I became heavily involved with The Fellowship of Christian Athletes my first year of college.
Since this was over 30 years ago, I could only guess what that group is like now. But at the time, our version of FCA was one of zeal, a group driven toward a life of sold-out Christianity.
Our main focus was how to effectively witness our faith on the campus. At one meeting, the discussion blossomed into the idea of building a makeshift stage in the center of campus so we could preach between classes.
In the process of working out the schedule and organizing the volunteer ‘preachers’, the question came up if the girls should be among them.
Like a manic ball in a pinball machine, Paul’s words to Timothy banged around the room: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence“. Everyone chimed in on their position.
At the outset of the discussion I knew I was NOT going to stand on a stage and deliver a sermon without hearing directly from god himself. Stage fright and I were close personal buds – I wasn’t about to jeopardize our relationship. But that wasn’t the point. For me, this was an issue of principle alone.
After a solid hour of discussion and tearing through the nearest bible, we finally landed on what I’d consider to be THE most preposterous solution to this biblical dilemma known to the thinking world:
The girls could SHARE the gospel from the stage, just not PREACH it.
You’re sitting there asking Jennifer Lawrence, “What’s the difference?” aren’t you?
Well, you’re right. There is no difference. Somehow in the annals of twisted Christian logic, we had concluded that swapping out the verb ‘preach’ for the verb ‘share’ would keep us in line with god’s word.
We reasoned it like this…
Preaching is teaching. But sharing is basically a peer-to-peer discussion. Therefore, a girl could share her personal experience of the gospel without usurping authority or teaching a man.
Are you screaming, Way!!! Why did you stay in Christianity so long?!
If you are, I don’t blame you. But I walked a spiritual tightrope! Eternal life loomed above me. Eternal death below. Jesus was the only salvation. Was I to bail on my eternity because god hurt my feelings? Because he wasn’t nice? Because he wasn’t fair?
When the stage was built and the day came to launch our campaign, I didn’t preach. I didn’t share. I prayed.
As the preachers preached and the sharers shared, I milled in and around the crowd praying for god to open the hearts of those who came to hear. As I did, I couldn’t shake this nagging question: How did it make sense that my male college friends were in authority over me?
No wonder arrogance ran rampant among the FCA guys. No wonder I didn’t know whether to scratch my watch or wind my butt.
The biblical limitations placed on women poisoned each and every experience I had in ministry for every single one of my 33 years of service. Like a loop, it played in the background darkening the past and clouding the future.
The Apostle Paul’s words were an ever-present gray in my life, laying dull the wondrous and colorful hues of womanhood.