Women missionaries- biblical definitions, qualifications and duties

Discussion in 'Church Office' started by Scott1, Nov 23, 2008.

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  1. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Statistics are quoted showing majority women serving in foreign mission fields.

    Given that Scripture gives men to ecclesiastical authority and household spiritual leadership, and given an ordinary, beautiful, complementary pattern from Creation of men leading and serving and women following and helping, the above conditition sounds abnormal at best.

    I prefer to focus on a few points so we can be clear for those following this here:

    Let's evaluate this biblically together and stay focused on these points so we can discern.

    Grace and peace.
  2. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    I visited Ukarumpa in PNG several time in 1984. At the time it was the second biggest Wycliffe institution anywhere. They were a great resource. The translator I was with would use these people extensively. You really need a good cross checker when you do translations, and a side benefit of using Wycliffe is that it's easier to get funding to print the Bibles (usually a book at a time) if the translations are "cleared" by one of their experts.

    I sat in on several sessions, both with Wycliffe staff that was much more liberal than the Reformed Baptist I was living with who was doing the translation. There was a man and a woman. When it comes to translations, it often comes down to the interpretation a translator gives to a certain passage.

    When the man disagreed or questioned the way my friend translated a verse, he would ask if the man had a recognized commentary that upheld his position, and if it was the case, he cleared it.

    The woman was completely different, and wanted to argue theology. At the time, I was newly Reformed and wasn't aware of Barthian code phrases like "I want it applicable to the here and now". It was really unpleasant, and from what I have heard unfortunately typical of women who were given that kind of authority.

    And what authority! To decide how God's Word would be translated. The conclusion that I came to was that the kind of woman who pushes herself into a position of exercising that level of authority has to have basic issues with authority herself, and you aren't likely to find solid, Bible believing women pushing for those positions in the first place.

    So I start this thread with the example of the category of Linguistics, and the sub category of Bible translation. No woman should have any authority in translating God's Word, and very few God fearing women would want to do so, any more than they would push to be Elders or Evangelists.
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    1. Missionary:

    A Christian sent out to help spread the Gospel to areas where the Gospel is not or else the Gospel is weak. Whereas evangelism usually speaks of this activitiy within one's own ethno-linguistic context, mission work usually invovles crossing an ethno-linguistic boundary.

    Missionary is from the Latin mitto, which is the Latin version of the Greek apostellos, or one who is sent out. Thus a missionary is a "sent out one" a little "a" apostle some would say.

    We see these sent out ones in the book of Acts. We see Paul, Silas, but we also see those whom Paul calls "co-labourers" sunergois I think. And these sunergois include women.

    Therefore, a missionary need not be an ordained person (i.e. necessarily a man), but the common use of the term now is any Christian sent out by their church to serve to strengthen or plant the Gospel overseas.

    Some in my circles like to differentiate between Big M Missionaries, who are elder qualified men who can ordain elders and have authority, and little m missionaries who take on support roles or roles invovling women and/or children.

    I see your aim of this OP is to ask about women, so here are a few thoughts:

    ---Most of the respondants to the Gospel appear to be women. It seems that women always respond first and often the best to the Gospel. In some cultures, especially Muslim cultures, female society is often segregated, necessitating women missionaries to go and teach this group, whom men often cannot gain access to.

    --There are many roles that do not exercise authority over men. Women prove very capable in these roles.

    --Women are often more adept at languages, and more willing to do tough humanitarian and medical work.

    I do not think that it is absurd that probably 65% of the missionary force is female. Half the world's population is female and a number of roles in helping spread the Gospel need not be solely male. If 80% of missionary "units" are married couples, this means that 50% of that 80% are females (wives), plus add the extra number of single females and you come up with our present statistics. There are many many more single female missionaries than there are single male missionaries.

    From the NT we see a large number of females serving our Lord. During medieval Catholicism nuns outnumbers priests, and now female missionaries outnumber males. It may be that God has chosen the majority of his elect from the fairer sex and His work-force as well reflect these percentages. Who knows.

    QUALIFICATIONS: Good reputation, good bible knowledge, and an ability to cross cultures.

    For roles where the missionary ordains elders or exercises authority, the man should be elder qualified and a man.

    For teaching children, doing book-keeping for a mission, teaching school, being a nurse (all little m missionary roles) the person needs good bible knowledge, good Christian life and a felxibility and ability to adapt to new cultures.

    Biblical duties of missionaries: To do whatever is needed in planting or strengthening the church where it is absent or weak. All of these roles are not preaching or acting as an elder. Many of our duties are medical. Duties might include teaching literacy so that the people can learn the Word of God. Health education.
  4. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Why is this?

    Are most missions sending organizations (including conservative evangelical ones and Reformed ones) accepting of this? If so are there restrictions or qualifications distinguised for men as opposed to women in the role of "missionary"?

