On Rob Bell…broken foots and deep mysteries

Who begins a talk about the mysteries of the cosmos with a story about a broken foot and a Polish jack-of-all-trades miracle worker?

Rob Bell does.

In my last post, which was a review of the Progressive Youth Ministry Conference, I ended by alluding that Rob Bell spoke, without giving much print to him.


Truth be told, Rob was indeed the featured “celebrity” speaker, the reason why some choose to attend the conference and for many the highlight of the weekend.


For ten years, much of my youth ministry teaching and pulpit preaching drew ideas and insights from Rob Bell’s books and Nooma videos.  I have always appreciated his thoughts and admired his way of communicating.  I know he has received a bad rap by a sub-sect of more fundamental Christians, but I still applaud his vision and was very happy to see him invited to come and speak at this year’s conference.

In classic Bell fashion, he cleverly crafted a story that helped illustrate how every question (and relative answer) always lends to another question…with a set of answers that inevitably lead to more questions..  Etc.. etc.

Every question and answer leads deeper down into mystery.

One of the basic premises of his talk was the view that all discoveries of humanity thus far, have actually done little to make sense of the human experience and emotions involved.  Scientists becomes theologians the moment they exclaim “Wow” at some wonder they observe. Similarly we become theologians when we experience something profound that no discovery can address.

To Bell, the world will always need those who can create spaces for people to share in the unexplained mysteries of life.  The human experience is rife with raw emotions that cannot be simply explained or rationed away.  These emotions and longings draw us inextricably together in ways that modern science (such as quantum entanglement) may beginning to now realize.

The posture for people of faith towards the advancement of the sciences should be an openness without fear that it will limit our view.  Rather, all discoveries and “truth” should be claimed and celebrated as an expanding of God’s presence in the cosmos and our particular lives.

This mindset does indeed enhance, rather than inhibit, our sense of the inter-connectivity of everything and that the presence of God does permeate in all, through all and with all.  This seems to concur with the ancients view of God and Jesus’ own beliefs.  The great religious traditions have a beautiful role to still play in the world, but too often focus on creating (and then defending/protecting/expanding) their own particular “temples” i.e. institutions, buildings, doctrines, denominations, creeds, etc..

The challenge, Rob offered, is for church to build up the temple in order to inspire others but not to focus on the temple…rather tear it down and let the Divine flood into the world.  This does not insinuate that God’s presence and activity is not already permeable throughout the cosmos, but rather how often people of faith believe that it somehow exists and operates almost exclusively within particularities.   The Jews certainly believed that to be true with the Divine and the Temple.  Jesus came onto the scene and radially revolutionized that concept in many ways, one of which was his conversation with a woman at a well:

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Sadly, many Christians have continued this false dichotomy and almost dualism by insisting that God can only be found, understood and experienced through very specific (and often limited) means.  This may include one’s particular creed, denomination, theological view, style of music, method of baptism, etc. etc.. etc…

What if….

What if the whole thing is a temple? 

Everything and everywhere.  The heights and depths.  The earth and the heavens.  The past and the future.  Those of homo-sapien origins and perhaps those of extraterrestrial existence?

It seems to me that if this were true, it would expand God’s majesty and beauty, while at the same time enhancing the importance of every aspect of life.  No more would the sacred -secular divide exist, which appears to be what Jesus desired and ushered in.

Well, every question leads to other questions, so I will ruminate on this idea for some time but am glad that Rob came to not only entertain us comically, but also enlighten us theologically in brilliant Bell fashion.



Open Paris…in review

Open Paris

This past weekend, 50 youth workers from across the E.U., U.K. and the U.S converged upon Paris for the inaugural Open Paris.

We were tremendously blessed with a stacked lineup of diverse speakers and seminars including Mark Oestreicher, Andrew Marin, Chris Kidd, Chris Curtis, Gemma Dunning, Markus Eichler, Tabea Weiler, Tim Eldred among others.

Tim Eldred


For the full range of the schedule, seminars and vision for Open Paris you can check out the website here:http://paris.openym.org

Hosting was fun and I really enjoyed playing tour guide in the city of Paris and The American Church in Paris.

More importantly, I loved connecting up with such a wide array of youth workers from 6-7 different countries. Each person shared his or her unique story, context, struggles, successes, hopes and dreams for God’s work in the lives of their students.

