Tag Archives: Will Hester

The Role Of Women In The Lord’s Church — Will Hester

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the September, 2018 issue of the Carolina Messenger. Through an editorial mistake, a section of brother Hester’s article was accidentally left out of the printed edition of that issue. The fault for that omission is mine alone, and for that I apologize to brother Hester and to the reader. This is the full text of the article.    — Jon

Over the last 28 years, we have seen a large contingent of the church that has taken an unscriptural stance on an important doctrinal question. Most would think that we would talk about instrumental music just by that statement. Although that issue is important to discuss, we are not talking about that doctrinal question at this time. The doctrinal question we will be attempting to answer is, “What is the role of women in the church of the Lord?” This question has plagued the church in many different ways. On one side you have those who believe women have no voice at all in the worship service. On the other side you have those who believe women can do anything a man can do in worship and maybe even more. The pertinent question that must be asked when studying this doctrinal position is, “What roles are women allowed to have through scripture within the confines of worship?”

The view of women within the Lord’s church has been tainted because the interpretation of certain passages has been tainted by denominationalism. We have seen that most liberal theologians have done eisegetical study, forcing a meaning into a text that is not intended by the author, with these texts. When we do this, we are creating our own narrative to suit our own version of Christianity. Did we die for the sins of the world? Did we purchase the church with our blood at Calvary? The answers are a resounding no! However, the way some of our friends view the Bible would make us believe that they think they did purchase the church. We are only interpreters and must be exegetical in our approach to the scripture. When you exegete a passage, you are literally being led to your conclusions about a certain Bible subject by following the text itself. Exegetical study is critical for viewing the texts of the Bible and discerning what the text says about doctrinal issues that we face.

As we go through this study, we will try to look at both sides in equal measure. Our goal is to view the arguments of both sides and try to formulate a conclusion of which argument holds with the biblical view of the role of women. We will also be looking at the different roles that women do have within the confines of scripture. The goal of this study is not to cause division but to allow for discussion and to show that we must use the Bible as our only guiding principle for faith and practice.

Arguments For An Expanded Role Of Women In Worship

The position for an expanded role of women in worship is the minority view in the Lords’ church; however, the proponents of this view have a very loud voice. These voices are being given an audience at some of our brotherhood school’s lectureships. Abilene Christian University, Lubbock Christian University, Lipscomb University, and Pepperdine University have decided that they will allow these views to be defended at their lectureships. We find that the Bible departments are bending to the whims of these men and women.

On Wednesday night of the 2018 Pepperdine Bible Lectures Don McLaughlin, preaching minister at the North Atlanta Church of Christ, gave the 7:00 pm keynote address on “1 Corinthians 12-14.” From this text, brother McLaughlin used for a subject “The Gift of the Spirit to the Body of Christ.” Twenty-two minutes into his lesson, Don uses a term that would be the calling card of the rest of his lesson. He coined the term, “hermeneutical segregation,” in speaking of “our” belief of the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers.

He would ask the question, minutes later, “What is a woman’s body for?” Don attempts to answer his own question by stating, “It is for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit…not for exploitation by men or women for financial and self gratification.” He then stated, “Let me take it a step farther. I am going to talk to the ladies. Women’s bodies are not for evaluation or comparison.” I agree with his assertion. A recurring problem we have in this country is “body-shaming.” In many instances, our society shames young women for not having a certain body type or for not being under a certain weight. However, Don does not stop there. He would state further, “I will say one more thing. We have lived under the false assumption that the Holy Spirit prefers male bodies to female bodies for leadership in the church. That did not arise from Scripture, but that is what WE put on Scripture.” As we will see later, his argument does not hold fast to what Scripture says.

One of the main arguments used by the proponents of an expanded role for women is, “We must take 1 Timothy 2:8-12 as cultural for the first century and not a command for us in the 21st century.” Patrick Mead, senior minister at Fourth Avenue Church of Christ, has been the biggest proprietor of this position in recent memory. He, along with a couple of others, wrote the document found on the Fourth Avenue website entitled, “Document on Women in Worship and Ministry.” In this document, we find that the authors make the statement, “Paul felt the need to address the situation in Ephesus with several commands, most of which we do not apply to ourselves or to our congregations.”

The text of 1 Timothy 2:8-12 states, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” The view of these scriptures as just being “cultural” to the first century is not a new phenomenon; however, for many years it was just a dominating denominational view.

A point of contention within this text, according to the proponents of this view, is the translation of two Greek words used by Paul in verse 12. The first Greek word, which is a very uncommon word, is “αὐθεντεῖν” (authentein). This word comes from the verb, αὐθεντέω (authenteo), which carries an idea of “having authority over, to be domineering, and having full power.” Those who have a feministic view of where they believe the church should be going take this word as the key to this passage. In their estimation, verse 12 only pertains to a cultural problem in the church at Ephesus. It is only to be taken to the conclusion of being for the relationship in the home and not the church.

