“A woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.” – Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, English writer.
“It is no harder for a woman to teach a mixed audience than to only women when one gets used to it. For there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Jesus Christ.” – Miss Abbie M. Colby, Missionary to Osaka, Japan, as quoted in Life and Light for Woman, March 1888, p. 87.
The SBC Debate about Women Pastors
One advantage of knowing history is the ability to see into the future.
The famous axiom is:
“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
The opposite is also true.
“Those who know history avoid upcoming traps.”
There’s a controversy in the Southern Baptist institutional religious world about “women pastors.”
“This should never happen!” the majority of male pastors cry. “The sacred text bars women from being a pastor! We Southern Baptists who believe the Bible must stick to what the Bible teaches!”
I’ve written extensively on the problem of wrongly associating “an office of authority” with the biblical term shepherd or pastor.
The spiritual gifts of teaching, exhorting, shepherding, mercy, evangelism, preaching, etc., are never GENDER QUALIFIED in Scripture.
The proper question is not “Can a woman be a pastor?” but “What is a pastor?”
If you answer the question, “What is a pastor?” biblically, you’ll see that the word translated pastor is used in the context of a verb of service and not a noun of status.
There is no “office of the pastor” in the Bible like “the office of the President.” In Christ’s church, gifted men and women compose the “body of Christ.”
Christ alone is the Head of His body. In Him is all authority. Leaders in Christ’s church are humble, gifted servants. They should be “older” (elder) in the faith and not too young.
The Bible is clear:
“A pastor (shepherd) in Christ’s church is any humble, gifted man or woman, who encourages, feeds, protects, and guides Christ’s sheep. Or, to use a more biblical metaphor, a pastor is a “hand that assists a foot,” or an “eye that helps the ear listen,” or “a heart that rushes blood to a diseased liver,” etc…
I could go on and on with body metaphors, but my point is that there is only ONE HEAD of the church, and that is Jesus.
“Jesus alone is the head and source of everything His church needs. God’s put everything beneath the authority of Jesus and has given Him highest rank.” Eph. 1:22-23
Everyone else who attempts to exert “spiritual authority” over another Christian is practicing Fraudulent Authority and is subverting the role of Christ in a believer’s life.
This Post Is a Lesson in History
I write to argue from history that since Southern Baptists say they believe what the Bible teaches, they will one day change their minds about women not qualified to shepherd (pastor) other Christians.
This year, at the Southern Baptist Convention, SBC pastors nationwide voted to approve a Constitutional amendment “banning any Southern Baptist Church from Convention membership that has the word ‘pastor’ before a woman who serves on staff.”
The second and final vote of the Constitutional Amendment will be at the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention.
I chuckled when I read the appropriately named LAW AMENDMENT.
The young pastor who proposed the amendment (Mike Law), asked the SBC “to ban churches that use the title pastor in staff roles filled by women.” Mike Law made a video entitled “What Is a Pastor?”
Like many secular psychologists, Mike Law asked the right question but provided the wrong answer.
The Bible never changes. It is God’s Word. But we must remember that the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures were written for us but not “to us.”
I know from history that Southern Baptist interpretations of biblical texts have changed (and rightfully so).
What Southern Baptists believe about the role, authority, and ministry of shepherds (pastors) will one day change from the standardized BFM 2000 statement, especially when the day comes that the institutional church implodes, and Christ’s church (which is unshakeable) dramatically expands.
Let me show you four historical examples where Southern Baptists have changed their minds about what the Bible teaches,
#1 – Pastors Ought to Receive No Salary
Elijah later served as the large Crossing Baptist Church (Kentucky) pastor. One historian says Elijah “played a vital role in communicating the views of the Virginia Baptists to the new state government.”
Elijah Craig wrote a book entitled A Few Remarks on the Errors Maintained in the Christian Churches of the Present Day (1801). In it, Elijah wrote:
“Pastors…are precluded by the Scriptures from receiving any compensation for their services.”
Well, I would expect that out of the 10,000 Southern Baptists pastors present at the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention, the vast majority will be glad that Baptists have changed their position on what the Bible teaches about paying pastors.
But wait, there’s more...