Some of the highlights for me included a very delicious traditional French dinner served for all guests on Friday evening followed by a sacred time of worship in the church’s catacombs.

(photos courtesy of Tim Eldred and Andrew Marin)



Open Paris was highly interactive, participatory, inclusive and relational.

In my opinion that is the way forward for youth worker gatherings.

Though some well-known speakers were on site, Open Paris was NOT about creating a dichotomy between the “professionals” and the ordinary youth workers.  We were all together all the time, and this is unique among these type of conferences.

Open Paris was about taking some bold risks and opening up honest conversations about real issues facing youth workers today including ministering to the ever-increasing LGBT community, embracing ecumenicalism as a way forward,  and inter-faith dialogue in pluralistic contexts.


I applaud the vision of The Youth Cartel (Adam and Marko) for desiring to create this kind of atmosphere and am excited to see what the future holds for other Open events and also for the connectivity and friendship of youth workers across Europe.

We have much to learn from each other and I hope to see more of these gatherings in the near future!

ACP sanctuaryThe American Church and Eiffel Tower copy

Hosting “Open Paris”


In just over one month youth workers from across Europe and North American will be traveling to France for Open Paris.  This event is sponsored by The Youth Cartel and my church, The American Church in Paris, will play the host. www.acparis.org

I am really excited about this opportunity to get a variety of voices from a multitude of backgrounds, traditions, cultures..and countries gathering together to learn and embrace our experiences.

I appreciate the vision of The Youth Cartel’s “Open” manifesto   http://paris.openym.org/the-open-manifesto/

Here’s a blurb from their own words…..

“We think something is wrong with that. Deep in our souls we know the solutions to the problems we face today are already out there, waiting to be discovered.

Open is just that. Open. The Youth Cartel sets the table, plays host, and invites anyone and  everyone who has an idea to the table for a day where we all have equal value for our ideas. Whether you are a big dog with 20,000 people writing down your every word, a college student with some crazy ideas, or somewhere in between, the table is open–we will give you your shot and equal time to share your idea.”

On a personal note, I have known Adam and Marko for over a decade now and our journey which began at YS conventions will now finds us within a stone’s throw of the Eiffel Tower sipping wine and discussing the latest theological and cultural trends impacting youth ministry.

The U.S used to have a market on all things “youth ministry” but the global community has much to say especially relating to shifting worldviews in secular societies.

Yes, our American counterparts (which I still include myself in) know how to budget and build bigger and “better” youth ministry programs at church.  European youth workers are navigating the often treacherous waters between secular and sacred within society. Ours are often the students who can speak 3-4 different languages, have fully stamped passports by the age of 12, feel more comfortable in airports than soccer fields, and are positioned to be the global leaders of tomorrow.  This is why learning how to minister to teenagers in a European context is crucial and a good lesson for all youth workers.

And Paris…well, to many it is still the heart of Europe and center of culture, fashion, cuisine and philosophy.  It is often said that what trends in Paris finds its way to NYC and then the world.  This is certainly true when it comes to fashion and probably the culinary world.

But ask any student of philosophical innovation, especially in the era of postmodernity, and the birthplace of these ideas….France!  This cultural phenomenon that scares the multitudes in America came from the minds of French thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and the like.  These brilliant minds arguably redefined thought, literature, culture…and religion… and similar minds are being educated currently in the same schools our students attend.

That being said, Paris is just one of many cultural centers in Europe which hold great influence on the rest of the global community.

I hope that Open Paris will just be the beginning of an European movement in youth ministry that brings together divergent views in a united passion of seeing God’s kingdom redefined in radical ways among today’s teens.

If you can, please come and join us or stay tuned to this blog for Open Paris updates, live feeds, and reflections as we celebrate new ideas in youth ministry and dream together what youth work can..and will be!

For more information about our location, speakers, seminars and to register please visit the Open Paris site:   http://paris.openym.org/

The Power of Volunteering

Volunteerism is the voice of the people put into action. These actions shape and mold the present into a future of which we can all be proud.

– Submitted by Helen Dyer, Parks Funding and Volunteer Coordinator, Teller County, CO Division of Parks, Colorado, USA

We all have choices to make; choices about how to spend our time, our talents, and our treasures.  Let me be more precise.  We do have choices to make but perhaps not about anything we possess.  As a person of faith, I believe that what we have is given to us by our gracious God.  We are stewards of everything we own, the time we have, and even  life itself.  So the question becomes… what are we doing with our life?  Are we living for ourselves or others?  Is our life making a difference in the world around us?

