question about women called to Christian work

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a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I have heard various things about women in Christian service- single or married- from people I greatly respect: first that women should not be in Christian work at all or supported by the church to do Christian work; or that only elderly Christian widows should have that kind of support and role (the problem with this is that often elderly widows are in need of care themselves and the young single women who have energy and zeal to do the work must work secular jobs to support themselves, not having husbands to do so- thus entangling themselves even more than many married women in the concerns of this world). Second, there is the more prevalent view that a woman, single or married, can be called as well as a man, just not to be a pastor. Third, I have been told that a minister or missionary's wife not only can but should be so called; and from one such dear lady that she considered herself equally a missionary as her husband, and equally sent and responsible to the supporting churches. (In this case, her time was very divided between church and home concerns and in neither realm did there seem to be much efficiency or peace: but she had an endearingly hyper personality). Indeed on this view if a woman is not called into Christian service- a call that goes above and beyond the character an elders' wife is supposed to possess- and equipped to head ladies meetings, childrens' Sunday School classes, musical service, organizing events, counseling, etc., she is not really a help meet for a minister or missionary: her husband shouldn't be in the ministry.

Also I have heard that if a married woman can work outside the home in the secular world she can work outside the home in the church. This I take to be a somewhat separate issue: certainly there are things for women to do in the church such as helping one another, works of mercy, counseling younger women, etc., and if a married woman can do them along with her duties at home she is eminently admirable: "let her own works praise her in the gates". The issue is more whether a married woman is 'called' to such a work distinctly from her calling to be a keeper of her household, and whether a minister's wife must necessarily be so called? Would this differ from woman to woman?

Also I was wondering if the teaching of Paul that single people can be more devoted to the things of the Lord is simply speaking to meditation or also to good works? If the latter, then how can one reconcile the first view with having single women support themselves in secular jobs -in which case they have almost no time for good works- simply because if the church supports them to do good works and spread the gospel in a way appropriate to their sex and labors in needy places they will have some kind of role or at least practical status as being 'sent' by the church and part of her ministry? (ideally of course, any such woman would be under the care of local elders.) Indeed in my experience single women who work exhausting 40 hr. a week jobs have less time for even meditation than many married women. Also, in my experience, a great deal of the worthy Christian work that is being done among orphans and with poor children, womens' prisons etc would have almost no 'hands' if it were not for single women supported to do such things under church oversight.

I'd be grateful for any information about church authority and precedent on the issue. I'm sorry for such a confused question but hope some here can give a much less confused answer.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
First, in missions today just over 60% of those who work overseas are women. Whether this is a good or bad thing, opinions vary. Many single women have gone.


From the early church on until now women played a large role in acts of mercy and charity. If we define missions marrowly by a definition of "preaching the Gospel only", which many mistakenly do, then some will say that there can be no women missionaries. If missions encompasses everything we do to take the Gospel to a people then missions is broader than merely preaching.


But it appears the evangelism and missions and preaching the Gospel are related but not the same. Missions and evangelism are broader than merely doing what ordained men do. It need not be in a pulput, it need not be done by elders or pastors. In the NT and the early church and ever since, women have gone abroad, engaged in works of mercy and charity, told people about Christ and have had people saved under their efforts, whether this would be called "ministry" or not.

How DO we classify the above? How DO we define misions?


Does not a large part of missions involve works of mercy and charity in which women often have a better heart to do than men?

Or is missions work and evangelism the same as preaching and thus to be relegated to men?

And if we define it thus, than we have narrowed the place for social efforts, helping the poor, tending to the sick and dying, etc, all vital ways in which Christ's love has been spread abroad. No more mission health clinics, literacy schools, aviation, translations unless done by elders...etc.




Historically there are many female missionary "heroes": Mary Slessor, Lottie Moon, Amy Carmicheal, Helen Rosevere, Joy Ridderhof....

Do we praise God for these women, or do we condemn them as being out of their place?



In the NT there were no women elders or pastors, but there were women laborers and workers.

Some think of missionaries as needing to be pastors. Certainly, if they must be elders to be missionaries then there can be no such thing as a woman missionary (or no men missionaries either that are not elder-qualified). But one need not preach the Gospel to spread news of Christ or labor in the mission field as part of a larger group effort.


Some agencies distinguish between church planting missionaries and "support workers" such as teachers, pilots, etc. How do we even define a "missionary" that is a HUGE question?

Very often church planting teams or translation teams are formed and different experts come together (translators, nurses, teachers, computer geeks, community development people, literacy experts, etc) and live near one another for the larger work of planting a church. Only one person out of that whole group needs to lead the church and the others all do vital roles that do not require being an elder-qualified man to do. Thus preaching by an elder is just one aspect of the larger effort.

Could it be that church-planters might need to be elder-qualified and thus men, but support workers such as teachers, nurses, etc need only to have a desire to take part in these efforts.

Bible translation is a huge need...and often women are better educated and more studious than men and they make the best translators.




A broader question related to the role of women in missions is the role of all unordained men in missions.

Should un-ordained men be missionaries or should missionaries only be elder-qualified men? The answer is pivotal as to how we treat women on the field. Or all of our support workers, pilots, teachers who are men, etc.


If a man must be an elder to serve overseas as a missioanry than about 80% of all missionaries need to come home, all the women who are not missionary wives and all non-elder-qualified men too.

Do you agree or diagree and assert that there is a place for others besides elders and pastors overseas?
 
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a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Pergamum, thanks for your reply. Personally I don't believe that in order to be supported by the church and under its oversight here or overseas a person has to be involved in the work of an elder. It seems almost impossible that the societal changes the gospel brings in works of mercy would ever get done as the minister's job is mainly to preach the word. In poverty stricken areas people who for instance provide education or medical care or orphan care or shelters for the homeless probably aren't going to be adequately paid by the society to do these things. I think it is legitimate for these people to be supported by, and under the oversight of the church. Indeed if they are not, they are merely 'lone rangers', supported by private individuals or organizations and that seems less than ideally biblical. We do sometimes support such organizations because there simply aren't any church-overseen efforts in some critical places, at least that we know of. But we'd much rather support such efforts through the church.

