Well, in case you missed it, I blasphemed the goddess of female sinlessness last Tuesday. Her great and holy law is: Thou shalt not address female sin or encourage husbands/pastors to do so. I think I’ve been called every name now, and I mean every word your mom taught you not to use. And surely more than one of you wonder why I do it, and I know a few of you wish I wouldn’t and think it’s particularly unhelpful, but I actually believe that it is very worthwhile and I want to explain why here.
What I wrote was: “One of the weakest links in the church is the wives of elders & pastors. Many wives are stumbling blocks to their husbands by their fretting, fussing, & criticizing of their husband’s calling to lead & fight. An elder who has not discipled his wife for the fight is a liability.”
A majority of the huffy responses to this came down to basic literacy skills, which is what you get when you let the government run your schools. But let’s break this down together: First off, a key word in the first sentence is “one.” I cannot count the number of angry responses that said I thought “THE weakest link” was women. But that’s not what I wrote. I wrote “ONE of the weakest links…,” which in common English means there are others. A bunch of replies went something like: “here let me fix this for you…” or “this is wrong because…” and then proceeded to point out another major weakness in the modern church, many of which I agreed with.
Another key word begins the second sentence: “many.” Notice that I did not write “all” or even “most.” But finally, perhaps the most overlooked part of the entire post was the final sentence which laid the responsibility at the feet of men – the elders themselves. Of course, that sentence also included the word “disciple,” which I would like to point out is not the same word as “disicipline.” A few folks accidentally read “discipline” and had a great sense of humor about the mix-up, but a bunch of others, well, let’s just say they didn’t.
Jesus called those who followed Him, “disciples,” and His Commission to the Church was to go into all the world and make more disciples, teaching them to obey everything He commanded (Mt. 28). As I asked several detractors who have yet to answer me: Do you object to the discipleship of women or the fact that I laid this failure at the feet their husbands? The Bible clearly teaches that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and this means imitating Christ’s sacrificial example, and washing their wives with the water of the word that they may be presented without spot or blemish (Eph. 5:25-27).
What Am I Talking About?
But to the substance of the post: Do I really believe that this is a significant problem in the church? Are many women stumbling blocks to their husbands? Yes, absolutely. To be clear: I was not responding to anything in particular or sub-tweeting or vague-booking, shooting from the bushes at anyone or any church or any group of churches. The point is something that I’ve pondered numerous times, from a number of different sources, over a number of years. It was older, seasoned pastors and elders and their wives who first taught me and my wife this principle. And for whatever it’s worth, a number of pastors, elders, and their wives chimed in thanking me for the post, agreeing, sharing, and so forth, adding to the data, confirming what I have already heard and seen.
It should go without saying that men need the wise and godly input and feedback from their wives. Man is not good alone, and this goes double for men in leadership, especially leadership in the church. Almost immediately after I posted this on Twitter, one fellow replied with this: “One of the strongest links in the church is the wives of elders and pastors. Many wives are houses of shalom to their husbands by their faith, encouragement, and support of their husband’s calling to lead & fight. An elder who guards his wife is a priest-king indeed.” To which I replied immediately, “Amen.” Which, just to be clear, is also what I think, and which is also fully consistent with my original post.
So what am I talking about? I’m talking about men, and elders and pastors in particular, who have failed to teach the entire Bible to their wives, including the hard parts, including the basic doctrines of God’s holiness and grace, including the inevitability of persecution, disagreement, and loss of friends. I’m talking about a man who has failed to exercise the kind of leadership and loyalty and love that is required for shepherding his wife through the inevitable trials of ministry and leadership. And having failed to teach and love his wife like that, the wife is completely unprepared when her husband preaches a sermon or teaches a Bible study on Ephesians 5 or 1 Peter 3 or Titus 2 in our modern culture.
When the blowback comes, it’s usually not so much what was said, but the way it was said. The “concern” gets back to the pastor’s wife, and she is seriously shaken. She doesn’t like people thinking that her husband is harsh or domineering or insensitive. Will he lose his job? Will they have to move? Will he be able to get another job? Will they be able to pay the bills? How will the kids take it? And after a minute or so, she’s wondering if anyone will even be willing to buy their house and whether they might all contract the coronavirus on their way to their new job in South Dakota. And besides, she’s not sure she wants to face some of her friends on Sunday after this.