Nelson Mandela quoted, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Volunteering is a powerful way to make a difference and be the change we want to see in the world.  This does not have to be a 2-week trip to remote parts of an African jungle. This could mean volunteering one Saturday morning a month for your local community center or soup kitchen.

At my church we are privilege to have many opportunities for volunteering locally and globally.  No matter your religious affiliation I encourage all to discover opportunities to volunteer and serve,  Through service opportunities, both global and local, it is our hope to positively impact others through our presence and resources.  This happens whether we are physically constructing a home or school, providing medical aid, feeding the hungry, teaching, or bringing laughter and smiles of joy upon the faces of children.

I believe  there exists opportunities for everyone to use what time (great or small) they have and match it with a passion.  When this occurs, the power of volunteering impacts the volunteer as well.  What happens is that volunteers discover  their hearts touched and changed.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said,  ”It is one of the beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely help another without helping himself.”  

 By volunteering you discover that by giving you receive!

You may never know the power of your volunteering, but every single act of kindness and generosity does make a difference. Regarding her work with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta India, Mother Theresa once said, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” 

This reminds me of a story:

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son”, the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You cant make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

-Nelson Mandela

The Cartel is coming….

Open Paris

I am excited to re(announce) that the Youth Cartel will be organizing “Open Paris” in the fall here at The American Church in Paris.http://www.acparis.org

I have written about the Youth Cartel previously, so you can read my thoughts here:


We are in the beginning phases of speaker proposals, so if interested in coming to Paris and speaking at this gig, please submit your proposal here:


It is my hope that Open Paris will bring together youth workers from across continents and that these diverse experiences will greatly contribute to the youth ministry conversation happening now and shape its future.

It is exciting to envision youth workers from the U.K, western Europe, and the emerging fields in Easter Europe connecting with youth workers from all across the U.S.A.

Plus…Paris is a pretty sweet place to hang out and enjoy the beautiful back drop of Les Miserables!

So, I invite you all to venture to France and experience a whole new world in culture, theology, and youth ministry.

a bientôt mes amis

The American Church and Eiffel Tower copy

The Transfiguration of the Lord (and Chinese New Year!)

This manuscript is from my message on February, 10 2013 preached at The American Church in Paris. www.acparis.org

“Changing Appearances”

Luke 9: 28-36

This glorious transformation of the appearance of Christ is considered the most significant event between his birth and passion. The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the events at Mount Sinai frames the background for this narrative. In our first lesson we read a strikingly similar story of the prophet Moses. He spent 40 days and 40 nights in fasting, solitude and prayer on a mountain experiencing God’s presence and receiving the commandments. We read that when Moses returned to the people he did not realize his face was glowing.


He was radiating the glory of God and did not understand it. Moses put a veil on his face and we may infer this was because of the glory that shone from it which caused fear among those that saw it. However, the apostle Paul explains that it was to prevent them from seeing the fading of the glow. This was a fleeting glory, a temporary spiritual peak. Sometimes we do whatever we can to hold onto those moments, as if we could package and preserve God’s presence.

Our gospel text mirrors the event with Moses in many ways. We know that Jesus has been busy in a very successful and growing ministry. Luke specifically records that eight days after Peter’s confession of Christ as the Messiah and Jesus’ own foretelling of his death, Jesus ascended a mountain to pray.

He took his inner circle of Peter, John, and James. While he was praying, his face changed appearance just like Moses. The Greek word metemorphothe is translated metamorphosis; a complete transformation. Luke notes that even his clothes turned white. This was not to be mistaken as a ray of sunshine breaking forth from on high, much like the Parisians during winter have divine moments when the sun appears!

Whereas Moses temporarily radiated God’s glory, Jesus on this occasion radiated a foretaste of his own glory. This story takes an interesting turn when some unexpected guests arrive. Moses the great law-giver of the people of Israel and a prophet, a prototype of the Messiah and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets and an eschatological figure pointing to the future as a precursor of the Messiah.

Both were among the most highly respected Old Testament figures and both had their own theophany experiences on a mountain. Perhaps most significant reason for their appearance were that these two Old Testament figures were expected to appear before the coming of the messianic age. The presence of these two prophets certainly validated Jesus’ place and role in the continuing redemptive work of God as well as his superiority over even these divinely favored heroes.

