I was surfing YouTube one lazy evening recently and came across this video where well-known pastor John Piper interviews Matt Chandler. I’d heard Matt Chandler’s name a few times but had no idea who he was.
The video runs for 50 minutes and I watched the whole thing. I listened to the first half-hour with interest. Who doesn’t like a success story? Under Matt’s leadership, a congregation of 100 people grew to 6000 people in just six years.
At the 35-minute mark, the conversation turned to complementarianism. Complementarianism (or hierarchical complementarianism) is the ideology that God has designed all men to be leaders and spiritual authorities, and that God has designed all women to be submissive to the leadership and authority of men. John Piper briefly summarises the complementarian position at the 36.30 minute-mark on the video.
Only Male Elders?
At 35.00 John Piper says that it is “good news” that church elders should be godly men and that women can’t be elders, and he asks Matt why this rule feels “life-giving” to his congregation. Matt answers the question by saying that God’s Word teaches us about how God designed the universe, and that when we obey God’s Word we will be “in rhythm” (presumably with God and the universe). I agree with Matt on this principle. I agree that we should obey God and his Word, and I believe that God’s will is good and life-giving; however, the Bible simply doesn’t state that church elders must only be men. Nor does it state that God designed all men as leaders and all women as followers of men. These beliefs are inferred from a few biblical texts, some of which have been misinterpreted, misunderstood and misapplied. Moreover, I believe the whole complementarian way of looking at authority and hierarchy goes against what Jesus teaches us in regards to ministry and relationships in the body of Christ, for example, “the first will be last.”
Only Male Sheep?
The statement that concerned me most is what Matt said at 37:33-48. Here Matt states unequivocally, “I teach to men . . . I teach to men . . . I go after the men.” And he goes on to say that this is how he understands the scriptures. Matt focuses his ministry on teaching men how to be godly men. Why doesn’t he focus on teaching men and women how to be godly human beings?
Is there a big difference between teaching God’s Word to men than to women? Did Jesus have one set of teaching for men and another for women? No. Men and women have some differences, but we have many more things in common. Complementarianism, however, polarises the two sexes rather than promoting unity, affinity, and mutuality between men and women.
Several thousand women belong to Matt’s church. He says that the women love it when he goes after the men. I have questions about Matt’s statement:
Are there really thousands of Christian women who are content to be passive and are happy to relinquish life’s major decisions, responsibilities, and challenges to the men in their lives? Is this healthy or helpful to family life?
Do some Christian women believe they are incapable of being assertive and decisive? Or that these qualities are somehow ungodly or unfeminine?
And what message are these women accepting from Matt’s pulpit: That men matter more than women?
The Good Shepherd
I disagree with Matt’s interpretation of scripture. I do not see that the Bible says that pastors should prioritise their ministry to men by going after the men and targeting men in their teaching. Jesus welcomed and included women as his followers and disciples (e.g., Matt. 12:49-50; Luke 10:39, etc). Jesus had many female followers. Moreover, he taught that the good shepherd (i.e. the good pastor) goes after the lost sheep, and rejoices when it is found. Gender is just not an issue here (Luke 15:3-7). When Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep”, he did not qualify the instruction by adding, “especially the men” (John 21:15-17).
The apostle Paul did not “go after the men” (Acts 16:13ff). Paul valued the ministry of his female fellow-workers, several of whom were enterprising, courageous, and far from passive. Repeatedly in the New Testament we see that the New Covenant is wonderfully inclusive of all people who truly turn to Jesus. There should be no physical or spiritual hierarchies, castes, or ranks in the body of Christ, but mutuality and unity.
Unlike what Matt Chandler and John Piper assert, spiritual authority in the body of Christ is not vested primarily in men. The authorisation and empowerment to function in any ministry comes from God through the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit bestows his ministry gifts, including the gifts of leadership and teaching, without apparent regard to gender (Acts 2:18; Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:11, etc).
