Category: Church


In ancient societies, the elders were the adult men, usually older, who were responsible for making decisions in a local village or community. While the term elder could simply refer to someone older (as in Genesis 10:21), most often, a reference to “elders” was an allusion to the men who led in local decision-making.

We first see an example of elders as community leaders in Genesis 50:7: “So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt” (ESV). The “elders” (or “dignitaries,” NIV) were the leaders who represented the families and community at Jacob’s funeral.

In Exodus 3:16 Moses was told to first tell the elders of Israel about God’s call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt: “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me.’” Later, in Exodus 12:21, Moses calls the elders together to communicate the Passover commands.

By Exodus 24, a team of 70 elders had been selected as the governing body of Israel under the leadership of Moses. In Numbers 11 we read of God’s specific call for this body of leaders to serve with Moses in the wilderness: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you” (verse 16).

It is clear from these and other biblical passage that elders held a place of leadership from an early period. Over time, the position of elder progressed from an informal position of leadership to a specific calling of God. Elders continued to serve as local leaders throughout the Old Testament period, including during the return of the Jews to Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah.

Proverbs 31:23 highlights the respect given to an elder: “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.” This verse also reveals that those called “elders” may not have always been “elderly” but were mature adult males in Jewish society. In this passage, the husband seems to be of the age at which a family is still having children.

In the New Testament period, local elders continued to lead. In addition, the 70-member Jewish Sanhedrin helped lead the religious body of Israel. In the early church, elders became synonymous in many cases with pastors and served as the local church leaders. The elders’ role of teaching and leading is emphasized in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

According to the Bible, every Christian has been given at least one spiritual gift to use in service to the body of Christ. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:10–11; compare Ephesians 4:11–16). So, ideally, the first step in determining how to serve in the church is for every believer to discover what his/her spiritual gifts are. Usually, the gifts are related to areas in our lives which unmask our greatest strengths—administration, teaching, hospitality, etc. (see Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11, 28).

There is a difference between the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12–13) and the local church Christians attend for corporate worship (Hebrews 10:25). But there is no difference in how Christians ought to use their spiritual gifts, because serving God is a twenty-four-hour proposition, not a Sunday-only enterprise. For example, if one has the gift of exhortation (encouraging people to be all God desires), the blessing of the gift should not be limited to the local body of believers. All Christians everywhere should be serving God in their local churches and looking for opportunities to serve outside the walls of a church building (2 Corinthians 9:12–13). It may be difficult to discover which spiritual gift(s) God has bestowed, but it’s better to serve anywhere there is a need than nowhere at all (Romans 12:11). Often, the discovery of gifts becomes more clear in the doing—as we serve in various jobs, we learn what we are good at and what we have a heart for (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Every local congregation has more needs than willing workers; this was true in Christ’s day and is still true today (Matthew 9:37). It’s never a problem to find a need in the local church. From evangelizing the community (which all Christians are called to do, Mark 16:15) to cleaning the bathrooms, there is always plenty of work to be done. It is good to inquire of the church leadership. Have a conversation with the pastor and elders about what jobs are open and how they may or may not be suited for you.

Here are a few examples of positions of service in local congregations:
• Sunday School and Bible study teachers (once vetted)
• Children and youth leaders
• Administrators
• Janitors and maintenance workers to upkeep the building and grounds
• Transportation workers for those unable to drive or for children
• Outreach workers
• Choir members and/or gifted vocalists
• Musicians
• Music directors, song leaders, etc.

Every member of every church should be serving in some way, and every member of every church should also not forget the most important way to serve one another, which is by love (Galatians 5:14). Serving one another by love may mean offering to babysit while a young couple has a night out, preparing a meal for a family struck by illness, visiting an elderly widow who can’t get out of the house, or just taking time to pick up a phone and say, “I was thinking about you today.” Christians may busy themselves in tasks of service like the ones listed above, but endless performing, if there is no love involved, is meaningless (1 Corinthians 13:1–3). As we go about serving God and others, let us do so with a spirit of humbleness and brotherly love (Philippians 2:1–4).

Any service that reflects Jesus’ love is “Christian service.” From giving a cup of water (Mark 9:41) to dying for someone (John 15:13), there are as many types of Christian service as there are needs in the world. Very few involve activity within the four walls of the church.