They too appeared in glory and were discussing with Jesus about upcoming events. What a scene! Try to imagine with me being one of the three disciples. Two of the most famous prophets show up and begin speaking with your teacher. For any football fans out there, imagine SuperBowl winning coaches Vince Lombardi and Chuck Noll meeting up with one of the Harbaugh brothers a few weeks before the big game. How would the disciples respond? They were tired, perhaps much like anyone trying to wait up all night to watch the Superbowl, and though their fatigue altered their perception they remained awake and alert and were able to see God’s glory.

After the conversation, Peter, ever quick to respond, suggests that tents should be built for these three men. His comment suggests a desire to keep Moses and Elijah from leaving. Luke mentions that Peter really did not know what he was saying. Now this is not meant to indicate that divine inspiration came upon Peter at that moment, but probably sleep-deprived foolish talk, which I have been accused of in recent weeks!

It was foolish to equate Jesus with the other two prophets as well as trying to enshrine and perpetuate that which is only temporal. We discover Peter still not grasping the immediacy of Jesus’ forthcoming passion and departure from this world. Even though days earlier Peter confessed Christ as Messiah, the full realization and implication of that confession was still part of his growth and discipleship, much like disciples today.

While Peter was rambling, a cloud came and overshadowed them and the voice of God descended. Then from within the cloud a voice saying “This is my Son, my chosen, listen to him.” Jesus is expressly declared to be God’s Son, a declaration similar to that spoken by God at Jesus’ baptism. Unlike what others were saying about him, Jesus was not Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist. He was much greater. He was the Messiah of God and the disciples needed to hear this once again.

In Luke’s version God is speaking to the disciples. If you remember earlier Peter refused to believe that Jesus’ journey would lead him to the cross. He was rebuked by Jesus and now God the Father clearly (and audibly) commands them to listen to Jesus. Robert Stein, in his book Jesus the Messiah, remarks that this voice from heaven acted as a seal of authenticity and approval; a heavenly ratification of Jesus’ teaching concerning his calling”, most notably that Jesus’ mission involved suffering and death.

In all accounts however, the voice from heaven affirms that Jesus is the one who is sent by God and who has God’s authority. Jesus is the true prophet, the Chosen Servant, and the beloved Son of God. This proclamation of approval, love, and identity which began the ministry of Jesus is now reaffirmed in the middle of Jesus’s ministry as he prepares for the journey towards Jerusalem and the cross.


Last week I had the honored of having my parents here to meet their grandsons. My father turned 60 years old and was able to hold both of his grandsons on his birthday.

Later that day we went out to celebrate and discuss fatherhood. He shared with me a story from 20 years ago that I did not remember. His father was about to have a massive heart surgery and the the night before I, as a young child of 6 years old asked my father, “Dad, you love Papa?”

“Of course I do”, he replied.

My innocent and naive voice proceed to ask, “Have you told him that?”

Silence was evident as my father realized that years had passed without either of them verbalizing those precious words. Being Norwegian, love is often displayed in more stoic and practical ways. yet here was a man in his mid 30’s in the midst of a busy career with a young child of his own, longing to hear those words. You are never too old to hear words of love and affirmation and to hear your Father say “I love you”.

When we are awoken to the glory of God and affirmed of God’s love for us, change happens. We are caught up in God’s presence and begin to reflect His light and love.

We become transformed and others take notice the change. This type of transfiguration leads to radical changes in our own lives and the world around us.

Today we celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year 2013

Did you know that never before in the history of Christianity, has the faith grown as exponentially as in China over the past decade. The Church in China is experiencing tremendous growth like never before, reports the World Council of Churches. Over the past decade there has been a “unique and explosive growth” of Christianity among the Chinese people with the number of Christians estimated now as high as 130 million. People in China are experiencing God’s glory, are being affirmed in their identity and calling are being transformed in ways that are changing the world.

Even though the change of appearance did not last for long, this moment offered a glimpse to the true nature of Christ and what would be in store for all of Christ’s followers. This affirmation of identity and calling can awaken us and change our appearance. Where the old covenant brought about an external and fleeting form of glory, the new covenant instituted in Christ and ushered in by the Holy Spirit brings an internal, lasting and life-altering presence that has and will continue to change the appearances of Christians for eternity.

