God Forgive Us for Being Women | Book Review


In 1924, Ruth and Elizabeth Weidman — my great-aunt and grandmother, respectively — sailed from the U.S. for China. Like many Pentecostal women, they felt God had called and empowered them to share the gospel as missionaries. Other Pentecostal women felt a similar call and empowerment to minister in the United States.

This call to ministry was part and parcel of their baptism in the Holy Spirit, an empowerment for service promised by Jesus Christ in Acts 1:8 and first realized on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1–11. The apostle Peter interpreted the event of Pentecost as the fulfillment of God’s promise through the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy… Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17,18, emphasis added; cf. Joel 2:28,29).

These passages, especially alongside Galatians 3:28, seem to equalize the ministries of men and women. Yet Pentecostals also read passages from Paul’s letters — 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:11–15, especially — that appear to order hierarchically men’s and women’s ministries. (I would argue that this hierarchy is more apparent than real.)

Thus, even as hundreds of early Pentecostal women pioneered mission fields and planted churches, they often met resistance from men (typically) who felt the need to put them in their place by limiting their authority in the local church. My friend Joy Qualls explores this tension — between Pentecostal empowerment and hierarchical resistance, especially in the Assemblies of God — in her new book, God Forgive Us for Being Women.

She takes the book’s title from the exasperated complaint of Mae Eleanor Frey, an early Pentecostal evangelist affiliated with the AG. From 1914 to 1935, the Fellowship debated what level of credentials women could hold. In a 1928 letter to a national executive, Frey wrote: “At this last Council I felt like a criminal as they brought up this foolish woman question again …. One felt like asking God to forgive us for being women. There is nothing in the word of God that forbids a woman from preaching the Gospel or conducting a work.”

Qualls is a lifelong AG adherent and professor of communications at Biola University in La Mirada, California. Her book, a revision of her doctoral dissertation, explores how the Fellowship negotiated the tension between the Pentecostal rhetoric of empowerment and the hierarchical rhetoric of authority.

In 1935, the General Council settled this debate, at least in principle, by affirming that God’s call and empowerment to all levels of ministry are equal for men and women. In practice, however, as Qualls shows, there remains a gap between what we believe and how we behave. Though women can receive ordination to all ministry levels by the denomination, they often find the doors to leadership in the local church locked because of their sex.

God Forgive Us for Being Women occasionally makes for difficult reading. This is partly because of the academic tone of the writing, but mostly because it’s heartbreaking to see the challenges women have faced in their efforts to pursue God’s call on their lives. Dr. Jim Bradford, former general secretary of the Assemblies of God, recently preached a sermon that included this exhortation to women in the congregation: “You should never be in a place where men are putting you in your place.” After reading this book, I fervently hope that I never become that kind of man nor the Assemblies of God that kind of Fellowship.

Book Reviewed
Joy E. A. Qualls, God Forgive Us for Being Women: Rhetoric, Theology, and the Role of Women in the Pentecostal Tradition (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. This is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission and will appear in the July-August 2018 print issue of Influence magazine.

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Tuesday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Dr. George O. Wood — aka, “Dad” — and I have a wide-ranging conversation on the Influence Podcast about leaving a legacy of influence in ministry. Dad is retiring as general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (USA), and has a lot of wisdom to share about this topic, based on over 50 years of gospel ministry.
  • Dr. Joy Qualls reminds pastors that when a person comes to church, the entirety of what they experience is sending a message. “Too often, when we think about message delivery, we focus only on the pastor’s sermon,” she writes. “I want to challenge that limited notion and encourage the view that the act of moving people toward a response begins the moment they pull into your parking lot…” Joy outlines four questions to help pastors figure out what message their church is actually communicating to attendees.
  • Carter McDaniel reviews Clay Scroggins’ new book, How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge (Zondervan), which released today. Carter summarizes the book’ message this way: “Great leaders lead when they are needed, regardless of their position or level of authority. And great leaders know how to lead when they are in charge because they have been leading that way long before they were in a position of authority.” After you read Carter’s review, listen to my Influence Podcast with Clay Scroggins…then buy the book. It’s really good.

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Joy Qualls | Influence Podcast


People in America are increasingly divided ideologically and politically, and our public discourse reflects those divisions. Too often, however, our rhetoric becomes toxic, leading many to worry whether hateful words will result in violent deeds.

This worry came up again last week when Rep. Steve Scalise (R_LA 1st District) and several congressional staffers were shot by a man who didn’t like their politics. Few political disputes result in violence, but this incident is a good reminder to watch how we speak about others in the public square.

This week, I talk to Joy Qualls about how to have a constructive debate about hot-button social issues. In an increasingly pluralistic and polarized culture, this skillset is an absolute must-have for Christian leaders. Qualls is chair of the Communications Department and professor of Communication Studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California…and a personal friend with whom I have occasional disagreements on politics.

Take a listen!