Even though the message was just a calm verse by verse explanation and application of the text, by this point she’s pretty sure her husband really should have said it more carefully or maybe not at all. And so she brings it up to her husband one night, and she might do it all casual and serene, “Babe, I’ve been praying about it a lot and I really think you should consider apologizing for your message last week since it caused a lot of concerns and confusions. Betsy was just sharing with me about her domineering father and how it just brings up bad memories when you talk about those things. I know you didn’t mean anything by it, but I think some folks just really need you to be more gentle with them, you know like how Paul said he was like a nursing mother with the Corinthians?” And so, the pastor’s wife becomes a stumbling block to her husband.
Sometimes it may be a far more emotional appeal, “I just can’t take this pressure, this tension. I feel like people are frustrated with you, with me. I feel like we’re causing confusion and division. I’m afraid of what might happen. Please just be encouraging and positive!” The man may go along with the suggestion to apologize, or the man may just decide to avoid the battles that need to be fought because he knows it will be hard on his wife. Sometimes the pressures on a minister’s marriage can manifest in health problems, emotional problems, weight problems, or combinations of all of the above. And notice very carefully here that the root responsibility is the man’s – he is responsible for his wife before God. He is a liability to the church. He is not in a strong position to fight.
Some of these challenges may reveal that a man is not called to the ministry, and the most faithful response would be his resignation. But if our land is plagued by emasculated Christian men (and it is), then we must not be so blind as to miss the inevitable results of that failure. Sin begets sin. Parents can cause their children to stumble, husbands can cause their wives to stumble, and the cycle most certainly can continue: those who have been stumbled can cause their stumblers to stumble.
The answer to all of this is the gospel and not finger pointing or blame-shifting. Accusation is the way of the devil, and it’s a cycle of confusion and bitterness that never fixes anything. But the gospel comes to all of us and confronts all of us for our own individual sin and the cross of Christ lifts up the only innocent victim in all of human history before our eyes, and in Him we see our particular sins crucified. And the burden of our guilt falls off our backs, and we are set free to obey Christ and serve our spouse and children and parents and people.
But It’s In The Bible Too
The Bible also clearly indicates that these are temptations for women, and this is why marriage is such terribly glorious thing, heavy with the future upon its shoulders: “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly” (Deut. 7:3-4). If the many wives of Solomon could turn his heart from serving the Lord, why couldn’t otherwise faithful women turn the hearts of their husbands from complete obedience to the Lord?
“Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands” (Prov. 14:1). Can unloved and undiscipled women act foolishly? Are they powerful enough to pull their own houses down? Are Christian women powerful enough to pull down the house of God by their folly? Surely the biblical answer is yes. “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house” (Prov. 21:9, 19, 25:24, 27:15). A contentious, brawling woman may drive a man into the wilderness, but she may also successfully drive a man to avoid the rooftop and wilderness by training him to walk on tip-toe through his own house. And if a man knows that certain topics will ignite certain conflicts or difficulties in the church or on the elder board, and on top of that he knows it will cause trouble in his own home, how likely is he to do what he believes needs to be done? Could that have any influence on him?
Why did Paul need to instruct the Ephesians that wives are to be submissive to their own husbands in everything (Eph. 5:24)? Why did Peter instruct Christian wives to even submit to disobedient husbands and to obey them like Sarah obeyed Abraham with a gentle and quiet spirit without any fear (1 Pet. 3:1-6)? It is because women are tempted to be unsubmissive, tempted to disobey their husbands, tempted to fear and insecurity, and tempted to take matters into their own hands. And if all women are tempted to this to some degree, then the wives of elders and pastors are not immune to this temptation.
