[NOTE: Recently, a video has been making the rounds introducing Lauren King as the new Preaching Intern for the 4th Avenue Church of Christ in Franklin, Tennessee. If you have not seen the video, it is embedded below this paragraph. Then, what follows, is an open letter to the congregation, sharing my heart about this matter.]
To the members of the 4th Avenue Church of Christ:
The next step has been taken, and it is safe to say that you made a big step. In fact, it is described as “a movement” that “is coming.” And, while I agree this is a movement that will take hold in many places, today I am sad. I would like to take a few moments to tell you why I am sad.
I have watched the video that shows your new preaching intern. The well-made video shows some snippets of the sermon as well as some behind-the-scenes interviews. None of that is disheartening. The video is well-done and engaging. But, like so many other things in our modern times, the content can be lost in the production value.
Your new preaching intern is female. Would some of you read that again? Would some of you read that and ask yourself, How did we get here? Some of you are proud of this moment, while others are disheartened, but you love that congregation so much that you just go along with it, so as not to disrupt anything.
But today, as I reflect on this “movement,” and that one sentence (“your new preaching intern is female”), I am sad.
First, I am sad that your Senior Minister thinks that Paul’s words carry so little weight. In his portion of the interview, he states,
What the Bible does is tells me about Jesus; and I don’t read Jesus through Paul. I read Paul through Jesus. And I think the churches of Christ are getting this, that we no longer read all of the Bible as equal.
Is Jesus the centerpiece of Scripture? There can be no doubt about that. If I may quote Paul (though he doesn’t carry the same weight as Jesus, apparently), “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). The message of Jesus was clearly the focal point of all that Paul, Peter, and others said and wrote.
However, was it not Jesus Himself who stated that the Holy Spirit would guide His apostles into all truth (John 14:25)? When Peter, Jude, James, and–yes–Paul wrote, were they not writing exactly what Jesus wanted them to share? And, should some of those teachings seem strange or even archaic to us today, does that indicate that Jesus did not mean them?
Your preacher has tried to take the easy way out. Sadly, he has taken a clear command and stated that it was nothing more than cultural. The line of thinking goes that Paul only meant this teaching for that ancient time and culture. He even states that there are only two passages that talk about this particular concept, and, should we believe that Paul meant it for anything beyond “Corinth and Ephesus,” we are stating that the apostle was “trying to undue the rest of Scripture.”
So, I guess God has to say it, what, at least three times to make a command binding? Or He had to have Paul’s teaching be corroborated by Jesus to make it binding? Such is the thinking.
But is the idea of male leadership in the church nothing more than a cultural construct? If we are going to affirm that “all Scripture is given by the inspiration of God” (sorry to quote from Paul again, but it is just so hard not to; 2 Timothy 3:16), then we must also take the rest of that passage into consideration. “All Scripture…is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
Please notice the first thing on that list. Paul did not say, “The ‘red letters’ are for doctrine.” He did not say, “Take the words of Jesus and throw mine out when setting your doctrine.” No, all Scripture is profitable for doctrine. We dare not take our proverbial knife and chop out the parts of Scripture we personally do not like and just chalk it up to a “cultural difference.”
But today I am also sad because an obviously talented young lady thinks that this is not only okay, but sanctioned by the Lord. Let me be clear: her gifts and abilities are evident. But I know a lot of talented ladies who also are willing to submit to the will of God, teaching only those allowed under the dictates of the New Testament. My wife, sister, and mother all have spoken at ladies’ days and taught numerous ladies’ classes. Each has encouraged men in private settings to be more faithful to the Lord’s way. My mother speaks 4 or more times each year to ladies at Polishing the Pulpit. But these talented ladies, and many, many others I could name, realize that God has clearly and timelessly stated that they are not to usurp authority over a man in public leadership within the church. That includes being an elder, and, yes, it includes the public proclamation of the Gospel when adult male Christians are present.
Additionally, today I am sad that this young lady speaks of such an issue as nothing more than a “tradition” among churches of Christ. I am more sad that she is not alone in this concept. Traditions are fine, but they are not worth fighting for. Doctrine is! As an example, Wednesday night Bible study is a tradition. Scripture nowhere states that a congregation must come together in the middle of the week for Bible study (or “prayer meeting,” or anything else). Over the years, though, these midweek services have become a tradition. If a congregation decides to move these services to Tuesday, or discontinue them altogether, I may not like that decision and may even consider it unwise, but since it is a tradition, it is not worth arguing about. That is a decision made by a local eldership for those people. The elders have that right to, in prayerful wisdom, make such a decision.
However, when Scripture has clearly spoken, we are no longer dealing in the realm of “tradition.” We are dealing in the realm of doctrine. Every time Scripture speaks to a matter, we must stand for Scripture and defend boldly what the Lord has stated. If 4th Avenue has some traditions that change over the years, so be it. That is your prerogative and I pray they help you grow closer to Christ and to one another. But if your leaders decide to change, add to, or ignore the clear teachings of Scripture, you must stand with Christ and not simply accept these things as changing some tradition.
Finally, I am sad today for a personal reason. I am sad that this video does not shock me. We all know that this so-called “movement” is coming, and will gain momentum quickly. Too many congregations have so long ago abandoned a willingness for standing for all Scripture, and I believe many more will follow this “movement.” When we think that we can pick and choose what parts of the New Testament to follow and what parts are irrelevant, videos like these will be more and more common.
As a lover of Christ, His Word, and His people, know that I am praying for you and your leaders. I want you to deeply consider all that Scripture has to say on every matter, and not make following Him all about your own personal preferences. If He is truly Lord, then He is to be obeyed.
If the video above did not work, click here to watch it on YouTube.