The Future Face of the North American Church, part four

Posted: March 23, 2010 in On Being Apostolic
Tags: , , ,

Female.  The future face of the North American apostolic church is decidedly more feminine…but feminine as in female, not as in effeminate men.  While church attendance throughout the apostolic movement certainly demonstrates a growing ratio of women to men, that trend isn’t reflected in the senior leadership of our churches.

That’s something that will change, and it’ll change for a couple of reasons.

First, it’ll change because demographics will demand it.  The very fact that less and less men are attending will begin to place a cultural pressure on the apostolic movement to accept more women in senior leadership roles.  Before you recoil into your defensive, holy kung-fu ‘slay the devil’ stance and begin to chant the mantra of “no-compromise-with-culture”…something I don’t even want to waste the energy to debunk…let me hasten to say that all cultural pressure is not bad, evil, or sinful.

For example, it was and is cultural pressure that is slowly causing apostolic churches to become more racially integrated.  Sadly, it took changing laws and cultural mores to cause this to happen…when all along the Apostolic movement should have been leading the way.  While the early outpouring of the Spirit in North America immediately resulted in a multi-cultural body, our human organizational responses fell along racial lines.  That was also the result of cultural pressure.  While the cultural pressure to be more open to those different than ourselves obviously cannot create the true harmony that the work of the Spirit can, all in all that particular pressure has brought positive results.

A second example of positive cultural pressure is the acceptance of minorities in senior leadership in multi-ethic, multi-cultural churches.  We have little problem with the idea that if a congregation contains a large segment of a particular culture, that culture should be reflected in senior leadership.  So, a congregation that’s 40% Smorgavian will likely have Smorgavians in senior leadership, and may even elect a senior pastor who, if not actually Smorgavian, has strong ties to the Smorgavian community.  And as long as such leadership choices don’t lead to the Balkanization of cultural communities within the larger body, we celebrate it.

But before we celebrate our sensitivity and openness (glasnost, anyone?), the cold hard reality is that we only accept these things because of cultural pressure.  I’m afraid that God doesn’t get the credit for this one.  And neither do we.

Likewise, positive cultural pressure will continue to be exerted on the North American apostolic movement to accept more women in senior leadership roles.  And partially as a result of such pressure, more women will begin to serve as leaders in assemblies and leaders of assemblies.

Another aspect of cultural change brought on by demographics will be seen in the fact that fewer and fewer men attending our churches will shrink the pool from which the traditional, male senior leadership is drawn from.  In fact, this is already occurring…at least in the United Pentecostal Church.  There is great concern in the backrooms of officialdom in the UPC about our shrinking ministerial pool.  Each year, fewer and fewer young men are applying for credentials with our fellowship.  While our leaders are right to be concerned with this, the trend only reflects what has been happening in the larger North American Christian world for some time.

Just ask the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists.

However…and I stress that ‘however’…a more feminine face on senior apostolic leadership will not simply be the result of cultural pressure.  Let’s not forget that even the patriarchal culture of Biblical days accepted women in positions of leadership and influence.  A quick read through the epistles should settle that.  While the apostles didn’t brook the idea of a woman “usurping” authority over a man, there seems to have been a place for women in leadership.

That culturally birthed change may actually create a dynamic that is positive for the church.  Our western apostolic church led by western males has a leadership dynamic that is often grossly out of synch with the Scriptures.  Most of our male senior church leaders are products of the western power culture, and this is reflected in their leadership styles.  Regardless of all of clever techniques that may cloak it, at the core western leadership is authoritarian.  And, it is obsessed with maintaining that authority…by godly means if possible, but also by old fashioned manipulation and heavy-handedness if necessary.  A growing female influence will help moderate that approach, if not change it outright.

Feminine leadership is decidedly more relational and less confrontational.  It is more apt to be concerned with how others are affected by leadership decisions, rather than being primarily strategic in scope.  In other words, feminine leadership will care more about actual people. Ideas, strategy, and grand themes will matter to feminine leadership when they consider the impact they’ll have on people.

So, the future face of the Apostolic Church in North America is more feminine and less authoritarian.  There will be authority, but it will be moral and spiritual authority based on character and deeds.  And it will be actually concerned with flesh and blood people…not church structures, church programs, and church politics.

At least, that’s what I think.

  1. Proxymoron says:

    While I agree that women in church leadership will bring positive changes in administrational approach, I don’t see them being any less obsessed with maintaining their authority than men. If anything, they take it more seriously. I have witnessed this on a number of fronts. For example, any time I’ve encountered a female police officer or border officer, they generally carry a much bigger chip on their shoulder than any of the guys. And these are not isolated instances. It’s almost always so. Even my wife concedes this point. I don’t know why this is. It just is. I could go on, but I’m leaving a comment, not entering a blog post. 🙂

  2. What about female doctors or female nurses? Or female teachers or administrators? I agree that it seems that when women enter certain professions they can be a bit over the top…but isn’t that simply an attempt to be seen by male colleagues as equally able? And don’t forget, this is God’s Church we’re talking about…and God’s ministry.

  3. Proxymoron says:

    I guess we’ll see.

    I just realized that even thought I checked “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” that I haven’t received your last couple of responses to my comments. I don’t know if this is something you can fix or if it is a wordpress problem. I’m just saying…

    Enjoying the blog.

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