The second Greek word, which only occurs in the New Testament four times, is ἡσυχίᾳ (hesuchia). This word carries the idea of “being calm, being in silence or having a stillness in ones’ life as a believer.” Brother Thomas Robinson, Senior Minister at the Manhattan Church of Christ in New York, wrote a study guide entitled, “A Community Without Barriers.” In his study guide he references this Greek word and says the following, “Again, the phrases translated by the RSV ‘learn in silence’ and ‘keep silent’ both use the Greek word hesychia which means ‘quietness’ rather than ‘silence.’” He would further state, “Quietness is not silence.” As we will see, it is not so cut and dry as he tries to make it out to be.

Another main argument from the proponents of this position is, “What do you do with Phoebe, the deaconess that Paul mentions?” The singular point that is focused upon is the Greek word “διάκονος” (diakonos). This word carries the idea of “a person who is a servant and is set to serve.” The main push of this argument is that “diakonos” can be translated as “deacon.” With the revelation of this information, they translate that word as “deaconess.” Romans 16:1 in the New King James version states, “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.” They view these verses as the key to view the scriptures in a brand new light.

A final major argument comes from 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which states, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” Thomas Robinson writes of this passage, “Here, as elsewhere, Paul judged the actions of the community not by a rigid standard of required conduct that was eternal and unchanging. Rather, what mattered to Paul (because it matters to God) was the souls and salvation of people.” He further states in his study guide, “In our day and in our context, the kind of shame and disgrace that Paul wanted the church to avoid is more likely to come upon the church by silencing women (and thereby indicating that they are somehow inferior to men) than by allowing women to use all the gifts that the Spirit has given them.” As it seems, the narrative that they want to portray is one of tolerance and equality. In their view, the roles of women and men are similar and equal to each other. The perspective given is, “To stay relevant with the times, then we must embrace all progressive cultural narratives.”

Arguments For A Biblical And Less Inclusive Role For Women In Worship

The position that this author takes, like so many in the Lords’ church, is that women have specific roles they must take in the makeup of the church; however, they are not to step outside of the parameters of Scripture. We have seen our more “progressive” brethren are willing to forcibly insert a meaning into texts that are not there. When they do this, then they are misleading scores of people with their view of scripture.

The passage in 1 Timothy 2:8-12 gives us the first indication of what we are to look for in defining the role of women. David Lipscomb explains the text of verse 11 by stating, “The position of women in public worship is a quiet learner in manner, yielding submission in all lawful respects to the position God had placed man as leader of the worship in the public assembly of the church.” Lipscomb would further state, regarding verse 12, “The point guarded against here is woman’s assuming authority over man…this is the only reason given why it is wrong.” Brother Lipscomb is not taking a male chauvinistic approach to the passage, but he is taking a clear and concise role that is defined through Scripture.

Brother Robinson tries to point out that hesuchia means only “quietness” and it cannot mean silence. According to Strong’s Concordance, which is one of the most reliable concordances one can own, hesuchia means “silence” in verse 11. As we have seen, the misdirection used by the proponents of an expanded role for women is prevalent. In order to fit their view of Scripture into the box, they must change the way words are defined to change the narrative.

The Greek word authentein means, “to have authority over or to be domineering.” We cannot overlook that this word means what it means. Although there have been many cases where people have tried to change the definition, it remains constant that the original meaning is what we have shown. In verse 12, Paul is not just addressing a cultural problem. Paul is addressing the church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and is addressing a wider issue. Women, in church and at home, must be submissive to men and not exercise authority over them as well.

The question of Phoebe is one that has caused much strife and division. Brother Lipscomb states in his commentary on Romans, “Some think she was a publicly recognized deaconess, but we find no recognition in Scriptures of any such class.” He would further state, “Many women did, however, voluntarily devote themselves in a womanly way to teaching and to those who preached, waiting on the sick and doing whatever work presented itself for them to do. Phoebe was one of this class.” I could not agree more with these statements regarding Phoebe. The word diakonos in Romans 16:1 is properly rendered in most translations as “servant.” Phoebe was a servant of the church and devoted herself to taking care of the people of the church. As a Christian, she understood her role and was “commended by Paul for her service,” according to Brother Lipscomb.

When we look at 1 Corinthians 14:34ff in light of everything we have seen thus far with other passages, we see that the progressive view is not the view that should be taken. Brother Lipscomb writes of verse 34, “No instruction in the New Testament is more positive than this; it is positive, explicit and universal; and however plausible maybe the reasons which are urged for disregarding it, and for suffering women to take an active part in conducting public worship, yet the authority of the inspired apostle remains positive and his meaning cannot be misunderstood.” This passage is not one to be taken just on a basis of cultural stigmas. We must remember that Paul, like all the writers in the Bible, were fully inspired and that they were given the words to write from God. Brother Lipscomb would continue, “He looks at it from every viewpoint, forbids it altogether, and shows that from every consideration it was to regarded as improper for them to take any active part in conducting the public service.”

Biblical Roles For Women

As we all know, there are five acts of public worship. These are singing, praying, preaching, giving and observing the Lord’s Supper. These acts of worship are important to the church and how we are to give praise to our Father. The Bible clearly indicates that we all must actively participate in these to be pleasing to God.

The question that remains is, “What roles, if any, do women have in the structure of the church?” This is a great question and it must be answered with the Bible and, most importantly, it must be answered with great care. The women of the church have a vital role to play in the church!

