Letters to the Editor (Sexuality, the Power of Story, Worship Leaders, the Proverbs 31 Woman)

It has been an excellent couple of weeks for letters to the editor and I found it tough to narrow down the list to just a few. But here are the ones that most stood out to me. I hope you read and enjoy them!

Letters on Beware (and Embrace) the Power of Story

Tim: I’ll be honest and admit I don’t exactly know all the author of this comment is trying to say, but I want to give him kudos for his unique effort!

Tim. I agree,
wholeheartedly.
But this I see,
following the

Jesus who spoke
to prod & poke
religious folk,
with story/joke

hardly have woke
-en (‘cept as toke-
ken) to this bloke,
& what he spoke.

Yet we resort
(the long & short
of it) to sport,
we think we ought

to do to them
(our foe, or friend)
as we’re bidden
by culture’s men.

Please tell us some
stories, or one,
you have begun
(happy, or glum)

to these such ones
with pow’r of SON’s
stories (and puns)
which shine as “sun’s”.
—Paul, Orange, NSW

Letters on The Mark of the Most Successful Worship Leaders

I am probably tilting at windmills, but even calling the music leader the “worship leader” is creating problems in our churches. As I read your interesting series on “How We Worshipped,” it is apparent that worship is everything you do as a congregation on a Sunday morning. The singing is likely one of the least important aspects of our Christian worship services—behind preaching, public reading of Scripture, sacraments, prayer and even giving. Yet, singing has become the primary way most people tend to think of worship on a Sunday morning. Calling the music leader the “worship leader” contributes to the modern, entertainment and experience driven mindset that permeates so many churches. Using the term “worship leader” in this way causes the people in the pews to be driven even further to focus on their feelings and their experiences as the true expression of their worship. We need to get the focus of our worship back on the proclamation of divine truth and on the pastors and elders who are leaders of our churches and who are our true “worship leaders”. We need to stop calling our music leaders the worship leaders.
—Dale W, Boise, ID

Tim: We avoid this by referring to the position as “lead worshipper.” It’s a subtle tweak but at least releases some of the baggage that comes with “worship leader.”

***

Thank you for your article and observations. I agree with them and would like to add a few observations of my own. The first time I attended Grace Fellowship Church was to hear Paul Martin preach, but the thing that struck me the most was how the congregation sang. They sang in worship being lead by Josh. They were not observers at a performance. They were free to worship God in song within their abilities. I was blown away by what I saw was true worship through song. I was not a fan of contemporary Christian music at the time but hearing the congregation I understood that I was missing the point. It was all about worship. I really think that one of the largest problems church leaders have is that the “corporate” part of the worship is secondary. We meet to corporately worship in church so the worship leaders need to focus on leading the congregation to worship. It is not a talent show, it is about leading, encouraging and challenging the congregation to worship in song.
—Paul H, Toronto, ON

Letters on Are You in the Dangerous Time In Between?

 I was especially moved by the picture you paint of a man of God moving towards a total moral breakdown, and the explanation of what may be going on behind the scenes: “But more commonly, we learn that those who were closest to him saw this behavior for months or years. They had tried to address it and been hushed, or perhaps they had been complicit in it. ‘Never criticize what God is blessing,’ right? And who could doubt the blessing of God when so much good was being done.”

This is never more true than when the person noticing the downward slide is the man’s wife. Early on she will know defects that are hidden to everyone else. But to speak out about what only she could know, she risks everything, including her self-respect, her spiritual community, and even her sanity. The way the church treats wives trying to expose the truth is deplorable.

You give an excellent directive, but there is another mighty tool that God put into every married man’s life: His wife, his ezer, his co-heir. When a wife steps out to say “my husband has a problem with sex/money/power” the Christian community should not be so quick to dismiss her claims and label her a unsubmissive/feminist/Jezebel/fanatic. Worse than being ignored, she is often blamed for her husband’s particular character defects, especially any sexual perversions he is cultivating and using against her. This is treacherous! She needs the support of her church to heal and grow healthy, and instead she gets only judgement and blame!

I know you write often about rampant sexual immorality in the church, and the growing use of vile pornography specifically, so you already know the numbers. If women were empowered to hold their husbands accountable the way God actually intended, I believe there would be less of these humiliating crashes, at least among the married men.
—Caroline, AL

***

I have spent the past week hunkered down in hotel rooms typing my own story of abuse, divorce, and hiding. I had always been taught that God hates divorce, and abuse is not a biblical reason to leave a marriage. I left the house after twenty-three years of abuse, because I did not want my sons to have a dad in prison because he had maimed or murdered their mom. I had no intention of divorcing him, because I thought that would be a sin. I am grateful to the Lord for leading me to understand that abuse is abandonment. An abusive spouse is not dwelling in the position of husband. He is tormenting his bride. This in no way resembles the relationship of Christ to His church. I am praying your article is shared and read by thousands. May it be a healing balm to women who have been beaten emotionally and spiritually by people who have condemned her for leaving her abuser.
—Jenny H, Conway, AR

Letters on Ask Me Anything (Sex in Marriage, the Proverbs 31 Woman, Pursuing Vocation, etc.) 