But I'm very hesitant about my own views as I've come to them largely from a practical point of view and though it's necessary to be practical (and so many views simply aren't), I don't think a theology can be made out of practicality.

Your answer reminds me that the minister's work is primarily to be a 'teaching elder', to preach the gospel; would you say then that a missionary's wife does not necessarily have to have any more special qualifications than those listed for an elder's wife in Scripture, and does not have to feel specially called into the ministry other than to keep her home wherever he is?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
A wife of a missionary is called to be a wife of a missionary, and thus called to be engaged in the work of God wherever she is - which would be on the mission field.

Since the two are one flesh, to cut the wife out and speak of, "Here is a missionary....oh yes, and also his wife.." seems out of place. They both labor in their respective roles on the same place.

If missionary support roles can be considered mission work (which I believe they can be) then a wife is the most important missionary support role around - the care of the family while on the field!

Furthermore, the same applies to single missionary ladies. She can be called a missionary and ought to be supported in her work. We ought to praise her for her self sacrifice and hold her up in special prayer since a large percentage of single missionary ladies never ever get married for a variety of reasons (sometimes personality, sometimes lack of choice in mates, sometimes geographic isolation, etc). They sacrifice tremendously and several I know care dearly for orphaned children after their years of praying for a husband have gone unanswered. They have left behind their dreams of family for the work.

Also, in Muslim and also some tribal areas where the status of women is degraded substantially, the wife has even a larger realm of "ministry" than her husband by showing an example to the community, and by ministry out of her own home. Men would have little access or little suceess in preaching the Gospel to women or children and women would be the key. The Middle East, in particular needs more women missionaries. Arab Muslim women could be the largest unreached people group in the world!


As far as missionary attrition goes, those women who feel that the Lord is calling them to the field (which he obviously is through her husband) last longer, are more content and more effective. Even if she does not feel "zapped" she can rest assured that the Lord has willed her present family situation and this, too, constitutes a calling into a particular station of life.

In general, I am in favor of de-mystifying all these things such as a supposed need to feel a clear and pressing missionary call. God speaks to us through His Word and our own desires and then the confirmation of our churches. We read in Scriptures Matthew 28, we desire to go, our churches second that and send us and then we go and serve. A Christian wife will obvisouly feel compassion for those around her...wherever in the world she ends up, and will do all she can to reach those around her. I see no great difference between a missionary wife and the field and any Christian wife in the US or the West.

The best thing to do I think is to praise these women and encourage them in their roles. We "Reformed" often get caught up in the theological battles of our times. In reality, most women on the field do not ever want to become pastors or "usurp" (the favorite word of some who try to emphasis what women cannot do rather than what they can do)the role of the man. They want to serve the Lord in servant roles and care for those who are sick, dying and without the Gospel. We should encourage and stress what all segments of our churches can do and not fall into the temptation to use every opportunity in speaking about women's roles to stress what they cannot do.



Summary: the wife of a "teaching elder type" of missionary need not have any higher qualifications than the wife of an elder in Scripture. Some cultural adaptibility is needed as far as practical needs go, but theologically I do not see extra requirements.

As far as the wife of a support worker (pilot, teacher, nurse, etc) I do not know. One need not be an elder to be a missionary I do not believe. But I would like to explore that more.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
Bible translation is a huge need...and often women are better educated and more studious than men and they make the best translators.

I don't believe this statement is accurate...can you post something to back it up?

As far as women doing Christian work....as long as they don't exercise authority over men there should be no problems.

I think it is most appropriate for a woman to serve under the authority of a man. And since there are a great number of men in the mission field already who are in need of workers to help them, it may be best to work in such ministries to enable that ministry to bear more fruit unto God than starting a new ministry.

It seems to me that a woman who seeks to do Christ's work without the authority of a man over her is neglecting the order that Christ has established to do His work...

...the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man;... (1Co 11:3)


And we are also reminded that the woman in and of herself is more easily deceived. Because it was Eve that the serpent deceived, not Adam (1 Tim 2:14). The Devil, recognizing that Eve was the weaker vessel (1 Pet 3:7), sought to deceive Eve and not Adam. It was the woman who yielded to the temptation of Satan, while the man yielded to his love for his wife. And because of her yielding to deceit, woman is to be in subjection to man (Gen 3:16).
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Larry, thanks also for the response. I'd just qualify the last part of what you said a little in that I don't see headship/submission as primarily a *negative* thing: I believe that her place of submission was part of the creation order (for Adam was first formed, then Eve) and is not simply the curse of her sin. I think the elder oversight would primarily be for the protection and spiritual nourishment, encouragement and help of the single women just as it is for anyone else in the church -- a great advantage to them in their labors, and something to look to for comfort and help. I know this is primarily what my husband, father, pastors and elders have always done for me. Certainly what you say is true about the woman being deceived; but the place of submission is a joy and a great comfort and not just a punishment; I think it must be a great relief for a single woman faced with really difficult and wearing and sometimes very scary and stressful labors like Pergamum spoke of above (or indeed for any single woman trying to deal with all facets of life on her own) to have some degree of protection and compassion and practical as well as spiritual help in the male leadership of the church.

I'm interested to learn more about the women translators also: I read yesterday in a biography of Erasmus by R. H. Bainton a list of women translators of that period: I don't think they outnumbered or outdid the men of that time by any means, but they do appear to have a long and glorious history in the church.
 
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larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
I don't see headship/submission as primarily a *negative* thing: I believe that her place of submission was part of the creation order (for Adam was first formed, then Eve) and is not simply the curse of her sin.

I think that is a great attitude to have, but the context of the Gen 3:16 passage regarding woman being in subjection to man is certainly a curse and not a blessing.