A Chauvinistic Shepherd
At 39:45 John Piper smilingly calls Matt Chandler a chauvinist. A chauvinist is a person who holds to a “prejudiced belief in the superiority of one’s own gender, group, or kind.” (Source) While I understand that John Piper used the word tongue-in-cheek, it is an apt description of both John and Matt, one they seem happy to own. They truly believe that God has ordained men, and not women, to be the leaders in the church and in the home. John also believes women must not lead men in broader society. The teachings of Jesus and of the apostles concerning the New Covenant and the New Creation, and what it means for the body of Christ, are very different to the teaching of male primacy that Matt and John promote. Jesus championed, elevated, and commissioned women. (See here.)
I am thankful that Jesus went after me when I was a lost little girl, and that he continues to go after me, drawing me to himself and moulding me into his image. I am thankful that Jesus is the good shepherd and in no way a chauvinistic shepherd.
Jesus on Leadership and Community in Matthew’s Gospel
Partnering Together: Jesus and Women
Partnering Together: Paul’s Female Coworkers
Galatians 3:28 – Our Identity in Christ and in the Church
Extra Honour for Underdogs (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)
Old Testament Priests and New Covenant Ministers
Paul’s Masculine and Feminine Leadership
Paul’s Qualifications for Church Leaders (1 Tim. 3)
Are women pastors mentioned in the New Testament?
Authority in the Church
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
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32 thoughts on “A shepherd who only feeds the male sheep in his flock?”
Those chauvinist pastors (Piper, Driscoll, Chandler…) are serious pastors, yet they don’t understand that God uses women as well. This male-centered preaching needs to end.
My internet friend Kristin Rosser left a comment on Facebook just now reminding me that Jesus shaped his message so that both women and men could understand his teaching.
“Kenneth Bailey’s book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes points out that Jesus told parables that alternately related to women and then to men. The parable of the lost coin, the parable of the yeast mixed into dough, the parable of the virgins at the wedding– all of these were about the things of women’s lives, while the parable of the prodigal son, the parable of the sower, the parable of the man who found the pearl hidden in a field, were about the things of men’s lives.”
Jesus did not target his message to men; he deliberately reached out to both men and women when he was teaching.
I’ve written about male-female pairs in Luke’s Gospel here.
“Is there a big difference between teaching God’s Word to men than to women? Did Jesus have one set of teaching for men and another for women? No.”
Exactly. TGC recently ran an article “What Joseph Can Teach Us About Biblical Manhood.” My interest was peaked because is there something specific Joseph can teach about so-called “biblical manhood?” The following points were made:
1. Godly men care about God’s Word.
2. Godly men are more concerned with what God thinks than what others think.
3. Godly men step up and do the right thing even when it’s hard.
4. Godly men follow through and pursue purity.
5. Godly men are willing to care for children who aren’t biologically theirs.
I left a comment there that all the above attributes were equally incumbent upon and attributable to women and the article would be better titled “What Joseph Can Teach Us About Godliness” as suggested by another commenter. My comment was censored.
As far as going after the men, yes, to this: “I am thankful that Jesus went after me when I was a lost little girl, and that he continues to go after me, drawing me to himself and molding me to his image.”
Angie, I’ve seen similar articles and lists that are targeted to either men or women but, in fact, apply equally to both sexes. Joseph and other Bible men can serve as examples for both men and women. Similarly Bible women can serve as examples for both men and women.
Women ministers/clergy/leaders are biblically encouraged when the Bible is read in its entirety. The Old Testament and the New Testament both record women in leadership. Men more so but women just the same. When the Bible is read and parsed correctly taking its history in context from other scholars of their times it is easy to see how God encourages women in leadership. Jesus elevates the status of women in the Gospels.
