Tag Archive: women in leadership


This is a follow-on from yesterday’s most insightful passage about map-making from M. Scott Peck’s ‘The Road Less Traveled’ that i am busy reading and so make sure you have read that one first, but this is a little bit of a deeper look at the ramifications of it, specifically for my Jesus-following friends.

There is a much larger chance that you at some point or other have been subjected to the sung or chanted version of this little mantra:

 

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

The point being, that due to the size and vastness and complexity and enormousness of God and the smallness of us mere mortals in comparison, that no matter how big your view of God is [Who He is, how He speaks, what He looks like, how He works or reveals Himself to us, if He does at all] it is with all likelihood not going to match up with the reality of who God actually is.

A really poor analogy would be akin to a four year old child taking a look at the inner workings of a personal computer and expecting them to understand it. They will have an experience with what they see and they will understand it to the extent that their minds and vocabulary allow it to. But the reality is that their definition and understanding will fall so far short of what the truth and reality is. It is not the child’s fault. They simply don’t have the capacity to understand at that point.

So it is with God. And us. We can have some measure of understanding and some extent of experience, but if we ever decide that we have arrived at a comprehensive and complete understanding of who God is and how He works, then we are very likely going to look foolish.

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a box or theology or an understanding. Or a map. But it does definitely mean that we can’t hold the edges of those things too preciously. As with yesterday’s Peck passage, we need to be constantly shifting or revising our map as our knowledge and experience and conversations and learning dictate to us.

What is also super helpful is realising where we are taking our picture and understanding of God from. Most Christians would claim it is from the Bible. That was given to us to help us have a better understanding of God and His story and how and where we fit into it. I would agree with that in terms of intention, but i would also suggest that for so many people in the church, that is not their reality.

For example if your picture of God tells you that the preacher of a church [a man] has to shout and get worked up and have passion oozing out of every vein and pore for it to be an effective preach, then i don’t think you have been informed by the bible. I think you have been taught by the culture of the pentecostal church.

If your picture of God tells you that to worship Him you must raise your hands in the air and emotion must be present [you must feel the songs you are singing so they become more real] then you have not been informed by the Bible. You have likely been taught by the culture of the charismatic church.

If your understanding of God dictates that liturgy is the way to truly connect with your Creator and that the only person who is able to administer the communion bread dipped in wine [or wafer dipped in grape juice, because, you know] then it is likely that you have been influenced by the culture of the anglican or catholic church.

i am not saying for a second that any of those thoughts or ideas are necessarily in themselves wrong. What i am hoping is that each of us will look at the things we believe about God and church and christianity and really try and be more sure of what is directly taken from the Bible and what is definitely a message from God [One absolute we can hang our coat on is ‘Love God with all your heart, strength, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself!] and what things [some of which might be good and helpful, some less so] were merely aspects of the culture of the church we felt connected to, that we have taken on as a God thing.

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

It is helpful to have an idea of who God is and how He works. But it can be restrictive when we hold those as set boundaries that He is never able to break out of.

For example, before Moses, God had never spoken to anyone through a burning bush.

Before Balaam, God had never sent a message to a human by way of a donkey.

Before Jesus, God had never appeared to mankind as a baby or done many of the things Jesus did in quite the same way that He did them.

Does that mean God doesn’t speak through burning bushes, donkeys or babies? Not at all. It just meant He hadn’t yet. Until He had.

ENGAGE WITH YOUR MAP, CHURCH

i believe the map-adjusting concept is for everyone. But i especially believe the church needs to embrace it.

What makes it particularly tricky is the need to embrace it with discernment. There are many long-held beliefs and practices in the church today that are being challenged [women in leadership, the LGBT conversation, stance on abortion, death penalty, euthanasia and more] and these need to be looked at. But they do not need to be changed simply because they are being challenged. They need to be looked at through the lens 0f scripture and in community God’s heart, view and stance needs to be determined.

This should be an easy one as followers of Jesus have the Holy Spirit living in them helping to inform, guide and nudge in the right direction. Although we have seen too often people on both sides of a complicated conversation [take the death penalty for example] who are clearly Spirit-filled and yet coming to different conclusions.

So this is not easy stuff. But it is so incredibly important. Too often i see people chiming in on Facebook discussions or article comment feeds and throwing out a statement like ‘The bible says so’ without giving any reasoning [beyond often an out-of-context quoted verse] or backing for their statement. And too often, if you look a little deeper you can easily see that it is ‘my church culture’ or ‘the family understanding i was brought up with’ that is actually saying so.

The easiest way to be sure if it is God or the Bible that is doing the informing in a particular situation is to take a look at the Love being demonstrated. If Love is lacking or not evident at all, then it is quite easy to know we are not dealing with a God thing here. Because with God, Love is always the key and the heart. It doesn’t mean that Love won’t sometimes be a tough one to swallow or be interpreted as unloving [God does not tolerate sin easily. He does always continue to Love sinful people though] because a spoken Truth that points out that you are not behaving in a Godly way will not necessarily feel like the way we expect Love to feel. But if Love is absent, then God is as well. And that is a lesson the church could do well to focus more strongly on.

Where we have failed to Love, we have failed to bring/show/demonstrate God.

And any space on our map that is devoid of Love, needs an instant change [and quite possibly a significant one] to get us moving in the right direction.

Can you say/sing this with me?

“God, you’re bigger than my box

You’re bigger than my theology

You’re bigger than my understanding

You’re bigger than me.”

