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UK Ministry Trip: Biblical Manhood and the Crowded House

Gavin Peacock

           I was encouraged by the response to a message I gave on Wednesday to the men of the Crowded House Church in Sheffield on Biblical Manhood. They were receptive, thoughtful and eager. This is a church of biblical health. 

Principles of a complementarian view of manhood and womanhood can be taught from the pulpit and verbally affirmed, but many marriages are functionally egalitarian. In other words, application of the truth is the issue.

That is why it was good to have a question and answer time where the men could press into the “what does this look like on the ground?” stuff.

One particular question raised by Steve Timmis (co-founder of The Crowded House and Director of Acts 29 Europe) was this:

“Would you make a man an elder if, although he was complementarian and sought to lead, protect and provide for his wife, she was pushing back and was strongly egalitarian?”

This is a good question, and one where manhood and womanhood, marriage and church leadership intersect. The couple are both believers, he wants to see headship and submission lived out, the church are teaching it, he is praying for her and loving her but is aware that he should not force or coerce her. Would you make this man an elder?

My response in short was, “No, wait”. I base my answer on the following:

 a.)    1 Tim. 3:4: An elder “must manage his household well with all dignity, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household how will he care for God’s church?” Paul relates the managing of the family household to the managing of the church household. There is a divine design and order that is good for us in both households. Roles are not interchangeable. Husbands possess ultimate authority (though rarely should need to exercise this!), as do elders in the church. So if there is not a willing submission to that authority in the family household, assuming it is being exercised in a biblical way, then a man cannot be considered ready to manage the church household.

b.)   An elder must be an example for the flock (1Cor. 11:1; 1Tim. 4:12; Ti. 2:1:2, 3:5; 1 Peter 5:3). In his essay “The Church as Family”, (Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Grudem and Piper, 244), Vern Sheridan Poythress says:

“…fathers” of the church stand out. Mature, sober, sound, godly men with exemplary family lives are the natural leaders in this extended family. First, the whole church naturally treats them as fathers and perceives the leadership abilities they exercise in their own immediate families…church leadership in a situation of family intimacy is like family leadership-a matter not primarily of laying down formal rules but of setting a good example that naturally engenders admiration and that people attempt to emulate.”

How could a man be an elder in a church, which is teaching the importance of headship and submission as a creation issue and a Gospel issue, and yet it not be modeled in his own marriage?

        So waiting gives time for the situation to change and for God to work through the continued prayer and leadership of the husband, plus the counsel of the elders who should be brought into the picture at some stage. A conflict of approach to headship and submission will bring up conflict in the home. If submission is being taught in the church and a wife refuses to subscribe to it, then she resists giving submission to her husband’s headship and the leadership of the church. Remember, this is a central issue for the church. So elders have a responsibility alongside the husband to lovingly teach and correct the wife.

            One may argue that it seems harsh to delay the appointment of this man as an elder, because it is not his fault if he is ultimately doing all he can. Well, one must also be apt to teach to be an elder; that aptitude is not there with every man, and that’s not his fault either. The glory of God is what matters most, and the church is central to that because she is the Bride of Christ. The Bride must be led and protected and nourished. When you make headship and submission in the home and the church a God thing, it switches the focus away from “self” and “rights” and towards the Gospel.