The Power of Life and Death | Influence Magazine


Over at Influence Magazine, I offer some opinions about hateful words and violent deeds in the wake of yesterday’s shooting of Rep. Steve Scales (R-LA) and GOP congressional staffers. The article is posted here with permission:

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“The tongue has the power of life and death,” Proverbs 18:21 says, “and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

This proverb came to my mind yesterday when I learned that a gunman had shot and wounded Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La., 1st District) and four congressional staff members in the early morning near Washington D.C. The shooter later died from wounds sustained in a gun battle with Capitol Police, who were protecting Rep. Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives.

The shooter evidently supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Sen. Sanders immediately denounced the violent act. Regardless, some right-wing pundits quickly tied the incident to anti-Trump and anti-Republican rhetoric by some left-wing pundits and Democratic politicians. They claimed that rhetoric had created the “climate of hate” in which the shooter acted.

This is not the first time partisans blamed violence against them on the other side’s rhetoric. Democrats, for example, pointed to Republicans’ “climate of hate” in 2011 when a gunman shot then-Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords (D-Ariz., 13th District) and 17 others. Giffords suffered brain injuries, and six people died.

I’m not interested in assessing whether the Left’s rhetoric is more hateful than the Right’s or whether the Right’s actions are more violent than the Left’s. As far as I have seen, the answer to those questions generally lines up with the respondent’s ideology. A person on the Right thinks the Left bears the blame, and vice versa. This suggests that we’re not coming at the answer from an objective, statistical point of view.

Instead of assessing blame, I want to make an obvious point and a less obvious point and then offer an explanation and several suggestions:

Points Obvious and Less Obvious
The obvious point is this: Both sides think climates of hate are capable of producing violent action. Nobody thinks there’s zero connection between words and deeds. Everybody acknowledges some connection.

The less obvious point is this: Regardless of that acknowledgment, neither side changes its rhetoric in a significant or enduring way. Oh sure, after a tragedy, right-wingers and left-wingers will come together, pray for the victims, sing “Kumbaya” and pledge to work together. A few days later, however, they’re back at each other’s throats, using the same nasty rhetoric they used before the violence that temporarily brought them together.

Explaining Why Our Rhetoric Doesn’t Change
Why? How can people who acknowledge the connection between words and deeds go on to think their hateful rhetoric doesn’t generate violence on their side? The explanation, it seems to me, is that they think their rhetoric is true. Partisans and ideologues don’t merely disagree with the policies of the other side; in other words, they think the other side and its policies are objectively evil. That’s why both sides in political debates are tempted — and too often succumb to the temptation — to compare the other side to Hitler and the Nazis, which all sides agree to be symbols of perfect evil.

But here’s the deal: In American politics today, if you really think that people on the other side are like Hitler and their policies are like the Nazis’, then the obvious response is to go to war — to engage in more violence, not less.

Nobody in their right mind thinks that way, though. After a tragedy like yesterday’s shooting, we all get together and pledge to talk kindlier and work together more constructively. That implies — and you need to pay attention to this point! — that the other side in current American politics doesn’t deserve the hateful rhetoric your own side sometimes throws its way.

Three Practical Suggestions
Once you and I realize this point, several suggestions come quickly to mind.

First, repent! We constantly tell people on the other side of an issue from us to cease and desist from their climate of hate, but Jesus told us to take our own advice first: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3,5).

Applied to political rhetoric, this means we need to police our own words — and the words of those on our own side — first.

Second, follow the Golden Rule! How do we know which of our words are hateful? The answer to that question is as simple as the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

If you want people to ascribe good motives to your actions, ascribe good motives to their actions. If you want people to characterize your statements accurately and in context, do the same for them. If you want people to acknowledge your right to speak and act, acknowledge their similar right.

Third, don’t retaliate! In my experience, I practice self-criticism and the Golden Rule as long as the other side does so. The moment they deviate from those two standards, though, I am tempted to ditch those standards and start throwing mud. That’s a bad idea, for as some wag once pointed out, when you wrestle with a pig in the mud, you both get dirty … and the pig likes it. Responding to bad rhetoric with more bad rhetoric creates a vicious cycle of bad rhetoric.

Once again, Jesus points the way: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39).

The best way to stop a vicious cycle is to stop being vicious, and turning the other cheek does that. It stings, of course, but it also stops things from escalating to violence.

What I’ve written here applies to politicians and citizens, to leaders and followers. It applies most of all to Christians, however, and especially Christians leaders. We lead our congregations, and we represent them in the public square. It is incumbent on us especially — as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ — to do what He said to do.

As our nation wrestles with a vicious cycle of hateful words and violent deeds, let’s make sure we model a better way. Our tongue has power. Let’s use it in a way that brings life, not death, to ourselves, our churches and our communities.

Thursday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • I draw lessons for Christian leaders from the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R_LA) about the connection between hateful words and violent deeds .
  • Elizabeth Rios continues her series, “Church Dropouts,” with three ways to stop the flow of people leaving the Church.

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

Tuesday’s Influence Online Articles


Today, over at InfluenceMagazine.com:

  • Ed Stetzer asks, “Are You an Interventionist Leader?” I particularly loved this quote: “God didn’t call you to babysit. God called you to lead people so that they can be on mission.” Amen to that!
  • I review Winsome Persuasion by Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer. If Christians are going to engage the public effectively on hotly contested social issues, we need to think through the kinds of issues this book so deftly examines.
  • We note a Gallup poll that indicates Americans have complex views on creation and evolution: “Although Americans disagree about the age of the earth and the role of evolution in humanity’s development, three-quarters still say God was involved.”

