Last spring, a Christianity Today article proposed Christian bloggers, specifically women who blog, should fall under denominational authority to reduce the chance of false teaching. (You can read that article here. )

Immediately after reading that post, I wrote this response. Then something happened, doubt set in, other bigger bloggers voiced their responses, and the news feed shifted to different topics.
I never published it because I thought the topic was covered well and we could move on. We, as Christian women, were on the other side of the debate about our authority to speak in God’s name. 

I was wrong.  

The assault on women’s roles within the church is as painfully present today as it was last spring when I first drafted this post. Since I created that first draft, we have continued to see Christian leaders fall due to allegations of using their power to sexually coerce women, churches choosing not to take women’s allegations seriously, and hostility becoming the norm in conversations about how men and women interact.

I believe it’s a massive distraction from the work God sent us here to do. Instead of fighting evil and darkness, we are fighting each other, and I believe much of the current extremism is based on how we view women and what we assume to be their role in Christian culture.

I believe this article is still relevant now, perhaps more relevant than when I first wrote it, because women’s right to preach and teach is still under fire. It is the belief that our voices are somehow less truthful, valued, or filled with wisdom that allows predators to suppress the voice of their victims in both the #meetoo and #churchtoo scandals. 

I pray for, and advocate for, a better future for my daughters. 

How did we really get here?

Hundreds of years of being told God does not want us leading, teaching, and preaching in the church has primed the pump for the surge of Christian blogs for women. Simply put, the church has not met our spiritual needs and helped us grow stronger in faith.

Harsh, right? I agree, but the truth often is, because truth points out how imperfect we are, even as we try to serve God.

Instead of stating that the advent of social media “catalyzed a new crisis in the church,” as Tish Harrison Warren has, I would state social media brought to light the crisis that already existed. There are many women who are being called, by God, to preach and teach without being called to a traditional church leadership path.

I can say this with complete confidence because I am one of those women.

When I began blogging in 2011, I didn’t have a seminary degree. To be honest I had never taken a college-level class even remotely related to Christianity. I wasn’t a writer, closet theologian, or leader in my church. I hadn’t even been a Christian for very long.  At that point in my life, it was the scariest thing I had ever done.

I will be the first to agree that I was not ready. I was not ‘equipped’ to become a pastor.

Trust me, I pointed this out to God repeatedly to make sure He was also aware. So why did I do it? Because God told me to. Audibly, clearly, and with the heaviest sense of “this is your calling” that I have ever experienced.

For me blogging about faith wasn’t about becoming a celebrity or getting a book deal. I thought those might happen, and it was exciting, but there was a ton of work to do in the meantime.

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Saying “Yes” to the call to become a Christian blogger was an act of absolute obedience.

It meant going back to school, leaving a job I loved and excelled at, and choosing half a decade of extremely lean living because we poured our household resources into the ministry. Saying “Yes” required a lot of redefining who we are as a family and giving up the safety of spending my days within an organization.

To insist that bloggers must fall under the governance of denominations is to imply that the organizational structure of the past is always right and independence is a detriment to ministry. If this were the case, the same would have to be said about Christian musicians, programs that feed the homeless, and mentoring programs for kids.

How is it possible that every individual who feels called to comfort their neighbor or publicly pray over their community should seek a formal affiliation with a local church first?

Are we not under the authority of the Holy Spirit to act when prompted?
Who are we being called to obey?

I can’t speak to the support that Jen Hatmaker or any other high-profile blogger has, but there are many of us with smaller followings who take the digital outreach role very seriously. We have teams praying for our organization and for the people we serve. We have pastors, coaches, and wise men and women to counsel us. We study, listen, and are really cautious about what we say.

We surround ourselves with discerning people who will be the first to step forward and say “Stop-What you are saying will hurt people.”

Additional church governance of bloggers will not prevent the hijacking of the Christian doctrine.  Those who are led to be detractors and destructive can do so within the walls of a church just as easily as they can outside. There are several high-visibility pastors who are teaching highly destructive messages with the full support of their organizations.

A Better Response

The question of organizational governance is quite different than the question of divine authority to preach and teach. When leaders are raised up by strong organizations, they get really good and replicate the beliefs, traditions, and attitudes of that organization. Although this makes the organization stable, it can be a double-edged sword because longstanding bias is hard to uproot in tightly controlled systems.

To insist that the internet is what creates Christian bloggers is to deny the role God plays in calling them to the greater church.

Women have been, and currently are, marginalized in many churches. We are hungry to know that God can use us, even when we don’t fit into the traditional church leadership track.

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If you want to lessen the influence of Christian bloggers, the church must begin to meet the needs of the women they are pushing aside.

If the church is willing to feed the women it is charged with feeding, they won’t be as likely to seek nourishment elsewhere. If you want Christian bloggers to be more deeply connected to the church, then the church must see their value as God does.

So while I fully agree that each of us has a responsibility to discern what is truth and what is false teaching, embedding all of our bloggers in additional layers of church hierarchy is not the solution.

Instead, our churches must look inward and ask what voices are missing from their organization’s dialogues and insist that changes be made to draw those voices in. Not as token reflections of the diversity in their community but as equal players with valuable insight into what God is calling the organization to be.

It’s not a short-term solution. In fact, it will be a horribly long and messy process.

Tensions will flare, toes will be stepped on, pride will be swallowed, and nights will be sleepless. However, this is the only solution that is right for the church and the men and women we are called to serve.

Nothing less than uprooting the bias against women will bring healing to this crisis.

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