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Gender and Spirituality

One of the reasons I have been so intrigued with Murrow’s book, “Why Men Hate Going to Church” is that his work explores the interrelationship between spiritual character and the real and perceived nature of masculinity and femininity.

In the middle of such a discussion I find myself in wonder of both the self-evident nature of gender similarities and differences– and the mystery.

Over the years I have heard many attempts to characterize gender distinction in relationships, organizational structure, and communication. At this point I have no doubt that, in the wisdom of God, he has made us as men and women wonderfully similar and different—so as to enable us together to reflect his likeness.

What I cannot see at this point is that it is adequate or helpful to say things like,  “Men are made to lead. Women to follow.”  Or “Real men are strong, real women beautiful.”

Neither does it make sense to me to say that courage, sacrifice, or honor are masculine characteristics.

It seems too obvious that just as men and women both have a “voice” that tends to be different, so both men and women share the challenges of character, strength, duty, and understanding, in similar, distinct, and complementary ways.

What seems most important is a subject we’ve been talking about the last couple of days. I am certain that the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23); the “blessed” attitudes of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:1-10) and the characteristics of wisdom (James 3:13-17) are neither masculine or feminine in nature—even though they might all be expressed in ways that are more feminine or masculine.

What I find especially intriguing about Murrow is the way he boldly affirms masculine and feminine differences while not sliding off the road to one side or the other. For instance, while warning that men typically are not as likely to follow women as they are to follow other men, he acknowledges our need for gifted women leadership.

As an example, he writes about the legacy of Henrietta Mears who “led hundreds to faith in Jesus, including Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.” Murrow points out that “During her tenure as Christian education director at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, more than four hundred young people entered full-time Christian service, most of whom were males.” The author says, “Men respected her because she spoke their language.”

What does “spoke their language” mean? Murrow himself asks, “Why did Billy Graham call her the most influential woman he ever met, after his own mother and wife?  Mears,” he says, “possessed the spirit of a warrior! She loved people enough to challenge the tar out of them! She was a woman with a healthy dose of the masculine spirit.”

I’m not sure what to make of the way he uses the term “masculine spirit.” But of this I am sure–real love, honest, endurance, and self-sacrifice, as they are expressed in real Christ-likeness, transcend our gender and make us into courageous, caring, men and women who are good for one another and others.

This obviously is not the end of the conversation, but only the beginning :-)…

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28 Responses to “Gender and Spirituality”

  1. chfranke says:

    Looks like where you are leading us is into a discussion about being yourself or knowing yourself and knowing what God is calling you to do, male or female. God made you for a purpose.
    Henrietta Mears knew herself and God made her to build up youth to be what God wanted them to be. In that culture leading young men into the pastorate was considered very honorable. I’m sure she also led a number of women into a phenomenal life of support, as well; they just may not have been as visible.
    The other point we need to take into account is a constant reminder that God does the calling. If today’s men are not hearing what path God is calling them to take, then what are the steps we need to take as a person and a church to pay attention to God? Those actions need to be real, not gimmicks.
    We are all in different places geographically and chronologically. Once these issues are brought to our attention, what do we need to do, right where we are, to reach out to men who don’t know God or don’t even think they need to know God? What 2X4 do we have available to get them to pay attention?

  2. BruceC says:

    A few weeks ago at our church service a woman from the congregation came foward to give a description of one of our churches ministries; the Stephen Ministry, that specializes in going out to the sick and those who were bound in their homes(“shut-ins”…I hate that word). Anyway she explained how she was the kind of person who easily cried; and she proved that during her talk as she always had a hankie in her hand and had to wipe away the tears numerous times. In all the years of going to church this woman touched my heart deeply and had to be in the top twenty that have been able to do that. The inner strength that the Lord had produced in her to be so open and honest in her self-assessment, the strength of character that he gave her, the ability to be able to care for those people without wavering, and the courage she showed in her committment brought tears to my eyes as well. I found myself admitting that I am easily moved to tears when the Lord touches my heart in some way. It could be a good Christian movie; like Jesus of Nazareth , the Passion, or Amazing Grace; or by reading His word, or hearing a testimony, etc., etc. This sister exhibited both “male and female characteristics” as some would say. And in her God-given way, a true warrior also. Her ministry of service does not mean giving health care to those people; but it is a ministry of listening, talking, caring from the heart and helping. It is also a very confidential ministry in that the names of those cared for are not revealed to anyone by the care giver for the very good reasons that she stated. I was awed by how our Lord could use a person like her and shape her character to do His will. Isn’t that really what He wants to do with all of us; male or female?