When one bases only a couple of Bible text as their premise of understanding and beliefs incorrect doctrine evolves. Considering the many women recorded in the New Testament alone who were either an apostle, yes an apostle, the apostle Junia, teachers who taught men such as Priscilla (along with her husband Aquila) who taught Apollos, and other leading women, it is unfathomable to think that Paul forbid all women from teaching and preaching.
Yes, some women do like to be passive and let the men “lead”, but it is a cop-out. They like to defer to their man so when things go wrong they can blame their decisive hubby for making a bad decision. It is actually a very unhealthy blame game that goes on. Takes the heat off the woman to be responsible, which in turn can create a sick parent/child type of relationship…
I’m sure these men also feel if they can get the man to come to church – the family will follow.
Problem is – this type of denomination may flourish for a while, but then the numbers start to go down. They may get members from other churches, or transfers as some call them. They don’t really get anyone ‘new’.
What they don’t seem to grasp? They are handing the men everything they should want as selfish human beings, and they still aren’t as attractive they you would think they should be.
They are handed the green light and support to be a chauvinist, and the world as a whole is still pretty much saying….NO Thank YOU! lol then they blame the feminization of the world on that. OH boy!
You know, I do believe that an individual can have a certain “calling” if you will that makes them effective at reaching a certain type of person. I don’t doubt that some individuals are more gifted at seeing the struggles of women and reaching out to women, or seeing the struggles of men and reaching out to men…or rich people, or disadvantaged people, or people who grew up in the country vs. the inner city, etc. etc. etc. Even St. Paul felt called specifically to the Gentiles.
But as I understand it, that’s not the motivation that Matt is expressing. As I understand it, he is expressing something closer to what Mark Driscoll said a few years ago; that if you just go after the man of the house, there’s no NEED for anyone to preach to women and children, because they will just follow men through the church doors and receive their spiritual nourishment vicariously through the men in their life.
That, to me, is a bad attitude and a huge problem. If someone believes that they personally should have a specific ministry focus, fine. But it’s foolish to look on it as a generic principle for ALL ministers, and it’s unwise to not consider that women already feel so marginalized in the church! Wouldn’t this have the potential to make that marginalization worse, if not handled correctly?
Rachel, I completely agree with you, and you make some great points. People often do have a calling to minister to a particular group within society. However, women make up roughly half of Matt’s congregation. I don’t think he has a valid option of continually teaching to men when there are thousands of women present. It seems to me that Matt’s focus on the men is based on his theology rather than his calling – a theology that give primacy and priority to men above women.
I think Matt’s theology must marginalize women. I don’t know why the thousands of women in his congregation put up with it. Maybe they’re used to being overlooked or being treated as second rate. Maybe they really don’t want to be responsible for their own walk with God.
I am grateful that God doesn’t treat me as second rate. He deals with me directly. I don’t have to wait for “spiritual nourishment” to filter down.
Hannah: I think women are prepared to put up with a lot if it means their husbands, fathers, and sons go to church. It’s a price they may choose to pay, and maybe it’s a reasonable choice for them.
So Matt and Mark and others get the men, but the women who seem to be flourishing but may actually be suppressed. Meanwhile all the men and the boys hear, see, and feel one message – you’re important, while all the women and girls hear, see, and feel a different message – you don’t matter as much as the men
Dawn: I think their message must encourage a level of passivity in the women, a passivity that you just don’t see in many of the godly Bible women.
Now does anyone wonder why women are leaving the church in droves?
Marg – you and I both know that is where the message is completely off. Jesus came for the ‘less than’, and those that ‘didn’t matter’ to society. Sadly, they are so insulated in their little churches at times that if they hear how that message sounds to women? It’s just like politics today – your a hater, feminist, etc. They have all kinds of labels for that. Its spiritual peer pressure if you will. I honestly don’t think they realize how completely immature they come across, and how prideful they come across even when men point this out to them.
To me they are a dangerous, but dying breed.
Yes, Jesus’ message is very different to the message of those who preach
patriarchy. It is way off.
