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Monday, June 16, 2008

Men & Women: Equal but different?

Special update: I wrote a book for churches to give to first-time guests. It’s had a huge impact at bringing more people back as second-time guests and adding them into the church community. Get the Kindle version of Unforgettable: Your purpose in Christ here and the print version from Those outside the USA may need to order print copies from,, or

The role of men and women is a hot topic in today's culture. In general men have become followers -- being selfish, submissive and reactionary. This lack of loving leadership in men often leads to two extremes. Either frustration, aggression and abuse or passivity, indifference and isolation. Men often feel like failures because of this.

On the other hand women have become the leaders -- taking a lead with responsibility and authority. This compensation leads to two extremes. Either domination and control over men (usually non-violent) or the disrespect and distrust of men. Struggles between men and women often result in insecurity and brokenness in both.

It is highly important for church leadership to understand this topic from a biblical and cultural perspective and be able to lead confidently in respect and love. This brief study deals specifically with roles within the church. There are two main positions. 1) Egalitarian, meaning God created male and female as equal in all respects and 2) Complementarian, meaning male and female were created by God as equal in dignity, value, essence and human nature, but also distinct in role whereby the male was given the responsibility of loving authority over the female, and the female was to offer willing, glad-hearted and submissive assistance to the man.

Conclusions from the Bible:

  1. Men and women share the same nature (made in God's image) and are equal in dignity and value. Both are to rule the earth. Gen 1:26-27.
  2. Men and women are also equal because gender is not a consideration for salvation, Gal 3:28. Also true of gifting, 1 Cor. 12:7-11.
  3. Women (wives, in this text) are to be treated with honor because they are fellow-heirs of the grace of life in Christ. 1 Pet 3:7b.

Even though we are equal in value, there is evidence that men and women were created for different roles:

  1. Men were created first which indicates an intentional design of responsibility and leading, Gen 2. Also see, 1 Cor. 11:8-9 & 1 Tim. 2:13.
  2. God entrusted Adam with instructions for Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit, Gen 2:16-17.
  3. Eve was created as Adam's helper, Gen 2:18.
  4. The original word for helper is "Paraclete". It literally means "called to one's side for help". It is used in to describe the Holy Spirit in John 14:16. It is a HIGHLY honorable word for women because it is used of God. It is not denigrating.
  5. Adam named Eve, a sign of authority, Gen 2:23 & Gen 3:20.
  6. God approaches Adam as the one ultimately responsible for sin although Eve sinned first, Gen 3:9.
  7. Sin is a disruption of God-intended gender roles. Women will therefore desire their husbands authority, Gen 3:16.
  8. Jesus stood against cultural beliefs that were in opposition to God's kingdom, Matt 15:3-9. Yet, Jesus chose 12 men, not women, to be his primary leaders (governmental) indicating this is not just cultural, Matt 10:2-4. (Note: Jesus had, and has, many female followers)
  9. To be deacons (a role open to both genders) in the church, men and women should be of certain character, 1 Tim 3:8-12.
  10. Eldership (governmental rule over the church) is restricted to men of certain quality. If they are married, they must have one wife and they need to be able to lead their families, 1 Tim 3:2 & Titus 1:6. (Note: If they are widowed or divorced they should still be "one women" kinda guys -- appropriate in relationships.)
  11. Teaching and preaching is a key function of elders for primary direction in the church (governmental direction). Women, and non-elder men, should not be the primary teachers but can teach under the oversight of the elders, 1 Tim 3:2, 2 Tim 4:2 & Titus 1:9. (NOTE: Elders are not given the right to delegate their primary (governmental) leadership role and tasks)
  12. Women are encouraged towards all roles within the church excluding eldership. This is because of God's design, not because of ability or value. Women are specifically encouraged and given instruction about how to contribute to public meetings (example: prophesy), 1 Cor 11:5 & 1 Cor 14:34-36.
  13. To save on time and length I have purposefully excluded references to household governing and exclusively focused on church roles.

What are the critical points?

  1. Men and women are different. Men should be men, women should be women. We should not try to be like the opposite sex as this goes against God's plan for us.
  2. Men are not better than women, and women are not better than men. Men are not given authority because they are more important but because of God's design. Men and women are designed and desired to fulfill different roles.
  3. Believers in Jesus should desire to discover how God wants us to live from his word not what is easier to fit into culture.
  4. Doing things God's way always works best. It is important to be convinced which way God wants it to be.
  5. Women can hold any leadership role in the church (example: worship leader) except that of the office and responsibilities of an elder. This is not because women are unable, quite to the contrary, many women have success in leadership. This is because of God's design. This is to reflect the beauty of God's divine authority and submission within himself (example: Jesus submitting to His Father and the Holy Spirit as our counselor). This view of women holds them higher in value than the Egalitarian position because they are especially chosen to be submissive like Jesus and a counselor like the Holy Spirit.
  6. Men must be submitted to authorities in the church and primarily to God. If a man is not submitted to God he is not worth following -- he is not worthy of respect. Men should model submission to their wives. Men are NOT ultimate authorities -- God is.
  7. Women and non-elder men are able to teach in church -- if they can! But, this should be under the oversight and authority of the elders.
  8. As we find life in Christ we should look to restore ourselves to Gods design -- rather than living in the brokenness of sin. Men should loving lead their wives and wives should willingly help their husbands. This reflects the interpersonal authority and submission of a Trinitarian God. The willful harmony is glorifying to God.


Loving authority and joyful submission are a beautiful combo. It is the nature of God. The more we can grasp loving authority (without force) and joyful submission (without ignorance) we will bring glory to God.

Gender roles are ultimately a way to worship God. It must never be an excuse or opportunity to suppress women and elevate men. Men and women alike should be released into their God given gifts within the church under the oversight of godly elders and based on the teaching of the Bible.


  1. Summaries of the Egalitarian and Complementarian Positions on the Role of Women in the Home and in Christian Ministry
  2. Article: What is the role of an elder? (John Piper)
  3. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
  4. Wikipedia article on Complementarian
  5. Mark Driscoll on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (This is an amazing message from a complementarian perspective)
  6. DVD marriage course: Love and Respect
  7. Egalitarian Christian Council
  8. Wikipedia article on Egalitarianism


PastorMax said...

Hey thanks for the comment on my blog, I really appreciated it.

I think it is awesome that you are stepping out in faith as you head to St. Louis. I am doing a similar think in Montana, a church-planting internship, and will be sent out in the spring of 2010 to plant a church.

Also, I travel to STL a couple times a year to take my son to the Children's Hospital there (another story), so I would love to meet up with you.

God Bless bro,
Pastor Willy Maxwell

Jenn said...

Well done, Matt! Clear and true!