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Stance on gender roles often tells much about a church, Illinois pastor says

July 9, 2004

One Illinois pastor believes you can tell a lot about a local church by examining its stance on gender roles in the home and church.

One Illinois pastor believes you can tell a lot about a local church by examining its stance on gender roles in the home and church.

Steve Farish, pastor of Crossroads Church in Grayslake, Ill., says a complementarian church is typically a solid church. In the same way the doctrine of the virgin birth was something of a litmus test in the church 120 years ago, Farish says gender views speak volumes about a church in the contemporary culture.

"It seems to me that, not in every case, but in most cases, you can tell a lot about a church based on its stance on gender issues," Farish said. "It is sort of the part of the iceberg that is above the water. By its stance on gender roles, you can tell where a church stands on the doctrine of inerrancy, for example.

"I think this is true because it is the place where the church is most tempted to compromise with the society. It is easier to teach that men and women are not just equal before God, but their roles are essentially the same—some sort of joint headship or mutual headship or mutual submission. Those are much more palatable to our society than to teach male headship. It’s just a place where compromise is easy."

In his 11 years as pastor at Crossroads, Farish has faithfully held the line by asserting the historic Christian position that God has ordained particular complementary roles for men and women.

Farish preaches expository sermons in verse-by-verse, book-by-book fashion. This allows him to deal with gender roles as they arise in Scripture within the context of the entire inspired account of redemptive history.

Before Farish will marry a Christian man and women, they must undergo premarital counseling. As part of this, couples learn their biblically-ordained roles in the home which Farish teaches by using the Danvers Statement adopted in 1987 by The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

"I love the adjectives [in the Danvers Statement]," Farish said. "They say that male headship should be humble and loving and the wife’s submission should be willing and intelligent.

"I unpack those adjectives for the couple and we really spend a lot of time because obviously a lot of people misapprehend headship and submission in our society. Couples find those explanations in the Danvers Statement extremely helpful. There’s one paragraph in the middle that says what headship is and isn’t and what submission is and isn’t. I walk through the paragraph with them and it is enormously helpful."

While Farish says a few couples have balked at the teaching, the vast majority of the burgeoning families have embraced the biblical teaching enthusiastically. In fact, some wives have expressed a desire for their husbands to fill their biblically-mandated roles as spiritual head of the home, he said. Crossroads consistently teaches biblical manhood and womanhood within both its men’s and women’s ministries.

"Through the years in counseling I have had a number of wives come to me who are crying out for their husbands to lead in their families," Farish said.

"They see the biblical teaching and they want to be led. Their husbands, who are these incredible Type-A personalities at work, come home and they absolutely disappear in terms of leadership [particularly] of the children in spiritual matters. So I have occasion to exhort the men of the church."

While teaching gender roles in a local church can be thorny business, Farish advises young pastors to stand firm upon the Bible, teaching the full counsel of God and dealing honestly with the issue as it arises in the text.

"I can’t give any better advice than Paul in 2 Tim. 4: just preach the Word," he said. "Preach what the Scriptures teach about gender roles. I’ll still be teaching this 20 years from now, Lord willing. And the church will still be growing in it.

"I think there’s a risk seminary students run in that they learn how to preach good, solid expository messages and they begin to do so and there’s not just overwhelming reaction immediately and they begin to grow discouraged and they can tempted to compromise the message, frankly.

"But if you persevere in it year after year after year after year, that’s when you are really going to see God blessing the congregation and God blessing the marriages. You’ll see the fruit of preaching biblical manhood and womanhood in families. Just stick to it."

Faithfully setting forth biblical teaching on gender roles is critical because both the health of families and the glory of God are at stake, he said.

"The glory of God is at stake and this is the most valuable thing in the universe because God has designed marriage to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church," he said.

"I preach regularly that God has unusually staked His glory, if I may say it that way, on Christian marriage. Nothing less than God’s glory is at stake."

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