Monday, October 29, 2007


My laptop crashed while I was in Charlotte NC a couple of weeks ago and is in the hospital...literally. It's called the "Computer Hospital." All my research notes and previous study materials from which I draw information for writing posts are with it and not, I hope, lost. That reported, instead of the final post on the topic of the "Feminization of the Church, I've chosen to do a personal word. You'll see why in a moment.

Yesterday Wade, our oldest son and Pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid Oklahoma, preached a message from his series in Genesis and the failure of Abraham to speak the truth about his wife, calling her his sister, out of fear for his own life. His son later did the same thing. So Wade addressed "generational sins." [With a distinction between sins and curses.] It was a superb message and one every Christian should hear. You can... by going to the Emmanuel web-site. His Mom and I listened by web-cast in live time after attending the early service at our own fellowship.

In the course of the message Wade told the story, with my blessing, of MY failure as a father when anger was a besetting sin in my life. It was of an incident when I, while Pastor of a large Church in Texas, got out of the car on I-35 driving back to Texas from Oklahoma with Mary, my wife and Wade's mother, because she and I were arguing and I was not controlling my temper, as was the case much of the time in those days.

She drove off [wise decision and completely biblical since we are commanded to not keep company with an angry man] and I was left to hitch-hike home, and did. Not the stuff great biographies of godly men are made of, but the truth nonetheless.

It was at that time and because of that incident I got serious about God working in my life and started the painful process of facing, repenting [genuinely] and removing that particular besetting sin from my life. I'm grateful, as are all the Burlesons, including Wade and his three siblings, that God has worked. Wade told that story with correct details, a forgiving spirit, while taking responsibility for his own besetting sin and showing they CAN be generational unless one chooses to stop them with honesty, repentance,and removal. As I said, a superb and needed message by all.

Now, as Paul Harvey says, "for the rest of the story." Even Wade doesn't know what I'm about to reveal.

I was broken-hearted during that trip home hitch-hiking. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know the sin and utter stupidity of what I had done and was doing. But it does take the Grace of God to genuinely grieve over it. I've come to see the presence of Grace in one's life is not evidenced by no longer failing/sinning but , rather, being broken over it. Much as Lot was "vexed in his righteous soul" by the deeds of those around him [and his own later. 2 peter 2] so will a Christian be "vexed." I was. So much so that when I got home later and found Mary gone doing errands I hid in the garage until she returned so the kids would not know we didn't come home together. [It wasn't godly repentance yet as you can see] It was sometime later I got honest and then even later that I related it to Wade as he told it correctly in his message. The cloak of secrecy still prevailed. Someone has said you are only as healthy as you are commited to keeping no secrets. I think they are right. I wasn't healthy quite yet.

Now for more of the Grace part. While hitch-hiking home that day, I was picked up by a business man. We started conversing and he realized I was not a bum hitch-hiking across country but was, in fact, educated and knowledgeable. [Though far more stupid than he knew.] I did not reveal I was a Pastor for obviously shameful and self-protecting reasons. We talked. One thing led to another. Before much time went by we were pulled over to the side of the road and, with my hand on his shoulder, he wept his way into repentance and faith gifted to him of God in that providential moment. he took me to my home and went on his way rejoicing.

I tell you this NOT to take away the sting of my own failure and sin. The Cross has done that. But to remind all of us, as I was reminded that day, that our God isn't waiting until we have it all together before He pours His Grace through us, but in fact, shows us that where sin abounds Grace DOES much more abound.

Some might think this being said might take away from the responsibility of wrong/sinful actions on my part. My thinking is that it only reminds us of "why" we can be honest, repentant, and broken over our sins. There IS no reason to fear His anger. That was poured out on Jesus. Grace is poured out on us. You can trust Him enough to be honest about yourself. In context, "she is my wife, not my sister, but I lied about it and am ashamed of that fact," can be shared with a son, daughter, spouse, friend, BECAUSE His love DOES cover a multitude of sins and those sons/daughters can hear one generation speak to another generation of their own failures/sins against the backdrop of His work on the Cross. "Freedom" is what that really amounts to. It's like coming out of the bushes [Adam] and saying the truth about whose fault it really was. [What if Adam had said 'mine'?] God works in that context Graciously. Thanks Wade for a great message and a great reminder for all of us.


Friday, October 12, 2007


My personal answer to the question.."Is the Church being feminized today?" is "No..Yes..Maybe." Definitions are everything. The Bible doesn't mean what it means what it means. Our job is to determine it's meaning with careful study of the language, context, and the historical moment in which it was written. What did Paul mean in 1 Timothy 2? What did John mean in John 1? I could go on with the obvious. All of this is to be determined under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we discern in our fallible way where He is taking us as to meaning. Then where He takes us in our eternal/temporal application. That is our job. That becomes our teaching. That behooves us to be double-dog cautious in all we teach/say.

