Visitor at Church

October 17, 2005

I did the message at both services yesterday since the pastor was out of town. It used the text from Luke 15:1-3 and 11-32 (the Prodigal Son parable). I talked first about our prodigal relationship with God but then also talked about the Father’s love and compassion and that we’re supposed to have that same love and compassion for everyone else–running out into the streets to welcome and put rings and sandals on all who are lost.

After the late service, there was a lady who was a visitor who came to the door to shake my hand and “put me in my place.” Here is what I remember about our conversation:

Her: I’m from the Church of Christ. Young lady, you need to read First Corinthians 14 and learn your place!
Me: Well, we were glad you could join us today! (great big smile)
Her: Where’s the minister today?
Me: Well, he’s on vacation.
Her: Aren’t there any men…?
I just stared at her.
Her: You need to read your Bible and find out your correct call from God.
Me: With all due respect, Ma’am, I believe that I have found my call from God.
Her: You read First Corinthians 14 and find the right one.
Me: Well, thanks for coming (even bigger smile.)

She walks out the door and I burst into tears. She went on from there to talk to another church member who informed her that our denomination has been ordaining women for a good number of years now. She told him that he should read his Bible.

All afternoon, I received many encouraging words and apologies from church members who were sorry that this woman said these things to me. I’m fine, of course. I’ve heard these arguments before and I’ve struggled with the Scriptures before. When you’re a woman working in a southern church, you are confronted from time to time by perfectly nice people who do not think that women should preach or teach in church. I had just never faced this sort of belief and attitude within the safety of my own church’s sanctuary.

Now she is a woman who is perfectly entitled to believe what she wants to believe. But so am I. And I’m a woman who believes that God does not issue me a call based on whether or not I am male or female. Who is she to sit in the same room with me for an hour and try to tell me that I haven’t heard my call from God correctly? What gives her the right to make a determination about how well I know or don’t know the Bible based only the fact that I’m a woman who stood in the front of the church and spoke?

Our choir director came to me after the whole thing, when word had gotten around about what our guest had said and he came and said, “I heard you had a visit from Satan this morning.” Everyone around me kind of laughed and he said, “No, listen, Satan comes to every church on Sunday morning. He made himself known this morning.” I understood that he wasn’t making a joke and calling this particular woman Satan, but rather that her words were intended to sow doubt and discouragement.

In Genesis 3, when Eve met the serpent in the garden, the serpent sowed doubt: “Did God really say that you weren’t supposed to eat that fruit? Are you sure that’s really what God said? Are you sure that God would really want you to not eat that wonderful fruit?” In the same way, this woman was perhaps asking, “Are you sure you have heard your call from God? Are you really sure that you know that God wants you to speak his word? Are you sure that’s what God would really want–for you to do it?”

Well, I’m a little wiser and a little more resolute in my beliefs, rather than doubting or discouraged.

I’m not saying that this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me–or even a terrible thing at all. It’s not as if I really have any reason to feel marginalized or angry. After all a great many groups of people besides women have been treated far worse than this. I don’t think it needs to be a huge issue–I know that it’s not for our church. But I do think that I have the right to feel that I am just as worthy of a call from God than anyone and I shouldn’t have to feel like maybe I’m doing something wrong just because I’m a woman. I also can look at the whole Bible and see that God has used women throughout the ages to bring about his truth, his justice, and his kingdom to earth.

Oh, and I’m giving the message at next Sunday’s early service. The Scripture? First Corinthians 14.

14 responses to Visitor at Church

  1. Niklas & Katie Lorentzon October 17, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    You go Becky!

    I love ya and I believe that you have most definitely got your calling right and that it is most definitely from God!

    Preach it girl!

    I am behind you 100%!

  2. The devil is such a dork… you just fight him back, Becky! He throws the word of God at you in a wrong way and you throw the word of God right back into his face. If that lady would read the Bible she would find out there is seemingly a “contradiction” to 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, in 1 Corinthians 11:5… and then she would seek God for understanding. Paul said every woman that prays and PROPHESIES. How can a woman prosphesy if she is not allowed to speak in the church? And what is prophesy, “3But everyone who prophesies SPEAKS to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” And they do it in the church… for the believers (1 Cor. 14:22) She should be more worried about you not having something on your head than you speaking. But that’s an entirely different issue that I don’t want to go into right now and still don’t understand myself.

