No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. – Matthew 5: 15
That doesn’t sound right. Maybe: “Some of us must hide our lights so that the lights that are supposed to shine do so all the brighter.” Ah, that’s better. We can’t have the wrong people thinking they can actually do something.
Having come from a few complementarian churches, one of their biggest issues is with the perplexing question of: “who may use their gifts?” There’s no simple way of breaking down the subtle variations that exist in one complementarian church from the next. One church I was in did not permit women to be Sunday School teachers for either of the adult classes but permitted a woman to lead the women’s group or teach children. In another church I went to, a woman was not allowed to preach from the pulpit, but she could speak from a music stand so long as her husband was on stage with her even if he didn’t actually say a word. Some churches would see both as a violation of Scripture and would declare both churches are too liberal with what the Bible teaches.
In doing the Bible Study about gifts, my biggest fear was something I mentioned early on in the session: “I hope that we don’t talk about it, call it a good discussion, and then move onto the next Bible Study as if nothing important happened in this one. Do men and women both have gifts of the Holy Spirit and ‘callings’ to use that gift to build up the church? Do churches have the authority to deny the use of gifts that God has given it’s members? Do churches have a responsibility to create a program by which people can discover, develop, and use their gifts?” My fears seem to have come true.
It was about a week ago that I saw a video that was discussing how God had given all the members of a church a piece of the puzzle. To put it all together, they would have to talk to one another and see which edges matched up where. Who were thinking the same things. Who were praying the same things. Only then could the vision for the church be seen in a big picture perspective. But it explained that in most churches, the ‘vision’ was often filtered through the pastor alone. As such, the pieces were never put together and the people were dependent on the pastor to interpret the ‘vision’ for the church.
Some seem to think that this glorifies God. How can there be any doubt of it when the only certified seminary graduate in the room interprets Scripture with a higher understanding than you, me, the guy right here, or the girl just over there? Think about the big names of Christianity, certainly Billy Graham glorified God everywhere he went and with every word he said. But isn’t that just a human perspective of what glorifies God? What about God’s perspective about what glorifies him? Ask any relative of someone who has Autism or Down Syndrome what glorifies God. Ask anyone with a past what glorifies God. Ask the humblest people you know what glorifies God. I’d imagine few of them would have said: a young clean-shaven charismatic guy with a Bible in his hands or that nothing glorifies God more than a wealthy young man fresh out of seminary talking about how his faith in God got him through the rough time in his life when he had to sell the Lexus so he could afford a brand new Mercedes. Not even the stories of former gangsters, former strippers, or anything else can quite compare with what the world says glorifies God. Whoever can check off all the boxes on the world’s standard of what it takes to glorify God will likely not measure up when it come to God’s standard. He often uses the things that are not to nullify the things that are so that no one can boast. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
Which is why using gifts for the church is such a problem. The world would say that these people can use their gifts: wealthy people. We can see that in church, too. Many of the men and women who write the most popular Bible Studies aren’t exactly starving artists. Many get flown from one side of the country to the other to earn hundreds of dollars at various conferences. Even though America is an affluent nation, far too few of it’s people are allowed to discover and develop their gifts to build up the Church. That’s why churches so often fail to utilize what expertise they have. They don’t think it’s proper for just anyone to get behind the pulpit. They don’t think God wants just anyone to open, read, and interpret Scripture. They don’t think that just anyone should be allowed to have a ministry. The unfortunate result is that pretty much everyone doesn’t get to use their gifts. They don’t really talk about what 1 Corinthians says on the matter:
A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:
to one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit,
to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit,
to another, faith by the same Spirit,
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
to another, the performing of miracles,
to another, prophecy,
to another, distinguishing between spirits,
to another, different kinds of languages,
to another, interpretation of languages.
But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each one as He wills.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11
The same chapter also says:
Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. And God has placed these in the church:
first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,
then gifts of healing, helping, managing,
various kinds of languages.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in languages? Do all interpret?
1 Corinthians 12:27-30
The two biggest denominations that exist in the states are the Southern Baptists and the Methodist. I can tell you from experience that there is a shortage of prophets, miracle-workers, and a few other things in both denominations.
Generally, women make up more than half of the church. Obviously they are gifted and those gifts are meant to be used to build up the church because this glorifies God much more than not using gifts because the church thinks that it is improper. By keeping these lights hidden, we’re not providing light for all who are in the house. We might as well be smothering the flame so that the light goes out entirely for all the good that it is doing.
Perhaps the lack of biblical gifts is proof that is just what has happened over the centuries and the decades. But there is hope, running like a thread through the fabric of church history are various movements which did not hinder women from serving God. They even saw them as leaders on the same level with their brothers in the faith. This light shines like a beacon that no-one has ever succeeded in putting out completely. It may be it’s time again to shine and then we shall see what the Holy Spirit can do when we don’t stand in his way.