The Bible gives some specific examples of Christian service: show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2), remember those in prison (Matthew 25:36), provide for the needy (Matthew 25:35), and mentor others (Titus 2:2-8). Some examples speak to our day-to-day living: care for children (Matthew 18:5), tend families (Titus 2:5), treat employees fairly (Colossians 4:1), deal honestly with customers (Leviticus 19:36), and be diligent with employers’ resources (Matthew 25:14-30). As long as the act is done “in Jesus’ name”—that is, it is motivated by the love of Jesus—it is Christian service.

There are thousands of organizations outside the church committed to serving others. Homeless shelters, housing builders, and food banks always need volunteers and donations. Internationally, organizations like Compassion International provide food, clothing, and education for children in sometimes dangerous situations. Other ministries provide water, micro-loans, or resources such as farm animals to enable the child’s family to generate their own income.

The world outside the walls of the church offers many opportunities for those specifically educated in theology. Chaplains serve hospitals, military bases, and shipping ports. Foreign missionaries travel overseas to plant churches and train indigenous pastors. Parachurch ministries provide biblical guidance for families and others in need. And internet ministries like Got Questions are always in need of those who can explain the truth of God in a loving, easy-to-understand way.

The world is in desperate need of Christians willing to show the love of Christ through their actions. Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to love others—not sentimentally, but tangibly. Every action performed out of kindness, powered by the understanding of Christ and His love, is Christian service.

Christian missions is following Christ’s call: sharing the Gospel with the lost world through God’s wisdom and strength.

Christian missions is obeying Christ
After Christ’s death and resurrection, He commanded the disciples to share the Gospel, the message of His redemption. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

This Great Commission applies to Christians today. Rather than a burden, obeying His call brings joy and reward in heaven. We should fulfill our mission not out of duty but love: “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. . . . Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).

God could convert everyone using a blinding light and the voice of Christ as He did with the apostle Paul. Instead, He gives Christians the mission of reconciliation (Acts 1:8-9). He works through us, calling sinners to turn to Christ in repentance and faith.

Christian missions is sharing Christ
Our mission is proclaiming Christ as the only way to abundant, eternal life. Whom do we tell? Jesus made it clear that Christians are to reach out to “all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). Instead of countries, he was referring to people groups, those ethnic cultures without a Gospel witness.

Christian missions, however, is not limited to overseas ministry. While believers should faithfully support those who go to the unreached, all Christians have the mission to share Christ on the home field with family, friends, coworkers, and the community.

The Christian mission of sharing Christ does not end with a sinner’s salvation. The commission was to make disciples – not immature believers. Thus, Christian missions involves not only evangelism but also discipleship.

Christian missions is relying on Christ
Sharing the Gospel humbly, boldly, and passionately is our Christian mission. But we cannot do it alone. While our mission is sharing Christ, the power and results come from the Lord. He gives us the wisdom, strength, and desire to witness! Through our witness, He works repentance and faith in the sinner’s heart (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

Although it is God’s work, Christians are responsible to understand the Gospel and have a strong relationship with Christ. Such a relationship guards them from hypocrisy. “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16). Jesus assured that suffering would accompany missions, but God uses it for good.

In sum, Christian missions is obeying Christ, sharing Christ, and relying on Christ. Specifically, God sends missionaries through the support of the church to the unreached. All Christians, however, have the mission of reconciliation. The Lord works through them to rescue the lost. What greater mission can one answer?

The verse that speaks the most directly to this question is Hebrews 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

Pastors are hurt deeply to see people ignore the counsel of God they share in messages or Bible lessons. Some people “blow off” the Word of God, doing so not only to their own hurt but also to the hurt of those who are around them. Young people especially have the tendency to ignore the counsel of those older than they, making the mistake of trusting their own wisdom as well as their own heart. God states that a godly pastor shares precepts from God’s Word because he desires not only to serve God but to feed the flock the spiritual food that will result in their experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10b).

On the other end of the spectrum, the Bible gives warning about “false shepherds” who do not have the welfare of the flock at heart but are more interested in maintaining control or exercising lordship over others, or who fail to study the Word of God and end up teaching men’s commands instead of God’s. The Pharisees were guilty of this during Jesus’ time. There are numerous examples of this in the prophetic books of the Old Testament. And there are repeated warnings about this in Acts, the epistles, and Revelation. Because of the unfortunate existence of these self-seeking leaders, there must also come a time when we disobey man in order to obey God (Acts 4:18-20). However, accusations against a church leader are not to be lightly launched and need to be substantiated by more than one witness (1 Timothy 5:19).

