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Does Ordained Church Office Equal Value? (No)

The Church, going with the Bible, has two kinds of ordained people within it: elders and deacons.

We see these two “offices” in Acts 6 & 1 Timothy 3:8-13 (deacons) and 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 5:17, Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Peter 5:1-4 (elders, who may be pastors or lay elders).

Some churches, like ours, ordain only men. How bizarre, right? And (hear this as loving and gracious push-back) how dare God and a religion declare anything different from what its society currently approves! Ha ha.

Why would a church do that?

We have three places to look where the qualifications of elders and deacons are given in the Bible: Acts 6, 1 Timothy 3:1-13, and Titus 1:5-9. In Acts 6, the first deacons are ordained (for the purpose of getting meals to widowed women in the church, no less), and the apostles instruct the ordaining church with these words: “Select seven men from among you whom we may put in charge of this task.” And, the church selects seven men, whose male names are all given there in the text. In Titus 1, one of the qualifications for an elder is that he is to be “the husband of one wife.” 1 Timothy 3 says the same not only for the office of elder, but also specifically for the office of deacon (that an eligible person for each of these offices would need to be “the husband of one wife”).

It is not the purpose of this blog article to look at and surmise (both) reasons for male-only officership, so I’ll move on. My purpose here in this entry is to explain why men and women don’t have to be offended at male-only officership in the Church.

Not being offended boils down to this: understanding the Biblical and Jesus-taught truth that worth, both for men and women, is not tied to recognition and position and ordination in the world, but to the eyes of the God who sees and knows all. We see this truth throughout all of Scripture, such as in Paul’s 1 Corinthians 12 discussion regarding unseen gifts v. seen gifts (and how the unseen-gifted people should be valued by all church members, because, after all, “where would the eye be without the ear?”), and in Jesus’ thorough teaching of it, as here:

Mark 10:42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Our session has loved the 3-4 times we’ve had a deacon candidate, being interviewed by us for our determining of his qualification for office prior to our releasing his name to the congregation as an “eligible candidate for the office of deacon,” say this: “I just want you to know: I don’t have to be ordained. I don’t have to be a deacon. Whether or not you approve me, I’m OK with that. I’m here. I’m not leaving. I’ll serve the church just as much and help out just as much whether or not I’m a deacon.” We say, after he leaves, “Boom. There we go. He’s what we want in the office—one who doesn’t care about title and recognition. He gets it.”

By the way, my sermon this week dealt with this heavily. Don’t feel obligated, but here are the links for video and podcast, copied and pasted from my Sunday church email:

“Church Authorities are for You” from 1 Kings 19:15-21 (part two) Video: YouTube: Audio: For just the audio as a podcast (to listen while walking, running, or driving): iTunes podcast: Amazon Podcasts: Spotify: Anchor:

When we bend and twist on this issue, in polity or word, we are often mistakenly equating value and usefulness, on the one hand, with office, on the other, saying unintentionally that those who have office have value and those who do not do not. From this errant thinking, we say, “What a crime that women (and most men, if we’re to be consistent in the argument, which we are not) are not given officership! I value them; therefore, I say they should be officers and given recognition!”

When we say this, we're approaching the church and church officership with the eyes and value system of the world that says importance/value, on the one hand, and positions of recognition, on the other, are in a one-to-one relationship. But Jesus says, “'But not so with you,’ My disciples. They are not.” Value from God is with the unrecognized widow who gives “all that she has” in a copper coin, and not in a pompous person's waxing eloquently before a large crowd, and then receiving their adulation. The latter is the way of “the Gentiles.”

Jesus rebukes and publicly criticizes the Pharisees who loved to be recognized at banquets with the seats of honor, by wearing special robes, and by praying on street corners “to be seen by men.” A good deacon and a good elder in a church wants, in contrast, no recognition and no attention, and understands his job is for Jesus to be glorified in the church as people look at Him in the church, not them.

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