One role women must take on is a participant in the worship itself. What does this mean? Do women take leader roles? As we have seen, they do not take on the role of the leader; however, they must give their being to the worship of God. When we come together to partake of the emblems of the Lord’s supper, we all must participate. When we sing songs of praise, we all must “sing and make melody with our hearts to God.” When we pray, we all must give our thoughts and praise to God through prayer. When the preacher is preaching, we all must give our attention to the speaker and listen to the sermon being taught. When we give of our means, we all must give of what we have been blessed with each first day of the week.

The women of the church can also take on the role of mentors to the young ladies of the congregation. They can give pertinent skills training and advice for girls. This is also a biblical concept. Titus 2:3-5 states that “the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” This passage gives the women of the congregation insight into what God is looking for from the ladies of the church.

The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is not just a statement for men, but it is also for women. Some of the most brilliant preachers in our brotherhood would not have been the men they were, had it not been for the women who stood beside them or the ones that taught them. Someone might ask, “Wait, I thought women were not allowed to teach and now you are saying they can?” We are all to teach and bring souls to Christ every day because that is a primary function of being a Christian; however, the roles must be understood. If we are the kind of Christians we must be under the New Covenant, then those around us will be taught just by our example. Women can have a much greater influence in some respects than men can have in certain areas.

For too long, we in the mainstream” have been silent on the roles women play in the church and vocal against what they cannot do. May we continue to search the Scriptures, train women to be confidant in their roles, and train churches to understand there are many roles women have which do not compromise Scripture for the sake of cultural relevancy!

Will is married to Sarah and is the minister of the Pleasant View congregation in Skullbone, TN.

The Case For A Cappella Music In Worship — Will Hester

Over the last twenty-eight years we have seen a resurgence of an old issue in the churches of Christ. The trend of moving away from basic non-instrumental worship services has accelerated. Now—more than ever—we need to speak out against blatant doctrinal error. Our focus needs to be on Christ and his teachings and not the ways of man. We must be willing declare that this is not a biblical doctrine. Instrumental music in worship to God, in every form, is doctrinally unscriptural. A cappella music is the only form of music we can use in worship.

Most of us understand certain aspects of our faith and practices. We know that we have to be baptized for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38), pray to God for all we do (1 Thess. 5:17), and love God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:36-39). Yet the fundamentals to the ways we sing are still hard to sort out among some. The questions that arise are about the authoritative nature of Ephesians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 14:15 and Colossians 3:16-17 and where does instrumental music fit, if at all? If a cappella music is the only form of singing that is prescribed in the New Testament, then instrumental music in worship is unauthorized by God and does irreparable harm to the unity of the church.

In the texts listed above, the Greek word that is used is psallo, defined by most reliable Greek lexicons as literally meaning “to pluck or play.” Eric Lyons writes, “By studying reliable Greek lexicons (dictionaries) and various historical documents, one soon comes to understand that the term psallo has had a variety of meanings in different periods of its history” (Lyons, The Meaning of Psallo in the New Testament). We understand meanings of words change meanings over time, as Lyons mentions, and we also must understand context as well. Ephesians 5:19 and 1 Corinthians 14:15 each “singing and making melody with your heart” and “I will sing praise with my mind.” In both of these texts we see that through context the instrument is the heart and the mind.

Ephesians 5:19 states that Christians must be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” The heart is the instrument that is being played. The Greek of this text is αδοντεσ και ψαλλοντεσ τη καρδια ὑμῶν. Literally this clause means, “singing and making melody with your heart.” For those that believe that instrumental music is authorized, they must contend with the fact that the only instrument authorized is the heart.

Instrumental music is not an old issue in religious history. John Price states, “The first recorded example of a musical instrument in Christian worship was an organ introduced in about 670 in a Roman Catholic Church in Rome by Pope Vitalianus” (Price, 79). However, it was not generally accepted by the populous. “By the 9th century, only two organs had been used in Christian Worship” (Price, 80). Though this was the case and fact that the organ was used at this time, “the general acceptance of it did not come until late 1200” (Price, 80). Although the instrument was introduced at this time, opposition arose from many learned men and religious leaders. We must also state that for many religious groups the instrument was a strange innovation and that many did not even add the instrument until well into the 18th and 19th centuries.

During the restoration movement Alexander Campbell and the other restoration preachers dealt with an assortment of issues and doctrines. They wanted to get back to the Bible for every practice, including the way to worship God in song. Although Campbell dealt with the “issue” of musical notes early in the movement, “From 1850 on, the ‘organ in church’ question kept cropping up” (Choate & Woodson, 20). However, it would not be until twenty years later that the issue became a major source of division in the church.

Woodson and Choate assess the significance of the issue at hand and quote from Benjamin Franklin, a well-known preacher and restorer, saying, “The early Christians had no instruments of music. I will not dishonor the Bible by resorting to the instrument” (Choate & Woodson, 22). James S. Lamar, however, states almost the polar opposite of what Franklin does by saying, “I do not wish to thrust an instrument upon anyone…[A]nd I am perfectly willing for every church to worship God with or without such an accompaniment” (Choate & Woodson, 32). Why are we quoting these two men? Are their statements anymore appeasable than others? Not necessarily, but they do start to scratch the surface of both sides of the issue.