And when i speak of working for Christ and having a man in authority over a woman, i am speaking of direct oversight. I'm not sure that i made that clear. In other words, i wouldn't consider the woman who goes to Nigeria alone and has her oversight from her Session back in the USA to have direct male authority. I just wanted to clarify.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Larry, maybe you could clarify an element in your view for me. I agree wholeheartedly that women should have direct, local oversight. But when you relate that to the curse I must admit I get a little confused. Let me see if I can explain why.
1. Oversight/submission is a part of the curse.
2. Women are commanded to be submissive to the appropriate oversight.
3. Does it not follow then, that what overseers are doing is making sure that the curse is carried out?
That seems like an unlikely thing for anyone to say. Maybe you could show me how your view doesn't involve that conclusion?
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I think that is a great attitude to have, but the context of the Gen 3:16 passage regarding woman being in subjection to man is certainly a curse and not a blessing.

Larry, I have heard that there is debate about how that passage should be translated. Albert Martin says that it is in the same language used later of Cain, that sin lying or crouching at the door desired him but he was to rule over it. The curse according to this translation is more that the woman is discontent in the subjection that was instituted at creation (which is indisputable) desiring rule over the man and unfulfilled in that desire than the man's rule itself.

And when i speak of working for Christ and having a man in authority over a woman, i am speaking of direct oversight. I'm not sure that i made that clear. In other words, i wouldn't consider the woman who goes to Nigeria alone and has her oversight from her Session back in the USA to have direct male authority. I just wanted to clarify.

Wholly agreed. It's hard to receive spiritual nourishment, comfort and aid in need and be kept from error over your ham radio. I should have said 'local' male leadership for clarity, above.

Thanks again.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
Larry, maybe you could clarify an element in your view for me. I agree wholeheartedly that women should have direct, local oversight. But when you relate that to the curse I must admit I get a little confused. Let me see if I can explain why.
1. Oversight/submission is a part of the curse.
2. Women are commanded to be submissive to the appropriate oversight.
3. Does it not follow then, that what overseers are doing is making sure that the curse is carried out?
That seems like an unlikely thing for anyone to say. Maybe you could show me how your view doesn't involve that conclusion?

Good question.
First, let me say that i have just been shooting off the hip (so to speak), so my views may need to be clarified.

The curse in Gen 3:16 relating to woman being subject to man is an overarching curse. It deals with men and women in general.

The oversight that the Elders of a church have over their flock is more specific, as it relates only to the Church....and it's over the whole of the particular church that they are shepherd's of, regardless of gender.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
Larry, I have heard that there is debate about how that passage should be translated. Albert Martin says that it is in the same language used later of Cain, that sin lying or crouching at the door desired him but he was to rule over it. The curse according to this translation is more that the woman is discontent in the subjection that was instituted at creation (which is indisputable) desiring rule over the man and unfulfilled in that desire than the man's rule itself.

The Cain passage is a little different as it is not set up as a curse, but as a blessing/curse - If you do well thus and so....if you do not do well thus and so...

"If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." (Gen 4:7)


Speaking of "sin crouching at the door" could actually be a reference to a "sin sacrifice" in that God may be saying...If you do well, all is good and a thank offering is acceptable, if you do not do well, a sin offering will make you acceptable. If that is the case, then the "desire" would probably be for the birthright of the firstborn, since Cain may have considered it lost after his grievous sin.

As far as pre-fall...i don't see much evidence that the woman was in "subjection" to the man...rather she was to be his "helper suitable" to him. This word "suitable" is important. It is the Hebrew word "neged"...and it means "a counterpart"
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
A VERY REAL SCENARIO:

Middle East. An arab segregated society. A Western missionary woman ministers to Muslim women...a woman's world where no man can have access. Through her witness, a number of women come to faith and begin to gather together to read the Scripture. This missionary uses this opportunity to teach and explain the passages during Sunday services. Every Friday during their husband's prayer time they gather and pray to the God-Man Jesus.

Though there are other men on this field and in this woman's organization (which goes by the cover of a business), the "field director" has never met any of these women and can only go by this woman's reports as to what is happening in this little prayer group.

The above is a real scenario, as is this one below of which I am even more familiar:

In another country there is a resistant area where men who come into the village are held in suspicion. The group I know has sent 2 single women into this area because no one suspects them of being Chrisitan -- and there have been many converts just in this past year. These women report their progress and ask for prayer, but those they work with are not involved in the intimate details of their day to day lives due to lack of access. We pray for them but cannot do much else.


How does a man have DIRECT oversight in these cases?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
About women linguists:

COSWL keeps some of the statistics on women linguists (committee on the status of women in linguistics...google the Cornell Lectures related to this topic too).

In 1990 researchers by the names of Davison, Chicocki, and Silva reported that in 1986-7 56.7% of PhDs in linguistics were awarded to women and there were more women in part-time and non-tenure-track positions than men. Also, the more prestigious schools of linguistics had greater proportions of women in part-time positions (70% vs. 50%), but lower proportions of women at assistant and associate prof levels (around
33% vs. 43%).


So, the above is evidence of the high rate of women linguistics. If you check the personnel breakdown by genders for orgs like SIL, etc, you will also see a very large percentage of women making worthwhile contributions to linguistics and translating the Bible.

As far as women linguists in Erasmus' day, you will admit that those were mmm... different times to say the least.



Finally, though my evidence for this last point is only anecdotal at this point, I am sure that I can uncover real evidence for this assertion too: It appears that women usually learn languages faster than men if immersed in the same Academic environment (i.e. not washing the dishes while hubby is in language school). This is a particular source of marriage tension for new missionaries at language school and some orgs even address this to young couples before they start presciely because it is such a regular occurrence and effects the men's egos dramatically.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Full reference for my stats: davison, alice, walter chicocki, and david silva. 1990. the
representation of women in linguistics 1989. in alice davison and
penny eckert (eds.), the cornell lectures: women in the linguistics
profession. washington, dc: committee on the status of women,
linguistic society of america.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Heidi,

Perhaps another perspective would be to continue to recover the Biblical (and Reformed) perspective on vocation. The White Horse Inn has had several recent episodes devoted to this idea.