    Also, aren't most cultures patriarchal and limiting of a women leading in this (E.g. wouldn't most cultures rather see a family with a man leading and then allow a wife (or daughter) ministry out from that?

  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I do not know the reason that there are more single women missionaries than single male missionaries. I suspect containing one's self sexually might be easier for women than for men. Not sure, just reporting what I see and read.

    Yes, many societies are patriarchal.

    And also many do not value women. Thus the women and children of some cultures are often forgotten and neglected and so a missionary's wife (if we call her a missionary too) has a big role in ministering to this neglected segment of society and other single female missioanaries also can. This is often best done by visible witness as she cares for her own family and as the missionary's family models Christian conduct.

    In many societies the men and women are segregated and having women's prayer groups, etc, led by women is the best strategy to teach the women.

    Many missionary societies absolutely believe that women ought not to be preachers, and yet the majority of their applicants are women. What to do? We screen and question and many times send them out to do wonderful work throughout the world. There is no compromise needed or "woe is me" attitude over the fact that women outnumber men in many places on the mission field. Just screen them carefully, match their giftings with their roles and pray for the Lord's blessings on their work.

    Often, in unreached areas, single females will be placed on a team with an elder-qualified man to safeguard her from the ackward situation of having a church blossom up around her with no one to lead it. Sometimes, this does not happen, and leaves the female missionary in an ackward situation.
  6. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The "overseas" element is superimposed on the biblical definition, and can only serve to cause confusion. The fact that a person moves across a body of water in order to preach the gospel does not constitute him a missionary. A missionary is simply one "sent" by the church "to preach" the unsearchable riches of Christ. Galatians 2:7-9, "But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles: ) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision."
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    One aspect that I overlooked and I want to affirm that you are quite right:

    When you say patriarchal, I assume this means solid families. In many tough areas, some might think that we should send singles only (male) due to disease and dangers.

    But Christian families are needed in these areas to show the people how a Christian family functions. A father who leads his family and teaches his household who is teaching households of his target people-group is absolutely ideal. A Christian family modeling life to other families who are gathered together is ideal.
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    okay, therefore a Christian worker, wherever they are, need not be ordained in order to serve God in their stations of life.
  9. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor


    I think that the following passage answer the first two of your questions:

    The prophets and doctors were those church officers who were qualified for missionary's office (as Pergs, I take "apostle" to be the rough equivalent of what ought to be "missionary"). As far as "what we mean by missionary", I don't think it's the same. Anyone, practically, with a modicum of "zeal", and some kind of skill is called a missionary; this is not the case. God chose the cream of the crop of the eldership, and these were ordained to a church office by praying, fasting, and the laying on of hands: ordination. Therefore, qualifications would be the same as that of any other elder, except that they would be the "cream of the crop" among the eldership.

    To your third question: the duties of missionaries are detailed by the rest of Paul's labors in the book of Acts: preaching the gospel, making disciples of families, magistrates, false synagogues, city councils, individuals, baptizing, planting churches, training up elderships, assisting in the ordination and choosing of elders, checking up on churches planted, getting thrown in prison, taking beatings with joy, shipwrecks, perils of robbers, perils of false brethren, etc. etc. et al.

    May God raise up many more godly elders, and choose some from among them to the apostolate!

  10. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    As I read these posts, I'm wondering at this point:

    1) Is a missionary office synonymous with an evangelist office?
    2) Can a woman in any sense be sent to for example, minister to women or children specifically and be called a missionary?
    3) If women can do humanitarian labor and "share the Gospel" while doing it, is it biblical to "send" her as a church, (no ordination or vows)?
  11. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    What, in your estimates, are duties prohibited for women as regards staffing schools of theology? Administration? Teaching English or church finance? Teaching Bible such as OT survey, or a book study? Teaching systematic or biblical theology? Teaching Greek or Hebrew? In Ethiopia the entire theological educational system of the protestant churches would collapse if it were devoid of female staff members. Is eliminating them a binding scriptural injunction under any and all circumstances, on the same level as "Thou shalt not kill"? If so, under the circumstances, the church would have to violate the express command of the Great Commission (to teach obedience) in order to comply. BTW I don't teach in any theological program nor have I aspirations of doing so.
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Many Presbyterian denominations utilize the terminology of "missionary" "missions" and "mission field" although not biblical it is a fair way to describe things. Many of the Presbyterian denominations and reformed also refer to some women as "missionaries" as well. Granted, the terms mission, missionary, and mission field are not found in the Bible, but they have entered into common use - even among most of us.