The issue came to a head by 1870 and “the differences of opinion over instrumental music widened, while more and more pianos and organs were finding their way from the parlor and Sunday school into the worship service upstairs in the church (Choate & Woodson, 37). The issue was decisively separated into those for and those against. For the next thirty-five years the issue would start severing the ties between the Christian Church and the churches of Christ. By 1906, the issues between the two were finally put to rest. “This was the year that the United States religious census identified the churches of Christ as a separate and unique religious movement” (Choate & Woodson, 107).

In 2006, the one hundred year anniversary of the split between the churches of Christ and Christian churches, a preacher in Texas decided to come out with a stance on the issue that perplexed many people in the church. Rick Atchley, the preacher for the former Richland Hills congregation in North Richland Hills, TX, “delivered three sermons (all entitled “The Both/And Church”) in December 2006 from the Richland Hills pulpit in an effort to explain the rationale behind the change” (Miller, Preface). He tried to explain why the largest church in the brotherhood was about to make the most drastic decision one church could make.

Why did Atchley and the Richland Hills congregation make this decision? Was it to be the first in what they thought would be a wave of change in the church? In the minds of most, the decision was made on “full study.” Brother Atchley even states, “I spent three days in Abilene in the library, reading everything I could on this subject. I let every side have their best shot at me. I read debates that were 100 years old. I read everything the anti-instrument position has produced” (Miller, 1). The most troubling aspect of this quote is not that he spent his time in Abilene, but it is what is really not said. The fact that he “studied” these documents and yet still came to the conclusion he did is baffling, to say the least.

What should be stressed is that, “Historically, people who have argued for instrumental music in church worship have made considerable use of material from the Old Testament. Brother Atchley is no exception” (Alexander, 19). As with all of his arguments, he takes a slanted view of scripture to suit the issue that he is defending. “Atchley’s first attempt to push the Old Testament perspective on instrumental music into the New Testament comes in a passing comment on Psalms 33, 92 and 150, all of which mention instruments” (Alexander, 22). Atchley’s assessment and thoughts on these passages being for instrumental music in Christian worship are weak, at best. However, this is not the end of his argument. He states, “No where in the New Testament is congregational singing specifically authorized” (Miller, 36). The statement is very bold and has major implications in this issue. Miller states, “If God has indicated His desire that our worship of Him include singing, such singing would be mere human invention. And if God accepts mere human invention/inclination for worship, then a person can worship God any way he chooses, no matter how bizarre or outlandish, as long as he/she is sincere” (Miller, 36). He could not have stated it any clearer than that.

While Richland Hills and Rick Atchley were taking these drastic steps there were other congregations that followed suit. One such congregation, the Quail Springs Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, added an instrumental music service. Their preacher “praised Atchley and recommended that the Quail Springs members listen to Atchley’s lessons. He said the Quail Springs church ‘will join the Richland Hills and others in becoming a both/and church’” (Alexander, 12). One decision made by one church shaped the course of events in churches of Christ for years to come.

The train of introducing instrumental music into worship does not stop with Quail Springs and Richland Hills. In 2015, the eldership at Greenville Oaks church of Christ in Allen, Texas, made the decision to introduce an instrumental service on Sundays. In a document found on their website entitled, “FAQ-Greenville Oaks Worship Journey,” they explain what lead them to this decision. They stated that they want to be “culturally relevant,” that they want to meet “a growing need and desire,” and that they want to “provide the younger and future generations with worship experiences that engage and enable their hearts to worship.” These three statements are extremely dangerous in the context they are being used. The “culturally relevant” statement is dangerous because of the conformity to the worldview of what “worship” looks like. Romans 12:2 states, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Notice the first part of the verse. When we decide to be “culturally relevant” and change the nature of worship, then we are in clear violation of Romans 12:2.

They also stated, “Nearly all churches that are really connecting with and reaching the lost have contemporary instrumental worship.” That is a grave assumption. This statement, if taken at face value, assumes that any church that does not have instrumental worship is not effectively reaching the lost. There is no evidence to support this claim. I concede that many people attend instrumental churches; however, to make the claim that they are reaching the lost and teaching the right way of worship is not in corroboration with Scripture.

What can be done to combat this issue? Are there ways that we can speak out against this doctrinal error and help those who have fallen away to see the truth? The answers may come from an unlikely source. In 1987, Rubel Shelly produced a small book entitled, Sing His Praise: A Case for A Cappella Music as Worship Today. He states, “It would be a shallow protest to inveigh against corrupting the action (i.e., adding instruments to the musical praise of the church) without warning against neglecting its very essence (i.e., adoration from a devoted heart)” (Shelly, 53). Yes, even Shelly believed that instrumental music was not the proper way of praising God in song. He further stated, “…Instrumental music should be abandoned” (Shelly, 56).

How should one interpret what has just been said? Is there sufficient data to support the case for either side? I believe there is enough data to support the case for a cappella music. Scripture tells us that our heart and mind are both affected and that we play our hearts — ψάλλω — through our words. Shelly has a statement near the end of his book that, if made today, one wonders if he would still affirm. “If an effort were to be made to introduce the instrument into a local church where I held membership or into our larger fellowship of believers, I would oppose it strenuously” (Shelly, 108). I could not agree more with brother Shelly’s statement as made in 1987.