  3. Well, I for one respect this woman for being so bold as to speak up. I have my own opinions on where women’s “place” is. (If I can even use such a downgrading term) But, I don’t think I have the right to judge her for her belief just like I don’t judge Becky for preaching the Word of God. I would; however, tell this woman that she has contradicted herself. She herself by trying to direct Becky in the “right” way did the same thing Becky did. Spoke in church. If she truly believed what she professed she should would have kept silent and learned her place. 🙂 I do not think the Satan comment was a joke. I think it was hurtful and Christians should love this woman just like they would an unbeliever. We should never let law disagreements override our obligation to love.

  4. Tamara, I didn’t think the satan comment was a joke either, but I don’t think that he was calling this woman satan. I think that he was comparing her words to the words that satan uses to sow doubt. I promise that our music minister was not saying that this woman was satan, but rather that satan works by sowing doubt about our calls from God.

    Also, it may have sounded judgmental what I said about this woman. I don’t feel like I have the right to tell her what to believe and what not to believe. I was very kind to her. But I feel that what she believes is hurtful in many ways to me and to other women that God has called into his service. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs and I’m no worse for the wear that she shared them with me.

    This is a tough issue for each woman that believes that God has called her to speak his truth. I don’t take that lightly at all–I’ve done my share of struggling with all of the scriptures. But I have a hard time handling it when someone feels that she can determine in one hour what it has taken me 27 years to figure out (my call).

  5. yeah. don’t listen. Its what you say thats important.

  6. Becky sweetheart I wasn’t implying you were judging her. I am glad you responded in love. I was just making general comment. 🙂 You know I am very proud to have a friend speaking God’s word. Mary was the first to proclaim the ressurection!

  7. Hi Becky;

    Via his blog, Dave Bones sent me over here.

    I find your post disturbing. Not because I know you. Not because I’m PCUSA. Because I am profoundly bothered that a “sister” of my faith (no, I am NOT Church of Christ), is so caught up in a spirit of legalism that she has forgotten her very Christianity.

    I would never, never, come into YOUR house and attempt to foster MY values on you and yours. To do such a thing is profoundly wrong.

    Isn’t it odd that she points to 1Cor 14 as her “proof text” for knowing your place? A chapter whose main thrust is speaking in tongues, which the Church of Christ has dissed for years.

    But maybe we can forgive the woman a little bit? 1Cor 14:34 says “Let your women keep silence in the churches….” Taken at face value, it seems to be pretty direct doesn’t it? Of course, you have to read the verse completely out of context in order to interpret it the way the Church of Christ has obviously taught her to interpret it.

    You have to completely ignore that Paul is talking about orderly worship. You have to completely ignore that the church in Corinth most probably was worshiping in the model of the Synagogue … i.e., with women on one side of the isle and men on the other, and that Paul was addressing women talking to their husbands across the isle and disrupting the service. You have to completely ignore that the same admonishment is implied for the man. That Paul was saying in modern vernacular, if you are not part of the service … HUSH!

    A far more difficult verse is the one in 1Tim 2:12 “But I suffer not a woman to teach ….” I’ve struggled with that one for a while now. I don’t write it off, but I attribute it to the culture Paul was a part of.

    I do think it’s a good idea to respect the judgement that God decreed in Genesis 3. I think it’s a good idea to respect the heirarchical relationship of man and wife as espoused in Eph 5. But I do not think there is sufficient evidence in scripture to disallow women from serving, and yes, that means speaking, in the Church. I’m not sure I would be comfortable with a woman pastor, but you never know. Our youth pastor until not long ago was a woman, so hey.

    My wife was the first female on our church’s board of trustees, so hey. A woman preached my father’s funeral, so hey. My daughter (female, by the way) was blessed by a woman from Israel with a prophetic ministry, so again, hey.

    Do you use instruments in your worship service? Church of Christ folks normally get really spun up about that as well. Much of the Church of Christ believes that they are the only ones going to heaven … really.

