In a recent post to his website (www.albertmohler.com), Al Mohler refers to an article in Foreign Policy entitled “Why Men Rule — and Conservatives will Inherit the Earth.” The gist of the article is that society will experience a return to patriarchy, and despite feminist doom saying, this will be a good thing.
One wonders whether — if accurate — this prediction will also affect the evangelical church, which, while almost exclusively patriarchal in terms of pastoral gender, has become almost exclusively matriarchal in government. There is no dispute that there have been abuses in the exercise of male authority. We are, after all, sinners. But there is also abuse when the authority pendulum has swung to the other extreme and matriarchal influence is in ascendancy.
Some church women, aware of the virtually all-male leadership in evangelical churches, might now be thinking “What female authority?” But one must realize that there is official authority and then there is unofficial authority. Most churches present a paradigm of de jure male leadership and authority, but engage in practices and procedures that result in de facto female leadership and authority. Deacons (and/or elders) are typically male, but the various systems of committees and ministries ensure that women, who generally are more involved in the average church, are the ones actually doing things and exercising authority.
Some might say that this is not so bad, and given the fact that many male church leaders don’t measure up to the biblical standard of spiritual leadership, that argument has legs. But it is not the picture of the church that God paints in Scripture.
Female influence typically — perhaps stereotypically — includes such concerns as unity, affirmation and nurture. The paternal instinct, by contrast, includes the interest in assessment, progress, classification and repair. The resulting conflict can be readily seen in the interest of the male Sunday school director attempting to implement a method of training and evaluating bible teachers when it meets the maternal interest of teachers themselves, who are far and away predominately female, to preserve unity and harmony. The director wants to ensure that all bible teachers are properly handling the word of God, while the female teachers see that effort as a threat to the self-esteem of teachers.
The tension between the patriarchal and matriarchal influences can also be seen in how each proposes to handle the problems that inevitably arise in churches. The feminine response to problems includes: 1) “I don’t want to talk about it” or “There is no problem”, 2) it is not ‘loving’ to speak of the problem, 3) it will go away, 4) if we ‘love on each other’ all will be well. Men, too, have been feminized to the extent that they avoid conflict, contention and struggle of any kind.
Much has been written about the reasons men are staying away from churches in droves. David Murrow wrote about this in Why Men Hate Going To Church. There is also The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity (Leon Podles), No More Christian Nice Guy (Paul Coughlin) and Manly Dominion in a Passive-Purple-Four-Ball World (Mark Chanski), to name a few. Undoubtedly one of the reasons that men stay away from church is the feminization they find there, which is most significantly manifested (how’s that for irony?) in the exercise of authority and the style leadership employed.
Women are vital for the health and vitality of the church. The maternal instinct, influence and interests are crucial for the church to fulfill its role in God’s kingdom. But male interests and passions are also indispensable for the balance and vigor of the church, as can be readily seen where the masculine influence has been forsaken in favor of the feminine.