“There’s a Movement Coming”: A Response to Patrick Mead and Lauren King, Preachers

There's a Movement Coming.001Christians have been warned, and we had better be ready.

Recently, the Fourth Avenue Church of Christ, in Franklin, Tennessee hired Lauren King to be their preaching intern. That King, a Bible major at Lipscomb University, is using the preaching internship for university credit, is remarkable in itself given that female biblical studies majors regularly meet internship requirements by serving in ways other than preaching to mixed audiences. She preached at a Sunday service at Fourth Avenue, and the congregation hailed her bravery and talents. After the sermon, she was interviewed ((See the video here: http://thecolleyhouse.org/sister-to-sister-it-doesnt-really-matter-what-i-think-about-fourth-avenue.)) and said:

“[I]t’s been so encouraging to have men and women of older generations come to me and say ‘You are brave’. Or come to me and say, ‘My mom had the same gifts you have. She didn’t get to use them. I’m glad you get to,’ and things like that. . . . It’s happening. There’s a movement coming. And I’m just honored and humbled. . . .”

Lauren King is probably right in saying that there is an impending movement toward increased female leadership among churches of Christ. To understand any movement, we must understand its motivation. Is this movement motivated by the word of God, or by the fleshly desires of humans? The movement at which Fourth Avenue is at the forefront cannot be authorized or motivated by the word of God, because the New Testament teaches explicitly that women are not to preach in the corporate Christian assembly:

  • 1 Corinthians 14:33-35. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
  • 1 Timothy 2:11-13. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. . . .

Lauren King’s movement can only be motivated by the cultural climate of our times, which seems to reject any practice that seems patriarchal, such as male leadership in the New Testament church. Faithful Christians reject the movement not because of a disdain for women, but because of a high opinion of God and a respect for the roles that only women can perform well.

Here I will not reply directly to Lauren King’s own apologetic for her ministry as presented in the video, because she does not present any argument in favor of it other than this (to summarize): If I feel that the Lord is speaking to me directly and telling me to do something then I can do it. The New Testament teaches that the Lord is not speaking directly to people today, because the age during which God’s revelation came miraculously has passed. ((Acts 8:14-25; 1 Corinthians 13:10-13; Jude 3; see Dave Miller, “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” Apologetics Press, https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1399 (2003).)) Furthermore, it is absurd to think that God is telling Lauren directly something that contradicts what the Bible teaches.

Instead, I want to respond to Fourth Avenue’s Senior Minister, Patrick Mead, who, in the same video, made three brief arguments in defense of the congregation’s decision to have women preachers. Error is effectively disseminated in brief soundbites such as these, but takes longer to correct. Still, we must correct (1 Timothy 1:3-7; 2 Timothy 4:2; Revelation 3:19), and so we carefully and slowly consider:

Mr. Mead’s first argument: Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-13, was not intending to “undo the rest of Scripture.” 

It is irrational to believe that Paul intended to overthrow the rest of Scripture, because Paul’s passages do not contradict any other Bible passage. One gathers from the video that Mr. Mead sees other statements in the Bible about the value of women as implying that women’s role in the church must be equal to those of men. In the absence of a passage that actually implies such, however, and in the presence of passages that explicitly teach the opposite, one cannot agree with Mr. Mead.

Mr. Mead’s second argument: Paul should be read “through” Jesus, rather than the other way around, because the words of Jesus have interpretive control over those of Paul.

Mr. Mead says, “I think the churches of Christ are getting this, that we no longer read all of the Bible as equal, but rather we come to Jesus. The law and the prophets brought us to Him. . . .  Everything Paul said, he was a fellow student with us.”

We would need to consider whether Jesus’ words have interpretive control over those of Paul only if we could see a clear conflict between the words of Christ and the words of Paul. But again, there is no such conflict. In reality, there is no conflict between Paul and Jesus because Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles into all the truth (John 14:26).

Furthermore, it is false that that the inspired words of Paul have less binding authority on Christians than the words of Jesus (e.g., 2 Corinthians 13:10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Galatians 1-2; 3 John 9). Consider the following argument.