Godly pastors are worth their weight in gold. They are usually overworked and underpaid. They bear greater responsibility than medical doctors as Hebrews 13:17 states—they must one day give an account of their ministries before God. First Peter 5:1-4 points out that they are not dictators, but lead by their example and by their teaching (1 Timothy 4:16) in humility of heart. And like Paul, they are like nursing mothers who truly love their “children” and are willing to give themselves for their flock and rule with gentleness (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12; John 10:11). They are characterized by sincere devotion to the Word and to prayer (Acts 6:4) so that they can rule in God’s power and wisdom and impart to the flock spiritual meat to make them healthy and vibrant Christians (1 Timothy 5:17). If this is a description of your pastor, or close to it (no man on earth is perfect), he is worthy of double honor and obedience as he declares the plain teachings of God.

So the answer to the question is yes, we should obey our pastors. We are also to pray for them always, asking God to grant them wisdom, humility, a love for the flock, and protection as they protect those in their care.

Summarized by “The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” complementarianism is the viewpoint that God restricts women from serving in church leadership roles and instead calls women to serve in equally important, but complementary roles. Summarized by “Christians for Biblical Equality,” egalitarianism is the viewpoint that there are no biblical gender-based restrictions on ministry in the church. With both positions claiming to be biblically based, it is crucially important to fully examine what exactly the Bible does say on the issue of complementarianism vs. egalitarianism.

Again, to summarize, on the one side are the egalitarians who believe there are no gender distinctions and that since we are all one in Christ, women and men are interchangeable when it comes to functional roles in leadership and in the household. The opposing view is held by those who refer to themselves as complementarians. The complementarian view believes in the essential equality of men and women as persons (i.e., as human beings created in God’s image), but complementarians hold to gender distinctions when it comes to functional roles in society, the church and the home.

An argument in favor of complementarianism can be made from 1 Timothy 2:9-15. The verse in particular that seems to argue against the egalitarian view is 1 Timothy 2:12, which reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Paul makes a similar argument in 1 Corinthians 14 where he writes, “The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says” (1 Corinthians 14:34). Paul makes the argument that women are not allowed to teach and/or exercise authority over men within the church setting. Passages such as 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9 seem to limit church leadership “offices” to men, as well.

Egalitarianism essentially makes its case based on Galatians 3:28. In that verse Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The egalitarian view argues that in Christ the gender distinctions that characterized fallen relationships have been removed. However, is this how Galatians 3:28 should be understood? Does the context warrant such an interpretation? It is abundantly clear that this interpretation does damage to the context of the verse. In Galatians, Paul is demonstrating the great truth of justification by faith alone and not by works (Galatians 2:16). In Galatians 3:15-29, Paul argues for justification on the differences between the law and the promise. Galatians 3:28 fits into Paul’s argument that all who are in Christ are Abraham’s offspring by faith and heirs to the promise (Galatians 3:29). The context of this passage makes it clear Paul is referring to salvation, not roles in the church. In other words, salvation is given freely to all without respect to external factors such as ethnicity, economic status, or gender. To stretch this context to also apply to gender roles in the church goes far beyond and outside of the argument Paul was making.

What is truly the crux of this argument, and what many egalitarians fail to understand, is that a difference in role does not equate to a difference in quality, importance, or value. Men and women are equally valued in God’s sight and plan. Women are not inferior to men. Rather, God assigns different roles to men and women in the church and the home because that is how He designed us to function. The truth of differentiation and equality can be seen in the functional hierarchy within the Trinity (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3). The Son submits to the Father, and the Holy Spirit submits to the Father and the Son. This functional submission does not imply an equivalent inferiority of essence; all three Persons are equally God, but they differ in their function. Likewise, men and women are equally human beings and equally share the image of God, but they have God-ordained roles and functions that mirror the functional hierarchy within the Trinity.

Scripture is not completely clear whether or not a woman can serve as a deacon. The statement that deacons are to be “men worthy of respect” (1 Timothy 3:8 NIV) and the qualification “the husband of but one wife” (1 Timothy 3:12) would seem to disqualify women from serving as deacons.

However, some interpret 1 Timothy 3:11 as referring to women deacons because the Greek word translated “wives” can also be translated “women.” According to this interpretation, Paul is referring not to deacons’ wives, but to women who serve as deacons. The use of the word likewise in verse 8 could suggest a third group of leaders in addition to elders and deacons. Also supporting this interpretation is the fact that Paul gives no requirements for elders’ wives when outlining the qualifications for eldership. Why would he list qualifications for deacons’ wives but not for elders’ wives? Elders hold a more prominent position in the church, yet Paul places no demands on their wives.