The reader wonders why piety seems to be missing in the Proverbs 31 woman’s life, specifically prayer, Scripture study, and witnessing. He or she wonders why this exemplary woman is mostly concerned with “worldly concerns.” First, we should be careful not to expect Proverbs 31 to describe all that a woman ought to be. Simply put, it doesn’t. Proverbs is the book of wisdom, and this chapter is meant to show specifically what wisdom can look like in a woman’s life. This is necessary because until now many of the proverbs have come from a man’s point of view–consider the multiple references to men, men’s work, and adulteresses. We’ve heard the pleas of parents toward their son, not their daughter. But lest anyone start to presume that it’s acceptable for women to be witless ornaments, the capstone passage of this book is a stunning portrait of a wise woman.

But shouldn’t piety be counted as a hallmark of a wise person? Certainly. And it’s not altogether missing from Proverbs 31–how did she learn wisdom and kindness otherwise (31:26)? How could she fear the Lord if not devoted to him (31:30)? But I think this passage underemphasizes piety for two reasons. First, peoples in different times and places have wildly different opportunities to pursue personal Bible study, private prayer, public worship, and evangelism. I think God understands the burdens multitudes of women must bear and chose not to prescribe a one-size-fits-all devotional practice here.

The second and perhaps more relevant reason is that it is easy to engage in devotional practices and still live foolishly. It is not hard for many professing Christian women to go to church or Bible study or sing moving worship music or read some really good Christian blogs. But to see if their lives are in submission to wisdom, you must look at their actions. Knowing or repeating wisdom does not make us wise. Doing wisdom makes us wise. Remember, in Proverbs 1 and 9, Wisdom and Folly are both easy to find. They both stand in public. They’re both loud. But Wisdom does not just want an audience; she wants her hearers to “turn” toward her (1:23, 9:4), to change their ways. “The simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them,” warns Wisdom (1:32), and she is talking about people who have heard her speak.

So when the Proverbs 31 woman dazzles us, she dazzles us with her actions. And when you look closely, you can appreciate that she is not engaged in merely worldly affairs for the sake of mere prosperity. Her actions form a catalog of applied wisdom. For example, in doing her husband good “all the days of her life” she demonstrates the “steadfast love and faithfulness” of Proverbs 3:3. In providing “portions for her maidens” she is following the exhortation of 3:27 not to “withhold good from those to whom it is due.” In gathering wool, flax, and food she is imitating the famous ant of 6:6. She not only acquires good materials; she finishes the job by producing garments and multiplying crops, something the hungry sluggard of 26:15 would never do. This productivity results in more than the well being of her household: it enables her to practice true religion (James 1:27). She can “[open] her hand to the poor” (31:20) because through wisdom her hand has something to give. She is ready for the good works Paul exhorted the Cretans to put on in his letter to Titus. (Perhaps, after getting Paul’s letter, Titus selected Proverbs 31 as his next sermon text.)

We have the full counsel of Scripture to tell us how to delight in God’s word, worship his name, and share his truth. Every bit applies to the women as well as the men. But Proverbs 31 tells us what wisdom looks like by a woman’s deeds, in a beautifully liberating and enabling way.
—Rebekah, Harpers Ferry, WV

***

I’ve been contemplating the question of why the Proverbs 31 woman isn’t shown to be studying scripture (and other spiritual disciplines), and took a stab at answering it on my own blog. You can read it here.
—Lisa E, Lansing, MI

***

I wanted to try to answer that question in your “Ask Me Anything Column”, whereby a writer asked why we don’t see the Proverbs 31 woman reading the Bible/Torah and witnessing to others. That is a question I’ve asked too, and what I learned by taking a closer look at the text is that all the activities that we see are as a result of her character adorned with humility and the fruits of the Spirit, otherwise, I don’t think she could do any of these well enough to be commended in God’s holy Word. Take, for instance, verse 11 where it says “the heart of her husband trusts in her…” As a Christian, my trust is fully in the Lord. I also trust godly men and women in my church family. I don’t think her husband would trust in her in the biblical sense if she was not godly, and to be godly, you have to walk with God. So I think we can trust that she has spent time in the Word and walks with God. Take also verse 26: “Her mouth speaks wisdom, and loving instruction is on her tongue.” We know the Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Psalm 111:10 talks about the fear of the Lord and says, “all who follow his instructions have good insight.” His instruction is his Word, so I think once again we can trust that she is spending time with the Word. As far as her witnessing goes, I think she does that primarily through her serving her family—her husband and children. We see that she is busy with work at home, which the Bible commends women to do. She may not explicitly be in pastoral ministry but I don’t think that doesn’t mean she isn’t witnessing. We can see both in her character and in her works that she indeed is a godly woman, and such godliness flows from a life in dwelt by the spirit and a life in close communion with God. This is my humble attempt to answer that.
—Eyoome A, Kalamazoo, MI