Price states, “In the first place, this is a misunderstanding of the regulative principle of worship, which has been cherished by the Reformed churches throughout the centuries. The Bible affirms that worship is always a matter of what God commands, never a matter of what He has not forbidden.” He goes on, “In the second place, we may compare this to the Lord’s supper. In the same way that He has not forbidden the use of musical instruments in the New Testament, He has not forbidden the eating of meat at His supper. All would agree that to eat meat at the Lord’s Supper would be presumptuous addition to His will. But if we use the rule that what is not forbidden is acceptable, then to eat meat at the Lord’s Supper must be admissible. Why should the addition of musical instruments in His worship be viewed any differently than the addition of eating of meat at His Supper? The argument that because musical instruments are not forbidden in the New Testament and, therefore, their use is acceptable must be dismissed” (Price). Jividen expands on this idea: “The answer that Jesus gave showed that he used prohibitive silence in His interpretation of Scriptures” (Jividen). He then states, “His Disciples should have the same lofty view of the Scriptures” (Jividen, 140)

Is singing worship? When we worship, do we believe in the words of the songs? According to Jividen, “Singing is for edification. Singing is heartfelt praise to the Lord” (Jividen, 92). He mentions the passages we have discussed and says, “Two points stand out in the passages—both spirit and mind are involved in worship in song, and everyone should understand and benefit from the songs in the assembly” (Jividen, 92). Jividen is correct on these points because worship includes singing. He continues, “James combines singing and praying in describing how worship arises from hearts filled with joy or sorrow [James 5:13]” (Jividen, 91).

What can be taken away from this study, if anything? One of the key points to be made is that the scripture is our guiding principle. Instrumental music, as we have seen, has no place in the worship setting. John Price goes a step further: “To bring them into the church is to transgress the authority of Christ in His Worship” (Price, 228). I agree with him wholeheartedly.

As we conclude, Ecclesiastes 12:13 comes to mind: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Our duty as Christians is to worship in the way set forth in the Bible. Instrumental music in worship is unauthorized by God and does irreparable harm to the unity of the church. We must guard against doctrinal error such as instrumental music and speak out against it. Now more than ever we need sound teaching and it is my firm conviction that we must start at the heart of worship. If we lose the battle for sound worship, then we have lost our way and we may never get it back.

Will is married to Sarah and is the minister of the Pleasant View congregation in Skullbone, TN.

 

Works Cited

Alexander, Thomas C. Music In Worship: A New Examination of an Old Issue. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate, 2010.

Choate, J.E., and William Woodson. Sounding Brass and Clanging Cymbals. Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman University, 1991.

Elders of Greenville Oaks. “FAQ-Greenville Oaks Worship Journey.” Allen, TX: Greenville Oaks church of Christ, 2015.

Hester, David. Among the Scholars. Tuscumbia, AL: David W. Hester, 1994.

Jividen, Jimmy. More Than A Feeling. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate, 1999.

Lyons, Eric. The Meaning of “Psallo” in the New Testament. Apologetics Press, 2002. Web. 2002.

Miller, Dave. Richland Hills and Instrumental Music: A Plea to Reconsider. Pulaski, TN: Sain Publications, 2007.

Price, John. Old Light on New Worship. Avinger, Texas: Simpson Publishing Company, 2005.

Shelley, Rubel. Sing His Praise: A Case for A Cappella Music as Worship Today. Nashville, TN: 20th Century Christian, 1987.

Social Media Preaching — Will Hester

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube have all gained notoriety over the last fourteen years because of the appeal of connection. As a society, we want to feel connected to the world in which we live and social media gives us just that. It has transformed from being only a “college experiment” to an international phenomenon.

Technology is racing to try and keep up with social media, yet we as a church are dragging our feet. Many churches try to buck the trend of being technologically challenged, using Facebook Live, YouTube Live Stream and other types of streaming. However, this has only been within the last six to seven years. Our brethren, for one reason or another, have always been leery of using innovative methods to get the Word out to a lost and dying world. “Don’t fix what is not broken,” is just one statement that has been used in regards to innovative ways to reach the lost.

Christ would say, “Go therefore and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19), but are we truly going into the entire world? There is a notion that we need to only focus on our local communities and maybe the surrounding communities; whether it is in the church right now remains to be seen. Is that what the Great Commission actually says? Did Christ say, “Go therefore into the local community and only the local community?” Christ did not say that then and he is not saying that now. The Great Commission is still as valid today as it was in the first century. Christ does not change and His Word does not change, but our delivery of the message should change to help reach more people.

Every generation has had an advantage over the previous generation with regards to evangelism. Those who lived after the advent of the car and airplane had a bigger advantage than their fathers and mothers. Those of us in the twenty-first century have a major advantage over our parents’ generation. With the advent of the Internet, we can instantaneously let people know about God’s word.

The Hebrews writer would state, “For the word is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). The word for “active” here is ἐνεργὴς (energés). This word carries the idea of being full of energy or being effective. As Christians, we must understand that this is a directive to us as well! We must be full of energy for the Lord and the cause of Christ. An energized church will be effective in spreading the gospel to the entire world. Social media is the best conduit for evangelizing a perpetually moving world.