Jesus did not elevate the social standing of one group (men), while holding down another group (women). Rather he tells all of us to aspire – just as he did – to the social standing of children (Matt. 18:4NIV) and servants (Luke 22:26-27) and slaves.
The complementarian ideology has nothing in common with the social values of the New Creation.
Although I don’t agree with Piper’s views on this subject, I don’t know if he is a chauvinist or not. I don’t think every male complementarian is a chauvinist simply because he doesn’t believe women should be pastors since chauvinism implies male superiority and many of the complementarians I’ve read don’t support this attitude at all. Some support gender equality under God and in worth but just believe men and women have different roles in the home and church. They truly believe the Bible supports this and don’t believe it has anything the do with women’s capabilities. Of course, I’ve read many others who are just a product of the patriarchal upbringing and use scriptures to validate their prejudices. However, I agree Jesus didn’t support patriarchy and encourages all of us, men and women, to use gifts and talents that include ministry.
Hi Curious Thinker, I agree that not all complementarians are chauvinists. I use the word in my post because it is a word that John Piper uses for Matt Chandler.
I also know that many, if not all, complementarians sincerely believe that the Bible teaches that patriarchy is God’s design for society (even though it is obvious that not every man is a leader, and more than a few women are excellent leaders.)
You make the valid point that some people are complementarian because that is how they interpret scripture, while others are a product of their upbringing.
The thing that made me change my mind about complementarianism was being able to read the New Testament in the Greek. Several important verses became clearer in the Greek, especially ones about ministry and women in ministry.
Also, the verses about our new life in Christ as New Creation people has nothing to do with patriarchy. Patriarchy, with all its little rules and customs, sounds more like what the ancient Greeks believed than what Jesus preached.
Exactly! Put simply: Understanding Greek definately clears up misinterpreted verses. For example many times the word “man” in English translations is not the correct translation for a Greek word that refers to both sexes. English does not have a word that refers to both the male and female gender. Therefore the Greek word meaning that both sexes are to be leaders for example… is often mistranslated into the English word “man”. Modern day Bibles try to correct this by translating the Greek word used for both sexes into “men and women” and ” brothers and sisters”.
May God continue to bless your blog Marg
The masculine language in older Bibles really does have the potential to obscure inclusive messages and teachings. I’m glad newer English translations use more gender-accurate and gender-inclusive language.
” I’ve seen similar articles and lists that are targeted to either men or women but, in fact, apply equally to both sexes. Joseph and other Bible men can serve as examples for both men and women. Similarly Bible women can serve as examples for both men and women.”
I personally, as a woman, feel more drawn to women role models and I am glad for the women Bible studies who introduced strong Biblical women because before that they had been invisible to me. But there is also a risk in this; if we only talk about exemplary Biblical women in the women’s group, it doesn’t filter down into the overall congregation to show that these women are examples of godly *people*.
Similarly, their can be benefits to having men’s/women’s ministries but there is also the danger, if the only common denominator of a group is their gender, you end up stereotyping them in the events you offer so that the women end up baking and talking about emotions and the men barbecue and talk about leadership.
Sad commentary on American Christianity. Chauvinist is a good word for them. They point to their congregations and say that because people follow, they must be happy with everything. In Vietnam the pastor of the largest church is a woman. She pastors three congregations of over 1000 people. People risk a lot to come and hear her. Her daughter has started a church in Bangladesh. They put their lives on the line in Muslim and Communist countries. Yet in “real” Christianity in the safety of America, no one would accept a woman pastor? I call it BS. Gain a following that people risk their lives to come to first. Then speak crap about who can and can’t lead.
Making a positive impact in society does not mean that what you are doing is sincere. What is sincereity without truth? You can do something thinking that it is good but it actual fact it is against scripture. The point about only male leaders in the church is scriptually acurate as in 1 Corinthians 14:34 says ‘Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak: but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law’ (KJV) If you agree with scripture you are disagreeing with God
So women in your church are not allowed to sing aloud, or sing in a church choir, or say ‘amen’, or recite a creed or the Lord’s Prayer along with the men?