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  3. foreverblessed says:

    I agree Bruce, lets exort one another to seek Christ more and more in our lives, let Him speak to our hearts, let Him direct our ins and our outs. More and more, till all our days are full of Him, minute to minute. That we wait for His directions, us being His hands and feet, here on earth to touch the ones He sends us. Whether male or female.

  4. Bob in Cornwall England says:

    Being neither masculine or feminine in my outlook on life and not caught up in a steriotypical gender role. I can see no difference in ones gender and ones spirituality.
    The problem comes with our tendency to want to put a label on everything and every person.
    Any hint of my sexuality in some “christian” circles can cause an hysterical reaction for no good reason at all.
    In the same way some are against the ordination of women priest and react as if the ground will open up and consume the church for allowing such a thing.
    We are all individuals regardless of gender or sexual preference and all have different levels of spirituality and experience.
    At the end of the day, or should I say at the end of the age, it is our relationship with Jesus that will bring us through and that of course is also our spirituality, our courage, our warrior spirit, and the fruits of the spirit manifest in us.
    There will be no gender in heaven and, as we live in His Kingdom right now, there should be no gender with regard to our spirituality here on earth.
    We must be real, as our physical gender does tie us to certain roles, but we are all equal in Jesus and as God dictates we should all be able to fulfil any role in the body of Christ.


  5. marma says:

    Sounds like Mears knew what church was about: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” Hebrews 10:24.

    Love builds up.

    I agree. Assigning masculine or feminine is meaningless except as a way of categorizing or pigeon- holing people.

    A “healthy dose of the masculine spirit” indicates masculine is prefered, maybe? And I guess the question also is, as Chuck asked, what is it that Mears did that believing men are/aren’t doing for each other?

    Just wondering, you know.

  6. oneg2dblu says:

    To all who have already LOGGED IN, First, thank you!
    The whole reason why the Word of God works, is that it is written about the human condition, not the gender!
    The reason why it doesn’t work for certain people, “IS” their human condition, not their gender!
    That is why niether the 2XX4 or the hysterical reactions of others, have no influence on the hardened heart, it “IS” the human condition.
    When as Chuck says, God does the calling…(not gender)
    but, as Foreverblessed says, Let Him speak
    to our hearts, (not gender)…
    Then, regardless what we do think, or do not think we are caugh up in, for we cannot escape our “human condition” without the Help of God! God help us, if we don’t Obey His Word, which would really be the first choice of our human condition. Unless, Our God Provides, we are helplessly “caught up in ourselves”, whether male or female, or any blend “we think” we possess! Gary

  7. poohpity says:

    BruceC, the whole emphasis of the Stephens Ministry is that we all are Christian caregivers and God is the CURE giver. It teaches that we are all on this journey together whether male/female and God is the ultimate healer, restorer and foundation to all that we hope to ever be. You would be an excellent Stephen Minister because of your heart.

    Wow, Mart! I think the masculine spirit is one in which the person sees through all the leather and does not fear approaching a person of the male gender with the feeling of being any less than. Not seeing them as superior or putting them directly into a role of leadership when in fact they may not have those qualities but still recognize them as people worthy of love and respect. Just a guess as to what that means. It would seem that the person would be able to understand their unique position being of the opposite sex just as there are some that can recognize the Feminine Spirit and her needs.

  8. poohpity says:

    BruceC, because of your heart and your experiences.

  9. Charis says:

    I LOVE this quote you gave from Murrow:

    “Mears,” he says, “possessed the spirit of a warrior! She loved people enough to challenge the tar out of them!”

    It reminds me of some things I have read about what it means for a woman to be ezer-help meet. I think ALL christian women should be taught and encouraged to be such warriors.

    Carolyn Custis James writes: “Ezer represents the strength and valor of a warrior. God created women to be warriors. “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Our brothers need us, and God calls us to join forces with them in advancing His kingdom wherever we are.”