That said..I now cautiously address the question before us. Is the Church being feminized today? I would answer that with a "No..Yes..Maybe."

First the "no" part of my answer. "No" the Church is not BEING feminized. The Church is genderless in nature. "In Christ there is neither male or female."[ Gal.3:28] We know that statement is NOT speaking of the physical fact of creation but of the spiritual nature of the Church or all people "in Christ." The Church is a living genderless organism. Gender language has to be used to convey thoughts to be sure, but that Galatians verse is showing that no gender language can be used as fully descriptive or Her [there it is] nature. To exclusively use masculine language OR feminine language as an adjective in an attempt to speak of the Church would be a great disservice to the Ekklesia. It is because the Church is an organism and not an organization that language such as "attend church" or "going to church" or the "the Church is being feminized" fails to take into consideration the biblical nature of the Church and is a major problem in my mind.

One might say.."Yes, but we're just using cultural language to communicate." No problem there unless that cultural language destroys/dismisses the true biblical nature of a topic and here, IMHO, it does. As one deacon said to a young man wearing a baseball cap on Sunday morning "son take your cap of while you are in the church." The young man answered "sir, this cap is ON the church." Manners and cultural niceties notwithstanding, the boy was correct theologically.

It may be, as one said in the comment section of my last post, that the statements of the Church being feminized are referencing the methodologies and practices of the gathered Church. I think that is true. But it is at this point one would wish those methods and practices would not be identified as the Church. The Church is people whether gathered, scattered, failing, or succeeding in their behavior. So a campaign that says..."Sunday night church, the place to be," misses the theological point a mile and fosters a cultural concept of the Church that is damaging.

It is true Paul addressed himself to the "Church of God in Corinth." It is also true he was speaking to the people who belonged to God ["of God" is possessive] who were present in Corinth. [Gathered or scattered at the moment] But for him to have said to that body of people "you are being masculinized [new word] or feminized would have been unthinkable. He certainly could/would/did say they were acting a certain way in their behavior, [carnal] but they were Saints acting wrongly not becoming something other than Saints because of their behavior. Your actions do not determine your nature but your nature produces actions that can be a reflection of who you are by God's Grace..or a reflection of less than who you are by His Grace. [Flesh] But the Church is not being feminized. The Ekklesia is the Ekklesia by His Grace and will not change in nature.

Now to the charge of..are you not making a mountain out of a molehill here?" I would simply say that, quite to the contrary, this is foundational to the Church being the Church in a biblical way in any given culture. It also gives an ability to relate to people who differ on non-salvation issues theological. Theological precision is not the basis of relationships first and foremost but being the Ekklesia is. All duties enjoined upon a believer in scripture, whether it is to love one another, forgive one another, pray for one another, or whatever is NEVER because one is a member of a denominatin OR even a local church, much less whether they are male or female, but on the basis of being "in Christ." That's the nature of the Church. That's what binds us together. That's why the true Church must never be defined by denomination, gender, culture, or any behavior. The Ekklesia is being built and no cultural idea or even hell itself can change that reality in this world.

Now as to the Church gathered and performing certain things like study, sharing, praise, preaching, there are some legitimate gender issues that we must face to be effective. I will address these next time. But even here it is not to be out of fear or prejudice which I hear in a lot of the discussion of this topic. It reminds me of a little kid saying to one of his friends.."you're just acting like a girl" with a smirk on his face as if he's just rendered an adolescent cuss word. That isn't necessary and isn't helpful to the Body being the Body and certainly isn't Christian.

That's my bottomline on a "no" answer. As I said, I'll address my "yes" answer next time.


Monday, October 01, 2007


The "feminization" of the Church is an interesting topic introduced by one of my blogging friends [sorry Debbie..I don't know how to link yet] on her blog last week. I and a few others chose to comment on that issue and it spurred a thought in my mind that would be too long for another's blog so I decided to put those thoughts here.

Is the Church being "feminized" resulting in men having little to do with Church life? Like most issues, there is no simple or easy answer to that question at all from my perspective. I do have to say, however, that in discussing subjects such as this... definitions are everything.

I remember witnessing to a teenager one time years ago and asked him a simple [to me] question. I asked him, "have you ever been saved?" His answer was "oh yes." I was pleased. So I asked him to tell me about it. His response was "I was going under the third time in a river and my brother pulled me out." [He was dead serious...excuse the pun.] Needless to say a few definitions were in order and promptly delivered with a wonderful result when those definitions were properly understood. That may be as much the problem in our question on the "feminization" of the Church as anything else. It's definition.

