The Woman Teacher

Over the past few weeks, I felt compelled to share here what I’ve come to believe about any opportunities I may have to teach or preach to a group that includes men.

Funny timing, because the next thing I knew, a friend wrote a similar post herself. It must have stirred up some controversy because she removed her original statements for now.  (It’s kinda difficult to tackle the likes of  1 Timothy 2: 11 – 12 without stirring up controversy! First Timothy 2:11 – 12, says “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence…”) Anyway, so after I read her blog posts, I thought I’d join the folks cheering her on for tackling a tough subject in the first place, and say, “here’s what I’ve come to believe…”

As you know, there are all kinds of interpretations of the women-teaching-men-in-church Scriptures. Most of them come down to two arguments:

1. The passages must be applied literally for us, just as they were for the original audience. These folks believe that women should not teach men.

2. The passages must be interpreted culturally. Paul was writing to an audience with starkly different gender roles, and was trying to promote peace and order in the worship services. He was suggesting worship rules that would benefit the women and men in his culture. These folks typically believe that women could – and often should – teach men.

Like many of you, I’ve wrestled over this topic so many times. I love to teach – was born to teach – and so, this topic has appeared often on my personal journey.  I never found peace for my turmoil, until God revealed this to me:

1. If the Scriptures are to be interpreted literally, I must conclude that I should not teach men. Period. It’s plain and simple. It’s just what the words themselves say.

2. If the Scriptures are to be interpreted culturally, I should imitate Paul’s examination of gender roles, carefully considering what would benefit both genders in my culture. I still come out with: I should not teach men.  It seems to me, that in our church culture, women are rocking-the-party with teaching each other, holding Bible studies, encouraging each other to dig deep into Scripture. It seems to me that many men struggle to do so. It seems to me that women prosper when their men are confident, wise, and able to teach. It seems to me, that the men in a church need open spaces before they step forward in leadership, teaching, or preaching. Of course, that’s just my cultural interpretation. But let me tell you about one specific experience that encouraged me greatly. About a year ago, I had the opportunity to decline a teach-men-in-church offer. Here’s what happened: because I did not fill the podium, a man did.  He spoke about prayer. At the end, he had the elders (all men) pray for people in need. One of the people they prayed for was me! They gathered our little family together and prayed that God would increase and bless us. (And has He ever!!) It was powerful to sit in the receiving position and watch all of these men work in the Lord. They were mobilized, empowered, strong. And, by choosing to refrain from the opportunity, I was mobilized, empowered, and strong, too.



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26 responses to “The Woman Teacher”

  1. grandmomruthie Avatar

    Well stated and thought through!

  2. Jenny Avatar

    Laura…any thoughts on the difference between ‘speaking’ and ‘preaching?’

    Since I have to ‘speak’ often…what is the difference? How do I do THAT without doing THAT?? 😉

  3. erin elizabeth Avatar
    erin elizabeth

    Just today I was teaching at THRIVE, and I had about 30 students (men and woman) listening intently to me teach about the importance of taking care of widows…and what God says about it in the Bible. It was the best lesson I think I have ever taught, but afterwards one of the students complained about how he thought as a women I should not be teaching men. I was blown away by this. I mean I heard of this argument before but I did not think that it mattered outside of a church.

    YEAH! I echo what Jenny asks… what’s the difference between speaking and preaching?

    I honestly think God has been giving me more and more gifts to do MORE speaking. I have no idea what to do. Praying……

  4. Jan Avatar

    Laura – I’d love to know your thoughts about women serving on a church board. I personally vote for the capable, willing men…if there was a shortage of them on our ballot, then I’d be inclined to vote for the capable, willing women… Happily, we have such a large number of people who choose to run/serve.

  5. Sarah Mae Avatar

    Laura, thank you for writing this – my thoughts exactly. I took down my post because I was convicted not so much about the topic, but that I called out a fellow sister in Christ, and I’m just not sure I should do that at this point.

    So very well said!

  6. Kristine McGuire Avatar

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on a difficult topic. I found what you said to be encouraging and thought provoking.

  7. jacquelyn Avatar

    I seem to remember that the reason Paul gives for this command is that a woman (Eve) was deceived and that by going outside her husband’s authority in taking a leadership role well… you know how that turned out. Like you said when a woman sees a need she is quick to jump in to fill it , while a man might deliberate for a while and miss his opportunity. Speaking = just that, sharing testimony, telling stories. Preaching = opening the scriptures and explaining, exhorting or encouraging from a position of leadership authority. Women are not stupider, weaker, less able or unqualified, they simply have different ways and audiences. Titus 2 exhorts older women to teach younger women in a way that only women can. — Wow, do I have an opinion on this or what? Thanks for being candid about this topic.