Many Christians suffer the illusion that all of our Christian activity has to be a "ministry" where the Scriptures recognize the role of the ministry of Word and Sacrament to equip Christians that they might excel in their vocation and in the witness of their quiet and reverernt lives.

Because so many Christians believe they are not doing the Lord's work unless they are doing it as part of a sanctioned Christian event, programs are created so people can get involved and fill their weeks with all sorts of Christian "ministries".

Regrettably, then, men don't view their vocations as inherently glorifying to God whereas the 4th Commandment commands 6 days of labor as well as the Day of rest. Many Christians are so shiftless at work and focused on putting up "Christian" screensavers or starting Bible studies that they undermine the excellency of Christ by their shoddy work. Worse yet, Christians are a bunch of whiners insisting on the "right" to conduct Evangelism at work or the like.

Wives have their similar vocations that they glorify God - in the home or where they trade in the marketplace. God is not glorified when either a man or a woman spends all their time away from home and neglects the home itself. Of course, just like the man who doesn't think he's doing "the Lord's work" unless it has a Jesus bumpersticker on it, many women depreciate the incredibly important role they serve in the home.

Those that cannot serve in the home, however, are not necessarily doing "ministry" simply by serving in a vocation. Men and women need to start thinking about just doing a really good job at the things they do. They ought to be honest with their scales and their work and their integrity and craftsmanship will speak volumes. The vocation need not precisely be "baptized" with the moniker of "mission work" to give glory to God and spread His kingdom.

I'm convinced that when Paul was making tents he didn't do shoddy work and I am certain that he didn't depreciate the value of that vocation as something secular and something he could cut corners on. Nowadays, however, somebody would call their tentmaking a "ministry" or even try to raise money from the Church so they could go make tents somewhere.

If the Church could focus on Word and Sacrament and equipping the Saints then it would free men and women up from feeling the obligation that everything they do has to have a Church's name all over it. Yeah, the Church might actually be empty most days and nights of the week but that would mean that Christians are actually out in their communities being good neighbors and in their homes being good parents.

Thus, I see translation and other kinds of activities and vocations and not, precisely, ministries. I see no problem with women doing this.

Finally, on this note, Dorcas is an interesting case in the Scriptures where it is very apparent that she used her talents to make clothes for widows. There's no evidence that this was her "ministry" but she used her talents to do something that her love of fellow men impelled her to do. When she lay dead, it is a beautiful picture when you read of the widows who brought gifts of clothes. Her love of others had shown through. She didn't need a ministry director to tell her what to do in order to express her love. She simply made it part of her daily work.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Rich, thanks I agree - even though I have no problem with the word "ministry."

I do see that "demystifying" missions seems to help people get a grasp on who missionaries are and what they do. They do tasks overseas for Christ, often the same tasks that they could be doing at home. Much of it is very mundane and the thing that makes them "missionaries" is that (1) they do it full time and for Christ (which all people should do in all their labors) and (2) they often do it in poor countries and need a little extra help from supporting churches to finance their efforts.

They do translation, nursing, teaching, computer work, even grounds-keeping and properties management.

Perhaps a lot of this "vocation" work is called "ministry" because it is done in communities where "missions work" is occurring and also (I suspect the main reason) is because they need funds to sustain that work (the local economy won't help them) and so they ask for funds from US churches and US churches will only support "ministries" and not vocations.

I am curious about feedback on this particular point.

Also, a big question, should we therefore restrict the term "missionaries" only to elder-qualified church planting men?

And, what should we call all the others? "Vocationers?".... and how would this affect funding for all the support workers needed on the "mission field"? Would we then call people who work with Wycliffe Bible Translators missionaries, or only Christians who have a vocation? And since these folks need home-country support to help them pay bills while translating the Bible into oompa-Loompa or whatnot, do we present their efforts to the church as Ministries or as jobs that do not give wages (thus requiring church support)?



There does seem to be a difference in managing a hotel chain in the US and trying to do it for the glory of God and calling this a vocation and giving up that job in the States to go and manage an orphanage or missionary kid hostel overseas (relocating to a Third World country, relying on donations and denying one's self of some USA pleasures to do much of the same job for a different target population). While I agree that both can be done for the glory of God, the one who travels overseas may need some added church support and so I suspect that the proliferation of items that count as "ministry" is partly due to this need to fund a "missions infrastructure" overseas. Therefore, I still have no problems with people speaking of their "ministries of helps".


Regarding oversight:
It does not seem that a man would need to be elder-qualified to move overseas and work in a "missions community" and fix toilets.

And if a single women was good at unclogging toilets (or sewing clothes for widows) and moved overseas to work in a "missions community" as a "missions janitor" than I would not demand direct and local male oversight over her "ministry."


Whether you call it vocation or ministry (unclogging poopers for Christ) is of little import to me. I do favor the moniker ministry over vocation because it is more translatable to our modern masses, but if you all can help teach the general public about Biblical vocation than all the better.
Perhaps you are right that vocation is a better term, and if we began to think in terms of "vocation" than we would see that females could do a great deal more without the dreadful charge of "usurping" occurring.


I do believe, however, that church planters who will plant churches and baptize and administer the Lord's Supper and chose and train local leaders ought to be elder-qualified.

Some churches I know only regard this type of missionary as a "missionary" and they label all others as "missionary support". While I admire their desire for doctrinal exactness, no missionary pilot who cannot get insurance due to dangers and risks his life daily wants people to remind him that he is not REALLY a missionary, only a support worker.



QUESTIONS: Did Dorcas make her clothes under "direct and local oversight" of a man?

Did she need a "call to ministry" to do so?

Would a computer guy who works on a missions base in Ukurumpa New Guinea, etc, need a "missionary call" even though he is not a church planter but is basically doing computer tech work in the Third World..and would his wife need to be "called as a missionary" to be the wife of a computer geek who works on a missions base in the Third World?



