do not cancel out those that lead to questions, and neither do the references used against women preachers trump the scriptures that support them. This is why the Bible is worth the struggle, the prayer, the research, the conversation, the big-picture view, and – most importantly – the lens of the teachings of Jesus.
It wasn’t long before Rebekah – still a little girl – heard a missionary woman speak at her church. “Well maybe if I’m not allowed in the pulpit in America then I guess I should go to other countries as a missionary and preach?” she thought, still persisting.
At the same time she wondered why God would allow a woman to preach in Africa, or India, or Brazil as a missionary, but then withdraw the invitation to lead worship back on American soil? The inconsistency, the contradiction, the exclusion, simply did not make any sense.
So Rebekah persisted. She asked if she could become a confirmed member of the church as an eight-year-old rather than waiting till she was in eighth grade. The elders examined her and they couldn’t find a reason to say no. Her father was sent as a delegate to General Assembly to vote against the ordination of women, yet she persisted.
She answered the call to attend seminary as one of only four women. She preached at a church as part of a class, and when she was berated by some men there the professor supported their views. She still persisted. When the seminary president told her she would embarrass the school if she interviewed for a call while expecting our first child, she persisted regardless, and soon received an invitation to the “prime” church he had in mind for one of his favorite men.
God does the calling – persistently:
It is God who does the calling and the Creator of Heaven and Earth does not need the permission of those trying to hold on to a “boys’ club” view of ministry. So God persists.
All God asks of us – that would be Rebekah, and me – is that we have the courage of our convictions and that we follow Jesus through serving the church, inviting people into his generous, redemptive love. So we have persisted.
So I say this to my amazing wife Rebekah, and to our granddaughter Beks, and to Beth Moore too: “You go, girl!”
And to the petty sexist exclusionary members of the religious boys’ club, “Get out of the way!” Of course they have every right to be nervous. I pray our granddaughter persists the heck out of them.