  8. Jesica Avatar

    Perhaps I am less conservative than I thought. 🙂
    I have always struggled over “those” passages, and have ultimately left much of the deciding on my speaking opportunities – to my husband. I find that it is much simpler to defer to him, as my “head”, than to discern what God wants or doesn’t want me to do in regards to this matter. I am positive He wants me to “submit” to my husbands authority, so I trust that when hubby gives me the go-ahead, I am in the clear – so to speak 🙂

    Thought provoking, and thus far, civil. That is good!

    I thought Jan had a good question about how this relates to women serving on boards and in other leadership positions. It is especially pertinent to me, since I was just asked to serve on the pastoral search team at our church.

  9. Theresa Avatar

    You bring up such a great point. Sometimes we women are ‘fixers’ to a fault. We jump in where a man might of, if we had just waited to let God lead him! In our day and age, men have become conditioned to let the women do things. Lack of capeable men has never been the problem. Women telling men they are incapeable, is the cultural norm. Women taking the man’s role before they even have the chance to deliberate, by default, they will take backseat. When a man has been beated down with the attitude of women that think they can do better, men lose heart and don’t even want to try. They begin to see the positive in taking the backseat, as it gets them out of doing work. Men lose respect, dignity and honor when they submit to this arrangement. HOWEVER, if we are women that chose to wait on the Lord, pray for Godly men, honor our hubbys and encourage them in their God given roles, our culture can be revolutionized! It all starts in the home! Men NOT stepping up would no longer be a problem.

  10. admin Avatar

    Thanks for all of your thoughts. This is a tough one isn’t it?!

    As for the question regarding women serving on boards and other leadership positions, I must say that I don’t really have a comprehensive answer for that yet. I do know that Scripture is quite clear that men should fill the roll of elders and pastors… but I’ll have to ruminate about that one…

    What do you girls think??

  11. Jessica Avatar

    Amen! I think all too often women complain about men being passive (especially spiritually passive) and yet it’s the women who are too quick to fill an empty role. If you don’t want a passive man give him an opportunity to step up and lead!

    And sometimes it feels like women approach the topic of teaching men as the highest form of teaching, when there are countless opportunities (and needs!) out there that need to be filled by women–that men cannot fill. I think it’s so sad to hear women say, “Oh, I can only teach ‘just’ women” and there they have regulated teaching women to be of lesser importance then teaching men.

    Alright…I’ll get off my soap box now. Thanks for tackling this subject.

  12. Kari Avatar

    I’ve always clung to this: Mary of Magdala came to the disciples, telling them: “I have seen the Lord!”, and telling them what he had said to her. John 20: 18

  13. S Club Mama Avatar

    I like this. I think women empower men when they allow men (is allow the right word here, I’m not sure but you understand) to lead and teach (just like a man being the head of a household).

    I’ll ask you because I agree with what you’ve said in this post – my husband & I had a discussion after church on Sunday about worship/praise/music. Should a woman lead that? My husband says no because it’s a leadership role that should be filled by a man. I say yes because she’s not “teaching” anything. What do you think?

  14. Sarah Avatar

    Acts 2:17 In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

    Luke 2:36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old.

    Judges 4:4 Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.

    Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.

    Galatians 3:23-28 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

    Remember also Miriam (Moses sister), Huldah, Priscilla (one of Paul’s supporters who had a church in her own home), Philip’s daughters, Mary Magdalene (as stated above who preached the first Easter sermon), Tabitha/Dorcas (who was so important to the early church that she was resurrected by Peter after she died), and Junia (who was “prominate among the apostles”).

    If you are going to use scripture to defend your view, I would hope that you would look at the whole of the Word rather than a couple of verses that have been used throughout history to oppress the call of God on women. Paul, the writer of Timothy, had numerous women that he turned to during his ministry. He specifically referred to them as apostles, prophetesses, and leaders of the church. Mary and Martha spent a lot of time with Jesus. He often retreated to their house and they were part of his ministry. When all of the other disciples abandoned Jesus, it was the WOMEN who went to the tomb and were the first witnesses of the Resurrection. If women were not supposed to be preachers, teachers, and leaders in the church, why did the Gospel writers talk so much about them and give them such significant roles?

    Men and women pastors do have different styles of preaching and leading. God designed us that way! There are specific things that women can offer (to either gender and for people at any age) that men just cannot. And those are often the very things that people in need need.