Many single women do go overseas and are supported by churches to do their "vocation" or "ministry". And many of these are single so that there is no "home" for her to work out of, having no husband or children. Therefore, should we merely badger than about "why aren't you married yet...what's wrong with you.." or place them in the work somewhere where they can be useful? Much has been said about wives, but very little about single women - a large percentage of the foreign missionary force.
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Rich, thanks I agree - even though I have no problem with the word "ministry."

I do see that "demystifying" missions seems to help people get a grasp on who missionaries are and what they do. They do tasks overseas for Christ, often the same tasks that they could be doing at home. Much of it is very mundane and the thing that makes them "missionaries" is that (1) they do it full time and for Christ (which all people should do in all their labors) and (2) they often do it in poor countries and need a little extra help from supporting churches to finance their efforts.

They do translation, nursing, teaching, computer work, even grounds-keeping and properties management.

Perhaps a lot of this "vocation" work is called "ministry" because it is done in communities where "missions work" is occurring and also (I suspect the main reason) is because they need funds to sustain that work (the local economy won't help them) and so they ask for funds from US churches and US churches will only support "ministries" and not vocations.

I am curious about feedback on this particular point.
I agree that most "mission work" is precisely this type.

Actually, I think the reason it is called "ministry" and "mission work" is for the same "sacred/secular" separation that existed in the Medieval Church by and large and the fact that we've lost a good part of what makes the Church essentially Evangelistic.

A former Pastor used to preach on his belief that we weren't Marines or Airmen first but Christians. Whenever he would pray for the men deployed, he would only pray for their ability to preach the Gospel to others while they were deployed as if that was their vocation while they were there. No prayer for mission success or diligence - simply that they spread the Gospel. The idea that men and women actually have a vocation throughout the week and being in the "ministry of the Word" all week long where they tried to preach to people in their work would actually interfere with their vocation was completely lost on him. It really is the common idea that, unless you're actually talking about Jesus with another person, that you're doing a necessary "evil" (work to make money) but the real service only comes when you're actually logging hours for the Church.

Which of the two is a better example of a Christian:
1. the Chaplain who got Court-martialed because he violated the UCMJ and wore his uniform at a public event and then paraded himself around as a victim of religious discrimination or
2. the hyper-competent Officer who has impeccable integrity and takes care of his Marines and is beloved by all his men, keeps his cool under fire, and is compassionate towards all and treats them all as image-bearers of the Creator.

And, what should we call all the others? "Vocationers?".... and how would this affect funding for all the support workers needed on the "mission field"? Would we then call people who work with Wycliffe Bible Translators missionaries, or only Christians who have a vocation? And since these folks need home-country support to help them pay bills while translating the Bible into oompa-Loompa or whatnot, do we present their efforts to the church as Ministries or as jobs that do not give wages (thus requiring church support)?

I don't think we have to "call" them anything. James and Jude (the half-brothers of Jesus) were content to call themselves bond-slaves. I like that term. I think it's great that people want to serve in their vocation to help their fellow-men in another country. God doesn't need their service, their neighbor does and I'm overjoyed that men and women want to serve in this capacity. I think we're forced to call them missionaries because, lamentably, many Churches wouldn't understand or support them if they didn't have this moniker. But we're talking about the way things ought to be and not the way they really are.

There does seem to be a difference in managing a hotel chain in the US and trying to do it for the glory of God and calling this a vocation and giving up that job in the States to go and manage an orphanage or missionary kid hostel overseas (relocating to a Third World country, relying on donations and denying one's self of some USA pleasures to do much of the same job for a different target population). While I agree that both can be done for the glory of God, the one who travels overseas may need some added church support and so I suspect that the proliferation of items that count as "ministry" is partly due to this need to fund a "missions infrastructure" overseas. Therefore, I still have no problems with people speaking of their "ministries of helps".
Again, this is mainly because of the bifurcation of Christianity that exists and is the only way they would be supported in this activity. I understand the reason why it happens but the fact that it needs a moniker to be supported speaks to our impoverishment as Christians and not our strength.

Anyhow, I think I've flogged the point sufficiently.

Bottom line for me in my answer to Heidi is that I didn't really find any of the views of ministry satisfactory. I understand there are organizations that exist but that's a different story.

Every blessing!

Rich
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
About women linguists:

COSWL keeps some of the statistics on women linguists (committee on the status of women in linguistics...google the Cornell Lectures related to this topic too).

In 1990 researchers by the names of Davison, Chicocki, and Silva reported that in 1986-7 56.7% of PhDs in linguistics were awarded to women and there were more women in part-time and non-tenure-track positions than men. Also, the more prestigious schools of linguistics had greater proportions of women in part-time positions (70% vs. 50%), but lower proportions of women at assistant and associate prof levels (around
33% vs. 43%).


So, the above is evidence of the high rate of women linguistics. If you check the personnel breakdown by genders for orgs like SIL, etc, you will also see a very large percentage of women making worthwhile contributions to linguistics and translating the Bible.

As far as women linguists in Erasmus' day, you will admit that those were mmm... different times to say the least.



Finally, though my evidence for this last point is only anecdotal at this point, I am sure that I can uncover real evidence for this assertion too: It appears that women usually learn languages faster than men if immersed in the same Academic environment (i.e. not washing the dishes while hubby is in language school). This is a particular source of marriage tension for new missionaries at language school and some orgs even address this to young couples before they start presciely because it is such a regular occurrence and effects the men's egos dramatically.

I don't see how any of this shows that women are better Bible translators...which is what you posted earlier. The fact that there are more female linguists certainly doesn't prove that women linguists are of a higher quality than the men. Also, simply being a linguist doesn't mean that you can be a Bible translator, so even the figures on there being more female linguists says nothing about how many female Bible translators there are.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
A VERY REAL SCENARIO:

Middle East. An arab segregated society. A Western missionary woman ministers to Muslim women...a woman's world where no man can have access. Through her witness, a number of women come to faith and begin to gather together to read the Scripture. This missionary uses this opportunity to teach and explain the passages during Sunday services. Every Friday during their husband's prayer time they gather and pray to the God-Man Jesus.

