Can Women be in Authority over Men in the Local Church?

This is a simple question that requires a biblical answer: Can a woman be in authority over a man in the local church? For in this question, the purity of the local church is revealed in how it is answered.  Whether or not a church truly permits women to be in authority over men is seen through the actual function and structure of the church itself.

In recent years, the church in the west has answered this question in ways that contradicts the whole council of God in his Word.  From a standpoint of supposed biblical equality, women have been given authority over men in the local church.  The positions, roles, and functions of women in the church has found its birth not in the local church per se, but at home and in the level of the family.  We ought to be attentive to such trajectory of our own local church, and the direction of our denomination at large.  We must keep a close watch at where the evangelical church is going in this day and age.  As we do so, what we find may surprise us, if not frighten us to the very core of our faith.

Numerous so-called evangelical churches today have women in the Elder Board. In these churches, the Elder Board does not function like a “council of elders” as commanded by the Bible — with men exercising spiritual leadership and being gifted to teach — but rather as an administrative board that follows worldly, unchristian business models of organization and structure.  Some Baptist churches also have women pastors on their paid staff, and even more significantly, some congregations have ordained women as “Reverends“, as well as inviting women to be guest preachers for their Sunday Services.

Other Protestant churches who desire to be more biblical may not have women in such authoritative positions or formal teaching roles, but they do allow women to be in other teaching (and thus, authoritative) roles.  Women are Sunday school teachers, teaching hermeneutics or books of the Bible over younger Christians — which inevitably include men.  And further, even many young girls in their teens and early twenties are leading Bible study over other Christian guys.  Or maybe the girls are very skilled and trained musically, leading worship music for fellowship gatherings and Sunday services.

These are but a handful of examples where I’ve heard of many congregations falling away from a biblical understanding of leadership and authority in the home and the local church.  Many of these areas of ministry described are at their foundation shepherding responsibilities that have a pastoral emphasis.  But despite the fact that many women in these examples are not “pastors” or “elders” in local churches, these roles and functions are all being done by women, and in essence the women are exercising authority over and teaching doctrine to many men in the local church in varying degrees.  Women in many Christian homes and churches are not only taking care of servant tasks in the household of the family and of the church, but they are exercising authority and spiritual leadership over men

Whether this be an organized authority or simply something that “just happened,” this has in many places become the accepted norm, and thus is now something that regenerate church members of both genders accept and do not even argue about.  Maybe you’ve heard similar words like these:  “There’s wrong with this — it’s just the way things are done in my home and my church!  I think the Bible promotes equality between me and my husband.  I should be allowed to teach Bible lessons at church as he does!”

This is a sad fact in our days, but is is also a sobering truth.  There is a big elephant in the room, one that tempts us to ignore it, and pulls us away from admitting the sins in our families and of our churches. The disturbing elephant is our answer to this simple question:

Can a woman be in authority over a man in the local church?

Have we answered “yes” to this question?  Or have we rejected the Bible as the sole authority of our faith and life?  For in response to this question,

  • The teaching of the Bible is “NO” (1 Tim 2:9-15; 1 Cor 14:34);
  • The example of the Bible is that men lead;
  • The historic position of the church is that men lead.

Let our answer to this question be faithful: faithful to the teaching of the Scriptures, faithful to the example of the Bible, and faithful to the historic position of God’s church.  As our Father in Heaven purchased us with the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ, the least we can do is be faithful to the calling to which we have been called.

Let the men initiate and the women respond; let the men lead and the women guide; let the men work and the women wait; let the men protect and the women welcome protection; and let the men sacrifice and the women submit.  Above all, may we all give up our selfishness for a selflessness that seeks to serve the other before ourselves, always out of love and never out of dutiful legalism.  For it is because of the gospel of Jesus Christ that we see what a true marriage truly looks like.

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