To conclude my father’s story, later that night he did tell his father that he loved him, to which my Papa replied back, for the first time in perhaps 20 years, “I love you too my son.” My dad left a new person with his face aglow and his appearance changed and that affirmation of approval and love has been passed down to the next generations.

So may we hear the voice of God calling us his beloved and chosen and may this truth change us both internally and externally for the sake of Christ and the world.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

What is the Youth Cartel?

Youth is the time of life between childhood and adulthood (maturity).[1] Definitions of the specific age range that constitutes youth vary. An individual’s actual maturity may not correspond to their chronological age, as immature individuals could exist at all ages.

Often youth is associated with vigor, freshness or immaturity

cartel is a formal agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization where there is a small number of sellers and usually involve homogeneous products. Cartel members may agree on such matters as total industry output, market shares, allocation of customers, allocation of territories,  establishment of common sales agencies, and the division of profits or combination of these.

These two definitions really have little to do with the Youth Cartel…

However, this new organization does specialize is providing innovative resources to youth workers of all kinds with their moto “Instigating a Revolution in Youth Ministry”

The founding partners are two of the leading youth ministry voices and have years of experience speaking, creating, writing, and working with teenagers.  They are wacky, funny, in love with Jesus and teens, and progressive enough to speak into the future of youth ministry. Here are brief bio’s on Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane.


I deeply appreciate their passion for youth and youth workers and ability to speak into the lives of many in diverse contexts.  I have the privilege of partnering with the Youth Cartel in hosting Open Paris this spring.

For more information about The Youth Cartel including resources and events please visit their website:


Youth Pastor Panel: Why networking is important


Here is a link to a recent article published by the fine people at Called to Youth Ministry. In their questioner they asked a number of youth workers about our involvement, need, and vision for networking both personally and professionally.

In addition to this post, you can discover some great insights from other youth workers and colleagues such as Jeremy Zach, Nate Dame, and Paul Turner.




When love goes astray

Over the past few weeks, like many pastors, I have been following the news coming from Mark’s Driscoll’s church Mars Hill.  Naturally the reactions and responses to online articles and blog posts run the spectrum.  On one side are Driscoll supporters who stand by his actions and on the other side are individuals who vilify the man and his team.

For a good perspective on the most recent news regarding the firing of a pastor from Driscoll’s church, I commend this blog post:


What strikes me about all of this is the major differences and gaps in how people, especially pastoral types, use the word love.

As Tony’s post referred to, pastors have excommunicated their own children and disowned former members and elders “out of love”.  In their minds, it is precisely out of love for these wayward sinners, that harsh actions are required.  For them, failure to punish or convict is a sign of weakness and, in essence, not having love for someone.

Of course, others (pastors and non-clergy) alike seem to use this same philosophy in protesting abortion clinics and LGBT parades.  Their “love” leads toward the abasement of people with fear, in hopes of repentance so these sinners will avoid the fiery torture of hell. We have all heard sad stories of violent acts and words supposedly done in the name of God and out of love.

Now, truth be told, in my experience many of these people have no love at all.  They may use that language, but it is pure hatred that comes forth in every form.  But I think they are the extreme and do not represent the majority.

The majority of pastors that use “tough love”, as many refer to it, I think in general do love those they are dealing with.  It may not look, sound, or feel like love to others, but only God knows their motivation.

It is their particular theological slant and biblical interpretations that they must come to terms with. For them, loving others and its implications and applications, must come through the lens of biblical interpretation.  Of course, they too realize (to a point) the cultural and contextual boundaries and probably do not follow the letter of the law strictly and literally i.e. stoning to death a homosexual or woman who is having an affair).  Verbal stoning and excommunication seem to do the trick today!

And so, we have examples that are now widely circulated and gossiped about.  Sadly these pastors and churches are lamented for being judgemental, arrogant, close-minded, narrow, and well…just plain mean.  I doubt (or at least hope) that is not their intention.

As always, there are two sides to everything and so another group of pastors out of “love” will open their hearts and doors to all people, specifically to the ones other churches will not. They welcome people and view them not as “sinners” but as fellow humans created in God’s image.  The love of Christ compels them to openly affirm their individuality and uniqueness with a message of acceptance.