Arguing against interpreting “deacon’s wives” as “female deacons” is the fact that it would be unusual for Paul to give qualifications for deacons in verses 8-10 and 12-13, with qualifications for deaconesses in between.

Romans 16:1 refers to Phoebe with the same word Paul uses in 1 Timothy 3:12. It is unclear, though, whether Paul is saying Phoebe is a deacon or whether he is just saying she is a servant. In the early church, women servants cared for sick believers, the poor, strangers, and those in prison. They instructed women and children (Titus 2:3-5). Phoebe may not have had the official designation of “deacon” but Paul thought enough of her to entrust her with the tremendous responsibility of delivering the epistle to the Romans to the church in Rome (Romans 16:1-2). Clearly, he saw her not as inferior or less capable, but as a trusted and valued member of the body of Christ.

Scripture does not give much support to the idea of women serving as deacons, but it does not necessarily disqualify them, either. Some churches have instituted the office of deaconess, but most differentiate it from the office of deacon. If a church does institute the position of deaconess, the church leadership should ensure that the deaconess is in submission to the restrictions Paul places on the ministry of women in other passages (such as 1 Timothy 2:11-12), just as all leadership is to be in submission to the church authority structure and ultimately to our supreme authority, Christ Jesus.

There are two primary viewpoints on the question of whether women can serve as elders in the church. The egalitarian view holds that women can serve as elders as long as they fulfill the requirements as outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The complementarian view affirms the opposite and states that women are not allowed to serve in the capacity of elder within the church of Jesus Christ.

Let’s look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7: “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (ESV)

The first thing to notice in this passage is the number of masculine pronouns (“he” and “his”). The pronouns “he,” “his,” and “him” occur 10 times in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. As a result, just a cursory reading of this passage would lead the average person to conclude that the role of an elder/overseer must be filled by a man. The phrase “husband of one wife” also indicates that the office of elder is assumed/intended to be fulfilled by men. The same points are also made in the parallel passage of Titus 1:5-9.

The passages that describe the qualifications and duties of elders/overseers do not open the door for women to serve as elders. In fact, the consistent use of male pronouns and terminology argue strongly for the office of elder/overseer being restricted to men only. As with other issues in this debate, the question of women serving as elders is not a matter of chauvinism. In no sense is this a matter of men being superior to women. Rather, God restricts the office of elder to men only because that is how He has structured the church to function. Godly men are to serve as leadership, with women serving in the crucially important supporting roles.

The Bible spells out at least five duties and obligations of an elder:

1) The elders help to settle disputes in the church. “While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the Christians ‘unless you keep the ancient Jewish custom of circumcision taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’ Paul and Barnabas, disagreeing with them, argued forcefully and at length. Finally, Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question” (Acts 15:1-2, NLT). The question was raised and forcefully argued, then taken to the apostles and elders for a decision. This passage teaches that elders are decision makers.

2) They pray for the sick. “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). Since the elders have to meet specific qualifications, their lives are godly and therefore the sin in their lives is minimal and is confessed regularly; therefore, they are used to pray for the sick. One of the necessities in prayer is praying for the Lord’s will to be done, and they are expected to do this.

3) They are to watch out for the church in humility. “I exhort the elders who are among you, I being also an elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed. Feed the flock of God among you, taking the oversight, not by compulsion, but willingly; nor for base gain, but readily; nor as lording it over those allotted to you by God, but becoming examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:1-4). Elders are the designated leaders of the church, and the flock is entrusted to them by God. They are not to lead for the pay or the reward but because of their desire to serve and shepherd the flock.

4) They are to watch out for the spiritual life of the flock. “Yield to those leading you, and be submissive, for they watch for your souls, as those who must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17). This verse does not specifically say “elders,” but it is talking about the church leaders. They are accountable for the spiritual life of the church.

5) They are to spend their time in prayer and teaching the word. “And the Twelve called near the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word’” (Acts 6:2-4). This is for the apostles, but we can see from the passage above in #3 that Peter equates himself as an apostle and an elder. From this verse you can also see the difference between the duties of elder and deacon.

Simply put, the elders should be peacemakers, prayer warriors, teachers, leaders by example, and decision makers. They are the preaching and teaching leaders of the church. It is a position to be sought but not taken lightly—read this warning: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). The role of elder is not a position to be taken lightly.