Though there are other men on this field and in this woman's organization (which goes by the cover of a business), the "field director" has never met any of these women and can only go by this woman's reports as to what is happening in this little prayer group.

Are we to be pragmatic in how we handle things and use a methodology simply because it works...or are we to be Scriptural? This scenario may work, they may be doing it with good intentions...but is it Scriptural?
I have laid out several Scripture passages that speak to the idea of women having an authority over them, and of women being more readily deceived by Satan. So while this scenario may "work" in you opinion...i can't say that it is simply because i don't know what the women are teaching the Muslims, and i can't say anything is a real success if it is done outside of God's ordained order.

It's also interesting that they go "by the cover of a business." I will presume that means the Christians are lying to the government in order to get in. I'm not convinced that we can follow one of God's commands by breaking another. When the Lord kept Paul from going into Asia, he went somewhere else...sometimes the Lord keeps us out of places for a reason.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I think a very important point is that "we're talking about the way things ought to be and not the way they really are". It seems like one slips either into pragmatism or idealism very easily, but it seems one has to be both, and very patient in the gap, in order to effect change. I agree about the term 'ministry' and the idea of a 'call' to such being confusing outside of the offices of the church: I don't see in Scripture what would constitute such a call or how one could determine that God has spoken. It seems more a matter of inclination and opportunity.

I also know a little the kind of sacrifices that go into living in another country with fewer conveniences on less money than one generally has in the states; and people who are doing that in their vocations in order to evangelize where an elder could not as the single women in Muslim countries (in which case their safety is also imperilled), or to support an elder's ministry are making many of the same sacrifices as 'missionaries' and deserve not just the financial support but the prayers and encouragement of the church. (Then, so does a single lady I know who has to work full time here at a secular job to support herself, and has poor health, and none of her family are saved; and the married lady with seven kids trying to keep them all fed and schooled, and so on.)

So far I'm understanding that a vocational calling - such as that of 'a mere housewife'- can and should be undertaken for its own sake to the glory of God anywhere; and that it is legitimate for a single woman, as for a single man or married couple, to be supported and overseen by the church to do vocational mercy type or support work in a place that can't sustain their financial support. Also that all these things are different than the call to a regular church office or ministry, even though in the latter case one makes many of the same sacrifices and receives financial support from the church. I also understand that the wife of a minister has a vocational call as a wife & homemaker primarily, and is in the second position of making 'ministry-type' sacrifices so needs to be able and desirous to do such; but since it's not an office in the church, does not have the same call as her husband to the regular ministry. Is that so far a good summary?

Pergamum, about the women without 'direct oversight': a muslim society is so very far from ideal; ministering realistically within it is going to have to take that into account. Eventually one hopes those converts could be part of a regular church. But in the meantime just because for instance, a woman is imprisoned for her faith and cut off from contact with Christian men does not mean she should stop being the best Christian prisoner she can be -- which involves giving an answer for her hope. I don't think that in situations where direct oversight is impossible, the women need to stop spreading the gospel any more than they need to stop trying to be good dentists etc. Since we're dealing with sinful societies in this case very opposed to the gospel, things aren't always going to function ideally?

& Larry, I think the implications of what you're saying are rather staggering. For instance, I spoke of having a father, husband, and elders. One might say I'd experienced a great deal of the curse, and that a women who was an orphan, without a church, certainly divorced, widowed, or never married had been more blessed in her circumstances. Also as marriage is the specific analogy for how Christ heads and loves the church, the analogous implications are simply unacceptable. Also, submission is related by Paul back to creation before the fall: "12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." I think there are legitimate ways to interpret the passage in Genesis that are more in keeping with what I understand the rest of Biblical teaching to be, & without running into the rather staggering implication that it would have been better for me if my husband had left me or died. I know you don't mean to say that, but I think it follows on making subjection, esp. in the context of marriage, the curse.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Rich wrote:

"I think we're forced to call them missionaries because, lamentably, many Churches wouldn't understand or support them if they didn't have this moniker. But we're talking about the way things ought to be and not the way they really are."

That is why I still call them missionaries and still call what they do as ministry.

Right now to do otherwise would be to tear down their work and hurt what these people are doing.

To all-of-the-sudden refuse to call MAF pilots who fly missionaries into dangerous areas...to refuse to call them missionaries and to refuse to speak of what they are doing as "their ministry" would be a great insult to them without first a whole lot of education.

I'll leave someone else to hand out that memo that says, "You may think you are doing ministry, but you really aren't.."

The people in the field and the churches back home need a lot of education before the switchover in thinking.


As far as a sacred/secular bifurcation, I agree, the early church WAS (in its entirety) a missions movement and every family unit spread the faith.

What was the work of every Christian then it become an arm of the Church, then it was largely lost during the Reformation while they struggled to survive, and then it revived again under Carey's voluntary associations of Christians (i.e. the first Protestant parachurch) and voluntary unions of Christians have, since the "Modern Missions Movement" done the work of "world missions". For the last 100 years or so large agencies have pulled people outof churches to group them together and send them, but now local churches are beginning to try to take more oversight of their own people they send...

What the future holds, I don't know, but to return to the early church model of the faith spreading not through a select few professionals or a Tuesday night program but the natural and spontanous spread by the laymen would be nice, would it not?
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
& Larry, I think the implications of what you're saying are rather staggering. For instance, I spoke of having a father, husband, and elders. One might say I'd experienced a great deal of the curse, and that a women who was an orphan, without a church, certainly divorced, widowed, or never married had been more blessed in her circumstances.
The curse is not subjection alone...it is subjection while at the same time desiring the man's position of authority. So one would experience the curse to the extent as they would not be satisfied under that authority.

Also as marriage is the specific analogy for how Christ heads and loves the church, the analogous implications are simply unacceptable.
I'm not sure what you are trying to say here.
What implications are unacceptable?