For them the love of Christ knows no limits or boundaries and is unconditional, as a good father’s love towards his children would be.  Rather than being gossiped about for excommunication, they are lamented for being too tolerant or inclusive.  These pastors and churches not only allow people, marginalized by society, into their doors, but support them in leadership.   They will interpret the Bible through a lens of love and grace and then make decisions accordingly.  Their theological views compel them to love lavishly, and for that often they are criticized (and also then called “sinners” by others)

Both sets of pastors and churches I am sure claim they love people.

The question and difference are how that love is displayed and received by others.

There appears to be quite a contrast.

Where do you stand?  Is there a clearly right or clearly wrong path?

John 13:35
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jesus was right.  This is still his dream.  How we interpret and act on this command makes all the difference.

Is there a better Love moving forward for pastors and churches and youth ministries alike?

The solution may lie in the middle ground somewhere, but I will reveal my cards on the table and say this:

If excused of anything on that day of judgement (whatever one may believe about that) I would rather God tell me that I loved too much; extended too much grace; was too lavish with acceptance than to be condemned for being too harsh, too critical, too condemning, too exclusive, and too judgmental.

Women in the Church?


Thank you to everyone who cast a vote in last month’s poll question on Women in Ministry.  To see the results of the survey, click on the link above.

Much to my surprise and joy, an overwhelming % voted that they do support women serving in ministry. I believe that 5-10 years ago, the results would have been very different and I also believe that in 5-10 years from now the question will no longer be relevant or need to be asked.

Before I share some thoughts and insights, I highly commend a few additional blog posts and books that have shaped my thinking and journey.

One of the up and coming theologians and authors of my generation, Rachel Held Evans is writing some brilliant and provocative pieces  in addition to her prophetic book Evolving from Monkey Town.



Here are two books that I recommend as well:



*This collection of some well-known evangelicals, Tony Campolo, Bill and Lynne Hybels, and John Ortberg to name just a few

The role of women in ministry has, for a long time, perplexed and troubled me.  Truth be told, in my limited personal experience and theological studies I grew up a bit naive to the cause of women.  Believing in the notion that there exists “traditional” roles that men and women naturally fall into to, I assumed these roles carried over into the realm of Christendom and the Church.  Having lived a bit and experienced a bit more outside of my fairly uncultured existence, my journey has opened my eyes to the breakdown of these traditional roles.

Men and women, created in the Bible as equal.

Many men are very capable of performing domestic tasks.  In fact here in France there exists a paternity leave and it is not uncommon for the husband to take off a year instead of the mother and raise the child.

(similarly women are very capable of performing all the tasks that men can do.)

Is there a natural, i.e. physical difference?

Clearly, there is a biological difference in general. However, I personally know many women who display quite “masculine” tendancies and features, and visa versa

The distinctions are much more blurry than I once had thought.

I simply do not buy that women are the weaker sex. Weaker how?

Physically?  I doubt most men would have the strength to give birth and I know of women who can out-lift the majority of the men in the world.

Weaker intellectually?  I hope this one seems as ridiculous to you as it should

Weaker spiritually? (this I assume is what most people must mean)

In many cultures it is the women who are the main spiritual heads of the household.  Their insight, compassion, care, passion for the things of God, dedication in prayer and alms giving, etc.. clearly does not indicate any sign of weakness.  Perhaps just the opposite.

But all of this aside the question I ask is this… does the call of God transcend or is limited to gender?

I have known women, clearly called by God to serve and bless his church, full of wisdom, discernment, spiritual insight and leadership who have hearts full of compassion and minds ripe with leadership.

These women are qualified in every way, in fact more qualified than many men I know in ministry.  They fulfill all of the qualifications in Paul’s letters.  But I again would ask, should not the call of God along with the affirmation of a Spirit-lead community trump very culturally specific (and male dominated) prerequisites?

What God has called into being, what God has joined together (a calling and a church) let no man separate. (Because usually it is the men who forbid)

arguably the only real attack is from a fairly limited number of Bible verses allocating for regulated roles of women in the church.  What cannot be overlooked however is the cultural background, context of the time.  We all know the Bible was written in a highly patriarchal time, written by men and mostly for men.

I personally believe that for their time Jesus and Paul were fairly progressive when it came to the role and acceptance of women in their ministries and personal lives.

Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man,

there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Both welcomed the support and friendship of women in their lives and partnership in the ministry.  Women were accepted and wanted in the fellowship of their company and treated truly as sisters.