Please make sure to follow and like InfluenceInfluence magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes!

Review of ‘Winsome Persuasion’ by Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer


The American public square no longer seems to be a safe space. Instead, it is the scene of a riot in the making, where yelling threatens to give way to hitting. And social media stands ever ready to cheer on those throwing the punches.

This incivility stems from what Deborah Tannen calls the “adversary culture,” which “urges us to approach the world — and the people in it — in an adversarial frame of mind.” According to Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer, the adversary culture writes a script for our interactions with people we disagree with that has four elements:

  1. Thoughtful consideration of the other’s point of view is denounced as “compromise.”
  2. Monologue is preferred to dialogue, since the latter might result in “questioning of long-held values and ideological commitments.”
  3. People on the other side of a dispute must be demonized, not merely disagreed with.

The widespread use of the Internet enables the fourth element:

  1. “Online disinhibition” means that “individuals feel unrestrained by normal social conventions, resulting in unfiltered communication.”

Unfortunately, in my opinion, American Christians seem as likely to read off the adversary-culture script as any other American. Doing so means we help make the public square more dangerous. It also means that our witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes less effective. No one listens to bullies with bullhorns, after all.

In their new book, Winsome Persuasion, Muehlhoff and Langer make the case for Christians adopting a persuasive voice in the public square, as opposed to a prophetic or pastoral one. The persuasive voice “appeals to the common good and general revelation” and “seeks to change viewpoints or practices within the culture.” It acknowledges the fact of deep ideological disagreement, in other words, even as it seeks to change others’ ideas.

No one listens to bullies with bullhorns, after all.

The prophetic voice, by contrast, “appeals to the revealed Word of God as final authority” and “calls for acknowledgment of sin and repentance.” It is useful when dealing with other believers who confess the Bible’s authority in their lives. However, it is ineffective when used with unbelievers who don’t have the same starting point.

The pastoral voice “appeals to shared needs and suffering” and “offers healing, nurture, and aid to those in need.” It is effective at comforting those in dire circumstances, but it does not have the power to change people’s minds. It can build bridges of compassion, of course, but it does not give opponents a reason to cross them.

The persuasive voice is especially necessary given the emerging shape of contemporary American culture. For one thing, many Christian ideas and practices are out of step with the spirit of the age. A recent Gallup poll, for example, indicates that a record number of Americans — 64 percent — support same-sex marriage. In 1997, that number was 27 percent. This sea change of opinion is arguably the greatest on a controversial social issue in our lifetime.

For another thing, an increasing number of Americans are disavowing religion entirely. According to Pew data, the percentage of Americans with no religious affiliation — the so-called “Nones” — grew from 16.1 percent in 2007 to 22.8 percent in 2014. The trend is especially pronounced among younger Americans. A recent analysis of the CIRP Freshmen Survey found that 31 percent of college freshmen claim no religious affiliation, a number that has tripled since 1986.

Taken together, these two trend lines should be worrisome to Christians in America. The Christian view of marriage is now a minority opinion, and increasing numbers of people no longer view a Christian affiliation as desirable in the first place. Indeed, a Gallup poll indicates that a third of Americans view religion as “largely old fashioned and out of date.”

This is the cultural context in which American Christians are called to exercise gospel influence. If once upon a time Christians could assume that the public was with us on controversial issues, we can no longer do so. Our opinions on sexual morality and marriage, most obviously, are a minority report. We are what Muehlhoff and Langer call a “counterpublic.”

Counterpublics are characterized by “opposition, withdrawal, and engagement.” Opposition and engagement are easy to understand. The public dislikes our opinions (opposition), and we aim to change its mind (engagement). Withdrawal requires explanation. It is not quietism, the opposition of engagement. Rather, it can be likened to strategic retreat, an opportunity to rest, regroup and rethink before sallying forth again.

Muehlhoff and Langer use Aristotle’s three categories of rhetoric to help Christian counterpublics understand how to persuade the American public on the issues where they disagree. According to them, a persuasive message “is rooted in three factors: the logic of the argument (logos), the speaker’s ability to project a trustworthy persona (ethos), and the speaker’s ability to awaken the emotions of the audience (pathos).” Christian credibility in the public square depends on whether the public views us as credible messengers of a credible message couched in terms they understand and can be persuaded by.

The authors conclude their book with recommendations on how Christian counterpublics can respond to LGBT issues. Christianity’s stance on sexual morality and marriage is arguably the thing that most makes American Christians a counterpublic today. If we’re going to engage the public effectively on LGBT issues — or other hotly contested social issues — we need to think through the kinds of issues Winsome Persuasion so deftly examines.

 

Book Reviewed:
Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer, Winsome Persuasion: Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017).

Further Resources:

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. P.S.S. This review was written for InfluenceMagazine.com and appears here by permission.