  • Paul clearly thought that he did have apostolic authority over the church, that he was not simply a first-century classmate of ours.
  • If Paul was wrong to claim apostolic authority, he is a liar and not authoritative at all. In short, we should not listen to him.
  • Peter, however, listened to him, treating his writing as being “Scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16).
  • Therefore, we should treat Paul’s writings as authoritative over the church. We should listen to him.

Mr. Mead’s third argument: Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-13 do not apply to us today.  

Mr. Mead says that in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-13, Paul was

addressing a temporary issue in Corinth and Ephesus, and I think that if we know our history we can see what it was. He was not trying to make rules for everybody in every time, or we wouldn’t be allowing widows to be fed if they were of a certain age, and we wouldn’t be allowing women to have jewelry on. No, these were temporary things for temporary times. What the Bible does is that it tells me about Jesus. . . .

Mr. Mead does not tell us what cultural issue may have been on Paul’s mind. While current events may have been in Paul’s mind, he expresses that his major motivation was—by inspiration—the order of Creation. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:12-13; cf. Genesis 2:18-25).

Mr. Mead is simply wrong to say that if Paul were trying to make lasting rules for the church in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 then Christians today would disallow benevolence to younger widows or disallow women from wearing jewelry. Consider each of these issues in turn:

In 1 Timothy 5:9-15, Paul gave instructions about the “enrollment” of widows in the church. This has to do with older widows who have extremely limited prospects for income and future family life and were substantially supported by the church. I know of at least one third-world congregation that has an enrollment of qualified widows who are supported from the church treasury. Those folks are following this passage because it is applicable to them. We no more dismiss 1 Timothy 5:9-15 on the basis of culture than we dismiss 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 on the basis of culture.

Two passages, one from Paul and one from Peter, directly address women wearing jewelry. Here is the first one:

1 Timothy 2:9-10. [L]ikewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

Paul’s emphasis is on modest and respectable attire and good works. Faithful Christian women certainly follow the passage every day. The passage probably makes reference to a ancient practices whereby women took hours to arrange and decorate their hair. ((See Tertullian, “On the Apparel of Women,” book 2, chapters 6-7, http://www.tertullian.org/anf/anf04/anf04-07.htm#P351_73144; “Roman Hairstyles II,” San Diego State University, http://csuimages.sjsu.edu/gallery/oldworld/ancientrome/living/fashion/hair02.htm (n.d.).)). Be that as it may, Paul is obviously not forbidding the wearing of all gold. Consider Kyle Butt’s helpful remarks concerning 1 Timothy 2:9-10:

In this passage, we see a literary construction that is common in the Bible—the comparison and substitution of one less desirable thing for another more profitable thing. In this particular case, the gaudy clothes were to be rejected in favor of good works and modest clothes. Jesus used a similar construction in John 6:27, when He stated, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you…” At first glance, this statement from Jesus seems to be saying that a person should not work for physical food. However, we know that is not the intended meaning, because 2 Thessalonians 3:10 plainly says, “if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” What, then, was Jesus’ point? He simply was saying that spiritual food is more important than physical food, and as such, should be given a higher priority. ((“Wearing Gold and Braided Hair?,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1210 (2003), emp. in orig.))

Paul forbids costly attire, but “costly” is obviously a relative term, and so Christians (under the oversight of their local elders) must exercise judgment.

Here is the second passage:

1 Peter 3:3-4. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God ‘s sight is very precious.

Peter’s passage no more condemns all wearing of gold than it does all wearing of clothes. Peter, like Paul, taught that women are to wear apparel that does not draw undue attention to them. As Wayne Jackson noted, “The point is this: for both women and men, one may dress well, and even fashionable within his cultural circumstances; however, he or she should avoid being show-offish. Inner traits should be paramount in our public demeanor. Christ should be magnified in us (Philippians 1:20).” ((“What about Braided Hair?,” Christian Courier, https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/206-what-about-braided-hair (2014), parenthetical item in orig.))

Faithful, Bible-believing Christians are ready to address error wherever it threatens the life of the church, for which Christ died and which is based on the authority of Christ and the authority He gave to His apostles (Matthew 16:19, 28:18-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Peter 3:15). Faithful brethren will proceed with the Restoration Movement, even if some, such as those at Fourth Avenue, digress and make their own movement. We will continue to call people to Christ by preaching His gospel, which Paul called “our gospel” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).


- 2024

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