#2 – Producing and Drinking Alcohol Is Good
The Baptist Pastor Elijah Craig, who lived in the southern U.S., supported his wife and six kids by inventing Kentucky Bourbon, a corn liquor aged in charred barrels, and selling it to the general public. Elijah Craig Bourbon, produced in 1789 in the distillery Baptist pastor Elijah Craig named Heaven Hill, is still available for purchase worldwide. Elijah Craig Bourbon has been voted America’s best bourbon.
“What? Are you kidding me?”
No. I’m not.
“But I thought the Southern Baptist Convention has always deemed the sale and use of alcohol to be a sin?”
No. Not even close.
In 1796, the Elkhorn Baptist Association, a Kentucky association (constituted in 1785), ruled that “denying a member church membership because he sold intoxicants was unjustified.”
It was not until 100 years later (1886) that the Southern Baptist Convention began passing resolutions against alcohol.
So Southern Baptists have changed their minds about paying pastors and drinking whiskey.
But wait, there’s more.
#3 – Smoking and Selling Tobacco Is Beneficial
The first Baptist church, which called Elijah Craig to be their pastor, the Blue Run Baptist Church, met in a tobacco farm shed.
That’s right. All the members smoked tobacco and sold it to make a living – including their pastor.
Baptists in Elijah Craig’s day smoked and chewed tobacco, drank and sold whiskey, and wouldn’t pay their pastors a salary.
But wait, there’s more.
#3 – Church and Politics Are One
While plowing his field in 1768, Baptist pastor Elijah Craig was arrested and imprisoned for seventeen days for preaching “schismatick doctrines.”
Contrary to many modern Southern Baptist leaders who believe national government and the church should be the same, Baptist pastor Elijah Craig advocated that government and the church should always be separated. Government officials imprisoned him.
But apparently, the prison couldn’t keep Elijah from preaching. Baptists gathered outside the jail, and this Baptist pastor named Elijah Craig preached the gospel through the bars of his jail window. Consequently, the authorities built a high wall around the prison to keep people from hearing.
Eventually, Elijah Craig was released to return to his whiskey and tobacco business to preach the gospel.
#4 – Slavery Is Biblical
Southern Baptists for decades believed that holding slaves was not only biblical Christianity. They also preached tens of thousands of messages on the evil of slavery abolition.
Of course, Baptists changed their minds about slavery.
I will be a Southern Baptist until my death. At that time, Jesus will call me home in the resurrection to His eternal Kingdom.
That said, allow me to predict the future of the Southern Baptist Convention and its unbiblical view of women in ministry.
Regardless of the 2024 passage of the Law Amendment, one day in the future, the Southern Baptist Convention will change its mind on the biblical interpretation of gifted, humble women and their Spirit-given abilities to shepherd God’s people.
My SBC male pastors will say to me, “NO! We will NOT change our minds on this!”
With my knowledge of SBC history, I will politely enter into a wager with my 2023-2024 SBC pastor friends:
“I’ll bet you, my Bible-believing Southern Baptist pastor friends, that you will change your minds about what the Bible teaches about women shepherding God’s people before I change my mind.
In fact, I will make you a promise!
When I meet a modern-day Southern Baptist pastor who receives no salary, who smokes tobacco and drinks whiskey daily, who refuses to identify with any political party to the point of imprisonment, and who will introduce me to the African slaves he keeps in his house, I will change my view about gifted, humble women being biblically qualified to shepherd God’s people.
Until then, I’ll stand firm on my interpretation of the biblical principles that gifted people humbly serve Christ’s church without regard to gender.
It’s best for the Kingdom when young Southern Baptist preachers trained by Paige Patterson’s BFM 2000 stop their shallow sanctimonious sermonettes on how the Bible is authoritative in restricting women from serving as shepherds for God’s people.
Maybe they are missing the understanding that Southern Baptists have regularly made mistakes in biblical interpretation.
The Bible makes NO mistakes.
Those of us who read and teach the Bible often make mistakes.
Could I be wrong about women being able to shepherd God’s people?
I fellowship with Christians who disagree with me.
Disfellowshiping from Saddleback Church and its founding pastor, Rick Warren – a Southern Baptist pastor who supports women pastors – is a dangerous step leading to a future trap for the institutional religious denomination called the Southern Baptist Convention.
The history of Baptists and the changes in the SBC over the decades indicate that I know the accuracy of what I write.