  15. Debbie Avatar

    Thank you so much for this great, thoughtful post.

    I think Titus 2 takes these thoughts even further and into a more specific application. A man can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be a wife & mother. A woman can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be a husband & father. It’s necessary for the senior men to teach the younger men and the senior women to teach the women in these ways. This is where teaching comes in. God has always called men to lead – and then when men (like Barak) wouldn’t lead, He allowed a woman to step in.

    And while Jesus had many women followers – even to the Cross – he only called men to be His disciples – and they went forth and shared the word. We can’t discount this fact. Within marriage, men are to lead and women are to submit – and the whole foundation of the nation of Israel was built upon the family who believed in God and followed His commands. This does not demean women in any way – it just provides order and structure – earned because of our sin natures. I am no less important because I am a woman – but if I strive to live outside of my role, it causes problems in my marriage and my family – which then ripples out to the community and so on… It is not that I need a man to interpret God’s Word for me to know God – but if God says a woman should not take authority over a man, then I need to listen.

  16. admin Avatar

    Sarah –

    Oh, how I have always loved the verses that you included! Thank you! They, amongst many other Scriptures, have been a part of my wrestling with this topic for many years. I guess I ended up on my particular interpretation because I *did* want to consider all of Scripture – including the couple of verses by Paul that have, sadly, been used to oppress women. I simply offered my current stance as a help to women who are wrestling with the same topic. For what it’s worth. As we can see from the verses you – and others – listed, we women can be used by the Lord in many powerful, proclaiming, glorious ways!

  17. Ruth Avatar

    Thank you so much for your willingness to speak on this topic. I think that this can become a very heated subject and I commend you for speaking your mind. I agree with you, only after we as women step down, will our men step up and become the leaders that God intended them to be. One thought about Deborah who was mentioned earlier. I wonder how much spiritual teaching she did, or maybe she had a more political role. It doesn’t appear that she was teaching scripture.
    Again, I think you are right that we as a whole church tends to thrive better when our men are in leadership.

  18. Mommy of two little blessings Avatar
    Mommy of two little blessings

    Hot Topic to be sure. I am of the same understanding, ladies have a very important role to teach the children and other ladies. As I scanned what others thought I was overjoyed that I am not alone in this understanding of scripture as the church of “today” seems to not live that out. They are of the understanding that if a woman can physically do the job and wants to then they can. It’s not that we “can’t” do the job, but there are plenty of things we need to do and when we step into the men’s roles of teaching the congrigation as a whole we leave the young ladies in the dust. When we get “busy” outside the home with our many roles in the church of deaconess and the like we forget about the mothers of young children. I am also aware of the fact that in several occasions women have been in the role of teaching, one that stuck in my mind was the one that was out by the tree that the people saught out. I regreat that I don’t remember her name, the Lord appointed her to lead. Think of all the things we GET to do as ladies in the body of Christ:
    Teach the children (in essence we are planting all sorts of seeds in doing this)
    Prayer worrior (again planting seeds and focus on conversing with Christ)
    Mentoring (lending a helping hand as often as we can find the time)
    Praise & Worship (lifting our hearts to the Lord)
    Not to mention all the things in the home that keep our feet hoping and our hands constantly moving. We are busy little bees without ever glansing at the position of “pastor”,”elder”, or “deacon”. We have been blessed to see some examples of a few ladies in the bible who have taken on these roles, but thank the Lord, we don’t need to with all the men who are both willing and able if we would just get out of their way. *big smile*
    Thank you so much for allowing me to share my thoughts here on this topic as well. I am truly amazed that more ladies didn’t share more like the one Sara did. She seems to have her lady teachers ready to go. *smile* I am truly greatful for the ladies in my past who were my teachers, mentors, and guidance leaders. I wish there were more now as I am a momma with two little ones who doesn’t get out much yet. To have an older sister in the Lord that would have the time and freedom to do home visits now and then would be lovely. I pray I remember this stage of my life when my season here is over. This is another hot topic for another day. I pray you are able to see the Lords guidance clearly as you grow in Him. And as for all the gals that made the time to share their thoughts, thanks. I enjoyed the encouragement as well as the sharpening. *smile* You are lovely and I appriciate you all sharing here. Know that God loves you and remember to pray always! *smile* Sincerely, Mommy of two little blessings

  19. Cameron Avatar

    If you are going to take the literal meaning of this passage then I hope you will be applying it in its entirety, namely the phrase “she is to be in silence”. So as soon as you step through the doors, you cannot teach, you cannot preach, you cannot prophecy, you cannot sing, you cannot pray, you cannot even talk!!! Funny how when this topic comes up, nobody ever thinks of that!