Do you allow women to pray or prophesy in church if they have their head covered (1 Corinthians 11:5)?
I think you mean if you agree with Scripture you are agreeing with God.
Acts 2:17 “And it shall be that in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh and your sons and your Daugthers will prophesy…”
Clearly women share the joy and burden of calling.
Acts 16:14-15 “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.”
The first convert in Europe, and clearly a leader in the city and eventually, a leader in the church… (you’ll need to read the rest of the story to appreciate my point).
John 20:17-18 “Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.”
Honored to be the first person the resurrected Christ revealed Himself to, and clearly directed (called) to announce the “good news” to His disciples… The first ever preacher of the gospel! Clearly the testimony of scripture does not limit any of God’s children from exhaling the Son!
Where is the scripture that says a woman is to share a man’s brain because God didn’t give her one? The 5th commandment gives equal status and authority to both the man and the woman…that guarantees that they must be a team of “one flesh” and this eliminates the “blame game”.
There’s a lot of assumption fuelling the comments on this page.
Has the writer of the article or any of those writing comments listened to a sermon by Matt Chandler?
Have you tried to inquire and understand what is the secret of his success?
What would you say/write if you found Matt preaching to the men about how to truly love their wives and children?
What if Matt is successfully teaching men how to be, not just leaders, but servant-leaders?
Yes, the wives would naturally be happier with the men. Happy that he is more loving, caring, and self-sacrificing.
The Bible tells us in Luke 6:44
“For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.”(NASB) A membership increase from 100 to 6000 is a fruit that cannot come from a thorny bush.
Beware, lest you speak against the work of the Holy Spirit.
One of the ways to minister to the church is through leadership but it’s not the only way.
Equality is in God and in Christ.
May God help us all to know His will for each of us. Amen.
This article is not about the secret of Matt Chandler’s success, nor is it about the content of his sermons. It is about his deliberate focus on the men, and not on the women, in his fold.
I have not commented about the quality of his fruit. I make no judgements here. But numbers alone are not an indication of whether the fruit comes from a thorn bush or a grape vine. There are many Christian groups and churches with heretic leaders that have massive followings. Nevertheless, I do not regard Matt Chandler as a heretic, just a chauvinist, to use John Piper’s words.
I’m not sure what you see as assumptions, but I am in full agreement with your last three statements. 🙂
Thank you for the Christian tone of your response (that’s a compliment, some may twist it otherwise).
Nevertheless, it didn’t answer my question of whether any of those involved in writing and agreeing with this article have gone beyond (to use an analogy) the cover and title of the book e.g.”Ministry for men”, and explored the content of the book.
Could it be that Preachers like Joyce Meyer (who’s primary audience is women – though I listen to her too) and Matt have just realized that there own set of life experiences and style of mental reasoning and presentation are suited specifically for a particular kind of audience? Could this be true and practical?
There are probably many preachers and pastors who are similarly gifted via their own set of life experiences equipping them to specifically minister to a particular group e.g. ex-prisoners, ex-drug addicts, children, teen-agers, (even the rich and famous!) etc. Ask any pastor or preacher how challenging it is to preach or minister to a congregation that is totally mixed in every way. They will probably confess that every sermon preparation process is peppered with a lot of does and don’ts arising from their own conscience and awareness of their congregation. Many make it, through the help of God’s Holy Spirit, but as for those who chose to pick a niche audience and address their needs… I will repeat the counsel of one Gamaliel in the book of Acts 5:33-39 concerning the religious leaders who wanted to kill Jesus disciples:
“But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. “After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown;but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
My appeal is that we pray for every effort that is leading anyone or any group of people towards God. There may be many winds swirling around at the time like gender equality etc, but let’s uphold the labourer nevertheless, and not be found fighting against him or her through pen, spoken words or any other means.