    As for challenging the tar out of him, I read this about ezer elsewhere: The Torah Study for Reform Jews says, “From the time of creation, relationships between spouses have at times been adversarial. In Genesis 2:18, God calls woman an ezer kenegdo, a “helper against him.” The great commentator Rashi takes the term literally to make a wonderful point: “If he [Adam] is worthy, [she will be] a help [ezer]. If he is not worthy [she will be] against him [kenegdo] for strife.” This Jewish study also described man and woman facing each other with arms raised holding an arch between them, giving a beautiful picture of equal responsibility

  10. phpatato says:

    oneg2dblu, funny how we touched a few days ago on being mighty warriors? Weird eh! lol

    On my thoughts of each of us being different, I would like to say this after reading this new post……

    Type A personality – thought to being the masculine
    Type B personality – thought to being the feminine

    It doesn’t matter what the gender, there is a mix of both types in both male and female. There are leaders -type A, and there are followers – type B in both sexes, and both are equally important for things to run smoothly. Henrietta Mears sounds like a Type A to me.

    I am thinking that the secret to having things run smoothly is for the person to understand which type he/she is and find a niche where there is opportunity to excel with the strengths God has given them. I am fully aware though that God often takes a person out of their comfort zone and places them squarely in an area that is totally foreign to them….His perfect reason, His perfect timing, His perfect will for their life. But from my experience, when there is a type A person in a position of follower, the atmosphere is often tense. When a type B person is in a position of leadership, things often get done slowly with a bit of hesitation. I’m not saying role-reversal can’t be achieved with some success, it’s very probable though that the person in that reversed role is not very happy.

    Am I able to say therefore, that type A’s exhibit a strength of “getting’r’done now”, a desire of forging new paths, exploring new worlds kind of way;

    while type B’s show that soft gentle reserved-type strength of “Rome wasn’t built in a day” so let’s stay put and keep the home fires burning kind of way.

    And the saying of “it takes one to know one”….could that be a way of getting men back into the pews?

    Just thinking


  11. Bob in Cornwall England says:


    I like your thinking and agree about the non gender specific type A and type B personality and yes it does cause problems when we find ourselves in the wrong place.
    But we must remember that a leader must first learn to serve before he can lead. This is a principle in training for an officer in any army or organisation.
    The Centurion that came to Jesus knew how to serve and knew how to give orders, he also saw the same qualities in Jesus, a King who became a servant.

    While we all have natural qualities and abilities God can use, we must be willing to serve for the good of others and the Glory of God.
    Moses was born a slave but brought up as a prince to be obeyed as a leader. God had to take him away for 40 years to relearn the slave or servant attitude so he then could lead his people out of Egypt.
    Moses had become a humble servant and a reluctant leader, having to rely on God to supply all, even a spokesman.
    If we could all get to this level of spirituality and humility and be like our Lord, then the world would not know what hit it, just as in the days following Penticost.
    I suggest this time is nigh!


  12. phpatato says:


    While I absolutely agree with what you said, I would like to point out that it is possible to be a humble type A person/a boastful type B. Not all type A people are egotistical, insolent, pretentious, proud, or showy; not all type B people are humble, modest, natural, unaffected, unconceited, unpretentious or genuine……

    As Christians, we are all called to become Spirit-filled loving humble servants regardless of our personality type.

    And yes Bob, your suggestion hits the mark. It is high time!!


  13. poohpity says:

    Bob, it is so true about being a servant before one can become a competent leader then they can relate to those they lead. I want you to know I will be in prayer for safety for those in the UK during this latest attack warning.

    We have a new TV show here called “Undercover Boss” and those CEO’s get a better look at the lives of the people who work for them. The work they do to get the companies to be where they are and where there can be improvement from the management stand point. It maybe a good thing for role reversal for men and women.