This was just not the case either in the Judean or Roman cultural framework.

Perhaps, for the sake of the reputation of the new church, Paul warned the church in Corinth to be very careful how the  exercise of this new-found and grace-driven freedom should be displayed.

Consider this:  If an unbelieving gentile or Jew walked into a church back then and saw women speaking, teaching, or (heaven’s forbid) leading, the reputation is shattered and the message deemed foolish, unmerited, or downright blasphemous.

In the western world at least, if a person enters a church and sees no women in any forms of leadership and then are told there exists no equality….and then told this is due to a particular interpretation of the Bible, all credibility is lost.  In my former church just outside of New York City, women CEO’s, lawyers, and PhD holders arguably had some real issues with “no women allowed in leadership” positions as one could imagine.

The same holds true for slavery.  We would all agree that slavery was not God’s perfect will for humanity. However allowances were made over time through various cultures.(Paul certainly does not preach out against it, but would he now?)

In his book, A New Kind of Christianity, author Brian McLaren offers a great insight into tracing a maturing understanding of God across biblical history and throughout time.

Another example of this social and spiritual progression is when Jesus told that Pharisees that God allowed men to easily divorce their wives because “their hearts were hard”, but Jesus brought a new and higher ethic. (Matthew 19: 7-9)

Could it be that our hearts were, and possibly still are hard today, when it comes to how we see and view women?

A new ethic is needed.

Especially since our society values and respects women in all leadership roles.

There exists highly capable and wildly successful women in every field of life and careers, but sadly often not in the church.

For the message of Christ to be heard the church has to come around in certain prehistoric and prejudice viewpoints, such as women in leadership, or the lack thereof.

Personally, I believe very strongly that if the Bible were written today, Paul’s advice would be vastly different.

I think Paul would be shocked to see how the church in the 21st century disregards the valid blessing of women in the Church.

It is also hard for me to imagine that great female leaders and missionaries such as Catherine of Siena, Sainte Geneviève, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Monica of Hippo, Mother Theresa, would not be allowed to serve on some pastoral teams or preaching from particular pulpits.

Back to my poll question and results.

What I have realized is that there certainly exists a segment in the Church that has a limited view of women leading in the church.  (and often this translates to the home life as well)

However, there also exists a large and fast-growing population and denominations that view the calling of God not determined upon gender.

God equips those he calls, and God is an equal opportunity caller.

My understanding has changed as I encounter and serve with colleagues from different traditions, Presbyterians, Lutherans, U.C.C, Methodist, Anglican, Episcopalians.

At my current church, there is a long history of women pastors and are current church council (or elder board) is composed of six men and six women.

The spectrum is vast on the practical implications of theology and women’s rights and roles.

Some, on the far right still hold to the cultural dated view that women in church should never speak, wear makeup or dress in pants.  These churches still exist and hold to a particular and literal view of the Scriptures.

Others, who say they hold to a literal view of the Bible really do not exactly, and pick and choose various conditions and terms that seem to best fit their situations and personal opinions.

1) allow women to speak and wear pants

1b) do not allow them to teach

I know of a church that will allow a woman to teach from the pulpit only if there is a man physically seated higher than her on the platform.

This may sound absurd, but they are trying to hold to a literal interpretation and application of the text. I at least give them credit for trying to follow the entire text and not just particular phrases or sentences.

As the poll indicated, some serve at churches that have women in all sorts of leadership positions (music, children’s, education, missions) but not on pastoral staff or not considered elders

Some may have women as pastoral staff but are not allowed to have them as elders

Others only prohibit women from serving as a “Senior” pastor of the church

I have met may wonderful females who are “Senior” pastor, rectors and are leading their congregations in faithful service.  and guess what, the churches are growing and people are being fed spiritually and coming into relationship with Jesus Christ in radical ways.

I would gladly serve under the authority of a women for the record and hope to be part of church that welcome and accepts women in full partnership of the gospel as pastors.

One cannot argue that God is not working in and through his chosen and called daughter and child.

(you may try to argue of course)

i want to encourage the girls in my youth group to pursue the calling of God

I don’t want to say God may be calling you into ministry, but just so you don’t get your hopes up to high you should know that you cannot lead a church someday

My hope is that day is quickly coming when all Christians will validate, value, and see the blessings of freeing all of God’s people for God’s work for God’s glory.