So I’ve had lots of discussions with people about Gender this week, which is good, because its International Women’s Week and so discussions of Gender should abound. Unusually, I found myself nodding along with a couple of people saying Women’s Week reinforced Gender Categorisation and Gendered Behavioural Norms. Then I read an article entitled “Send Your Best Men Out on Mission”, and for once I found myself wanting scream about the over-use of gender issues.
To quickly run people up to speed: the guy writing this works for notorious Seattle mega-church Mars Hill, where Pastor Mark Driscoll, despite having many really great ideas, is sadly best know for his preaching on “Ultimate Fighting Jesus”; if you’re picturing an image of Jesus as a body building wrestler on steroids, you’re getting the right drift. The guy is basically obsessed with the idea that men should be more male and women should be more in love with ‘tough’ guys. Yuck.
(For the record, my ex could throw me 3 feet across a room, my girlfriend is a stronger rock climber than I am – I don’t find the idea of a woman being stronger than a man problematic in the slightest. Apparently this makes me a fail Christian. Irrelevant ranting paragraph ending).
Now, this particular article says some amazingly simple yet potentially explosive things. It basically talks about using our collective talents in a more proactive way to strike back at the decline in church attendance. Brilliant. I really love this:
“I attest that every local church should be constantly and intentionally discipling, training, developing and then sending its best men out into mission—to make disciples of all nations. We have to get out of the mindset of building up one single church and start developing a Kingdom mindset; a movement mindset. The mission of the church is about the movement of God and not about the monument to our self or our denomination or our tribe.”
Yes, the Church as Social Movement. Wow, I could have so many debates about how and why the Church fails as a movement in society.
Problem: it uses a bunch of gender language and stereotyping that is actually utterly useless. What relevance has any of this got to the above revelation? Also, why shouldn’t men in churches need affirming? Why attack single parent families – when its where half your mission field is? Why shouldn’t churches be all about feedback and laying down our emotional responses to each other’s efforts on the table? The best communities are always those where emotional responses are open and honest, and where people work through those issues, and where people build each other up.
Also, it assumes that women aren’t also being held back by the church’s desire to shove people into the mould of administrator/priest instead of putting them out on the frontline. Why shouldn’t women be doing this? In today’s western society, the boundary is largely pointless, affecting a smaller and smaller amount of our lives. Why don’t we just minister to and evangelise those in front of us? Why should people become “Men of God” or “Women of God”, instead of “Children of God” or “People of God”?
I know some amazing female Barnabas and Paul figures (I’d class Amy Orr-Ewing as one). Why is the church not empowering them to go out? Some of them are even married to male Paul and Barnabas figures. Brilliant, lets send the two of them out to work together; I’m all for this co-leading malarkey, and for married-ministries or whatever you call them, when they’re the right thing to do.
You see, much as its important to talk about gender and gender-dynamics and patriarchy and male-domination of society and gender-justice and so forth, its also worth not talking about gender, and just leaving people to be themselves, not to fulfil some predefined role that has been laid out. There’s no reason why females shouldn’t call themselves women and completely break the mould in their actions, and there’s no reason why anyone should need to comment. Same for men. All this talk of gender does eventually become a distraction from building a better world.