For example, if by "feminization" one means you find more women involved in Church life than you do men, one would have to agree, I would think, that such a thing has been true all along. Even in the NT the women were involved with the person of Jesus, in many more ways than were men. [The tomb situation.. the Cross moment.. the teaching and washing of record the guys, other than Jesus, ever did.. to mention a few.] That may be a testimony to the courage of women as a gender and their ability to face the prospect of pain. Following Jesus brings us pain often and women may be more adept at this as evidenced by their going to perhaps the highest pain level in life in child bearing. Men will never experience that , for obvious reasons, and will, if wise, concede the point that women may be stronger than are men, where pain is concerned. That is just a thought.

If by "feminization" of the Church it is meant that men, as a gender, are less likely to be involved where relationships are concerned or small groups are being created because men don't talk as much or show emotions/feelings as do women, I'm wondering if that isn't an unhealthy generalization on false premises. [Perhaps even as my own generalization in the preceeding paragraph about pain might be if taken as a fact.]

I've always been suspicious of categorizing men and women with certain assumed gender characteristics as if they were absolutes. Women love to shop. Men hunt. The difference? Women look and look and love the looking. With men it is..I see..I shoot..]buy] I go home. At the risk of destroying any perceptions about Mary and me, [those who know us know this] Mary is the one who sees..shoots..[and would rather see and order off the Internet] and goes home. I, on the other hand, love to look and look whether I buy or not.. be it cars.. clothes..or garage sales.

Another characteristic I've heard is women are more emotional and men are more intellectual. So the movers and shakers must be male in gender if things ever get done. [Forgetting, I guess, a Margaret Thatcher and her husband whoever he was.] But, again, at the risk of alienating many, Mary is the factual, intellectual, analyzing one and I'm the one who feels the moment, acts, and thoughtfully works through the consequences later. Of course, she has helped me to measure the cost and look ahead and I've assisted her with being spontaneous and seizing the moment. It works for us. Just don't call me a "girly man" because, emotional or not, I'll bust your chops. ;)

It is obvious to all, I'm hoping, that the reverse may be true also. A woman MAY look and look and love the looking. A man MAY see, buy, and be on his way. The point is simply that the characterizations don't always hold water and, in my judgment, may be more a cultural bias, [which in and of itself is not an evil thing] than a biblical reality. But this could be a detriment to the Church if completely accepted as fact.

Do you see that definitions are important?

Then there is the possibility that by "feminization" of the Church is meant a diluting of the message of Christ. In other words, the message of commitment and sacrifice is lost and a "feel good" message is being presented and accepted. This is sometimes identified as "psycho-babble" which is a Siamese twin to "feminization" in the minds of many. The assumption here is that women will fall for this [as evidenced, I guess, by Eve's proneness to deception] but men don't/won't. But I would like to ask someone, if this is a fact, why the meetings of so many TV preachers that I believe have diluted the message are being attended by multitudes of people which, if my TV shows a correct picture, [ it's a new hi-def digital 44 inch] includes tons of men in those multitudes. Am I to assume those guys are ONLY "girly men" [there may be a half a ton of those but who really knows for sure?] and no real men are there?

I think it is part of our fallen nature and flesh to be drawn to the big.. sometimes easy.. sometimes feel good.. something that doesn't cost me a whole lot in terms of sacrifice.. kind of thing that I see happening all over in Church life today. I think most of us may be falling into that trap if we examine closely. We CAN get men together if we want. We can do it by emphasizing real "manly things" like hunting.. fishing.. [though I know women who love those things and men who don't] and sing triumphant songs with soldier lyrics. But we still wind up with a big, sometimes easy.. sometimes feel good.. something that doesn't cost me a whole lot in terms of sacrifice kind of thing. We've just changed the content.

I'm not discounting the diluting of our message that may have taken place. I think it has happened. It is damaging. I hope to address this later. But the real problem with this "feminization" of the Church thing is perhaps far beyond all these things mentioned so far. What is that problem? I think we have no genuine, satisfactory, biblical idea of what the Church and her life really is we see something that appears to attract women and repel men and call it the Church and assume we've "feminized" the Church. It well may be that were we to "masculinize" [made up word] the Church we haven't solved our real problem either. So, again, what is our problem? One more time...

I don't think we adequately... biblically... understand in our day... what Church life really is at all.

What do I mean? Next time I'll say.

Paul Burleson