Just as with any good thing, there are negatives that can be recognized. We must be careful with the rhetoric that we use on social media. The previous statement can be taken by some to mean that we should not speak out against false teaching, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. We must, as with anything we say from any forum, speak the truth in love and power. Paul would write, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). He would also state in his letter to the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 4:15-16, “…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). In these passages, Paul makes it clear to not be ashamed of the Gospel and to speak about that power in love.

The problem the church faces is one of playing catch up to the growing trend of social media evangelism. Most churches are realizing that to be able to spread the gospel to a wider audience they must accept that social media is a resource. Some might say, “Well, we do not have the resources or funds to pay for a camera to be installed at the church,” or, “We do not have internet at the church.” These are excuses and not solutions. In the age of smart phones, there most likely is a person who has one at the church. There are apps that will allow you record your sermon and download that same sermon onto your computer in mp4 format. You can then post that recording on your personal Facebook page. I was once told, “It doesn’t matter what technology you have because you can make anything work in your favor.” Another idea that can be implemented is using the built in camera on your laptop. Understandably, the video most likely will not be high definition quality, but you will be able to put the lessons on the Internet. This can be a temporary fix for a long-term goal.

The previous ideas are easily implemented and can further the evangelism and personal work of the church. Many times we are scared of the unknown to the point that we lose sight of the end goal, which is bringing souls to Christ. Acts 8:4 states, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” We see that, although the Christians were scattered, they were preaching everywhere. They were not ashamed of the Gospel and they were not afraid. We must, with all of the tools at our disposal in the twenty-first century, be willing to do everything we can to bring souls to Christ. In Acts 2:46-47, Luke states, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” When we continue in one accord and the people outside the church see that, then we will have favor with everyone and God will give the increase. Paul would state, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor. 3:6-8).

I recognize that when reading these passages we do not read of social media or the Internet. However, we do read of what we must do as Christians to spread the gospel of Christ. As long as we do not go against Scripture when we spread the Gospel, then we must use any tool at our disposal. Gospel Broadcasting Network based out of South Haven, MS, has taken up the mantle to show churches that it does not have to be as hard as we make it to spread the gospel through various media mediums. After having spoken with Mark Teske, who is one of the men involved with GBN, he says, “If a church has website they can go to the Gospel Broadcasting Network website and copy the embed code of the live stream, then create a page on their website to embed the code. Once embedded on the page and it is made live, then you will have a 24 hour broadcast people can watch from the comfort of their own homes on their computers or other devices.” This simple addition can be wonderful tool to let people see the truth of the Word of God taught in its’ simplicity and power.

My belief is that churches should embrace the use of technology to spread the borders of the kingdom. We have the means and the access, but we must first step out of our comfort zone. Our mission as Christians is to bring souls to Christ each day and to show them the way of true salvation through the Word of God. Some people have never heard the Word preached and are afraid to come to a church service for fear they will be mocked by those in attendance. The avenue of social media is a great way to give those people a chance to hear the Gospel and to become acclimated to the way worship is done. As long as we make sure they understand that they are always welcomed in the services and that they will not be judged for what they have done, then we will see our attendance grow spiritually and numerically.

Social media preaching, when used effectively, is great source and tool to use to bring people to knowledge of the truth that would never have had the opportunity previously in their lives. We must work diligently to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ because souls are in jeopardy. May we strive to bring souls to Christ each day of our lives till the day we are called home to be with our Father!

Will is a fourth-generation gospel preacher who is married to Sarah. He preaches at the Osceola Church of Christ in Osceola, AR.

The Role of Women in the Lord’s Church — Will Hester

Over the last 28 years, we have seen a large contingent of the church that has taken an unscriptural stance on an important doctrinal question. Most would think that we would talk about instrumental music just by that statement. Although that issue is important to discuss, we are not talking about that doctrinal question at this time. The doctrinal question we will be attempting to answer is, “What is the role of women in the church of the Lord?” This question has plagued the church in many different ways. On one side you have those who believe women have no voice at all in the worship service. On the other side you have those who believe women can do anything a man can do in worship and maybe even more. The pertinent question that must be asked when studying this doctrinal position is, “What roles are women allowed to have through scripture within the confines of worship?”

The view of women within the Lord’s church has been tainted because the interpretation of certain passages has been tainted by denominationalism. We have seen that most liberal theologians have done eisegetical study, forcing a meaning into a text that is not intended by the author, with these texts. When we do this, we are creating our own narrative to suit our own version of Christianity. Did we die for the sins of the world? Did we purchase the church with our blood at Calvary? The answers are a resounding no! However, the way some of our friends view the Bible would make us believe that they think they did purchase the church. We are only interpreters and must be exegetical in our approach to the scripture. When you exegete a passage, you are literally being led to your conclusions about a certain Bible subject by following the text itself. Exegetical study is critical for viewing the texts of the Bible and discerning what the text says about doctrinal issues that we face.

As we go through this study, we will try to look at both sides in equal measure. Our goal is to view the arguments of both sides and try to formulate a conclusion of which argument holds with the biblical view of the role of women. We will also be looking at the different roles that women do have within the confines of scripture. The goal of this study is not to cause division but to allow for discussion and to show that we must use the Bible as our only guiding principle for faith and practice.