There is perhaps no more hotly debated issue in the church today than the issue of women serving as pastors/preachers. As a result, it is very important to not see this issue as men versus women. There are women who believe women should not serve as pastors and that the Bible places restrictions on the ministry of women, and there are men who believe women can serve as preachers and that there are no restrictions on women in ministry. This is not an issue of chauvinism or discrimination. It is an issue of biblical interpretation.

The Word of God proclaims, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11–12). In the church, God assigns different roles to men and women. This is a result of the way mankind was created and the way in which sin entered the world (1 Timothy 2:13–14). God, through the apostle Paul, restricts women from serving in roles of teaching and/or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors over men, which definitely includes preaching to them, teaching them publicly, and exercising spiritual authority over them.

There are many objections to this view of women in pastoral ministry. A common one is that Paul restricts women from teaching because in the first century, women were typically uneducated. However, 1 Timothy 2:11–14 nowhere mentions educational status. If education were a qualification for ministry, then the majority of Jesus’ disciples would not have been qualified. A second common objection is that Paul only restricted the women of Ephesus from teaching men (1 Timothy was written to Timothy, the pastor of the church in Ephesus). Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, and women were the authorities in that branch of paganism—therefore, the theory goes, Paul was only reacting against the female-led customs of the Ephesian idolaters, and the church needed to be different. However, the book of 1 Timothy nowhere mentions Artemis, nor does Paul mention the standard practice of Artemis worshipers as a reason for the restrictions in 1 Timothy 2:11–12.

A third objection is that Paul is only referring to husbands and wives, not men and women in general. The Greek words for “woman” and “man” in 1 Timothy 2 could refer to husbands and wives; however, the basic meaning of the words is broader than that. Further, the same Greek words are used in verses 8–10. Are only husbands to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing (verse 8)? Are only wives to dress modestly, have good deeds, and worship God (verses 9–10)? Of course not. Verses 8–10 clearly refer to all men and women, not just husbands and wives. There is nothing in the context that would indicate a narrowing to husbands and wives in verses 11–14.

Yet another objection to this interpretation of women in pastoral ministry is in relation to women who held positions of leadership in the Bible, specifically Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the Old Testament. It is true that these women where chosen by God for special service to Him and that they stand as models of faith, courage, and, yes, leadership. However, the authority of women in the Old Testament is not relevant to the issue of pastors in the church. The New Testament Epistles present a new paradigm for God’s people—the church, the body of Christ—and that paradigm involves an authority structure unique to the church, not for the nation of Israel or any other Old Testament entity.

Similar arguments are made using Priscilla and Phoebe in the New Testament. In Acts 18, Priscilla and Aquila are presented as faithful ministers for Christ. Priscilla’s name is mentioned first, perhaps indicating that she was more prominent in ministry than her husband. Did Priscilla and her husband teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to Apollos? Yes, in their home they “explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). Does the Bible ever say that Priscilla pastored a church or taught publicly or became the spiritual leader of a congregation of saints? No. As far as we know, Priscilla was not involved in ministry activity in contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:11–14.

In Romans 16:1, Phoebe is called a “deacon” (or “servant”) in the church and is highly commended by Paul. But, as with Priscilla, there is nothing in Scripture to indicate that Phoebe was a pastor or a teacher of men in the church. “Able to teach” is given as a qualification for elders, but not for deacons (1 Timothy 3:1–13; Titus 1:6–9).

The structure of 1 Timothy 2:11–14 makes the reason why women cannot be pastors perfectly clear. Verse 13 begins with “for,” giving the “cause” of Paul’s statement in verses 11–12. Why should women not teach or have authority over men? Because “Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived” (verses 13–14). God created Adam first and then created Eve to be a “helper” for Adam. The order of creation has universal application in the family (Ephesians 5:22–33) and in the church.

The fact that Eve was deceived is also given in 1 Timothy 2:14 as a reason for women not serving as pastors or having spiritual authority over men. This does not mean that women are gullible or that they are all more easily deceived than men. If all women are more easily deceived, why would they be allowed to teach children (who are easily deceived) and other women (who are supposedly more easily deceived)? The text simply says that women are not to teach men or have spiritual authority over men because Eve was deceived. God has chosen to give men the primary teaching authority in the church.

Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism, and helps. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on women. Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5), only from having spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), and to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:18–20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).

God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are necessarily better teachers or because women are inferior or less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. Women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3–5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors to men. This does not make women less important, by any means, but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and His gifting of them.