So we have plenty of anecdotal evidence, we have numerous Scriptural warnings and admonitions, and then we have the plain as day evidence of a completely corrupt and compromised Protestant evangelical church in our land. The LGBT gestapo has a tiny percentage of the population compared to evangelical Christians in this country. Surveys suggest that Protestant evangelicals make up 25% of the US population, represented by at least 50,000 churches. Yet, over three thousand babies are murdered in our land every day. Sodomites parade in our streets. The government lies and steals and oppresses, and we keep letting them.
Why are we in this mess? Because we are under God’s curse. And by “we,” I specifically mean God’s people, the people who call on His name, the people who worship Him, and those who lead His people. And we are under His curse because we are shot through with sin. And a great deal of that sin is in the houses and marriages of elders and pastors. We do not have the will to stand against these evils because many men have given their strength away to their women. Rather than leading, they are being led. Rather than teaching and instructing and guarding their wives from evil, like Adam and Eve in the garden, men are listening to Satanic lies and being led astray, often by misplaced feminine instincts to avoid danger and conflict. Those men are absolutely responsible for their own cowardice and lust and anger and abdication: they are liabilities and will not stand in the day of battle. But if we believe in the dignity of women as moral agents, responsible before God, we must also recognize that one of the weakest links in the modern church is the wives of elders and pastors who are not being the kind of support and encouragement they should be.
As I have reported before, one of the benefits of walking up to the culture and putting your finger on their collective eyeball is the fascinating social ripples that play out. One of those ripples serves as a rather severe warning. The first wave of reactions are the enthusiastic supporters. And let’s be honest, some of those are enthusiastic for all the wrong reasons. They are WWF Christians, and they are just in it for points scored, blood in the water, and cathartic mayhem. That is not at all why I post or write things like this, but to my detractors who may think I do or think I’m unaware of that class of folks in the crowd, please know that I’m well aware.
But the gravest warning comes in the second wave of responses that we may call the friendly detractor wave. These are the sorts who say things like, I know what you mean and I kind of (sort of) agree, but the way you said it was too mean, harsh, or unloving or unclear. This second wave is well represented by the Revoice movement and those who are not willing to fight it. But social media algorithmic powers link friends and follower groups, assuming that if you’re friends with so-and-so, you’d be interested in seeing a post they interacted with. As it turns out, these friendly detractors are nice enough to have followers in the third wave of responses, which includes “Christians” who have jumped the shark. They have preferred pronouns in their bios, refer to themselves as Christian feminists/egalitarians, and are fine with calling practicing sodomites Christians. These folks can get pretty snippy and crass, but it’s their friends and followers who bring the fourth wave of detractors, and they are the sorts that are flinging f-bombs and threatening to gang rape you. And I’m not kidding.
What these second and third waves do not understand is how they are actually inviting the fourth wave. You cannot sow wind and reap anything other than the whirlwind. But no one sets out to reap the whirlwind. The softy defenders of Revoice and those who do not have the nerve to be the Elijah or John the Baptist needed in the PCA (and every evangelical denomination for that matter) right now are all doing so in the name of being nice, friendly, welcoming, and evangelistic. And all of this is driven by that misplaced feminine nurturing instinct. And the next thing you know, you have trannies performing abominations in your chapel.
How could this happen? It happens because the men who are charged with guarding that sanctuary and fighting those abominations have been trained in feminine sensibilities that generally avoid conflict and are more strongly tempted to choose unity over truth. And a great deal of that has happened because men have failed to rule their own households in wisdom, failed to disciple their wives biblically, and have allowed the fears and temptations of their wives to neutralize their calling to fight sin and worldliness. To the friendly detractors, to those convinced that all we need to do is package the Bible in a slightly more friendly manner and appease the friendly moderates, you are the problem. Your niceness and friendliness is inviting the perversion hurricane into the church (Js. 4). You cannot open the sewer just a crack. It must be all-out war with sin and darkness or you have compromised. It is Christ or nothing.
And this is why these things must be said out loud in public. You must be at war with all the idols. And if you would be in the fight, if you would not be a liability in this fight, you must have a truly virtuous woman at your side, a woman of wisdom and courage, a woman who understands the true nature of the ministry, a woman who is not afraid of any terror.