Should Women Open-Air Preach? Part 1
In 2013, this debate exploded into the open-air preaching community with the release of Tony Miano’s book, Should She Preach?: Biblical Evangelism for Women. As a former employee of Living Waters Ministries, Tony Miano advocated a position in opposition to Ray Comfort. He argued that only men should open-air preach. Previously, he had held to Ray Comfort’s view which allows women to preach outdoors, but they should not preach during a worship service. A discussion at a large open-air outreach caused Tony Miano to reconsider his views. This led to the writing of his book.
In 2017, the debate continues. Some evangelists may ask the question, “Why does this matter? What is the big deal?” These individuals would argue that getting the gospel out is more important than discussing this issue. While some Christians can have unprofitable arguments over insignificant issues, this is not one of them. Our Lord has consistently given instructions to differentiate the disparate roles of both genders. Second, the heart cry of a Christian should be, “Am I obeying the Scriptures?” As believers who love God’s Word, we should continue to strive to conform to it in our attitudes, thoughts, and actions.
In the following series of blog posts, I will argue that only spiritually mature Christian men should open-air preach. By contending that women should not preach, I am not saying that women cannot share the gospel. Instead, I am concentrating only on preaching. I define preaching as the public proclamation of God’s Word in order to urge individuals to accept it. In this situation, only a man should stand as God’s representative to plead with a crowd to come to Christ.
Does this mean that women cannot evangelize? No! I am not arguing that a woman is forbidden from passing out tracts, sharing the gospel in one-on-one situations, discipling younger women, teaching a women’s class, or instructing their children in the ways of our Lord. I encourage women to serve the Lord in these ways. In the open-air preaching context, however, a woman should not get on the box to proclaim the Bible.
In this first post, I will examine four Scriptural passages which give separate roles for men and women. These roles are anchored in the creation account from Genesis 2.
1. Genesis 2:18-25
God created Adam first to rule over the creation. In verse 18 the Lord says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” God makes woman from out of man to be his helper. Even though she is equal in value, Eve serves as an assistant to Adam to help him with his responsibilities. His task is to rule over God’s creation.
In verse 23, Adam gives his partner a name. “This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” By naming the woman, the man shows that he will be her leader. The man has the responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect his wife.
In regards to open-air preaching, the proclamation of the gospel is exhibiting leadership by urging a group of people to repent and believe. God created men to lead. When a woman open-air preaches, she reverses the creation order by taking the leadership responsibility from men.
2. 1 Timothy 2:11-14
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he instructs his mentee on gender roles in a worship service. A woman must be quiet during the service. She is not permitted “to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” Paul supports his teaching from Genesis 3. He wrote in verses 13 and 14, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Even though both Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Satan deceived Eve and not Adam. Adam knew that he was breaking God’s law. Yet, he did it anyway. Therefore, a woman should not teach or have authority over a man.
Most conservative evangelists agree with this interpretation. They would not advocate for women preachers in a worship service. The demarcation line revolves around this question: Does it extend to outside a worship service? I would argue in favor. Paul prohibits a woman teaching over a man. This is consistent with the leadership role assigned to man from Genesis 2. For more information, I would recommend Douglas Moo’s chapter in the book, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
If you think that this passage should only be applied to a worship service, then here are a few questions to ponder. Can a woman teach men in a Sunday School class since it is not a worship service? Can a woman teach men at seminary? Can a woman preach at a Christian conference on a Friday since it is not the Sunday gathering? Can a woman lead a mixed gender small group?
Besides these considerations, if a woman open-air preaches, she will be teaching Christian men. There may be Christian men who walk past a woman preaching. When this takes place, she is teaching him about the Scriptures which is clearly a violation. Furthermore, if the woman preacher has men in her group, then she will be preaching to them the whole time. Christian brothers and sisters have gathered publicly to participate in certain elements of worship. Usually groups have a time of prayer before the preaching. Some outreaches will have individuals sing to gather a crowd. On occasion, men will read the Bible if they are not gifted to proclaim. Then, there is the preaching of the Word. These actions involve the same elements for worship on Sunday but in an informal way. Therefore, only the spiritually mature men should preach.
3. Ephesians 5:25-27
Paul explains that the husband is to sacrificially lead his wife as Christ sacrificed for the church. One of the husband’s responsibilities is to cleanse “her by the washing of water with the word…” Just as Christ took the initiative to cleanse the church by His Word, a husband should lead his wife consistently to the Scriptures. God will use this as a means to help both the husband and wife grow in maturity.
If you think that a woman may open-air preach, then you must concede one point. If she is a married woman, she should not be preaching while her husband is present. This would usurp his responsibility to wash his wife with the Word. Since the couple has been joined as one flesh, the woman is able to participate in her husband’s open air ministry if he is gifted and spiritually mature, but her role is to be a helper to this ministry in ways other than proclaiming the Word herself.
4. 1 Peter 3:1-6
In Peter’s epistle, he addresses a situation between an unbelieving husband and a Christian wife. How should the wife respond? How should she try to win her husband to Christ? Verses 1 and 2 state, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”
Peter commands wives to evangelize to their unbelieving husbands through their actions and not by their words. If the unbelieving husband asks his wife questions about Christianity, then she should submit to her husband by answering them. At some point, she may want to provide literature or have a man from the church teach her husband if he is willing. By living godly lives, then the Lord may use the good fruit of Christian wives to bring their husbands to Christ. This answer would seem to be counterintuitive. Without this passage, we may conclude that the believing wife should take the husband’s responsibility to teach and lead since she is a Christian. She will be more likely to follow God’s Word which will lead to a more obedient home. However, the husband’s responsibility is not based upon being a Christian but upon being a man. Even though he is a pagan, he is still the head of the household.
Since a wife should not use words to win her husband to Christ, then why should she raise her voice to win other unbelieving men? If in the most intimate human relationship a woman is not to teach, then why would it change when she encounters a group of men while she preaches from the box? Why should an open-air woman preacher be able to teach an unbelieving man if this man’s Christian wife is prohibited from doing it? This passage proves that the creation order is not suspended when Christian women interact with non-Christian men through open-air preaching.
After reviewing these passages, the burden of proof is on the advocates of women open-air preachers. They need to answer these questions: Why should the creation order be followed in the home and the church but suspended when preaching in society? How is it that men who are responsible for the teaching in the home and mixed groups in the church can be joined by women to preach in the open-air? Where in the Scriptures does God teach that the creation order of authority should be applied only in the home and in the church? Despite the proponents’ claims, the creation order is not compartmentalized to only two spheres of application.
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Pastor Brandon was born and raised near Springfield, IL. He graduated from Illinois College in 2007 with a B.A. in History, from Moody Theological Seminary in 2010 with a Master of Divinity, and a PhD in Historical Theology in 2021 from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. He is also an ACBC certified Biblical counselor. He is married to Karise with whom they raise Ian, Elizabeth, and Patrick. He is interested in history, especially Charles Spurgeon, and has a heart for street preaching and evangelism.
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