Arguments For An Expanded Role Of Women In Worship

The position for an expanded role of women in worship is the minority view in the Lords’ church; however, the proponents of this view have a very loud voice. These voices are being given an audience at some of our brotherhood school’s lectureships. Abilene Christian University, Lubbock Christian University, Lipscomb University, and Pepperdine University have decided that they will allow these views to be defended at their lectureships. We find that the Bible departments are bending to the whims of these men and women.

On Wednesday night of the 2018 Pepperdine Bible Lectures Don McLaughlin, preaching minister at the North Atlanta Church of Christ, gave the 7:00 pm keynote address on “1 Corinthians 12-14.” From this text, brother McLaughlin used for a subject “The Gift of the Spirit to the Body of Christ.” Twenty-two minutes into his lesson, Don uses a term that would be the calling card of the rest of his lesson. He coined the term, “hermeneutical segregation,” in speaking of “our” belief of the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers.

He would ask the question, minutes later, “What is a woman’s body for?” Don attempts to answer his own question by stating, “It is for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit…not for exploitation by men or women for financial and self gratification.” He then stated, “Let me take it a step farther. I am going to talk to the ladies. Women’s bodies are not for evaluation or comparison.” I agree with his assertion. A recurring problem we have in this country is “body-shaming.” In many instances, our society shames young women for not having a certain body type or for not being under a certain weight. However, Don does not stop there. He would state further, “I will say one more thing. We have lived under the false assumption that the Holy Spirit prefers male bodies to female bodies for leadership in the church. That did not arise from Scripture, but that is what WE put on Scripture.” As we will see later, his argument does not hold fast to what Scripture says.

One of the main arguments used by the proponents of an expanded role for women is, “We must take 1 Timothy 2:8-12 as cultural for the first century and not a command for us in the 21st century.” Patrick Mead, senior minister at Fourth Avenue Church of Christ, has been the biggest proprietor of this position in recent memory. He, along with a couple of others, wrote the document found on the Fourth Avenue website entitled, “Document on Women in Worship and Ministry.” In this document, we find that the authors make the statement, “Paul felt the need to address the situation in Ephesus with several commands, most of which we do not apply to ourselves or to our congregations.”

The text of 1 Timothy 2:8-12 states, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” The view of these scriptures as just being “cultural” to the first century is not a new phenomenon; however, for many years it was just a dominating denominational view.

A point of contention within this text, according to the proponents of this view, is the translation of two Greek words used by Paul in verse 12. The first Greek word, which is a very uncommon word, is “αὐθεντεῖν” (authentein). This word comes from the verb, αὐθεντέω (authenteo), which carries an idea of “having authority over, to be domineering, and having full power.” Those who have a feministic view of where they believe the church should be going take this word as the key to this passage. In their estimation, verse 12 only pertains to a cultural problem in the church at Ephesus. It is only to be taken to the conclusion of being for the relationship in the home and not the church.

The second Greek word, which only occurs in the New Testament four times, is ἡσυχίᾳ (hesuchia). This word carries the idea of “being calm, being in silence or having a stillness in ones’ life as a believer.” Brother Thomas Robinson, Senior Minister at the Manhattan Church of Christ in New York, wrote a study guide entitled, “A Community Without Barriers.” In his study guide he references this Greek word and says the following, “Again, the phrases translated by the RSV ‘learn in silence’ and ‘keep silent’ both use the Greek word hesychia which means ‘quietness’ rather than ‘silence.’” He would further state, “Quietness is not silence.” As we will see, it is not so cut and dry as he tries to make it out to be.

Another main argument from the proponents of this position is, “What do you do with Phoebe, the deaconess that Paul mentions?” The singular point that is focused upon is the Greek word “διάκονος” (diakonos). This word carries the idea of “a person who is a servant and is set to serve.” The main push of this argument is that “diakonos” can be translated as “deacon.” With the revelation of this information, they translate that word as “deaconess.” Romans 16:1 in the New King James version states, “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.” They view these verses as the key to view the scriptures in a brand new light.

A final major argument comes from 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which states, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.” Thomas Robinson writes of this passage, “Here, as elsewhere, Paul judged the actions of the community not by a rigid standard of required conduct that was eternal and unchanging. Rather, what mattered to Paul (because it matters to God) was the souls and salvation of people.” He further states in his study guide, “In our day and in our context, the kind of shame and disgrace that Paul wanted the church to avoid is more likely to come upon the church by silencing women (and thereby indicating that they are somehow inferior to men) than by allowing women to use all the gifts that the Spirit has given them.” As it seems, the narrative that they want to portray is one of tolerance and equality. In their view, the roles of women and men are similar and equal to each other. The perspective given is, “To stay relevant with the times, then we must embrace all progressive cultural narratives.”

Arguments for a Biblical and Less Inclusive Role for Women in Worship

The position that this author takes, like so many in the Lords’ church, is that women have specific roles they must take in the makeup of the church; however, they are not to step outside of the parameters of Scripture. We have seen our more “progressive” brethren are willing to forcibly insert a meaning into texts that are not there. When they do this, then they are misleading scores of people with their view of scripture.