Also, submission is related by Paul back to creation before the fall: "12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." I think there are legitimate ways to interpret the passage in Genesis that are more in keeping with what I understand the rest of Biblical teaching to be
Yes, i think you are correct.
Allow me to modify my position...

Woman is subordinate to man first because she was last in creation, and second because she was the first in transgression.

without running into the rather staggering implication that it would have been better for me if my husband had left me or died. I know you don't mean to say that, but I think it follows on making subjection, esp. in the context of marriage, the curse.
I don't really see that as how it plays out.
A curse for the man is that he will have to toil to feed himself. It doesn't follow that reaping the produce from the ground is a curse.
In the same way as the woman's curse involved her subjugation to the man it doesn't follow that marriage is a curse.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
LarryJ:

I gave you the links, you can do your own research on women linguists and translators. Many of them do fine translations and they excel at teaching literacy too. A 57 percent rate in PhDs is substantial proof of expertise at least in writing dissertations.



As far as pragmatism goes, to strain at gnats and keep the Gospel from people is a real crime also. My Middle East example is not a hypothetical, it is happening in many places right now (if I COULD I could give you 3 cases right now).

There are simply places where - as you put it - direct and local oversight - is not always regularly possible. And if we adopt Rich's terminology, then you can have no beef about them doing ministry that is not under a man, because they are merely speaking to others and this may not ministry at all, but only sharing what is on their heart while they meet for tea, etc. Does a house wife need male supervision everytime she discusses the Gospel over coffee with friends or even decides to pray with her friends?


Are you saying that Biblical truth does not "work"? The Bible then is impractical?

.....And how am what I am saying Unbiblical? I see women doing a GREAT deal in the NT. Prove to me that the women in my Middle East example are doing anything wrong.




As far as taking the Gospel into closed countries, are you saying that we should pull out all underground missionaries from Muslim and Commy countries? If so, let's start another thread and talk about why you would rather obey godless rulers who are in direct opposition to the commands of Christin Matthew 28.




In Titus 2 it speaks of older women training the younger women in the church. Need an elder attend these older women to provide direct and local oversight everytime an older women dishes out advice?

Stated above, did Dorcas need direct and local oversight from a man before she made clothes for the widows?

If prayer and hospitality are types of services or gifts of the spirit, then what of the many NT examples of women exercising a "ministry" of prayer and of loaning out their houses for worship? Women were very active in the NT church.

In Acts 18 when it speaks of Priscilla and Aquilla teaching Apollos, it appears that they both had some sort of role in teaching him. If you invite neighbors over for supper and end up speaking about the Gospel, does the wife need to shut up or invite an elder to come and stand over her? If she can speak about the Gospel over dinner and if Priscella can help support her husband as they explain the Gospel to Apollos, then why would geography matter? Why would single women not be able to serve in the Middle East and drink tea and speak of Christ and pray with arab Muslim friends she has met?

Romans 16 speaks of numerous women who served the church. Paul calls them fellow-workers in the Gospel. That sounds like a colleague to me.

When the woman of Samaria told her village, Come see this man...was she doing anything wrong because she was encouraging people to come to Christ?

We are not talking about a woman preaching here from the pulpit or exercising the office of an elder (ruling over the church)..we are talking about ways in which women serve everyday in their respective stations.


Please define what you mean by oversight? What you mean by ministry and how close and direct and local this oversight must be?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
SUGGESTIONS TO MODS (sarcasm only slight here)....


Hmmm, I've come around.

I am now convinced that women are always out to usurp the man's authority due to the curse.

Therefore I propose that we either (A) bar all women from the PB or (B) relegate them to merely posting the THumbs Up Thank You when they like the teaching of us men.

If they are allowed to discuss theology on the PB, they may come to believe that they are equals.

Also, if I learn something from one of them, then that means that they have taught me something.

We cannot have that now, can we...
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
I gave you the links, you can do your own research on women linguists and translators. Many of them do fine translations and they excel at teaching literacy too. A 57 percent rate in PhDs is substantial proof of expertise at least in writing dissertations.
You specifically made a statement that women were better Bible translators then men. I simply wanted you to back up that claim in a post here.

As far as pragmatism goes, to strain at gnats and keep the Gospel from people is a real crime also. My Middle East example is not a hypothetical, it is happening in many places right now (if I COULD I could give you 3 cases right now).
I don't look at following God's commandments as straining at gnats, i am sorry that you see it that way.
I never said that it wasn't really happening.


There are simply places where - as you put it - direct and local oversight - is not always regularly possible. And if we adopt Rich's terminology, then you can have no beef about them doing ministry that is not under a man, because they are merely speaking to others and this may not ministry at all, but only sharing what is on their heart while they meet for tea, etc. Does a house wife need male supervision everytime she discusses the Gospel over coffee with friends or even decides to pray with her friends?
None of this is what i was speaking to. You spoke of women teaching, not having tea and discussions.

Are you saying that Biblical truth does not "work"? The Bible then is impractical?
I'm saying that it doesn't always work like we want it to. God's ways don't always produce great numbers of converts, yet we tend to think of God's kingdom in terms of numbers. In the same way, a church following biblical principles will not always be a large church...and one that doesn't follow biblical principles may attract quite alot of people.

When God kept Paul out of Asia, do you think he did the wrong thing and that Paul should have tried everything he could to get in there, even if that meant lying?


As far as taking the Gospel into closed countries, are you saying that we should pull out all underground missionaries from Muslim and Commy countries? If so, let's start another thread and talk about why you would rather obey godless rulers who are in direct opposition to the commands of Christin Matthew 28.
It's not about breaking the countries law, it's about breaking God's law. I am fine with going into these countries and spreading the Gospel, but don't lie about it.


In Titus 2 it speaks of older women training the younger women in the church. Need an elder attend these older women to provide direct and local oversight everytime an older women dishes out advice?
The oversight should be direct, but that doesn't mean that they must attend the meetings. In our church women who lead such ministries report directly to an Elder of the church as to what they are teaching and the details of the ministry.