  14. oneg2dblu says:

    Bob in Cornwall… Great story about Moses, with 40 years of relearning. The other thing about the story of Moses was that he was (by God’s intervention) also raised by his natural mother, posing as a lowly Jewish wet nurse, and she helped raise him. She also instilled in him, his Jewish-ness, Through the caring and love she poured into him, well beyond any common duties, he got to know more about his people, and His God! So,he was pre-destined by God, as well as pre-paired by his Jewish mom, giving him the greater love for his people and their God, than his princely trainings and implied future wealthy stature, with all its royal promise. I trust I remembered that part of the story, as being crucial to his, God-chosen Jewish Heritage and Leadership! He was Divinely Positioned, to do just what
    God had promised, He would do! Another, Amazing Story, in every way, completely true as the Word of God always proves, His truth in the making! Gary

  15. nlsak@twcny.rr.com says:

    Wow! this is my first time on board so be patient with me :)
    Soo!! am I understanding from some of you that it matters not, female/male who leads the flock in a church? If this is true what do we do with 1 Timothy 3 ? SAK

  16. Bob in Cornwall England says:


    I am not an expert on scripture, but have just re-read 1 Tim 3 and think Paul was dealing with the issue of the type of person who should lead a church. Paul was an Apostle/Evangelist and he was responsible for planting churches and appointing leaders to look after them when he moved on. In later life he relied on Timothy, who was very young, to go around and oversee this work. He set out these guidlines for Timothy to follow. God seems to use the family unit as an example of how we should structure our society and also our churches. In todays world we have strayed away from this and seem to have alot of life long single people around us. Paul also said, in another letter, that it was better to be single as you would have more time and a clearer mind to do God’s work etc. Although the bible clearly defines male and female roles it also makes no distintion when it comes to our heavenly or kindom roles by saying there is no male and female.
    Both in new and old testaments we find examples of this.
    Judging by some of the stuff that goes on when an all male single priesthood is in charge, I think Paul was very wise in his instructions to Tim.


  17. Bob in Cornwall England says:


    Point taken with regard to Moses’s mum and Hebrew tradition being taught him, I was really trying to emphsise the point of leaders having to have a serving attitude and not a haughty bossy one.
    Remember Moses killed an Egyptian overseer because he thought, as a prince, he could help his people. God removed him from that and re-trained him as a shepheard so he could then lead his flock out of bondage.
    Moses, as you said, was predesdined by God and was even brought up as a brother to the Pharaoh he would eventually have to negotiate with. He was the only man alive at that time who understood the way the government worked, the mind of Pharaoh and the needs of his Hebrew brothers. When God chooses someone to do a job He chooses well and supplies everything.


  18. BruceC says:

    Bob in Cornwall,

    Although Paul said he would rather a pastor or leader remain single(so he could focus on the will of God only and not be distracted by family concerns) he also said that if he “burned” within with desire; then it would be better to marry. The problem you speak of has to do with that particular denomination not allowing marriage for their leaders; and nothing to do with the question of allowing women to become pastors.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  19. oneg2dblu says:

    Bob in Cornwall… no doubt about Servitude and Leadership. It is the only Christ-like way to friutfully “lead a flock” whom God has entrusted you to!
    As he instructed Peter, over and over, Feed MY Sheep.
    Who are “His Sheep”… the one’s that God has called,
    are His Sheep, the rest of the unchanged sitting in the PEWS are still “not hearing,” HIS CALL!
    The is one message that anyone who sits in the pews where I now get my churching, clearly needs to understand, serving others is the Love of Christ, when Christ is the Center of your Life, for He will be the Focus, and the Only One Given the Glory. We “get the honnor” to serve, and God gets the Glory, from our service.
    For we are helping to FEED HIS SHEEP!
    It is not an inside the church only mindset, it is the church without walls, going out into our world, and Serving for HIM! With His Message in our Heart, , His meesage should Control our thoughts and hands, to a Service for others! Moses, got the message, in his heart, and served God’s Chosen People!
    When he was serving with the wrong mindset, he wasn’t serving God! He was serving for his own motives.
    It may well take forty years for some to get that message! For my it was only forty-seven, but I AM a slow learner…Gary

  20. oneg2dblu says:

    Bruce C… we all look through the prism of our life experiences, and many, in that process bend the light!
    God did set a “form of order” for his church, and the prism of modern man constanly tries to tweak it just a touch out of their experiential understanding.
    That is why I like to say, you act out of the Faith you now possess, for God is constantly growing those who He has called!
    God does not bend HIS WORD for us, it is WE who must do the bending.. To God Be the Glory! Gary

    Also, God has called many women to Service for Him,and I have benefitted much from them, as long as they also Respect His Formula for Christ being the Head, they serve a Holy Calling, and we can all benfit from that!
    If you were a women, and knew that you knew , you were called to Preach the Word, then being silent, would be Disobedience for you. But if you felt you were called to a position Outside of His Foundation, beware about who you are serving! It may be better to “Wait Upon the Lord” even if it takes 40 years! Amen?

