Question & Answer Forum: Women and the Assembly

In what ways does a sister contribute to assembly worship?

Peter reminds his readers that they had received spiritual life through the Word of God (1Peter 1:23b-25). That same Word of God would produce spiritual growth if they laid aside various evils in order to maintain a hearty intake of the “milk of the Word” (ch 2:1-2). These who had spiritual life were living stones “built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices.” The links in the chain were spiritual life, spiritual growth, a spiritual house, and spiritual sacrifices.

So every believer who has received spiritual life (John 1:12, 13) is part of that spiritual priesthood and offers spiritual sacrifices. Whether male or female, every believer is a priest. Instead of bringing physical offerings (like a lamb or bird), we bring spiritual sacrifices. We worship from our spirits (John 4:23, 24) by the Spirit of God (Phi 3:3 ESV). Therefore, as an assembly worships, the offerings that ascend to God are not limited to the audible “fruit of our lips” (Heb 13:15). Spoken words express thoughts. What our mind knows, understands, and thinks is related to the human spirit (1Cor 2:11 ESV: “who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person”). Therefore, thoughts of Christ, whether expressed audibly or not, are spiritual offerings.

Every believer coming to remember the Lord should bring spiritual sacrifices prepared to ascend as offerings to God. These offerings consist of thoughts about Christ, and they are the product of our reading and meditating on the Word of God.

On the one hand, as a brother leads in audible worship, the other believers listen and respond inwardly to that worship, whether they are brothers or sisters. All respond inwardly to the truths expressed in the hymns they are singing. A united spiritual offering ascends to God from every redeemed heart present. As a conductor draws together the musical contributions of the various instruments and produces a harmonic rendition of the composition, so the Spirit of God leads the various believers to “sweetly sound the glories forth, which in the Savior shine.”

On the other hand, each believer is responsible to bring his own offering. As the Israelite did when he brought his basket of firstfruits (Deut 26:1-11), we bring the best of our thoughts about Christ to offer them to the Lord.

When a sister or brother is not responding with thoughts of worship, the quality of the worship suffers. It would be like one of the orchestra’s instruments remaining silent when the conductor called on it to add its part. Also, if a sister or brother did not bring a spiritual offering suitable for the Lord, the question the Lord raised in Malachi’s prophecy would apply. “Will a man [or woman] rob God?” (Mal 3:8).

Sisters have a very special privilege in offering their worship. When a man audibly leads the believers in worship, it is possible that part of his motivation is what others will think of his offering. A sister has the privilege of offering what only the Lord hears and appreciates. The Lord spoke of some who sounded a trumpet to announce their giving for the poor (Mat 6:1-4). They received the praise of men. A poor widow cast her farthing into the treasury. Only the Lord knew the value of it and He commended her highly (Mark 12:41-44). What a wonderful day when the Lord expresses to a sister how highly He valued her worship!

D. Oliver

How could a sister resolve a long-standing problem with a brother in the assembly?

In making Eve from the side of Adam, the Lord made an individual equipped especially for a relationship (Gen 2:18, 21, 22). She was to complete Adam in a number of ways, including her skill and sensitivity in relationships. This is an area where, in general, a woman outshines a man.

One of the ramifications of this in the assembly is a sister’s heightened awareness of relationship issues. She may be especially aware of a man’s disregard, disrespect, discourtesy, condescending manner, or brusk ways. Men may tend to be unaware of this problem or prefer to overlook it so as not to cause problems. In other words, a man may – rather selfishly – overlook what is a problem to a woman in order to avoid what would be a problem for him.

In addition, a sister would likely find it emotionally challenging to confront an offending brother who, judging from the long-standing nature of this case, may be dominating and insensitive. Abigail apparently found it difficult to confront her harsh husband (1Sam 25:3, 20-31), although she was able to directly and effectively confront David.

Behind this question seems to be a sense that if a man were involved in such a problem, others would be more willing to deal with it than if it involved a sister. If there is any validity to this, we men need to consider the Scripture: Paul’s word to the elders at Ephesus was, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to allthe flock” (Acts 20:28). If ever a sister’s concern is dismissed with, “That’s just the way women are” or “It’s only women who worry about that kind of thing” or related remarks, there is room for improvement in the shepherd’s outlook.

The principles of Matthew 18:15-20 direct a sister in resolving a conflict. Ideally, she would “gain her brother” by speaking with him directly. If confronting the “offending brother” is too difficult for this sister, she could ask someone else to accompany her. If that didn’t ease the situation, then the elders would be involved, “that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” Hopefully this would be sufficient to resolve the matter.

D. Oliver

Do the elders and those who minister in an assembly consider specific messages and truths that will benefit the sisters?

When Paul wrote Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, and Titus, he addressed sisters and brothers separately regarding marriage and parenting. John specifically addresses a sister in his second epistle. Evidently a sister’s spiritual and emotional needs differ from a brother’s.

The fact that teaching is a male responsibility raises the likelihood that ministry will come from a male viewpoint. This calls for those who minister the Word of God to have a greater sensitivity and concern for truth that meets the differing needs of the sisters.

D. Oliver