Stated above, did Dorcas need direct and local oversight from a man before she made clothes for the widows?

If prayer and hospitality are types of services or gifts of the spirit, then what of the many NT examples of women exercising a "ministry" of prayer and of loaning out their houses for worship? Women were very active in the NT church.
I have no idea what this has to do with teaching.

In Acts 18 when it speaks of Priscilla and Aquilla teaching Apollos, it appears that they both had some sort of role in teaching him.
Sounds like direct oversight to me.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Pergamum, have you seen the funny clip about the "Al Jazeera" (I think) network called "Death to America"? All one man allows his wife to say is "Death to America", and he relates an anecdote of how someone asked her the way to the bathroom and all she could say was, "Death to America!" Very funny.

Larry, I think we agree to some extent, in that the 'curse' would involve more the discontent a woman feels than the actual position of submission. This was, as I understood it, Rev. Al Martin's interpretation also. I had thought you were saying that the position itself is the 'curse', esp. in marriage, in which case your analogy about reaping fruit is disanalogous. In which case also, I was kind of wondering what might be the point of pointing out to me that my 'great attitude' doesn't really answer to reality, as the only possible fruit of my being so convinced would be a loss of that attitude. My husband wouldn't really thank you for that (smiles). The analogy would extend to Christ and the church because as the submission/headship of marriage is a picture of that relationship we would have to conclude that our submission to Christ is part of the curse, and His headship of us is mostly negative. But I think we must be misunderstanding each other somewhat. I probably won't debate the point further though I've enjoyed the interaction because it's not really what I was specifically asking about and if I'm understanding you now, I can agree with your statement about the discontent she feels.

Pergamum, Just to clarify what I meant by 'direct' oversight it would be having local elders who watched for their souls, again something I perceive as more a positive than a negative function for all of us. In an unideal society this might not be possible: and it is the sinful govt. and the sin of the society, not the Christian women and the elders themselves, who make the impossibility. The women are certaintly not to be blamed for the situation and the goal is to give them as much oversight as is possible in their isolation; presumably this is what they want as well and what they are working towards in working to change the society as they can and is appropriate to them, for Christ.
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Who said they were lying..the businesses are real and they work at these businesses. But their off hours are spent differently. They work as a platform, but they do work. If they come as teachers, then they teach...etc.

If you want to start a thread on undercover ministries, I would be glad to talk more.



When is teaching teaching? Sometimes it is formal, sometimes informal. When women meet and share and one women tells about Jesus, is this talking or teaching? If others listen and desire to hear more, than does this become teaching?

The terms are fuzzy.

What is allowed and what isn't and what are the technical definitions of what a woman can and cannot do?

Can they not teach, or can they not teach a man? It appears that they are commanded to teach younger women...


Would a single woman be able then to do her teaching or talking to other women and then email the results to her elder? Is that enough oversight for you? Or to meet weekly and go over the work together?

Is this what you mean by direct oversight? If so, perhaps we do not disagree so much after all.....it would be nice to agree!


Thanks for the responses.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Larry I also had a question about the lying thing. I don't understand how it can be a lie to go into a country as a dentist, for instance, when that is what you are trained for vocationally and what you will be doing, especially as Rich and Pergy have pointed out that this kind of situation is not the 'regular' ministry or a regular office in the church. But it sounds like you are saying that for instance, a single woman who was a dentist and was going to work in a muslim country would have to declare herself also in the Christian ministry in order to be honest? You would then believe that she is called to the ministry in some special way (but that doesn't seem to make sense with other things you've said)?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Heidi:

Yes, I agree... we work in far from perfect situations and try to be patient in the small things and give as much oversight as possible.

There is a difference in being pragmatic or wishy washy in doctrine and trying to do the best in a bad situation - and many situations with Muslims are bad situations where one or more elements of solid worship are just not possible. The solution then is NOT to not worship at all, but carry on as best one can and hope for improvement. It is better to minister as well as possible, and hope for better, instead of condemn the efforts and pragmatic or sub-biblical and have a feeble work collapse like a house of cards.


I have now being called pragmatic about 4 times in the last year and am starting to get a bit defensive about it all..... I hold extremely high doctrinal standards for myself and am far from doctrinally wishy-washy. But I do believe there is a virtue in being able to minister and make the best of far from ideal situations.

How do you teach about Christian marriage to a man with 3 wives, after all? You decide to overlook some things and try to focus on the hills you can take and hold.... Or how do you exercise perfect reformed ecclesiology when men and women cannot meet together, etc,

We are out to win people and not arguments and this is done better slowly and even by correcting people very piecemeal as they are ready to receive it. This means tolerating some less than perfect situations during the maturing process.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
Who said they were lying..the businesses are real and they work at these businesses. But their off hours are spent differently. They work as a platform, but they do work. If they come as teachers, then they teach...etc.
You said, "woman's organization (which goes by the cover of a business..."
To which i posted that i presumed they were lying, to which you never said i was wrong.

Generally speaking, when organizations go into countries like this they do have to lie. They tell
We have a biblical example of what to do if a country is closed to us...wait for another door to open (Acts 16). And there are so many open countries that need missionaries badly, that could be the open door for these missionaries.

If you want to start a thread on undercover ministries, I would be glad to talk more.
Not really, i was just replying to your posts.


When is teaching teaching? Sometimes it is formal, sometimes informal. When women meet and share and one women tells about Jesus, is this talking or teaching? If others listen and desire to hear more, than does this become teaching?
I would not consider that teaching.

Can they not teach, or can they not teach a man? It appears that they are commanded to teach younger women...
Yes, they are permitted...but that doesn't mean that it should be without any oversight.

Would a single woman be able then to do her teaching or talking to other women and then email the results to her elder? Is that enough oversight for you? Or to meet weekly and go over the work together?
That would be enough oversight for me. The main reason for the oversight would be to ensure that the truths of the faith were being taught and they are not lead away into deceit. Any oversight that could accomplish that would work. I think it's easier if the oversight is physically there, but probably not a necessity.
 
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