  21. Charis says:

    risak ,

    Regarding your (9:55pm) question on 1 Tim 3, I’ve heard the argument that because 1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Tim 3:12, and Titus 1:6 use the expression translated as “husband of one wife” therefore, deacons, elders, bishops are unqualified unless they are MALE. People assume the expression “husband of one wife” means women are excluded.

    However, God’s Word does not contradict itself. Paul- under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit- would not contradict himself. Therefore “husband of one wife” cannot mean the exclusion of women from the role in question. If it did, Paul would be contradicting himself by saluting Apostle Junia in Rom 16:7, and appointing and commending Deacon Phoebe in Romans 16:1. Despite attempts to change Junia’s name and thus her gender and the obscuring of Phoebe’s deacon identity by English translations, Phoebe is commended by Paul in Romans 16:1 using the exact same “diakonon”[deacon] word he used in Rom 15:8 for Christ, Romans 15:25 for himself, and 1 Thes 3:2 for Timothy.

    And there is this from 1 Tim 3:1 “ei tis episkopēs” translated “if any man desire the office of bishop”. If you do a little research in a concordance (available online at biblos or blueletterbible) you will see that “ei tis” doesn’t mean “any man“ as in any MALE. It means anyone!

  22. Charis says:

    “Let the deacons be the husband of one wife” 1 Tim 3:12

    ONE exception and we err to make a rule that “husband of one wife” is a restriction upon females.
    Phoebe provides the exception.
    Quoting the old Young’s Literal Translation because I think it conveys respect for Phoebe’s church leadership more than other translations:

    “And I commend you to Phebe our sister — being a ministrant [DEACON] of the assembly that [is] in Cenchrea —
    that ye may receive her in the Lord, as doth become saints, and may assist her in whatever matter she may have need of you — for she also became a leader of many, and of myself.” Romans 16:1-2 YLT

  23. Regina says:

    Good Morning All

    Off Topic…
    Just dropped by to say hello! Hope all is well with you all, and I hope you’ll all have a great day today. :) Getting ready to go have breakfast and start preparing for the day (I have choir rehearsal this afternoon). I hope to have an opportunity to finish reading Mart’s intro comment and contribute to the discussion on this blog topic! Loved ODB’s thought for today, and I want to share it:

    There is a treasure you can own
    That’s greater than a crown or throne:
    This treasure is a conscience clear
    That brings the sweetest peace and cheer. —Isenhour

    If God’s Word guides your conscience, let your conscience by your guide.

    Sunny and beautiful in Texas today (don’t know the temp yet)!

  24. foreverblessed says:

    You could see 1 Tim 3:12
    “Let the deacons be the husband of one wife”
    also in another light as:
    One wife, not two wives
    As it was granted in the laws of Moses to have more wives, king David had multiple wives, king Solomon too,(he even drawned in them), in the NT it was brought back to the original idea:
    one man and one woman being true to each other.

  25. foreverblessed says:

    Is it Jesus that is the centre of our Being, or is it the Message of Jesus that is the centre of our being?

  26. poohpity says:

    Another thing to consider when Paul was writing to Timothy in the culture around them it was a Matriarchal society and they worshiped female gods in Ephesus and Crete. The women there ran pretty much everything and to bring balance to that society the church was to put males in a role of leadership. To other churches in other places they did have female leaders as others have said. Paul was confronting a lot of false teaching and doctrine while giving effort to building the newest churches and bringing order to their lives in a chaotic time of church planting. In Rome it was a whole different culture. I believe that is why it is so important to read the bible as a whole book and to read about the times that the Christians were facing in each area.

  27. Bob in Cornwall England says:

    I have no objection to women leaders, just making the point that Paul was very wise in his advice to Tim in the light of what we know about a certain church.

  28. Regina says:

    “masculine spirit”: The ability to relate to and identify with the “man” part of the “wo”+”man” :)

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