[For the next part looking at how adjusting your map means refusing to settle, click here]

“the Bible says so!”

end to an argument for a lot of people [who won’t necessarily give you a book, chapter and verse to make it easier on you but are pretty convinced in their heads that because they think something is true then surely the Bible must say so]

about a week ago i got involved in a ‘discussion’ on the ‘book [the less quotable one] where a pastor had posted a statement made by Bishop Tutu that had something to do with homosexuality and he was disagreeing with the statement… in the comments section i asked for clarification on one point because i was not sure what comment he was making on it and that’s where the fun began…

because a number of his followers jumped in to defend him and the sum total of some of their defense was “the bible says so!”

ah, so it must be true then, if it’s in the bible [which contains stories of polygamy, revenge, smashing tent pegs through peoples heads and so on, so maybe the mere fact that something is mentioned in the bible is not enough for starters – we may need a little more in terms of understanding context, intention of writer, original language it was written in, the story as a whole, the intended audience etc] or maybe not.

when Jesus encourages us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” [Matthew 22.37] perhaps He included the bit about the mind because He wanted us to use it?

the homosexuality argument is a case in point because too often people who have used the bible to back up their stance have used ridiculous out-of-context passages to do so – like picking a verse in deuteronomy that suggests homosexuality is wrong but choosing to ignore all the verses around it that say things like ‘A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.’ [verse 5], ‘Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.’ [verse 11] and of course, ‘If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die.’ [verse 22] which clearly they do not fight as vocally for.

another is the ‘prayer of Jabez’ theology where someone took a couple of verses in Chronicles, relating to one specific man’s specific prayer and God’s response to him:

‘Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.’ [1 Chronicles 4.9-10]

this prayer is given in narrative form rather than teaching form and it rides on the back of ‘Jabez was more honorable than his brothers’ which is not the heavily focused on part, and dwell even more on the ‘enlarge my territory’ bit than the ‘keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain’ phrase. and so people started praying this prayer religiously [superstitiously?] and expecting great things from God.

what is interesting is how we can do that to a short prayer one guy prays and yet no-one has come up with a best-selling ‘The Prayer of Job’ much longer prayers] with such winning phrases as, “May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’ That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine on it. May gloom and utter darkness claim it once more; may a cloud settle over it; may blackness overwhelm it.’ [Job 3.3-5]

you can add some of Isaiah and Jeremiah’s prayers into the mix as well. what may look like it works for a whole bunch of western christians in relative wealth and comfort [the prayer of Jabez] does not look the same at all if you put it into the mouths of Christ followers in countries where if you are caught following or converting to Jesus you are stoned to death or maybe those living in some of the poorer nations of the world. and it doesn’t work if you hold it up against the teachings of Jesus and Paul and the Bible story as a whole.

that would be like reading that King David slept with another man’s wife and that he was ‘a man after God’s own heart’ and so therefore we can sleep with other men’s wives. absolutely crazy. context is important, how it fits into the bible narrative as a whole, who the intended audience was and what the writer was trying to say.

the bible is written in a variety of different styles of writing and you cannot approach poetry the same way as narrative, or prophecy in the same way as teaching – we would never do that in english class and yet people do it with the bible all the time, because, say it with me, “the Bible says so”

this coupled with the fact that one of the biggest blights in the church today is that people do not know their bibles [largely because they do not read their bibles] and so it has become an even worse understood ‘i think the bible says so’ often coupled with a secret ‘because my pastor/favorite author/blogger said so’ and so our definitive declarative statement of ‘the Bible told me so’ has really been watered down to a sense of ‘this is my guess as to what God thinks about this one and i’m too lazy to really check it out for sure.’

it’s time for the church to love Jesus, and grow a brain! oh wait, God already gave us one of those… just start using it then.

in 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul writes, ‘Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is god’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil.’ [vs. 16-22]

now it does seem to be referring specifically to prophecies in that example, but i would suggest that principle needs to be true of any handling of God’s word – that of your pastor says it or if you read it in a book or if you feel like that would be God’s stance on a thing, then you need to go and test it – hold on to the good, avoid every kind of evil. test it by taking it back to the bible and seeing if it falls in line with Jesus teaching and with the overarching theme of the biblical narrative. test it by discussing it with people you know who you respect as people who generally love God and understand His Word. test it by inviting the Holy Spirit in your own heart to bear testimony.

if you hold to a stance that violence is wrong, then you need to read through the old testament again and realise that there is a lot of violence happening there [and a lot which is encouraged, ordered by or brought about by God] and so you might need to do some wrestling with some passages and some understanding of the story and with some authors who have written on the subject to figure out what God is saying about that today.

if you hold to the opinion that monogamy is God’s way for us, then you need to struggle through stories of Abraham, Jacob, David and many others and the face that polygamy doesn’t seem to be directly condemned in the Bible and possibly the closest to teaching on the topic is role-specific where deacons/elders are to be the man of one wife.

and so on. there are many things in the bible that if we start looking at them honestly, become areas that need much wrestling, discussion and prayer to determine exactly what God is and isn’t saying and to throw out a quick and simplistic “the Bible says so” often does not do our faith or our integrity or reputation [specifically to non-believers] any good.

God has given us a brain and He wants us to use it. Reading the Bible is a start. Getting to know and understand Scripture is great. And then effectively applying it to today’s world and context is a further great step. Doing that in community so others can help in areas that might be blind spots for you is a winner. Being able to hold different ideas in tension [which may not seem to work together – can God be just and Loving at the same time?] as well as taking the time to hear someone share their explanation on a topic you might have a strongly different opinion on and really see where they are coming from [women in leadership, tattoos, vegetarianism etc] are all ways of really helping you become more sure about what you believe. as well as having the brains to leave a gap for the possibility that ‘i might be wrong on this one despite how strongly i believe it.’

see also Critique vs Criticism unless you came here from reading that and then don’t or you’ll hit this time loop and if you see yourself the whole universe will implode or something…

%d bloggers like this: