At a recent Truth Matters Conference, when Pastor John MacArthur was asked to play a word-association game and the proposed first “word” was Beth Moore, MacArthur spoke from his gut: “I feel like I’m being set up.” Then, apparently ignoring the initial prompt in his spirit, he gave his answer: “Go home.”
“Go home” were the words MacArthur associated with this beloved female Bible teacher and, by extension, Christian women everywhere. His response is very telling on multiple levels. His words — and the subsequent laughter from the men in the room — were very telling on multiple levels. And very disturbing.
Then, just this week, in an attempt to further clarify his stance on women preaching, MacArthur stated: “Women need to get themselves under control and realize they are not to speak in a church.” A bit later, he referenced women and jewelry in the same sentence, saying, “When all the men [in a culture] have been slaughtered, you [women] can sit there with all your jewelry and junk.”
This is the second time in recent weeks that he has paired women and jewelry in reference to this controversy. In his first such statement at the Truth Matters conference, this longtime pastor remarked that having the skill to “sell jewelry on television . . . does not qualify her [Moore] to be a preacher.”
Ironically, I spent close to 11 years on QVC doing precisely that — selling women’s apparel and home goods on television — before following God’s calling into full-time women’s ministry, so I’m as qualified to speak into this as anyone.
Between the rise of women’s equality and the #MeToo movement bringing to light what’s been breeding in the darkness, I’m sure many people are feeling the same sentiment as MacArthur: “Go home, ladies. Stop fussing. Stop probing. Stop demanding,” in hopes it will all just go away.
Well, it won’t stop. And we won’t go away. To do so, for many of us women, would be to tell God “no.” And we just can’t do that. We won’t. Or at least I pray we won’t. Because the Church today needs its men and its women — God’s sons and daughters — working together to carry out Christ’s global commission to herald the Good News.
As a women’s ministry leader who is concerned about the state of the Church around the world and in this country, the first thought I had concerning MacArthur’s initial comment (and the ensuing laughter from the conference attendees) was, Why are we spending our time playing games at a ministry conference when there’s work to be done? The Church is in radical decline in America. What’s more, I know of a number of women, sadly, who have been called by God to preach the Gospel or to lead in some capacity, and who are not only dismissing that God-ordained calling but who are walking away from the Church entirely, because of responses like MacArthur’s. They’re using their gifts in the marketplace instead as CEOs, educators, entrepreneurs, counselors . . . you name it. If the Church won’t utilize their gifts, the private/public sector has its arms open wide.
Because we are losing to the world the gifts of godly women, MacArthur’s comments are all the more destructive. This is not the time for ridiculous, arrogant remarks and trivial activities. We have a crisis on our hands! Frankly, discourse like this sets us all up for failure and only serves as a divisive distraction in the enemy’s hands. Yet all the while, God calls His people higher.
So how do we stay on task?
1. Go Back to God. We need to take any and all controversies before God: “Show us what is true, Lord. Show us what is genuinely You.” And we must settle them within the context of Christian community, according to Scripture, immersed in prayer.
2. Know What Qualifies You. John McArthur’s earlier statement, that having the skill to “sell jewelry on television” does not qualify someone to preach is spot on. (For the record, Beth Moore has never proposed this as being a biblical qualifier.) Here’s what does qualify one to preach: the calling of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, infused, affirmed and anointed by the Spirit of God. That’s what qualifies a man or a woman to preach Christ. When the hits come from well-intentioned believers, we ought to spend a little time engaging those who disagree, but then it’s important to get back to serving the One who qualifies you. I met one female pastor who, when she’s face to face with someone who’s saying, “I don’t believe in women preachers,” simply replies: “Oh, but I am one. I very much do exist. I’m right here.”
3. Step into Your Calling. Women, if your calling is truly from God, no elder or preacher will be able to stand in the way of it for long. Your calling will be fulfilled by God. As Charles Stanley reminds us, “God is completely responsible for this life devoted to Him.”
4. Radically Engage in the Real War. I’ve had more receptivity to my preaching in the Majority World — in countries such as India, Haiti, and the Philippines — than here in America. In Iran, where the church is seeing tremendous growth in spite of severe persecution, women leaders make up over 55 percent of the church. The women respect their male counterparts, but they’re not fretting over whether they should be out there working for the Lord. They’re not biting their nails and wringing their hands about their boundaries and receiving permission. They’re radically engaged!
We here in America have lost our way. While we’re sitting around exegeting the same passages of Scripture over and over and debating the nuances of historical, literary, and theological contexts, the real enemy is cleaning up. Let’s stop the infighting, roll up our sleeves and get to work, coming together to defeat Satan and advance God’s kingdom.
5. Be Filled with Grace. For fellow believers to differ about complementarianism does not make us enemies. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. Our differing understandings have to be navigated and discussed; they should not be bashed. Bashing and derision have no place in Christian dialogue. The New Testament calls the entire Church to be full of grace. Seek to understand as you desire to be heard. Set an example for the world about how to peaceably work through discord. And then move on for the sake of furthering the gospel.
6. Drop the Smugness and Divisiveness. This is the other side of the “be filled with grace” coin. I am an egalitarian woman worshiping in a complementarian church. This is where God has placed me and, though it’s tough at times, He’s never released me from this congregation. I heard God clearly speak to me when He made this calling over my life to preach: “Child, don’t be smug or divisive. But move now.” Your moving forward does not stand in the way of another’s forward movement. Your rising does not diminish another’s ascent — male or female. But as you do move, sisters, as you are given opportunity to use your gifts, as far as it’s up to you, live at peace with everyone. Don’t get caught playing trivia games and laughing about another person’s life commissioning. God help you! Let others laugh. Let them trivialize. You move forward, eyes on Christ and His kingdom.
For the sake of lost souls all over the world, women, please don’t go home. Remember not only who called you, but why you’ve been called. Your critics can say what they want, but in the end, we all answer to the same Savior.
Anne Graham Lotz, who was deemed by her father, the late Reverend Billy Graham, as “the best preacher in the family,” has summed it up as well as anyone: “If people have a problem with women preaching, they can take it up with Jesus!” Meanwhile, let’s be sure that, as God’s ambassadors, we keep our eyes on the true prize, which I’m sure Beth Moore — and all of us like her — would readily agree is neither gold accessories nor a pulpit, but the worship of God through the glory of the Gospel with Christ alone at its center.
Nancy Hicks has been in communications her entire life. As an on-air spokesperson for QVC, she inspired millions of viewers. After earning her master’s in theology from Palmer Seminary of Eastern University, she launched an international speaking ministry, NancyHicksLive. Nancy has a passion for Christ and is a herald of His call to life, having served in various leadership roles within the church since she was 16 years old. She has also taught numerous Bible classes in addition to training ministry leaders. Her life's mission is to raise up women around the globe by igniting and equipping them. "Meant to Live," Nancy’s first book, was released on Sept. 17, 2019. For more information on Nancy, visit www.NancyHicksLive.com. ?