    Now I ask you how this fits into the entire context of the Bible. Quite simply, it doesn’t! as Sarah so ably pointed out. It was Hannah who first prophesied about the Messiah as King! It was King Josiah who commanded the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah to consult the prophetess Huldah, wife of Shallum son of Tikvah for him, for the people, and for all Judah… with no objection based on moral or ethical grounds from these leading men or her husband! This was not politics, this was a genuine seeking of the Word of God from someone who was anointed and appointed to the office of prophet by God. Just because we don’t see her teaching scripture in the Bible doesn’t mean she didn’t do it. Elijah isn’t shown teaching scripture but no-one would suggest that he was just a political prophet.

    I would encourage everyone who believes that women should not teach men do a quick study on what a “responsa” is and ask yourselves whether Paul might just be answering a letter from Timothy and addressing the questions put to him under each of the respective headings, hence the conflicting context.

    To me, silencing women is the work of the devil to paralyse half of the church and prevent women rising to their calling in God.

  20. Kelly Langner Sauer Avatar

    brave, honest post. this is something I continue to consider in my heart. thank you for writing this.

  21. Amy@Amy Loves It! Avatar

    I seriously love this. I think more of us should think before we speak… in any setting.

  22. Dellaina Avatar

    Thank you for this post, and also thank you to Debbie 7:22 a.m.

    Isn’t it funny how the hackles rise when we’re confronted with something we don’t want to hear? I have to laugh (at myself) because I experience it with my children each day. I tell them a truth they may not agree with or like, they wrestle with it and make themselves bitter and miserable, then they come around to an acknowledgment of unavoidable truth and are blessed because of their obedience.

    So it is with women. We have been deceived by the feminist movement into thinking we have every same right a man has, when in truth we have no rights whatsoever. We have our roles, and when we seek to fulfill our God-given roles we are blessed because of our obedience.

    And what have we lost? Really, now. Does my self-worth rely on whether or not I’ve taught a man a thing or two? My husband values my opinion, my son learns from me all day long, and my God listens intently when I speak to Him. What more could I possibly need?

  23. Lisa writes... Avatar

    Here from Sandra @ Heart for Him. Well said. Excellent post!!!

  24. Noelle Avatar

    Hey, Laura. What a timely post. I actually just had a conversation about this a couple days ago with one of my friends. I think my conclusion was similar to yours, but I’ve never had a cohesive way to say it as you did. Thanks! I think one of the reasons I have struggled with it so much is that it seems as if almost every woman I’ve met in the church does think it’s ok to teach men and that this scripture is not culturally relevent. Not that I want to go by majority rules, but it did make me question my own conclusions. So anyways, thanks! This post was an encouragement to me!

  25. was sent over here by LWCC Avatar


    I appreciated this. A lot. I was half-way through a masters in Pastoral Ministry (at LBC) when I moved over to South Africa to plant, run, and teach a school in a rural community where there is nothing…

    I’m a teacher by heart, too.

    I had a class in grad school on this. It was phenomenal. I hate that this issue (among many) causes such division in the church…

    We had to read many books but one that I think will help you flesh this all out theologically and practically is by Sarah Sumner. Enjoy! 🙂

  26. Dannah Avatar

    And yet…Jesus chose a woman to be the first to give the message of the gospel, in a day and age where a woman’s testimony was not admitted in a tribunal court. You don’t get a much more powerful revival than the one that occurred beginning with the testimony of a woman who visited an empty grave! Some of the most powerful revivals of our modern culture have come from the teaching of women. Take the 1996 down pouring of the spirit of God at Campus Crusade for Christ’s global gathering where repentance ran through the meetings for two days after Nancy Leigh DeMoss spoke on “Brokenness” (chronicled in her book by the same title). Henry Blackaby was waiting in the sidelines to speak after her, but chose instead to not disrupt the mighty work of the Spirit that came at Nancy’s message. Nancy would tell you that she would never speak unless she was invited by the authority of men.
    It is difficult to navigate through this issue, but I really think you have to look at scripture as a whole for the answer as opposed to on book or passage. Although you and I aren’t that far apart because I would never teach without the authority of my husband and other male leaders covering me. And, I do agree, that in many instances women need to have the self-control to step aside and make room for godly male leadership because we are often quick to take control. (Perhaps that’s why Paul urged us to consider so carefully the issue of submission!)
    Keep delivering meaty thoughts to us Laura! You are always an inspiration.

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