I recently received a comment from a person who attends the church where Chuck Swindoll serves as Teaching Pastor:
"I attend Chuck Swindoll's church in Frisco, Texas. This past Sunday he indicated that the biblical way to choose Elders is for them to be hand selected by the existing elder board (slowly, carefully, with much investigation and with God's leading). He specifically called out Southern Baptists indicating that the Bible does not sanction congregational voting for elders/deacons and specifically that women cannot be elders. What are your thoughts?"A few thoughts for my anonymous Internet friend:
(1). The mistake many pastors make is spiritualizing the legal and legalizing the spiritual. A 501C-3 non-profit is a legal corporation. It is not a spiritual entity.
Every state requires a 501C-3 non-profit entity (like churches) to incorporate. On the legal incorporation papers the "officers" of the non-profit are listed. These individuals-- and only these individuals--are those who have the legal authority and carry the fiduciary responsibility for that non-profit (according to the state). Is Chuck Swindoll saying he believes a woman cannot have this "legal authority?" Surely not. I'm sure he would argue his wife can have legal authority. Never in Scripture is a woman forbidden from entering into a legal contract, engaging in commercial activity or obtaining and kind of personal legal authority. Lydia sold purple dye. Phoebe sailed from Cenchrea to Rome on a commercial ship (carrying in the folds of her robe the letter to the Romans). To say that "only men" can have legal authority (i.e. be officers of a non-profit, whether they be called elders, trustees, etc...) is illogical, impractical, and bordering on the absurd.
So what Pastor Chuck must be doing is making the mistake of spiritualizing the legal. What he must be saying is that a woman cannot have "spiritual authority." The problem with Swindoll's view is his infatuation with spiritual authority. He thinks that a woman cannot have spiritual authority "over a man." Where he gets this view is an absolute mystery to me, but he is not the only one infected with it. The problem is not his view of gender, the problem is his view that anybody but Jesus Christ can have spiritual or moral authority over another believer. The Bible teaches that men and women should be "servants of all" and nobody should seek or desire to have moral or spiritual "authority" over anyone. Evangelical men seem infatuated with obtaining this spiritual authority and preventing women from having it. The problem is their infatuation with spiritual authority.
In New Testament scriptures Jesus Christ is the Head, the sole authority over every single believer in terms of spiritual life and moral well-being. Each believer in Jesus Christ (both male and female) is a priest unto God (i.e. "the priesthood of the believer"), modeling for the world what it means to walk with God. Christians serve one another, encourage one another, and help one another, but the moment somebody tries to take a position of spiritual authority over another person he or she has crossed a line in terms of New Testament Christianity. Again, the mistake Swindoll is making is spiritualizing the legal and legalizing the spiritual. The state mandates that certain people within a 501C-3 non-profit have legal authority. The true church of Jesus Christ is not a 501C-3 non-profit. The church is not a building. The church is the woman with the Spirit of Christ living in her. The church is the man with the Spirit of Christ living in him. The church is the people who love Christ, and the only spiritual authority over those people is Christ Himself. Period. If some Christians gather together corporately and start a 501C-3 non-profit, then of course, there are people who will be handed "legal authority" but nowhere does Scripture state females cannot have authority.
(2). When a "group of men" hand select those who are to have spiritual authority over "the church," a country club of men begins to establish itself as rulers of the church--an action strictly forbidden by Christ. The difference between boys and men is the size of their toys. Boys want to boss neighborhood kids for the purpose of being seen as boss and having first choice of all the prizes. Men want to boss adults for the same reason, though the prizes are different (bigger and better). This ought not be among Christians.
Evangelical men should want to serve all and rule over none. It is my view that the #1 problem in the evangelical church does not revolve around gender issues, nor financial issues, nor doctrinal issues. The #1 problem in the evangelical church revolves around the desire of evangelical men to grab hold of spiritual authority in the church. Jesus Christ said the pagans "bestow titles and give positions of authority," but He said to His followers "it shall not be so among you!" (Mark 10:43). Anywhere there is an attempt to grab authority and positions of spiritual power, or hold on to authority and positions of power (re-electing boards of elders by elders choosing elders) then you are in a church where Ichabod may be written across threshold. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that a Christian, because of title or position, has moral authority over another Christian.
For those who use the Hebrews 13 passages to support "moral and spiritual authority over other Christians," I would urge you to listen to a message from those texts.
(3). Now I am about to make a statement that will cause some of my evangelical friends to chaff, but here goes:
"In the same manner a homosexual family is distinctly dysfunctional by having two men serve as mother/father to their children, a parental role designed by God to include both genders, so too an evangelical church that only allows only men in "leadership positions" is as dysfunctional as a homosexual marriage because gifted women are excluded."There is a distinct feel to a church that is infatuated with "male authority." Power, control, a lack of freedom, pride, aggression, deceit and spiritual abuse are usually present. Functioning in life in a manner that is opposite of the way God designed us is to bring all kinds of pain into the family of God. Churches that allow men to continue in the belief that they have some kind of power or "inherent authority" over women is to continue in a anti-New Covenant and anti-Christ model.
In the New Covenant, Jesus gave to His co-heirs in the Kingdom -- including all who are slave and free, those who are both rich and poor, male and female, black and white -- all the riches of His grace. We are equals when it comes to spiritual authority. Jesus Christ is the Head of His church, and the notion that the church of Jesus Christ should go back to the forms and function of Old Covenant Judaism (male priests, sanctuary rituals, etc...) is totally contrary to the teaching of the New Testament Scriptures.
So... I don't know if I told you what you wished to hear, but those are my thoughts.