Dear Dottie, I’m a better teacher than he is!
I’ve always loved to study God’s Word and have taught a Bible study for several years. Because of my husband’s job, we recently relocated and settled into a church that is much smaller than our previous one, and began attending a small group Bible study. The leader of our class is a very kind, older gentlemen, who unfortunately, doesn’t teach as in-depth as I’m used to studying. Lately, I’ve found myself interjecting my knowledge of whatever passage we’re studying. Since the other people in the class seem to appreciate what I shared, I started speaking up a little more. Last week, however, the Bible study leader asked me to stop “taking over the class.” On top of that, my husband was embarrassed and asked me to keep quiet, even if I do know more than the teacher.
This is so unfair! I have the gift of teaching, am more equipped to lead that Bible study, and seem to have more of a passion for study – am I just supposed to sit back while people are hungry for the Word and say nothing? What should I do?
Moves are always traumatic in every area of life. Yet it is in our dealing with difficulties that the Lord refines our character and builds a testimony that brings glory to Him. Studying God’s Word does not demand a gifted teacher, though that helps! However, your personal study can be pursued quietly and privately in your own home. Group Bible study, even without a gifted teacher, can provide fellowship in the Word and sometimes practical outworking in the simplest way; or it can be the fuel for prayers not only for you but also for others.
There are reasons for Paul’s inspired guidelines to women and how they conduct themselves in the church. As you evaluate the response of your Bible teacher, begin with stepping into his shoes and considering how you would feel if I (a 3-degree-holding seminary graduate) sat in your class and continually interjected information—however valuable it might be!
There are guidelines for behavior of women in the setting of the church and its activities. Women are not only gifted in every venue of service to Christ, but some are very well prepared academically and theologically to tackle any assignment in the kingdom.
With a graduate degree and two post-graduate degrees in theology, I probably have more theological training than a high percentage of pastors. I have heard women teach whose giftedness in pedagogical method and charisma in communication surpasses overwhelmingly many—perhaps even a majority of pastors (trained or untrained). Opportunity for service is also part of the equation, and never have the needs for laborers in the vineyard been any greater than they are today. Unfortunately, there is a great vacuum of masculine leadership in the kingdom—whether on the denominational level or in the local church or on the mission field.
The biblical guidelines that speak to what women are permitted by Scripture to do in the church are not framed according to “office” or position. Nor is the idea of giftedness or academic preparation in the equation. Nor is there a catch-all category of “whatever a man is unavailable to do.” Perhaps these omissions are considered to be lack of forethought by the Creator since the vacuum of leadership seems easy to solve were it not for what would seem to be unfortunate prohibitions from the first-century text. On the other hand, who among us—man or woman—can think God’s thoughts and understand His ways! He is working from a much bigger picture. The amazing consistency found in harmonizing the creation order of Genesis with the discussions on family relationships and then with the workings of church order give pause to all who feel equipped to rework the Creator’s plan to fit the present culture.
For me, the clear prohibitions in 1 Timothy 2 are twofold: women do not teach men; women do not rule over men. The setting is a passage on church order, but common sense would dictate to me that what applies to the local church would not be carelessly abandoned in other manifestations of kingdom ministry.
In other words, I feel bound by the spirit of the passage as well as by its words.
Also, I see no need to go beyond the Scripture, which does not prohibit (permits but does not mandate) prayer or testimony by a woman in the congregation nor forbid her interaction on biblical truths in a private conversation with a man (as Pricilla and Aquilla with Apollos in Acts 18:26). To look for the exceptions to what is clearly written in Scriptures seems foolish. How much wiser to allow for the brief and intermittent experiences that fall on the edges to be evaluated as needed according to the spirit of the passage.
Now a personal note, God is by nature just and fair. He also knows better than we why and how and for what purpose He created us. The question is not giftedness but how you use your giftedness. It is not knowledge but how you use what you have studied and learned. Scripture gives a positive word in Titus 2:3-5 where Paul admonishes spiritually mature women to teach women who are new and fresh to the faith. So, yes, study hard, prepare to teach God’s Word, and teach within the guidelines He has established. God will reward your faithfulness!
I remain yours in the journey,
Dorothy Kelley Patterson serves as the First Lady and Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies at Southwestern Seminary. She has authored numerous books and articles including, Where’s Mom: The High Calling of Wives and Mothers, and A Woman Seeking God: Discover God in the Places of Your Life. One of Mrs. Patterson’s greatest joys is hospitality! She loves to cook and is known for her family’s famous “Kelley biscuits.”
*”Dear Dottie” is a featured, monthly column from Dorothy Kelley Patterson (aka – Dottie!). If you have a question for Dottie, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!