The passage in 1 Timothy 2:8-12 gives us the first indication of what we are to look for in defining the role of women. David Lipscomb explains the text of verse 11 by stating, “The position of women in public worship is a quiet learner in manner, yielding submission in all lawful respects to the position God had placed man as leader of the worship in the public assembly of the church.” Lipscomb would further state, regarding verse 12, “The point guarded against here is woman’s assuming authority over man…this is the only reason given why it is wrong.” Brother Lipscomb is not taking a male chauvinistic approach to the passage, but he is taking a clear and concise role that is defined through Scripture.

Brother Robinson tries to point out that hesuchia means only “quietness” and it cannot mean silence. According to Strong’s Concordance, which is one of the most reliable concordances one can own, hesuchia means “silence” in verse 11. As we have seen, the misdirection used by the proponents of an expanded role for women is prevalent. In order to fit their view of Scripture into the box, they must change the way words are defined to change the narrative.

The Greek word authentein means, “to have authority over or to be domineering.” We cannot overlook that this word means what it means. Although there have been many cases where people have tried to change the definition, it remains constant that the original meaning is what we have shown. In verse 12, Paul is not just addressing a cultural problem. Paul is addressing the church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and is addressing a wider issue. Women, in church and at home, must be submissive to men and not exercise authority over them as well.

The question of Phoebe is one that has caused much strife and division. Brother Lipscomb states in his commentary on Romans, “Some think she was a publicly recognized deaconess, but we find no recognition in Scriptures of any such class.” He would further state, “Many women did, however, voluntarily devote themselves in a womanly way to teaching and to those who preached, waiting on the sick and doing whatever work presented itself for them to do. Phoebe was one of this class.” I could not agree more with these statements regarding Phoebe. The word diakonos in Romans 16:1 is properly rendered in most translations as “servant.” Phoebe was a servant of the church and devoted herself to taking care of the people of the church. As a Christian, she understood her role and was “commended by Paul for her service,” according to Brother Lipscomb.

When we look at 1 Corinthians 14:34ff in light of everything we have seen thus far with other passages, we see that the progressive view is not the view that should be taken. Brother Lipscomb writes of verse 34, “No instruction in the New Testament is more positive than this; it is positive, explicit and universal; and however plausible maybe the reasons which are urged for disregarding it, and for suffering women to take an active part in conducting public worship, yet the authority of the inspired apostle remains positive and his meaning cannot be misunderstood.” This passage is not one to be taken just on a basis of cultural stigmas. We must remember that Paul, like all the writers in the Bible, were fully inspired and that they were given the words to write from God. Brother Lipscomb would continue, “He looks at it from every viewpoint, forbids it altogether, and shows that from every consideration it was to regarded as improper for them to take any active part in conducting the public service.”

Biblical Roles For Women

As we all know, there are five acts of public worship. These are singing, praying, preaching, giving and observing the Lord’s Supper. These acts of worship are important to the church and how we are to give praise to our Father. The Bible clearly indicates that we all must actively participate in these to be pleasing to God.

The question that remains is, “What roles, if any, do women have in the structure of the church?” This is a great question and it must be answered with the Bible and, most importantly, it must be answered with great care. The women of the church have a vital role to play in the church!

One role women must take on is a participant in the worship itself. What does this mean? Do women take leader roles? As we have seen, they do not take on the role of the leader; however, they must give their being to the worship of God. When we come together to partake of the emblems of the Lord’s supper, we all must participate. When we sing songs of praise, we all must “sing and make melody with our hearts to God.” When we pray, we all must give our thoughts and praise to God through prayer. When the preacher is preaching, we all must give our attention to the speaker and listen to the sermon being taught. When we give of our means, we all must give of what we have been blessed with each first day of the week.

The women of the church can also take on the role of mentors to the young ladies of the congregation. They can give pertinent skills training and advice for girls. This is also a Biblical concept. Titus 2:3-5 states that the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” This passage gives the women of the congregation insight into what God is looking for from the ladies of the church.

The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is not just a statement for men, but it is also for women. Some of the most brilliant preachers in our brotherhood would not have been the men they were, had it not been for the women who stood beside them or the ones that taught them. Someone might ask, “Wait, I thought women were not allowed to teach and now you are saying they can?” We are all to teach and bring souls to Christ every day because that is a primary function of being a Christian; however, the roles must be understood. If we are the kind of Christians we must be under the New Covenant, then those around us will be taught just by our example. Women can have a much greater influence in some respects than men can have in certain areas.

For too long, we in the mainstream” have been silent on the roles women play in the church and vocal against what they cannot do. May we continue to search the Scriptures, train women to be confidant in their roles, and train churches to understand there are many roles women have which do not compromise Scripture for the sake of cultural relevancy!

Will is married to Sarah and is the minister of the Pleasant View congregation in Skullbone, TN.


Editor’s Note:  This online edition of brother Hester’s article contains the full text of the article.  Through an editorial mistake, a section of his article was accidentally left out of the printed edition of the September issue.  The fault for that omission is mine alone, and for that I apologize to brother Hester and to the reader.  — Jon Mitchell, editor