    So how do you fight such archaic and legalistic ideas? Education, education, and more education.

    I wish you well in your ministry and may your walk with God be a fruitful one.

  8. Do you all speak in tongues? That was a very contraversial subject in my church too. I was up for it. No idea what i was saying. I still do it sometimes. Those who were “for” had a better more “liberated” energy about them than those against.

    Is your daughter a prophet? (or prophetess?) I had a “word of prophesy” once and it came true. I think I wrote about it in sparkleland once.

  9. I think the arguements for speaking in tongues were that it was blatantly written about in the bible and the arguements against boiled down to it being strange in western middle class terms and it “looked funny”

  10. Tamara, I wasn’t offended or anything. I just wanted to clarify because I honestly believe that this woman is probably a very nice woman who really felt like she should speak up when she saw something wrong. I’m just not sure it was the right thing to do and I definitely was hurt by her words.

    R & B–Thanks for your comments and your teaching. It is ironic that she quoted 1 Cor 14, considering. I never would have brought that up to her, probably, since I really didn’t want to get into an argument with her, but it’s interesting to think about. I’m sure that there are many other passages of the Bible that she doesn’t take at face value as she does the 1 Cor 14 passage she quoted.

    Dave–I agree that there have been a lot of excuses made in many denominations about the “tongues” passages of the Bible. And I agree that it seems to be mostly because it seems “weird” or “too out there” for the church. I think there are lot of churches that quench the Spirit in a lot of ways simply because it’s not comfortable.

  11. You really are a “Happy Clappy”, arntcha Dave? You have the gift of tongues? Now, that’s amazing!

    I don’t have that gift, but I know how to sing “in the Spirit” and am plenty happy with that. I also have the gift of teaching, etc. I have no problem whatsoever with the gift of tongues and in fact think it’s cool. If God sees fit to give it to me, I’ll accept it happily. But as Paul said, I’d rather have the gift of prophecy, if I had to choose.

    My daughter is 5, so it would be a bit early yet to have the gift of prophecy. She says very pretty prayers, though.

    For Church of Christ folks, and perhaps others, “dissing” the gift of tongues has to do with what I regard as a misinterpretation of 1Cor 13:10 (really, 8-10). NKJV states “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.”

    The word rendered “perfect” in the English really means “mature” in the Greek. Basically, the idea is that the church is now mature so that the gift of tongues (and others) is no longer required. I look at the behavior of many Christians, at church splits, and wars over doctrine, and I don’t see a mature church. I see a bride that still needs some growing up before she’s ready for the wedding feast. So I see no evidence that an obscure three verses taken out of context can be applied to a gift that is spoken of at length elsewhere.

    It’s odd though, that churches that practice the gift of tongues in their worship service seem to feed off of emotion and worship the “experience”, checking their theological intellect at the door. Churches that do not practice tongues seem to be more cerebral and in essence, check the experience at the door. I see no reason for either extreme.

    There are all sorts of tensions in the Bible that we must deal with. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling every day. If it was a cakewalk, God would end up with a bunch of girly-men Christians. Who wants that?

  12. yes. the divide could have been seen as intellect vs. emotion. it was such a long time ago I left it. 20 years. I see a divide now between christians who are in it to be judgemental and divide themselves from “evil doers” and christians who actually care about other people. I hate the former sort and love the latter.

    You and sparkle are definately the later despite being republicans!

    more power to you.

  13. Ouch!

    Despite being Republicans? I appreciate the compliment, but it certainly isn’t Democrats that make up the majority of those that are the opposit of judgemental.

    I tried reading left-leaning blogs when I first got into the blogosphere, but couldn’t stand the vitriol and hate-speak.

    Of course, I spend at least half of my time now reading edgy UK types that lean so far left I get dizzy during the process. Why is that Bones? You’ve hooked me on blogs by people that I have absolutely nothing in common with. But a bunch of them certainly write well.

    Oh, excuse us, Becky. Dave Bones and I just wander the internet having these conversations …

  14. Hi,
    Found you via a link from Hennyfair :-). Just wanted to say, from one “Preacher Girl” to another– keep on preaching!!!!! Blessings to you!!!!