SIDEBAR: On Addressing Temptation -- Without Resorting to Segregation
by Ruthie Oberg
My Dear Brothers,
There is something we need to talk about. It is the elephant in the room. Viral movements such as #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen reveal how our culture continues to view both men and women as sexual objects.
As ministers of the gospel who desire to live above reproach, one question remains: In an erotically charged world, how can we, as women called by God in ministry, walk and work alongside you?
Together we are on a wonderful adventure of ministry. When people unjustly view either of us as dangerous temptations, it severs ministry. It cuts off half the body of Christ from the other half, violating the reflection of purity and unity God intended.
Our Fellowship believes God is an equal opportunity employer. We are so thankful to receive the same levels of credentialing and educational opportunities you do. What a privilege it is to be in the Assemblies of God!
While the Assemblies of God will credential any qualified woman, the reality is that some AG pastors and churches won’t hire or work with those women because of the unspoken fear of sexual temptation or salacious gossip. We understand that you are concerned about your reputation in the church and community. We are, too. We understand that you want to protect your purity. We do, too.
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to work together and still be above reproach. Here are some positive ways we can do this in the church and community.
1. Invite us to join your table for lunch at ministers’ meetings, even if it might be awkward. If you see us sitting alone, invite us to join your group. If you provide leadership in this area, others will follow your lead. Soon it will not be awkward at all.
2. When a female missionary calls, please feel free to meet with her. Take along your wife or another member of your staff to meet this servant of God along with you.
3. Receive our emails and texts in a professional manner, as you would from any other ministry colleague, knowing that we are valued partners in mission with you.
4. Talk lovingly about your spouse often, and keep her picture on your desk. This communicates to us and to others that you are a man who values his marriage.
5. Hire us for the positions for which we are trained. The atmosphere of your staff and church will change — for the better. Both men and women will reap the benefits.
6. Remember that we are all still human and, as such, are subject to human temptations. While you are able to work with most women without any issues, there may be a few who put you on red alert. When that happens, remember that even this attractive woman is a sister first and is deserving of your kindness and respect.
Be honest with yourself, with God, with a trusted friend, and with your spouse. Be diligent with your boundaries at the beginning, stay accountable, and stay prayed up. Don’t feed it; starve it. With God’s help, this, too, shall pass.
We read the same articles you do about Billy Graham choosing never to travel, meet, or eat alone with a woman other than his wife. He is a proven role model of integrity from whom we can learn. It’s wise to take common sense precautions to protect the integrity of marriage and ministry. We also understand that some believe that the threat of temptation outweighs any benefits of working together as brothers and sisters. But is this the biblical approach?
As stellar as Billy Graham’s ministry is, this is not the model Jesus followed. Jesus met freely with women (John 4:5–27). He allowed them to touch Him in public (Luke 7:36–50). Women travelled on His ministry team (Luke 8:1–3).
Jesus never seemed to avoid people or places just because it might lead to gossip. How could He do this in a culture that was even more sensitive to gender relationships than the one in which we live? I think the answer to this question lies in how Jesus viewed women. When He looked at them, He did not just see a female body; He saw a beautiful sister.
Paul’s advice to Timothy gives us a lot of clarification on the biblical interaction when he said, “Treat … older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (1 Timothy 5:1,2).
The answer is not avoiding women but learning how to relate to them as a brother to a sister on a common mission that displays to a terribly confused world that men and women, redeemed by Jesus Christ, work together with joy, freedom, and purity — and it’s a beautiful thing!
We want to do God’s will alongside you.
Your Sister in Christ
Ruthie Oberg, lead pastor, First Assembly of God, Council Bluffs, Iowa