Let’s focus on the part of God’s plough that we are holding, and do our personal best in God’s vineyard. And let’s “redeem the time for the days are evil”.
May God continue to Bless us with His truth and Guide us as we try to make our way, with His help, to our Eternal Home. Amen.
Many of us do have specialized ministries, but when you are a pastor of a church, your ministry is to the whole church.
If Matt Chandler wants to run a “men’s ministry” fine, but he is the senior pastor of a church that supposedly includes many women. His words and actions excludes women to some degree, and I don’t think that can send a good message.
I do take your point about not fighting against the labourers, yet Matt and others like him are totalling suppressing some that God has called to be labourers.
Paul used the word labourer for his own ministry and for the ministry of women.
Paul uses the word “labour” (verb: kopiaō; noun: kopos) several times in his letters in the context of his evangelistic and apostolic ministry (1 Cor 3:8; 15:10; Gal 4:11; Phil 2:16; Col 1:29; 1 Thess 3:5). He also uses the word in reference to leadership ministries (1 Cor 16:16; 1 Thess 5:12; 1 Tim 5:17). While Paul used the word in the context of ordinary manual labour (1 Cor 4:12; 1 Thes 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8;), the description “in the Lord” means that Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis laboured in Christian ministry, possibly in evangelism or in some other leadership function (Rom 16:12).
Paul used identical ministry terms for men and for women (diakonos, apostolos, sunergos), but Matt is making an unhealthy distinction between men and women.
I write more about the fact Paul uses the same ministry terms for his male and female ministry colleagues here.
Thank you for your last response.
It’s at this point that I leave it to the Holy Spirit to settle this matter in each of our hearts individually. I can go no further.
May God’s Holy Love and Spirit continue to rest upon you and yours – Always.
Thank you for speaking about the shepherd who only feeds the male sheep. Big flashback for me, 22+ years. I asked my then-pastor why he didn’t haul me into his office when he’d learned from a deacon that my husband was having an affair, and he’d already known this for 18 months! He said, and I quote, “I prefer to speak to the man.” Well, I guess I was chopped liver. I stepped back from that whole situation many times, and I’ve concluded that pastors do, indeed, feed the male sheep. Oh, I’m sure there are exceptions but, unfortunately, I now see that they are very few. Not only did my former pastor not deal with the situation at all, but his (and the deacon’s) inability to confront the situation actually made it worse, and it became a good ol’ boy cover-up. I think that was about the day I found my voice. Oh, then I said to him, “If my father-in-law had been alive, I would have told him first and he, a former boxer, would have surely slugged his own son because I was his favorite daughter-in-law.” The pastor laughed. I said, “It’s not funny.” Pretty much the end of the conversation. I still get chills telling this all over again.
Jo, that sounds just so horrible and so wrong. No wonder you felt like chopped liver. Your then-pastor sounds emotionally immature and inept.
You are correct. Besides that, if he’d done his job it would have caused something of a scandal. My ex was a deacon, men’s SS teacher, an usher, and very visible. The pastor chose to turn his head.
I’ve read this article and all the comments with great interest. I always was taught, that women are not allowed to teach because men are “over” them – meaning the head (covering) as Christ is for the church. Women that are teaching men would be rebellious…
When all of this is not true, then what does Paul mean with
1 Cor 14:34+35?
Or is it “just” an error in all the translations?
What does the original greek text say?
I hope someone can shed light on this scripture and help me understand (I myself cannot read greek, therefore I am “bound” to translations.)
I have two articles that specifically address 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.
A short one here:
And a long one here:
Paul valued women, such as Phoebe, Junia, Priscilla, Euodia and Syntyche, as ministry colleagues, and he welcomed their participation in church meetings (cf. 1 Cor. 11:5; 1 Cor. 14:26).
Here’s a short article on Paul and women.