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Pastoral Leadership and the Gender Issue: What Does Courage Look Like?

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The problem with preaching on manhood and womanhood in most evangelical churches is that it is simply not being done. Sure, pastors will preach on “gender” occasionally, including on male headship and on female submission, but it is done in an abstract, vague manner that doesn’t hit at the cosmic seriousness of this issue. Abstraction cannot replace the avalanche of cultural influences toward feminism on the one hand and a predatory form of pagan patriarchy on the other.

A pastor must be willing to lose his pulpit in order to save it. He cannot simply denounce the same “culture war” opponents that might be demonized by Fox News. He must talk about issues that will be sensitive to people in his own congregation–a dating culture that by its very definition anticipates fornication, the outsourcing of parenting to daycare “professionals” in order to carry out dual-income households, and so forth. A pastor who addresses such issues will find some hostility, but he will also find Christians–and seeking lost people–who are willing to give him a hearing because of his honesty and conviction.

This means, first of all, that complementarian pastors must give up on the notion that one can be comfortably anonymous in the ambient culture and still hold to biblical ideas of manhood and womanhood. If that ever were the case (and I doubt it), it is not the case anymore.

A man who really gets Ephesians 5 is the kind of man who will be willing to work two jobs and live in a trailer to enable his wife to be the primary caregiver of his children. A woman who really understands Proverbs 31 is going to seem to be a “Stepford wife” to those who are accustomed to women making ribald jokes about men and loud complaints about incompetent husbands. A college student serious about biblical manhood and womanhood is going to set parameters for his interactions with the opposite sex that will seem ridiculous to his roommates.

It also means that the pulpit cannot be the only place where discipleship in this area is carried out. Our pastors must give time and attention to discipling younger men, not through some curriculum purchased at the local Christian bookstore but through spending time in an authentic Paul-Timothy type friendship in which the pastor has the credibility–earned through proven wisdom and undisputed love–to encourage and to rebuke.

Christian women must put Titus 2 into practice, not with simply another DVD series from a female celebrity but through women spending time with one another, learning together what it means to be daughters of Sarah.

That takes more time than a stadium event or an emphasis Sunday, but it will change our churches for the better.

You are part of a family and family is difficult because family – every family – is an echo of the gospel.

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About Russell Moore

Russell Moore

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency 
of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

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