What Women Most Need From Our Brothers in Christ After #ChurchToo

A Letter to My Brothers in Christ

Dear Brothers,

#MeToo… #Churchtoo…

The systems and power structures that some of you have participated in have been exposed. It is a terrifying process, just ask Adam and Eve; they can tell you what it’s like.

The incredible gift of power that was given to man and woman in the beginning – that is, the gift that is to be used to create, cultivate, and mediate – was quickly corrupted at the fall of Adam and Eve. Suddenly, they were exposed in ways that caused shame and fear. There was one knee jerk reaction –  hide.

As a result, one of the most devastating effects of the fall was the impact it had on the relationships between men and women. One of the most devastating effects of the fall was the impact it had on the relationships between men and women. Click To Tweet

Down throughout history, men have by and large dominated the global power structures. And while power is a gift, when it is used to sideline any kind of people group, or when it is used to lord over, or when it is used for personal gain, is power outside of God’s intentions.[1]

Ultimately, when power is not formed in Christ, it is bound for destruction.

I believe that’s where we have found ourselves today – decay that has been exposed. I’ve been sad and embarrassed for all of us. The bride of Christ, which I love so dearly, has been exposed. We’ve been found out, and many are crying out, #metoo, #churchtoo.

I’ve paid close attention to the conversations following #metoo, and especially after Bill Hybels and Willow Creek’s recent accusations. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “If Bill Hybels had only followed the Billy Graham rule, this would have never happened.” And now, nearly every response I’ve seen and read has been a call for men to build bigger walls against women so it doesn’t happen again.

Of course. That is, after all, a seemingly safe place to be.

There’s often a lot of shame when we are exposed, and our go-to response is to protect so it doesn’t happen again. But one of the things that I wrote about in Emboldened is, in a culture of strict boundaries and bigger walls, we communicate to women that they are untrustworthy, tempting, and shameful simply because of the shape of their body. In an ecclesial leadership structure led mostly by men, women will have a hard time finding a seat at the table when there are more walls and less chairs.

Furthermore, we don’t have a boundaries issue in the church; rather, we have a formational and accountability issue.[2] In the wake of #MeToo and #ChurchToo it's imperative for us to recognize that the primary issue we face is not one of boundaries but of formation and accountability. Click To Tweet

I don’t know about you, but I am much more interested in reclaiming the kingdom vision of men and women co-laboring for the mission of God than I am of moving against it.

The gospel – that is, the story of God culminated in Christ – is one that obliterates worldly power structures, flips them upside down, and rolls out a table of inclusion. The gospel invites men and women to take on the shape of the cross in a posture of humility, love, inclusivity, generosity, care, and presence. The gospel is not a gospel of fear, walls, hard lines in the sand, or exclusion. Paul says it himself, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)

Let us reclaim…

Junia & Paul

Jesus & the woman at the well

Jesus, Martha, & Mary

Deborah & Barak

Esther & Mordecai

Dear brothers, I need you and you need me. There is a mission at hand, and we don’t have time to build bigger walls; rather, I need you to pull up more chairs at the table for me and my sisters. Dear brothers, I need you and you need me. There is a mission at hand, and we don’t have time to build bigger walls; rather, I need you to pull up more chairs at the table for me and my sisters. @TaraBeth82 Click To Tweet

My prayer for us, dear brothers, is that we move towards the gospel, not away. Let us be people of resurrection and not the fall.

4 Ways We Reclaim a Kingdom Vision by Moving Toward the Gospel

1. Moving towards the gospel means we embrace the kingdom vision

Let the kingdom vision inaugurated in Christ shape how we interact, not the backdrop of the fall. In other words, look to how Jesus interacted with women, and notice how Paul elevated women. Let that be our starting point, not sin. Let resurrection be our starting point, not Genesis 3.

2. Moving towards the gospel means we embrace love, not fear

Fear is a powerful force, and fear is sometimes necessary to protect in dangerous situations. But when it comes to male and female relationships, we must first take the posture of love, not fear. I’ve said this in another article here at Missio, but when fear becomes the primary banner in which we choose to lead with and relate to one another, it becomes increasingly more difficult to love our neighbors. Leading with fear can cause strife, division, racism, paranoia, and hatred. When we lead with fear, practicing hospitality, generosity, reconciliation, and community are hindered. When we choose to respond to our brother or sister out of fear over and against love, we are not responding to the Spirit of Love.

A Christian community in perpetual fear is a community that fails to comprehend the love of God. You see, as John reminds us, fear and love are mutually exclusive. He writes,

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 Jn. 4:18)

3. Moving towards the gospel means we embolden one another to live the mission

More than ever, the church in North America needs men and women to link arms in the mission of God, not be pitted up against one another.

As a woman in ministry, I have zero interest in trying to dominate any sort of leadership structure to spite my brothers. I have zero interest in pushing my brothers further away.

Instead, I see my brothers as a fellow colaborer and image bearer, and dear brothers, your sisters need you to do the same.

We need more chairs at the table, not stricter boundaries.[3] Why? Because there is a mission at hand that’s way bigger than us!

4. Moving towards the gospel means I see you as an image bearer, not an enemy

Brothers, you are beautiful, gifted, and needed.

We, your sisters, are also beautiful, gifted, and needed.

Even in difficult times like the #churchtoo and #metoo movement, we may be hurting, but we still love you. You are not an enemy. Yes, you may at times represent something that is incredibly frustrating to us, but you are still our brothers, and we are still your sisters. 

The gospel calls us to move towards one another in love, not away.

Brothers in Christ, I love you. Your sister’s invitation is to seek formation in Christ when in positions of power, not seek to build bigger walls. I can only imagine the kind of church we can live into if we get this right. “Getting it right” means building bridges towards one another, pulling up more chairs to the table, and elevating the voices of your sisters. It means linking arms and pressing in together as we participate in the most glorious mission of all – the mission of God.

I believe it would be breath-taking and stunning, and I believe the world would take notice for all the right reasons.

This, dear ones, is the kind of church I long to be a part of.

[1] For more, see Andy Crouch, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2013)

[2] See https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/time-reckon-celebrity-power/

[3] I am not by any means a proponent of zero boundaries. In my book, Emboldened: A Vision for Empowering Women in Ministry, I unpack healthy boundaries for men and women co-laboring together for the kingdom in chapter 9.

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