    I believe that missionaries follow in the example of Paul and his "Fellow laborours" in Acts, many of which were female. Thus, we need not send the "cream of the crop of the elders" though we should send the cream of the crop of both men and women as "apostolic fellow-workers". We need elder qualified men, but we also need teachers for children, women, linguists and an assortment of other "fellow workers" in order to strengthen the church anywhere where it is weak (i.e. "the mission field").

    The Sunergoi in the book of Acts gives us a picture of a band of workers who often move and who are often charged with duties to strengthen and plant churches. Iwould argue that modern mission societies resemble these apostolic missionary bands found in Acts and missionaries bear a likeness to these sunergois.
  13. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    These are not the questions before us on this post, but they are interesting questions that might be profitable for another thread.

    My only comment, not knowing of the faculty conditions you speak of, is that the condition itself does not mean something is biblical or right. God is never limited and can do things that seem impossible, often using obedient Christians as a means.

    An example would be there was once a women's group that became a para church organization. They took more-and-more authority and tried to do so in every sphere (home, work, church). The reasoning was something like, "Since men will not step up to the plate for leadership, women must fill the void." That's not quite right biblically. Something is biblically in line with God's revealed will or it is not (or not clear or not addressed) but never is something wrong (e.g. women usurping ecclesiastical authority over men) made right because God does not have any alternative.

    God's revealed will is right on its own terms, not in reference to others.

    Incidentally, the mostly bad fruit in the above example became more apparent over time (e.g. serial re-marriage, following women "prophets" a rebellious attitude toward authority, etc.)

    I say that not to address your faculty question (that would be interesting for another thread), only as a way of illustrating my point.
  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Let's not get into "deborah" examples.

    Let's not reason "if men would only step up to the plate."

    I want to defend the work of women where it is appropriate for them to work; and there are many places where they are needed, valued and are doing wonderful work.

    Teaching seminary classes in systematics might not be one of those appropriate areas. But many many other areas in missions are very appropriate for women.
  15. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    People's thoughts on Bible translating?
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Can we start a new thread on bible translating?
  17. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    I'm missing something!! Scott, you started out by asking
    I provided a concrete, detailed example of all three and there followed 12 posts of generalities. The kind of generalities that very often dissipate into the nothingness that brings repetitions of the same subject every other week.

    What am I missing?
  18. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Nothing is missing.

    And you are right, Tim, defining what we mean by "missionary" biblically is important both in understanding God's revealed will on this and as basis for discussing this.

    Mr Pegamum just started a thread on the application you brought up- women involved in linguistics and translations, (e.g. Wycliffe) and that is a good related topic.

    As we are developing this topic and still trying to focus on its basic points, a few other implicit items are coming up:

    1) Is a missionary office synonymous with an evangelist office?
    2) Can a woman in any sense be sent to for example, minister to women or children specifically and be called a missionary?
    3) If women can do humanitarian labor and "share the Gospel" while doing it, is it biblical to "send" her as a church, (no ordination or vows)?
  19. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    1. What is an "evangelists" office? Does such an office exist?
    2. Paul had women who were part of his sunergois.
    3. Why not?

    Let me say again, the title missionary does not have a list of biblical qualifications. It does not appear to be a church office that Paul gives a list of qualifications for. The closest thing we have is Paul's missionary teams, called by the name sunergois, fellow workers, of which women are included. These fellow workers traveled and helped in the work of establishing churches, not all were Apostles or elders but some were women.

    The church has used the terms "missions" "missionary" and "mission field" for a long time and even Presbyterians refer to women cross-cultural workers as "missionaries". I see no need to try to restrict this term to ordaind church-planting elders.

    Women serve many vital roles overseas and we ought to praise God for them. We spend too much time trying to spy out little areas in which they overstep instead of embracing those areas where they are clearly a blessing and there is clearly no condemnation regarding their labors. Nurses, teachers, literacy workers, teachers of women and children, prostitutes, street kids, etc.
  20. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    I have no idea how to get my post #11 on as another thread. Evidently it is not appropriate here but it would be good to have some answers. Can someone do this for me or else tell me what to do? Keep in mind that I'm technologically challenged.
  21. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I believe that women can do a great deal, except for exercising ecclesiastical authority. I have no probs with women Greek and Hebrew teachers, english, church finance, health care. I think most on the PB err on the side of caution and fall into the sin of over-restrictiveness, whereas the evangelical community as a whole often falls into the opposite sin of over-permissiveness.
  22. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    So then, to make a practical application: The church I grew up in sent a female missionary abroad. She is single. Is this an issue? Would it then be considered 'witnessing', the duty of every Christian, or does it only cross a line if she subsequently heads up a congregation?

    As for 'if there were no women, it would all fall down', I don't take to that well. I know that in Honduras where my father works that the Diaconate is mostly women - I still can't understand what happened to the men, but it seems to have given it a certain 'flavour'.
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