How do women “usurp authority” in the church?

What happens when women take away the authority that God gave to the men of the church? If you are reading this post, you might want to read my post, What does “be in silence” mean for women in church? here, or you can scroll down and read the previous one before this post.

Let me tell you a true story. A young woman attended a church. When any man would say something—on any subject—she would interrupt and correct him. “No,” she would say, “It’s like this.” And she proceeded to give her opinion. She did this during the church services and before and after church.

(Now, there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, and there’s usually nothing wrong with giving one’s personal opinion, even if it differs from others.)

Most of the men in the church showed great patience with this young woman. But, some of them argued with her, and others got very quiet.

After a while, several of the men voiced their concerns to the pastor. (We’ll call the woman Susie, not her real name.) “Susie always tells me I am wrong.” “Susie is hard to get along with, so I don’t know how to talk to her. I just let her talk, and I try to bite my tongue.”

What Susie didn’t understand was that she was undermining the authority of the men in her church. Instead of arguing with her, the majority of the men grew quiet.

The same thing often happens in the home. In order to avoid conflict, a man whose wife contradicts him will become quiet, even cold and evasive.

God knows that most men deal with conflict in one of two ways: they get mad, or they withdraw. Can you see why it’s a great idea for a woman to keep quiet in a mixed meeting at church? There will be less cause for anger and less motivation for the men of the church to withdraw. When the men of the church step back, they do not rise to the occasion and serve as leaders in the church. To avoid confrontation, they simply let the women lead.

We know that all the biblical church leadership roles in the congregation are for men. Two of the requisites are “the husband of one wife” and being an effective head of his household. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…. (1 Timothy 3:2) Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well (1 Timothy 3:12). Ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly (Titus 1:5b-6).

What happens in many churches, though, is a few women step up and take the lead. This is what the Bible is talking about when it uses the term usurping authority in 1 Timothy 2:12.

The truth is that many women are very capable. Some are great organizers. Others are good teachers. Lots of women are able to do many things in Christian work. And, most of our pastors, evangelists, and deacons could not do what they do without their wives.

There are lots of things women can do in the church—indeed, are supposed to do. Mentoring, teaching women and children, leading women, helping in practical ways, hospitality, organization, secretarial work, interpreting, music ministry, visitation, witnessing, etc. The list goes on and on.

The one thing she is not to do is take away the leadership from the men of the church by speaking out in a mixed meeting in church.

Does this mean a woman cannot share a testimony?

Can she pray?

May she sing or provide music?

Let’s take these three questions one at a time.

A testimony is telling others what God did for you. It is sharing your story. Does this take authority from the men of the church? Let’s suppose the woman is a missionary, and she is going to Country X. The pastor asks her to give her personal testimony of salvation. The woman tells how she came to know Christ and then sits down. Did she take away the pastor’s authority? No. Not at all.

Maybe a woman—I have personally heard this—turns her testimony into a mini message and challenges all in the congregation. She actually preaches to the group before her. In doing so, she has taken away the authority from the pastor and, if married, also her husband. This is not right.

Can she pray? It is perfectly fine for a woman to pray silently in church. Some churches practice that all the people pray aloud simultaneously. Of course, women can pray aloud along with the body of believers. If men and women divide into prayer groups, of course a woman can lead other women in prayer.

Should a woman lead the congregation in prayer? No, I don’t think so. Why not? Simply because there are men present who can pray. Women are not to take leadership away from the men.

Let’s say several couples are together in a home setting—not a church congregation, but a social setting. They have a session of prayer together, going around the circle with each person praying. Can a woman participate? Yes, I think so. She is not taking away anyone’s authority, and this is not a church service.

May a woman sing or provide special music? It is hard to tell exactly what they did in the early New Testament churches. We know they sang hymns and used music in worship. Is a woman taking away the pastor’s authority when she sings? No. May she play an instrument or sing in the choir? Yes, of course.

A woman should not, though, exhibit herself. God values a meek (strength under control) and quiet (peaceful) spirit (1 Peter 3:4). I am afraid that many of the women in praise teams are both leading men and exalting themselves. (By the way, I’m sure that some have no clue and are perfectly sincere.)

Many on church platforms aren’t careful to be modestly dressed, and some actually lead the congregation in the worship part of the service. I cannot see that kind of a role for women anywhere in Scripture. If a woman is on the platform, she needs to allow the pastor or male music minister lead the service. She should also dress to please the Lord.

Have you thought of other questions? My post is already long, but please feel free to ask. I want to write one more blog post on this concept of women in the church. I think you’ll find it interesting.

2 Replies to “How do women “usurp authority” in the church?”

  1. Lou Ann, I’m so far behind in reading my email! Have been saving this one to read when I wouldn’t be interrupted. I love what you say here, and especially in regard to how men react to confrontational women. Anger or silence and withdrawal.

    In my counseling office, the one thing I would try to say as kindly as possible to women in difficult marriages was, “You need to stop talking. Be still. Listen to him. You’re wearing him out with words.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *