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Getting Mentally Prepared For Online Church

Getting Mentally Prepared For Online Church

Due to the most recent guidelines and restrictions given by the government most of us are now living, working, churching, exercising and schooling from the safety of our homes.  (Before continuing I’d like to take a moment to personally thank any person who is still on the front line of work due to the nature of their vocation whether it be medical, grocery store staff or anything else that requires you to still show up every day.  We really do appreciate you and all that you are doing to keep serve the wider society during this time.)  For most of us, being at home every day is a new experience and we are grappling with the challenges that that presents.  A good friend of mine (from Sunnyhill) informed me that when he was preparing to move his office to his home last week he was given a document by his place of work that gave him some tips on how to make the transition as effective and fruitful as possible.  What great foresight for a business/organisation, not just to send someone home with a laptop and a phone and expect the same results as before but rather to help their employees mentally prepare for working from home.  

Obviously, I can’t really talk in to all the areas of transition you and your household are going through but I would like to offer some 7 tips on how you might mentally prepare for church during this season.  

  • Just because you’re not leaving the house,  doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still shower and dress as though you are.

My son Judah is insistent on still wearing his school uniform whilst he attends home-schooling with Loo.  At first, I thought this was random and told him he shouldn’t bother, however, he said ‘I’m still doing school Dad!’  At which point, I thought ‘fair enough.’  He takes it further, after home-school is done he throws on his shorts, flip-flops, and takes of his shirt.  So far, Judah has received the most merits and has been the best student.  I’m not saying that is solely to do with his attire but definitely think it speaks to his mentality.  So my first tip is, if you are tuning in for Sunday Live, Online One Group or anything else that has lots of people watching or participating, dress as though they can all see you.  I think the process of getting showered and dressed helps you prepare mentally for attending or participating in an event.  Resist, pyjama Sunday or naked OneGroups, just in case you do put your camera on by accident LOL.

  • Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you can switch off.

I don’t know if you watch TV like me where you struggle to concentrate on one source of viewing.  I like to have multiple things on the go simultaneously, a program, a book, an email, a pudding in the oven, a conversation with Loo etc and whilst all these things are good individually, when done together they become lesser in their impact.  Research shows us that as a society our concentration levels are in sharp decline.  With multiple distractions on offer it is a battle of will to keep focussed on one thing at any given moment.  Ministry, teaching, inspiration and fellowship demands ourselves to be fully present.  We cannot receive all that God wants to say to us with our mind in ten other places.  When you tune in, tune in completely and be fully present.  Bring your Bible, notepad and pen to the party.  

  • Church Online is the FA CUP final not another new series on Netflix.

What I mean by this is that whilst the FA CUP final can technically be watched the day after it has been played, the power, emotion and connection happens in the moment when everybody witnesses it together.  Why?  Because whilst Netflix is about individual consumption, the FA CUP final is about community experience.  Church is the same, whilst you can watch it days and weeks after the event, it is far more exciting to participate in real time.  We are working hard to bring you as much LIVE content as possible so that you continue to feel connected to us and one another.  I would strongly encourage you to where possible stream into our broadcasts in real time where you are able to interact with others particularly Sunday LIVE @11AM and Online OneGroup @7.30PM on a Wednesday.  We have also created a new website specifically for this purpose so that you can engage with other people even if you don’t have a social media account.  Please watch video.  

  • Our church format may have temporarily changed but the mission is still the same.

At Sunnyhill, we are here ‘for the One.’  In other words, primarily we’re all about Jesus and because we’re all about Him we are by virtue about all those who don’t know Him yet.  We believe that’s why we exist!  To that end, we want to see an invitational culture work out at Sunnyhill.   We want Sunnyhill to be a place where you can invite your friends and family with full confidence that they will be welcomed, loved and that they will leave having had a positive experience with us that moves them closer to Jesus.  This does not change even though we are now online.  If anything, this becomes even more possible.  It is easier than ever now for you to invite your friends and family to Sunnyhill.  They simply just need to jump on their smart device, whether that be their tv, laptop or phone and go to our website or to our Facebook page.  In the next 24 hours we will be releasing an advert for our online Sunday gathering on our social media platforms that we would love you to share as far as you can share it.  Let’s get the word out that whilst they might be stuck in doors there is something great that they can tune into.  

  • Come to play, not to watch.

The challenge of online gatherings is the temptation to simply be a spectator rather than a participator.  In life, it is always easier to be a consumer rather than a contributor, this is even more so the case when there is low accountability, i.e you sit behind a screen in a closed room in a closed house.  This is not who we are.  We must  work hard to keep our culture alive during this season.  In other words, participate in the chat rooms, sing and dance during the worship, say amen when you hear a truth that stirs your spirit, give generously to the offering and all the other things you can do to make it feel like the expression of church we will eventually return to.  Trust me – following this advice will serve you well in life, and it will be a game changer for this season of online church. 

  • Relational connection over internet connection.

There are all sorts of connection challenges during this time of home isolation.  Many online streaming services are downgrading the quality of their output to help with the current increased demand placed on them.  More and more people are online for hours at a time trying to readjust their life.  This can’t be helped given the present climate, however, let us not lose our connection to one another.  Use your phone and call one another.  I love how the Message Bible say Hebrews 10:25 – ‘Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.’  What a timely translation.  This hour demands of us to be inventive with how we encourage one another.  

  • We’re still Sunnyhill even though our buildings are temporarily shut. 

Finally, just because we’re not currently meeting at our Campus’ in the same way that we were previously, we are still Sunnyhill.  What do I mean by that?  We live by our values even when the buildings are not open.  We continue to live generously, celebrate innovation, champion growth, pursue excellence and build for the next generation.  Let’s look for ways to be Sunnyhill during this season.  A neighbour in need, a problem at work that needs solving, an attitude at home that needs challenging, kids that need discipling, a habit that needs forming…. the opportunities are present, step up to it.  

With all of the unexpected guidelines becoming increasingly stringent on a daily basis, in the space of one week we had to take everything we do at Sunnyhill online.  To put it bluntly, we were not well prepared for this eventuality, however, we are an innovative church so we have been working really hard behind the scenes to strategise, develop and deliver new forms of ministry that keep you growing in your walk with God, keep you connected to the church and it’s vision and keep you missionally sharp in this season with all of the new outreach opportunities.  We will eventually return to business as ‘usual.’  However, what if we don’t?  What if in this season, some shifts and developments happen in us that make it impossible to just do stuff the same as before?  I’m believing that God wants to teach us new stuff in this season and we don’t want to miss it.  I believe God wants to add to us during this season and we don’t want to miss it.  By faith, I believe this is all part of our journey and that it will serve to multiply us.  

Two Giants That Need Slaying – by Dom Bird

Building and Money

Two giants that need slaying in the life of Sunnyhill: buildings and finances.  I think we need to be praying into these areas more than ever as they have the potential to either release future growth or hinder it.  They in themselves are not the goal of our vision but they certainly serve it.  

I believe one day Sunnyhill will meet in several buildings across the nation and beyond.  In faith I believe some buildings will be bought, some will be given, some will be borrowed, some will be leased, some will be hired, either way buildings will be necessary for us to fulfil our God given vision.  Due to the climate in which we now live we cannot depend on the use of public gathering spaces like schools, theatres and halls etc.  In the New Testament we see that two types of gatherings were key to the health and growth of the early church.  One gathering was in larger spaces like the temple courts (Acts 2:46) and Solomon’s Collonade (Acts 5:12) and the other gathering was in the homes of believers.  Here we see the dynamic between the big meetings and the small communities.  

Likewise, finances are key to extending the Kingdom and building the church.  Most people don’t like the idea that giving is a central part of the Christian walk.  They wrongly assume that ministry costs nothing and that if it does cost anything…God will take care of it which of course in one sense, He does, but how does he do it?  Through the faithful giving of the saints.  We see this repeatedly throughout the New Testament.  You would think that one ministry that shouldn’t need underwriting by mere humans would be Jesus’ ministry however, Luke 8:1-3 gives us a list of women who gave money to support the work of Jesus and His disciples.  In this model, Jesus challenges the traditional view of women staying at home and being supported by the working men.  

Ultimately, as a church we need to see the acquisition of properties and the increase of funds so that we can release more ministry and mission across the nations.  I’ll speak more into this in the coming days but for now I want to provoke you to own these two areas in your prayers for the expansion of Sunnyhill.  

Two Giants That Need Slaying – by Dom Bird
This One Goes Out To All Those Who Are Scared – by Dom Bird

This One Goes Out To All Those Who Are Scared – by Dom Bird

This one goes out to all those who are scared

FEAR!  A small word with huge implications.  I was wondering the other day if fear is ever a good thing for a believer.  I decided there is only one fear in the Bible that is acceptable and in deed necessary in life and that is the fear of the Lord.  It’s a bizarre notion to us in western Christianity because we only talk about the God who should be loved rather than the God who should be feared.  Yet there are some benefits to fearing God.  Check out this Psalm (128:1-4)

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,

    who walk in obedience to him.

You will eat the fruit of your labor;

    blessings and prosperity will be yours.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine

    within your house;

your children will be like olive shoots

    around your table.

Yes, this will be the blessing

    for the man who fears the Lord.

Who wants a happy life?  Who wants a fruitful life?  Who wants a prosperous life?  Who wants a dynamic marriage?  Who wants productive kids?  Who wants to be blessed?  If you answer these questions like me with a resounding ‘YES PLEASE’ then the instruction is clear, they flow from an appropriate fear of the Lord. WHAT?!?  How on earth can that be possible?  Well we have to understand what fear means from the Bible’s point of view.  Whilst it does in a sense mean to be afraid it is more to do with revering or to hold in high honour.  Which I guess relates to fear as we understand it.  What we fear, we ultimately revere and hold in high honour. Whilst this may seem harsh or even controversial, I believe it to be true – what you fear, you ultimately worship.  Jesus says it more brutal than I, “Don’t fear ( or revere) those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear (or revere) only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matthew 10:28.   Our sensitive ears can hardly receive the profound truth that exists in this verse and ones like it, yet it’s true all the same and we know that whilst truth has the power to offend, it also has the power to free (John 8:32).  In other words, don’t waste your time fearing people, instead fear the One who is far more powerful.  Don’t waste your time fearing sickness that can affect your physical body, instead fear God who has power both over your body and soul.   This is why Solomon tells us, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…’ (Proverbs 9:10)  What does this mean?  Well, I believe that when you truly fear (or honour) the Lord you begin to lose your fear (or honour) for everything else.  That’s where real life is found and where real life is lived.  

Recently, one of my children has been crippled by an irrational fear.  Now of course, fear never feels irrational to the one who fears, yet as a father, it has been exhausting none the less.  I have sought to reason with him and explain that he need not waste his time with such concern.  However, it seems to me that the worry that he carries for his fear is greater than his trust of what I am saying.  (We have recently turned a corner in this by printing off bible verses and sticking them to the wall by his bed for him to read and memorise.  This has helped him massively.  The principle = the truth of the Word conquers the fear of the world.)  I do wonder however, how often we are like this before God.  If fearing God is the beginning of wisdom all other fear must be irrational to God.  Our fears speak to our trust (or lack of) in God.  In fact John tells us the one who fears has not been made perfect in love as perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).

I think this is an extremely topical matter for the days in which we live.  Fear is a hidden and silent thief of peace and joy that works in the shadows.  Huge news corporations make their billions by trading off of fear.  Quite simply, fear sells!  The more they can get you feeding on their every word the more money they make.  Here’s a cheesy encouragement – trade your daily telegraph for your daily Word.  Peace and prosperity isn’t found in the pages of newspapers written by uninspired authors motivated by finances, it is found in the pages of the Bible written by authors inspired by the Holy Spirit motivated by faith.  

This is not to say we are not living in scary times with the apparent reality of climate change, the spread of the coronavirus, the increase of poverty and famine, the unpredictable outcomes in politics etc but even in the midst of all of these things fear is a choice.  I love the Psalms because within them we find encouragement that has the power to minister to our very soul. The Psalms are a collection of songs and poetry and I imagine David, the writer of Psalm 23 would preface his song in this way – ‘This one goes out to all those who are scared….’  Check our the Psalm for yourself but ultimately I would suggest it is the anthem we should be singing in this hour.  In this Psalm we read these lyrics – ‘

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…’

‭I love how David doesn’t deny the reality of walking through difficulty and darkness but instead acknowledges it but at the same times says he will not fear.  Almost like he’s suggesting he is choosing to not fear.  Recently, I have found myself saying to my son over and over that faith is not proven in the absence of scary things, it is finding courage in the presence of them.  Where do we find courage?  Knowing that God is with us and He is for us!  One of the verses we have printed and placed on the wall by my son’s bed says this – ‘The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.’ Proverbs 28:1.   

We don’t run away like the world.  We don’t panic or worry like people who don’t know God.  We don’t fear the darkest valley.  We’re not even scared of death.  Why?  Because we have nothing to fear but God.  

There is a threat even greater than the Coronavirus and that is the fear that might occupy your mind and stop you from truly living.  All that said, I’m obviously not advocating recklessness. Our life is a gift from God and so we should take care of ourselves and each other by being wise and mindful of the hygiene guidelines that the government are encouraging. Even as a church we are taking necessary precautions to keep you and your loved ones safe as per other emails you have received from us. However, caution is not the same as fear. Caution keeps you from harm, fear keeps you from living.

So as a church we are open for business as usual and if for whatever reason public spaces become temporarily unavailable, as an INNOVATIVE church we will find other creative ways to do church together.  In the meantime, alongside the leadership, we have a team of intercessors praying for protection over the church particularly those who are most vulnerable. WE WILL NOT FEAR THE CORONAVIRUS, WE WILL NOT REVERE IT OR HONOUR IT.  We will only fear the Lord.

I believe the series’ we are now in at our Poole and Ferndown campus are extremely topical: Waymaker (Poole Campus) and Resilience (Ferndown Campus).  Get inviting your loved ones so that they can can come and hear words of life.

5 Things You Need To Bring With You On Sunday – by Dom Bird

I wanted to encourage you at our halfway point of 52 days of prayer and fasting.   As a leadership we have noticed like on other occasions that when we have upped the anti on prayer there has been direct spiritual resistance to what God is doing as the forces of evil try to undermine all that the Holy Spirit is wanting to do, this time has been no different.  This manifests in different ways, such as – increased pastoral crisis’, tension and division in relationships (friends and family), spiritual attacks on leadership, difficult Sunday services and other schemes of the enemy that work to resist the progress that God is wanting to bring.  I want to encourage you that whilst the enemy may have a strategy for our destruction, HE HAS ALREADY BEEN DEFEATED!!!  When Jesus hung on the cross and said those words ‘It Is Finished’ he meant it (John 19:28-30).  In which case our counter strategy is not so much about defeating the enemy as much as it is about living in the light of Jesus’ already achieved victory. 

Our times together on Sunday are precious and strategically important for the direction and trajectory of the church.  It’s important as Dream Builders that during our gatherings we are building a culture, ‘a way of life’ that is irresistible to the presence of God and attractive to the one who doesn’t know him yet.  To that end – I thought I would encourage you to bring 5 things with you this Sunday –

  1. EXPECTATION

Expectation is an essential component of our walk with God.  It is undergirded by faith and it speaks to our belief that God is going to do something.  I have said it on countless occasion but I can’t overstate it enough.  Jesus says (in Matthew 8:13) to the Roman centurion ‘according to your expectation let it be done.’  I believe this is a timeless truth and I believe it works for better and for worse.  If you expect little – you wont be disappointed.  Equally, if you expect to encounter God, you wont be disappointed.  Let’s come expectant that the Holy Spirit will be beautifully present in our worship. Let’s come expectant that God’s word will be proclaimed clearly and powerfully.  Let’s come expectant that people will respond to the gospel and be saved.  Let’s come expectant that new relationships will be built and that already established relationships will be strengthened.  

2. UNITY

I think there are few things as powerful as unity when it comes to the purposes of God.  Unity provokes the blessing of God and draws His presence (Psalm 133).  Unity however isn’t something that just happens.  It is something that we are called to pursue and some thing that we are all to take responsibility for.  Paul tells us in Ephesian 4:3 that we are to, ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.’  I don’t particularly like the word ‘effort’ as it implies work and activity but it’s interesting that this is the word the Apostle Paul chooses to use when speaking about the pursuit of unity.

3. LOVE

It goes without saying that love is central to the life of a disciple.  The Bible goes to the extreme of telling us that we can possess everything else but without love we are like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1), meaning we are loud but there is no substance to our volume.  Like unity, love is more often a choice than a feeling.  When believers love one another it is a witness to the world (John 13:35) and it has a gravitational affect on those who don’t know Jesus yet.  

4. PRAISE

There are many Hebrew words for praise in the Old Testament but the premier word for praise is ‘Hallelujah.’  

Hallelujah transcends the languages of the world. It is not translated; it is transliterated.

“Hallel” means to boast or to brag on, to make a show, even to the point of looking ridiculous.  “Jah” is the short form of the name for God.  Hallelujah is the spontaneous outcry of one who is excited about God.  It is a form of thanksgiving.  It is not a thanksgiving that is dependent on circumstances or feelings, it is a thanksgiving that is a predetermined posture.  I love what David says in Psalm 42, ‘Why am I discouraged, why is my heart so sad.  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise him again – my saviour and my God.’    Sometimes praise is the last thing we want to do but actually it’s the first thing we need to do.  In-fact the writer of Hebrews instructs us – ‘Let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God.’  It wouldn’t be a sacrifice if it didn’t cost.  Praise and thanksgiving is becoming a cultural distinctive for us at Sunnyhill but we can’t afford to take our foot of the gas.  We need to constantly cultivate the practice of bragging on our God.  

5. YOURSELF

I believe our gatherings should be inspired of the Holy Spirit and should serve to encourage, equip and edify the believer.  However, this can only happen for you if you are in the room.  A common tactic of the enemy is to draw us out of community because we become easier to discourage when we are isolated.  Hebrews 10:24-25 says ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’  The first and foremost thing you need to bring on Sunday is quite simply you.  Not just because you might get blessed but there is the potential for you to be a blessing.  We are better, more complete and healthier when you are with us in the room at our gathering.  

Our Sunday gatherings are wide in their reach meaning they are totally inclusive.  All are welcome!  However, as Dream Builders, we are carriers of what God is doing and therefore are builders of our culture.  Therefore, we’d love to see you bring these 5 things to church with you on Sunday.  

5 Things You Need To Bring With You On Sunday – by Dom Bird
Persistent Prayer – by Josh Goldenberg

Persistent Prayer – by Josh Goldenberg

Many battles are lost because we stop too soon, instead of continuing in prayer.  – Chris Oyakhilome

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a friend of mine about prayer and 1 Thessalonians 5:17 came up. It says this: “Be unceasing and persistent in prayer.”  I then asked him a vital question which I had been asking myself and I believe we should all ask ourselves: “Do you pray enough?” His answer was golden. “No, I don’t. I don’t think it’s possible to ever pray enough”. 

In the Amplified version, Colossians 4 v 2 reads “Be persistent and devoted to prayer”

Persistent prayer has POWER. Persistent prayer looks like not giving up. Praying into your situation no matter how hard it is, until you find the breakthrough.

But why are we asked to do this? What is it about persistent prayer?

You see, often God wants to see our perseverance in prayer before He answers our prayers. When we pray earnestly, the heart of God is moved to answer our prayers. The more earnestly we lean on God for an answer the more we can give him the glory when he answers. 

In Luke 18 v 1-8 it reads this in The Message version. “Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’ “He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice—otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black-and-blue by her pounding.’ Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?”

In that last verse Jesus offers us a challenge. How much will we persist in our faith and prayers? 

I want to end with this story:A woman rushed up to Smith and asked him “Smith Wigglesworth, you’re a man of faith and miracles, you’ve raised people from the dead. You’ve cast out more demons than we’ve had hot dinners. Tell me, how long do you pray every day? 

“Well, he replied “I don’t ever pray any longer than twenty minutes.”

“What?” she exclaimed. After pausing for effect, Smith Wigglesworth smiled and continued, “Yes, but I never go twenty minutes without praying”. Wow. Isn’t that incredible. He really was living 1 Thessalonians 5 v 17. 

Your prayer life is not measured in minutes. Prayer is a lifestyle. Prayer is a constant two-way communication with God. We want to be a prayerful people. We want to be people who are full of prayer in everything we do, praying till we have the breakthrough. Never quitting, never ceasing. 

– JOSH GOLDENBERG

Changing the Culture of Prayer at Sunnyhill – by Dom Bird

Who’s bored of prayer meetings that don’t move the room let alone heaven?  Me!  Dream Builders prayer gatherings provide an opportunity for us to break with the somewhat British tradition of powerless prayer circles.  

Last Monday I believe we began to see the early stages of where I believe God is wanting to lead us in prayer – a deeper place of presence, unity and power.  

Kevin Sissons carried a prophetic word for us about God wanting to give many of us the gift of faith.  What an exciting thought!!!  The word got me thinking about the gifts of the Spirit and how we need to see more people desiring the spiritual gifts at Sunnyhill.  

I believe that God wants to meet with His people and pour out his Spirit. One of the things that the Spirit loves to do is give gifts to His people. Check out what the Apostle Paul says –

1 Corinthians 12:4&7 New International Version (NIV)

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them…

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

There are two things we should acknowledge.  First of all, there are many different kinds of gifts given.  Second of all, they are given for the common good.  In other words, these gifts aren’t only given for our benefit, they are given for the good of the community.  In this sense, when we operate in the gifts of the Spirit we become ministers.  That’s right…the right of ministry isn’t only for those who have the title ‘Pastor’ neither is it only exclusive for those who have been to Bible college.  As a network of Dream Builders we need to understand that whilst not everyone has the calling or responsibility of leading the church, we all share the responsibility of ministering to the church.  When we operate in the gifts of the Spirit, the manifestation [the tangible expression]  of God is evident and as a result people are built up and edified.  Now for clarity, this doesn’t mean that the gifts need to be outworked on the microphone or from the platform, it simply means that we are called to minister to ourselves and one another.  This shouldn’t just happen in a Sunday service, it should play out in the foyer before and after church or in Lounge One on Monday or in our small groups in the week.  I love it when I see this happen (see testimony below) and I long to see it happen more.  The word for ‘gift’ in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word ‘charismata’ which is where we get the word charisma and charismatic.  Charismata simply means gift of grace.  In other words, these gifts are not earned from God they are given by God.  For an example of some of the spiritual gifts that God gives see 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.

Let’s do this!  Let’s transform our church community by having many ministers, not just three or four.  When we gather to pray, how different it would be to have a room of full of people ministering to God, themselves and one another.  Think of spiritual gifts not as gifts given to you but rather gifts given through you.  I need to receive what God wants to bring through you.  My hope for forthcoming Dream Builders prayer gatherings is that we see more people prophesying, speaking in tongues, working miracles, praying in faith and doing all that is possible for Spirit filled believers. 

Now with that brief explanation of spiritual gifts, what is the gift of faith?  The Apostle Paul speaks of the gift of faith in 1 Cor 12:4a&9a and it simply means a total confidence and belief in God given by God for a specific breakthrough and victory.  I think this is a timely word for us as a church because I believe there are a few areas that we need faith for breakthrough.  As the leader of Sunnyhill, I have received some significant prophetic words recently from very trustworthy and Godly leaders. These word speak to the future of Sunnyhill.  They are to do with these three areas in particular:

  1. Growth and Multiplication
  2. Building and Facilities
  3. Finances and Blessing

I would personally like to also add another one. Having seen a lot of sickness in the fellowship this year –

  1. Health and protection

I would love for you as Dream Builders to stand in prayer with me specifically for these things.  

I believe God is giving the gift of faith as well as other gifts to different people in the church, so we should expect to see some stuff shift in the Spirit.  I have found that when God has given me the gift of faith I have seen my prayers for specific issues go to the next level with greater confidence, greater passion and greater burden.  I would love for us to see this happen in the context of community prayer.

COME ON DREAM BUILDERS – let’s all participate in changing the culture of our prayer times as a church by pursuing, desiring and stepping out in the gifts of the Spirit  (1 Cor 14:1)

GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT TESTIMONY

Annie (a relatively new believer in the life of Sunnyhill) got baptised on Sunday night and it was AWESOME!  She was in a very low place towards the end of last year struggling with her mental health and heavily addicted to weed but then was invited to the Sunday celebration of One Weekend which is where her journey with Jesus began.  I heard yesterday that on Sunday night she was prayed for by the legendary Dream Builders Israel and Jas.  They laid hands on her and asked God to fill her with His Spirit and guess what…He did!  Annie went home after church and spoke in tongues for a solid 30 minutes and she text Fru later in the evening saying that she felt amazing – which is no surprise as the Apostle Paul tells us that is one of the benefits of speaking in tongues  (1 Cor 14:4).  

Changing the Culture of Prayer at Sunnyhill – by Dom Bird
The Role of Women In Leadership – by Tim Jack (National Leader of the Apostolic Church UK)

The Role of Women In Leadership – by Tim Jack (National Leader of the Apostolic Church UK)

The Role of Women in Leadership

1 Decision

Having regard for our understanding that God’s grace is given to all mankind and dispensed without regard to gender, ethnicity or language, the leadership of The Apostolic Church, in a decision taken by a majority of apostles, has agreed that ‘equipping’ grace, that is the grace given to minister and to lead is also distributed by divine choice, irrespective of any criteria, including gender.  In considering appointment to leadership positions, the church has an obligation to assess the nature of a person’s (Ephesians 4) gifts along with godly character, maturity and experience.  Accordingly, the church has decided to consider women for recognition and ordination as ascension ministers.  Recognition and ordinations will be on the same basis as for male candidates.  The church has made this decision with due regard for this being different to our past understanding and practice.

2 Introductory Comment

We accept that, in the past, most leaders, we among them, widely held a view that arises from a particular interpretation of Scripture.  We understand that there are Scriptures upon which a traditional view stands and we now generally accept that these are directed towards specific cultural practices that existed in the locations to which epistles were sent.  We acknowledge that, in God’s goodness, He brings greater illumination to Scripture with the passing of time, and, therefore, with greater scholarship, insight and understanding, we are confident that this shift is sustained by sound interpretation, the weight of Scripture, and its trajectory through time as God prepares his people for eternity. 

In making this decision, care has been taken to limit our consideration to Scriptural evidence, intentionally avoiding cultural and societal trends and shifts.  It must be conceded, however, that the cry for justice as heard in the western world in respect of matters like equal pay for equal work, and the appropriate objections to predatory treatment of women in the workplace by male employers and fellow workers as well as so much more, may well arise from the work of the Holy Spirit who inspires in humankind a response to the echo of the perfect world that once was, as well as an anticipation of the perfect world which is to come.  Nonetheless, the decision taken by a majority of the apostleship relies not upon societal trends but upon a considered and studied approach to and consideration of Scripture, its words, its tenor and general direction. 

It is evident in the context of the wider body of Christ that people with biases of all kinds contribute to the debate.  It is also evident that there are sincere Bible scholars who contribute to this discussion and do so with the intention to pursue truth.  That being said, great minds continue to disagree so we remain wary of assuming that the answer is simple or that any one party alone has a definitive answer.  No doubt, all parties, certainly most, would all vigorously contend for the inerrancy of Scripture, yet there are differing interpretations that lead to alternative conclusions. While there is diversity in both interpretation and conclusions, there must be love and respect that undergirds us as we consider this, and other, issues, irrespective of the conclusions we draw.  No issue, however complex or challenging, can be allowed to divide or paralyse Christ’s body, which is, in essence, one.

3 Our Journey

Over an extended period, NLT members agreed to an extensive period of personal review and reflection with a commitment to confidentiality including the freedom to consult within a framework of confidentiality.  NLT did not want to conduct its research or anything that may arise from it in an atmosphere that was either excited by, or hostile to, the prospect of change.  This continued to the point where a majority of NLT members believed it was appropriate to ask the full apostleship to consider the matter, which it did with appropriate notice, in November 2018 and June 2019.  Accordingly, the apostleship, also having committed to review and reflection on a confidential basis for the period between meetings, made the decision referred to at 1.

This decision was taken by apostles in council, as is appropriate.  Apostles had opportunity to explore the matter within the framework of confidentiality with reference to written works as well as other consultations.  The matter, being one that has long been in focus by the wider church and the world at large, is one that all apostles had previously considered, and had contributed to in previous discussions and debates. 

3 Reasons for Change

The following summary includes some of the biblical underpinning for this decision.  It would be fair to say that these reasons summarise the basis of change but the reasons would not be limited to these as various apostles drew upon a range of resources in making individual determinations.  While not exhaustive, it is representative of some of the arguments that have guided this change of position.

3a In Creation

Man (‘adam), a generic term, meaning the ‘human person’, is created in God’s very image (Genesis 1:26–27; 5:1–2). This creation in God’s image includes the identification of persons as male and female. This mutuality of women and men carries no suggestion of male headship or female submission. 

There is a central question here around ‘authority’ – where and to whom it belongs. Therefore, defining relevant spheres of authority is important.  God institutes authority from the beginning and gave it to mankind, both male and female. There is no statement in which God says authority belongs to the male.  Rather, God forms an equal partnership between male and female.  The woman is not created second to indicate lesser authority, importance and consequential submission.  It was clearly due to fact it was not good for the man to be alone. She was created specifically to meet Adam’s need of companionship and share equally with him as a partner in the work assigned to humankind, not as second best but as an able, equal and compatible partner.

It should be noted that Genesis 2 is a picture of equality and compatibility. It speaks nothing of church leadership or gender hierarchy.

This mutuality is confirmed by the fact that both the man and the woman together, without distinction, are charged with responsibility (dominion) for all of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26, 28). This equal partnership between man and woman is also present in the retelling of the creation story in Genesis 2. Here the man is found in need of a companion, but none of the creatures God has created qualify (Genesis 2:18–20). Thus, God differentiates man (‘adam) into man (‘ish) and woman (‘ishshah), persons of separate male and female gender identity. The point of such a provision of companionship is to relate the male and female persons as equals, indicated by the common designations (‘ish/’ishshah; the same word root) and the common identity of bone and flesh (Genesis 2:23). This is climaxed with the concept of mutuality expressed in the “one flesh” language (Genesis 2:24).

Some have interpreted Genesis 2:23, in which the man (‘ish) calls the ‘bones of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ woman (‘ishshah), as an act of naming that demonstrates the headship or authority of man over woman. However, that type of naming does not occur until after the Fall when ‘Adam named his wife Eve’(Genesis 3:20).

Genesis 2 also indicates that the woman partner with the man will be an appropriate ‘helper’ (Genesis 2:18). The word ‘helper’ (‘ezer), when used of a person in the Old Testament, always refers to God (in 29 places) apart from one reference to David. The word ‘helper’ is not to be understood as an expression of submission and service to man; rather, the woman as helper serves God with man.

The woman and man sin together (Genesis 3:1–7). Although it does not show clearly in English translations, the serpent addresses the woman with the plural ‘you’. Genesis 3:6 states that the woman ‘gave some [of the fruit] to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.’ The fact that the man was with her indicates that both partners are together involved in disobedience to God. This is also seen by the fact that it is after both ate that it is said: ‘Then the eyes of both of them were opened’ (Genesis 3:7).

The statements of judgement for disobedience (Genesis 3:14–19) describe future realities, which involved a supremacy/subjection relationship between man and woman. These statements are not creation mandates; rather, the relationship of mutuality, partnership, and equality portrayed in Genesis 1:1–3:7 is now sadly marred by sin.

Paul’s contention concerning the Cross is clear; it, with the resurrection, is the first visible manifestation of God’s action to ‘undo’ the consequences of Adam’s failure.  It might be said that the Cross restores what was lost at the Fall.  Therefore, the statements that describe the consequences of sin are not the ideal plan of God for mankind but the practice of mankind in ‘survival mode’.  Survival mode is rendered unnecessary from the Cross, though it has, of course, shaped mankind’s habitual and cultural practices since the Fall.

3b In the Old Testament

If God was opposed to women in leadership then it would make sense that there would be no valid examples of female leaders in the Bible. However, even in a hostile culture, female leaders are called and used by God in the Old Testament.  To regard such instances as exceptions by virtue of men’s failure to lead, would reflect weakly on God, his power and his principles.  It is also disingenuous toward women. Does it not make more sense to simply acknowledge that this was God’s purpose and intention, a choice that reflected His heart?

3c In Jesus’ Ministry

Jesus lived in the times of the Old Testament (the New Testament commencing with the shedding of his blood) yet lived in way that anticipated change.  His attitude to foreigners, to the ceremonially unclean, to women, to sinners was in stark contrast to the norm of his times.  The historian Josephus cited an axiom of his day which illustrated that view of women in Jesus’ world, ‘The woman, says the Law, is in all things inferior to the man. Let her accordingly be submissive’.  In so many ways, Jesus’ teaching and actions greatly affirmed the worth and value of women, contrary to the loud voice of the surrounding culture.  Further, Jesus’ ministry occurring as it did at the vital juncture between the old and new covenants, that is, between ‘Israel-centric’ and the inclusive, universal Church. At the time of calling the disciples, the new covenant was not yet inaugurated. It, therefore, Jesus serves his purpose in choosing twelve Jewish men to be his first disciples. 

In the time of Jesus’s ministry, women were usually regarded as subordinate and inferior in virtually every area of life. They were to remain at home, to be good wives and mothers, and to take no part in public discourse or education. 

Jesus, however, by his teaching and actions, affirmed the worth and value of women as persons to be included along with men within God’s love and service. In Jesus’ time, the prerogative of divorce belonged almost exclusively with men, and virtually any reason could be used to justify divorce. Jesus tolerated no such ‘male chauvinism’. He recalled the ‘one flesh’ concept (Genesis 2:24) of mutual partnership and God’s intention for marriage (Matthew 19:3–9). Although women were held responsible, in Jesus’s time, for all sexual sin, Jesus rejected this with his dramatic indictment of men, ‘anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart’ (Matthew 5:28).

Jesus affirmed Mary’s choice to ‘sit at his feet’ while Martha worked in the kitchen.  The phrase ‘to sit at the feet’ is also used of Saul of Tarsus as a student of Gamaliel.  Learning, in Jesus’ time, was a male-only privilege yet Jesus affirmed Mary’s choice and responded to Martha with the words ‘what she (Mary) has chosen will not be taken away’ (Luke 10.38-42).

Jesus reached out to women who were rejected. In spite of the laws regarding uncleanness, Jesus allowed a woman with a twelve-year menstrual problem to touch him, and he commended her faith (Mark 5:25–34). Jesus permitted a sinful woman to anoint and kiss his feet (Luke 7:36–50). Jesus challenged religious leaders by saying: ‘I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you’ (Matthew 21:31). He also offered salvation directly to women who were known as adulteresses (John 4:4–42 and John 8:1–11).

Jesus taught women and included them in his group of committed disciples. It was to the Samaritan woman that Jesus made his most explicit affirmation that he was the Messiah, and he shared with her his basic mission (John 4:4–42). According to Luke 8:1–3, many women were in Jesus’s band of travelling disciples. These same women were present at the crucifixion and burial and on resurrection morning (Luke 23:49, 55–56; 24:1).

The Samaritan woman was responsible for evangelizing her town (John 4:39–42). The women Jesus included became the proclaimers of Jesus as Saviour and risen Lord. Ravi Zacharias makes the point that the greatest truth on which the Gospel hangs is the resurrection, yet we see Jesus choosing to reveal Himself first to the women, to go and tell the other disciples. All of Easter hangs on the testimony of women, with whom Jesus trusted the entire Gospel. 

Among Jesus’s disciples we know of seventeen men by name: the Twelve, Joseph Justus, and Matthias (Acts 1:23), Lazarus, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea. What is not so often noted is that we also know women by name from among his circle of devoted disciples: Mary the mother, Mary Magdalene, the ‘other’ Mary, Mary of Bethany, Joanna, Susanna, and Salome.

Some argue that there was no women amongst the Twelve and for this reason there should be no women in ordained church leadership. However, there were no Gentiles amongst the Twelve either. Consistency is preferred in the argument so if there are no women there ought be no Gentiles.  Further, it is likely none of the disciples were over 30 years of age at the time Jesus called them. To be consistent, then, no Gentile, woman or person over 30 years of age should be called either.  

Under the new covenant, and as the church developed from its Jewish base to embrace Gentile believers, the significance of 12 was not the same. After James’ early death, there was no attempt to replace him. Also, many women began to rise into prominence and ministry responsibility.

Also, Jesus’ ministry was directed primarily to Jewish people in Israel (Matt 15:24), and for Jesus to be recognised as a rabbi he needed at least 10 male disciples.  The Twelve assisted Jesus in healing and teaching Israelites.  One must wonder if it is inconceivable that Jews would accept this ministry from Gentiles or women. 

Interestingly, Jesus chose Judas as 1 of 12 – indicating Jesus never intended these 12 to be some kind of paradigm of church leadership

Further, for most part, the Twelve never operated in local church leadership 

Finally, the argument that the Twelve were men and so women ought not be in church leadership, is circumstantial. There is no teaching or definitive statement around this, simply conclusions drawn from circumstance. This is not a helpful basis on which to build theology.

At the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19ff), Jesus instructed his followers to ‘make disciples’, ‘baptise’ and ‘teach’, an instruction given in perpetuity to his followers through time, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, education or social standing.

Jesus’s inclusion of, and ministry to and through, women within his own life and teaching were a powerful witness to the early church of the partnership of women and men within its membership and ministry.

3d In the Early Church

Apart from documenting the widespread presence of women in the early church, the account in Acts presents us with three additional items of importance. First is the fact that when the Holy Spirit came in power and in fulfilment of God’s Word (Joel 2:28–32) both men and women were present (Acts 1–2). Peter interpreted the events of Pentecost to mean that the ‘last days’ of God’s time had come and that God’s Spirit was poured out on both women and men enabling them to prophesy. This foundational role was significant in the early church (see Acts 21:8–9; 1 Corinthians 11:5).

Second, the involvement of women in the establishment of the Philippian church is noteworthy (Acts 16:11–40). Paul begins the church in Philippi, the leading city of its district, with a group of women gathered for prayer outside the city gate (Acts 16:13–15). The ‘place of prayer’ here is probably to be understood as a synagogue. Clearly one of the leaders of this synagogue was Lydia. She and her home became the centre of the new Philippian church (Acts 16:14–15, 40). This data is very significant background for the two women of Philippi who worked with Paul in the gospel ministry (Philippians 4:2–3).

Third, Acts gives some indication of the importance of Priscilla (Acts 18:2,18, 26). She, along with her husband Aquila, instructed Apollos, who became a noted teacher in the church (Acts 18:26). There has always been debate over the significance of the fact that Priscilla taught Apollos at home rather than in the church, but it must be recognized that she did teach Apollos (see 1 Timothy 2:12).

Further, Philips daughters (Acts 21:9) are referenced as ‘prophetesses’.  Fourth century church historian Eusebius called them ‘mighty luminaries’ ranked them ‘among the first stage in the apostolic succession’ and a benchmark for prophetic ministry in the early church and compared them to Agabus, Judas and Silas.

3e In Paul’s Writings

Galatians 3:28, like Acts 2, has been cited for hundreds of years as a basis for women in ministry. Detractors of women in ministry often argue that Galatians 3:28 refers only to the spiritual reality of equal access to God through faith in Christ Jesus. The text does refer to this, but it clearly encompasses other realities as well. There are three traditional pairings, and they reflect the three basic social divides of hostility within the first century AD in the Roman Empire. 

Further, the conflict of Paul and Peter recorded in Galatians 2:11–14 demonstrated that the declaration of ‘neither Jew nor Greek’ had social implications in the life of the church. Paul’s letter to Philemon has similar implications for ‘neither slave nor free’ in asking Philemon to accept Onesimus as a dear brother in the Lord just like Paul (Philemon 15–17). Paul’s declaration about male and female had implications, too, for the life of the church. The point is not the obliteration of God’s created differences between male and female, but that sexual differentiation does not determine the participation in Christ’s Church for persons created in the image of God.

Paul also notes the mutuality of men and women in Christ in two striking passages in 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 7:3–5 Paul makes it clear that sexual relations between a husband and wife are matters of mutuality and equality in respect and in rights. Such a position grew out of the love and inclusiveness of Christ and was directly counter to the prevailing Jewish and pagan opinion in the Roman Empire that the husband had all the sexual rights over his wife. In 1 Corinthians 11:11–12 Paul includes a strong and explicit assertion of the mutuality of men and women lest his discussion about head coverings be misunderstood as against women’s participation.

The discussion of head coverings for women in 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 clearly implies and assumes that women, as well as men, engage in prayer and prophecy (1 Corinthians 11:5). The participation in prophecy is the ‘best’ gift in the Church because it is the means of edification, encouragement, and comfort in the Church (1 Corinthians 14:3). Edification, leading to maturity, is one of the purposes of the Church’s life together. Thus, Paul concludes the first part of his discussion over head coverings (1 Corinthians 11:2–10) by stating that women ought to have authority on their heads. 1 Corinthians 11:10 is rarely translated accurately in English (most often one finds reference to ‘a sign of authority’ or ‘veil’), but Paul asserts that women have authority, using his normal word, which always means the active exercise of authority (and never the passive reception of it).

Paul’s letters also mention twelve women by name who were co-workers with him in the gospel ministry. This is the most often neglected evidence from the New Testament relevant to the participation of women in ministry.

Three women are known as leaders of house churches (the only type of church there was in the first century): Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11), Nympha (Colossians 4:15) and Apphia (Philemon 2). To this group we can add Lydia, a Pauline house church leader known from Acts 16.

Paul stated that four women—Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis (Romans 16:6, 12) had ‘worked very hard in the Lord’. The Greek word translated ‘work very hard’ was used very regularly by Paul to refer to the special work of the gospel ministry, including his own apostolic ministry (1 Corinthians 4:12; 15:10; Galatians 4:11; Philippians 2:16; Colossians 1:29; 1 Timothy 4:10; see also Acts 20:35) as well as the work of others in the ministry, leaders and persons of authority in each case (1 Corinthians 16:15–16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:17). Thus, for Paul, the term ‘work very hard’ was not a casual term referring to menial tasks.

In Romans 16:3–4 Paul greeted Priscilla and Aquila. This husband and wife team is mentioned six times elsewhere in the New Testament. It is significant that Priscilla is usually mentioned first, since the cultural pattern would be to name the husband first. This may indicate that Priscilla was the more important or visible leader and may suggest that she had a higher social status and/or more wealth than Aquila. Paul indicated that he and all the Gentile churches were indebted to both of them. Paul designated Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, ‘fellow workers in Christ Jesus’, a term used regularly for other leaders in the gospel ministry: Urbanus (Romans 16:9), Timothy (Romans 16:21), Titus (2 Corinthians 8:23), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25), Clement (Philippians 4:3), Philemon (Philemon 1), Demas and Luke (Philemon 24), Apollos and himself (1 Corinthians 3:9), and several others (Colossians 4:11).

In Philippians 4:2–3 Paul mentioned two women, Euodia and Syntyche, whom he also classed ‘along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers’, and noted that these two women fellow workers ‘contended at my side in the cause of the gospel’, an expression similar to the ‘worked very hard in the Lord’ phrase applied to the four women noted in Romans 16. In view of Acts 16:11–40 it is not surprising that two such women leaders emerged in the Philippian church.

Phoebe, usually assumed to have been the one to deliver Paul’s letter to Rome, is warmly commended by Paul to the Roman church (Romans 16:1–2). Phoebe is designated as ‘a servant of the church in Cenchrea’. Although some have thought the word ‘servant’ here means ‘deacon’, that is most unlikely since the other New Testament texts that refer to the office of deacon mention the office of bishop in immediate conjunction with it (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 12). Paul regularly used this term ‘servant’ to refer to persons clearly understood to be ministers of the gospel: Christ (Romans 15:8), Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:5), Epaphras (Colossians 1:7), Timothy (1 Timothy 4:6), Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7), himself (1 Corinthians 3:5; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23, 25), and generally (2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; 11:15, 23). Thus, Phoebe should be understood as well as the minister (leader/preacher/teacher) of the church in Cenchrea.

Paul identified Andronicus and Junias as ‘outstanding among the apostles’ (Romans 16:7), an expression that includes them within the apostolic circle. Junias is a male name in English translations, but there is no evidence that such a male name existed in the first century AD. Junia, a female name, was common, however. The Greek grammar of the sentence in Romans 16:7 means that the male and female forms of this name would be spelled identically. Thus, one has to decide—on the basis of other evidence—whether this person is a woman (Junia) or a man (Junias). Since Junia is the name attested in the first century and since the great church father and commentator on Paul in the fourth century, John Chrysostom, understood the reference to be a woman Junia, we ought to read it that way as well. Chrysostom wrote ‘To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles – just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works & virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.’

In fact, it was not until the thirteenth century that she was changed to ‘Junias’ and thereafter Luther and others followed suit, making ‘Junia’ to be Junias and, therefore, a man.

Michael Bird, theologian and New Testament scholar wrote, ‘There is a tsunami of textual and patristic evidence for ‘Junia’ that proves overwhelming. Despite some naughty scribes, biased translators, lazy lexicographers and dogmatic commentators, the text speaks about a woman named ‘Junia.’ Jewett goes so far as to call the masculine ‘Junias’ a ‘figment of chauvinistic imagination.’

These thirteen women surveyed here (Lydia, Chloe, Nympha, Apphia, Mary, Persis, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Priscilla, Euodia, Syntyche, Phoebe, and Junia) provide clear evidence from Paul that women did participate in the gospel ministry, as did men. Paul’s common terminology made no distinctions in roles or functions between men and women in ministry.

3f In 1 Timothy 3 & Titus 1

Some believe that 1 Timothy 3 is written in such a way that only men can be church leaders yet all the qualifications can be applied equally to men and women.

The masculine personal pronouns of our English translations are not present in the Greek.  For example, ‘man’ in 1 Timothy 3:1 & Titus1:6a are entirely absent in the Greek.  The literal translation of 1 Timothy 3:1 is, ‘…If someone (or anyone) aspires to ‘overseership’, he/she desires a fine task’. There is no gender preference here (see ESV). It is either a mistranslation or a projection of the translators to read the word ‘man’ in this verse.  Nowhere in the Greek New Testament does it state that church leaders or episkopoi must be men. There is no gender attached to this word.  Even where it is used with reference to men, it does not rule out women as the masculine was the default grammatical gender when speaking about groups. (The same grammatical device applies in English but is largely overlooked in current usage.) If this were not understood, then even some salvation passages would exclude women (e.g. Acts 4:12).

Paul states an overseer should be the ‘husband of one wife’, literally, ‘a one-woman man(1 Tim 3:2,  Tit 1:6). This phrase was idiomatic and it is dangerous to apply it literally. The phrase was used on ancient gravestones to celebrate the virtue of a husband/wife who had not remarried, for to marry only once denoted extraordinary fidelity and moral integrity.  Interestingly, 1 Timothy 5:9 has same phrase but inverted, a ‘oneman woman’. The phrase is used not intending to exclude those who are female but to ensure polygamists and the sexually unfaithful are not given positions of authority. The NIV brings out the reference to being faithful.   Philip B Payne writes, The closest English equivalent to one-woman man is ‘monogamous’, and it applies to both men and women.’

1 Tim 4:3 says they ‘must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity’ (also in Titus 1:7).  As stated, there are no masculine pronouns in Greek. The bigger picture here is of honour and dignity, not gender.  Surely Paul’s intent was not to introduce a hierarchy of leaders with married men with children at the top.  Rather, his intention was to outline the virtues required in the character and conduct of leaders.

3g In 1 Corinthians 14:34–35

It should be recalled that Paul has already indicated in this letter that women did participate in prayer and prophecy with the authority in the church (1 Corinthians 11:5, 10; 14:3–5). This fact alone shows that 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 cannot be a general, absolute, and timeless prohibition on women speaking in church but must be an injunction against disorderly interjection.  It has nothing to do with women preaching, teaching or leading in a church setting but rather about self-control, respecting proper order, speaking appropriately and not disrupting the gathering.  The Greek word is translated ‘settle/quieten down’ and is also used in Acts 22:2 in the context of ‘quietening the behaviour of crowd who are causing commotion’.  ‘Silence’ here has to do with not disrupting, being disorderly, meddling or interfering and must be a specific silence related to the circumstances which Paul was addressing. ‘They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. (v34).  What law is this? The Jewish oral law, later the Talmud that reflected an understanding that women were inferior in every way, the antithesis of a balanced view of Scripture.

The view that seems best is to understand the speaking prohibited here to women to refer only to disruptive questions that wives (usually uneducated in the culture of Paul’s time) were asking their husbands. This corresponds precisely with the resolution Paul offers (1 Corinthians 14:35): ‘if they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home. .  .  .’ Such disruptive questioning was also considered a disgrace in Paul’s day in which it was widely believed that it was morally indiscreet for any wife to say anything on any subject in public. This view of disruptive questioning also fits well the specific context (1 Corinthians 14:26–40) in which Paul is concerned about appropriateness and order, which permit genuine edification (note that 1 Corinthians 14:26 expects everyone to participate). 

3h In1 Timothy 2:8–15

1 Timothy 2:8–15 is the paragraph in the New Testament that provides the injunctions (2:11–12) most often cited as conclusive by those who oppose preaching, teaching, and leadership ministries for women in the church. It is inappropriate, however, to isolate verses 11–12 from the immediate context of 1 Timothy 2:8–15. If any of the paragraph is perceived as culturally bound (as 2:8–10 often is) or as especially difficult in terms of Pauline theology (as 2:15 often is), it must be realized that these same issues must be confronted in understanding 2:11–14.

It should also be observed that 1 Timothy 2:11–12 is a general prohibition on teaching and authority exercised by women. It is not directed to only a certain level of persons. Further, it is not limited to only certain styles of teaching.  In other words, if 1 Timothy 2:11–12 were a transcultural, absolute prohibition on women teaching and exercising authority in the church, then it prohibits all such activity.

The word in verses 11 and 12 often translated as ‘in quietness’ (11) and ‘silent’ (12) is identical in Greek. The same term is used by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:12, which the NIV translates as ‘settle down’. The point is that this term, which is often assumed to mean only ‘verbal silence’, is better understood as an indication of proper order or acceptance of normal practice. The term translated ‘to have authority’ (authentein) occurs only here in the New Testament and was rarely used in the Greek language. 

Authentein’ is best translated as ‘to domineer, usurp authority’ and extrabiblical texts use it to describe aggression.  Everywhere else, when talking of ‘authority’ Paul used the more-often used word ‘exousia’. It is, therefore, unhelpful for us to not understand what he is specifically saying here. It is different to his every other use of the word. Paul is objecting to something other than legitimate use of authority. He is seeking to prohibit usurping and abusive activity, not the appropriate exercise of teaching/authority in the church.  Some link verb ‘didaskein’ (to teach) to the verb ‘authentein’ (as sometimes was the case in Greek) to make a single point. This makes the better interpretation, ‘don’t teach in a domineering way’.

The clue to the abuse implied is found within the heretical activity outlined in 1–2 Timothy. The heretics evidently had a deviant approach to sexuality (1 Timothy 4:3; 5:11–15) and a particular focus on deluding women, who were generally uneducated (2 Timothy 3:6–7).

The injunctions are supported with selective Genesis arguments (1 Timothy 2:13–14), using Genesis 2.13 and the fact of Eve’s deception (2:14, see the use of this in 2 Corinthians 11:3 for male heretics. The function of the Genesis argument is parallel to its use in 1 Corinthians 11:7–9 where it is employed to argue that women must have their heads covered in prayer and prophecy. In both cases scriptural argument is employed to buttress a localized, limited instruction. 

3i In Peter’s Writings

In talking about elders (1 Peter 5.1-5), Peter is not talking about ‘men’ but about ‘people’ who occupy this position of leadership. There is nothing in the Greek that indicates he is talking of men.

In v5, he addresses ‘you who are younger’ to be subject to elders. Again, there is no reference to gender here, just to an age group. So there must be male and female involved. In the same way in v1-4, he speaks to ‘elders’ without reference to gender.  It is a reference to it’s male and female.  The Greek does not allow a translation where ‘the younger’ means ‘everyone’ while the ‘elders’ are males.

1 Peter 5, ‘presbeuteroi’ (members of a presbytery) are either older adults with pastoral responsibilities, or those who lead the church.  Linguistically, the word allows for means male and female.  

3k Headship

The word ‘kephale’ (Gr.) is translated as ‘head’ and much of church history the interpretation meant, essentially, ‘authority over’.  Modern scholarship has a assigned a different interpretation, that of ‘source’ to kephale and scholars are divided on a meaning that is clear and beyond debate.  Having considered the main streams of argument, Scholer writes ‘The use of the term kephale in the New Testament texts about the relationship of men and women, understood in their own contexts, does not support the traditionalist or complementarity view of male headship and female submission as described by those authors noted earlier.  Rather, this data supports a new understanding in Christ by which men and women are viewed in a mutually supportive, submissive relationship through which either men or women can bear and represent authority in the church’.  Respected scholar Gordon Fee, agrees that kephale is best understood as ‘source’ or ‘source of life.’

The concept of headship is often used as a means of justifying male leadership.  Without doubt, the head of the Church is Christ.  Paul refers to the ‘husband’ as ‘head of the wife’ (Eph. 5.23).  He is not referred to as ‘head of the house’, neither here nor anywhere else, but the head of his wife in the same way as Christ is head over the church.  Headship, in this context, has to do with loving and sacrificing for the benefit of another (Christ for the church; the husband for his wife).  While Christ is the head of the church, he is separately referred to as having authority over it. His headship is described as giving abundant life, causing to flourish, saving her, loving her, giving himself for her/dying for her.  What is not seen in this passage are references to ‘authority over’ leading to leadership and rulership. Paul seems to be making two separate points, not assuming that headship automatically carries the meaning or implication ‘authority over’.

The headship of the husband over his wife is not the same as a role of leadership by ‘all men over all women’. To take the Genesis reference here to be the creative order of man being head of woman, this may then mean that all men have authority over all women. There is no basis whatsoever to limit this principle to that of the context of church leadership.  Clearly, the Scriptures refer the human institutions of marriage (where the husband is head of the wife), the church and civil society (to which we may have applied our limited understanding of authoritative headship when it is neither stated nor intended.)  We accept the legitimacy of the role of a female prime minister or monarch quite rightly as there is no reason why we should not.  Paul’s injunction to the headship responsibility of husbands does not preclude women from fulfilling a leadership responsibility given by virtue of an agreed ascension gift deposit, properly developed maturity and Christlike character in the same way as may be assessed in a man.

Consistency of interpretation and application leads to extreme conclusion as would be the case if it was suggested that all positions of authority, whether political, commercial, educational, medical or anything else, should be male because of the creation pattern.  However, we understand this to refer to marriage, giving it a sense it otherwise lacks. We understand and apply a specific and relevant sphere of authority.

4 Weight, Direction, Consistency and Balance

In making its decision, the majority of apostles accept that the weight and direction of Scripture, through redemption, is towards mankind fulfilling its creation mandate, that is, to share with God in the administration of the ages, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or any other criteria.  Christ’s inclusion of women in his earthly ministry, the role women played in the early church, are progressions towards the ultimate and permanent state of all redeemed humankind.

Two other broad and basic issues of responsible biblical interpretation should be considered; balance and consistency. In terms of balance, it is the total weight or witness of Scripture that should be considered in forming our view.  Balance in interpretation means we consider the total witness of Scripture.  We cannot, therefore, elevate 1 Timothy 2:11–12 to be the dominant text through which all other texts about women in leadership and/or ministry are read. 

In terms of consistency, it is crucial to approach our understanding of all biblical texts in the same way in order to counter blind spots and biases, which we all have.

Opposition to women in ministry has often been mounted virtually on the basis of one Pauline text (1 Timothy 2:11–12). Whatever that difficult text and context means, it must be put in balance with all other biblical texts that bear on the same issue. This shows that the 1 Timothy text speaks to a limited cultural situation.

Consistency in interpretation is notoriously difficult. Scholer asks, ‘why is it that so many persons insist that 1 Timothy 2:11–12 is a transcultural, absolutely normative text, but at the same time do not approach other texts in 1 Timothy with the same passion?’ 1 Timothy 3:2 would rule out all single men from ministry, and 1 Timothy 5:3–16 would require churches to establish a list of widows for those sixty and older and would require that all widows fifty-nine and under remarry for the reasons of their sensual desires and idleness.   Again, we may, with Groothuis, concur that ‘it is inconsistent to regard the dress code in 1 Timothy 2:9 as culturally relative and, therefore, temporary, but the restriction on women’s ministry as universal and permanent. These instructions were part of the same paragraph and flow of thought’.  If v11-12 is transcultural and absolute, then so too should be the rest of 1 Timothy. We cannot isolate v11-12 from v8-10 or v15 and interpret them differently. 

Finally, consistency and balance mean that we cannot impose on texts understandings that are not there.  We cannot divide the injunction of 1 Timothy 2:11–12 into two levels of authority imposed from our context so that women can be included in some activities but excluded from others.

The underlying biblical theology of a ‘new creation in Christ’ in which there is ‘neither male and female’ is a powerful affirmation of the commitment to equality in the gospel, the Church, and all of its ministries. Jesus’s inclusion of women among his disciples and witnesses, the coming of the Holy Spirit on both sons and daughters, and Paul’s inclusion of women in his circles of co-workers in the ministry all affirm the full and equal participation of both women and men in all the ministries of the gospel.

Surely the supreme purpose of Christ’s redemptive work is to set God’s creation free from the curse of the Fall. This includes restoring equality between men and women.  It takes both to reflect the complete image of God. 

5 Implementation

We affirm that the implementation of this decision will be applied as carefully as we are able, and with due respect for the different positions held by our leaders and people.  While we will consider appropriately qualified women for ordination, we affirm that leaders who hold an objection in conscience are not and will not be expected in any way to participate in the recognition and ordination process.  The only expectation is that required of all leaders, that being respect and courtesy for all people, the very attitude we display ourselves and expect from others.

All candidates for ordination should demonstrate that one or more of the leadership gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4 is present and functioning in a mature manner.  Alongside this, there must be evidence of godly character, seen consistently in the life of the church as well as affirmed by those from other backgrounds.  The candidate must also exercise a leadership function in a local church and/or fulfil an approved and related ministry outside the local church.  All candidates for ordination should have successfully completed at least the first year of a degree course or an equivalent that is satisfactory to our credentialling body.

As in the worldwide Apostolic Church family, there are nations where women are ordained, as there are where women are not ordained.  This distinction has not caused a breach in relational terms and nations work together, communicate and fellowship, despite there being divergent views on this subject.  We could easily link as a fellowship of churches (or fellowships of churches) which are connected by a combination of our vision (perhaps, the thoughts around ‘belting the globe’ still describe this as well as any other simple expression), our observance of firmly-held doctrine (the tenets), history (though this becomes increasingly less relevant), values (which are understood as biblical and practical yet carry differing emphasis according to the insights of respective leaders and the cultural settings in which they function).   Is this international template not a model for what could happen in this country?

6 Conclusion

In making the decision, the apostleship sought to discover, as best it can, a position in respect of this issue that is best supported by its interpretation of Scripture.  It does so in the knowledge that seeking truth is our highest priority and that there are consequences for making decisions of this kind, as, indeed, there are for not making decisions which are justified by evidence.

The apostles acknowledge that there will be those who will celebrate this decision as there are those who may grieve.  Despite immediate reactions and responses, the apostles believe that people of good will and good grace, can continue to serve the purposes of God to bring a continuing  apostolic expression to the United Kingdom and to the world.

The apostles further acknowledge that the church around the world holds, in good conscience, different views on this subject and that even in the Apostolic Church around the world there are different positions.  We recognise that around the world, as mentioned previously, the Lord has used, and is using women in both leadership and ministry, ordained and otherwise, to advance the Kingdom with integrity, anointing, effectiveness and authority.  It cannot be that we consider illegitimate what the Lord is evidently using.  

That various positions exist in the worldwide apostolic fellowship has in no way impaired the fellowship of leaders and people.  This gives cause for hope that people who, in good conscience, hold different positions based on a genuine difference of Scriptural interpretation can continue to serve and minister together under one denominational ‘umbrella’.

Addendum (Additional Reading)

Women Leaders Past and Present

Church history is replete with strong godly women leaders who achieved remarkable breakthroughs for Kingdom of God. Every era has outstanding women with strong leadership callings from God.

There are records in papyrus, inscriptions, ordination rites, evidence from frescos, plaques and tombstones which all point to women in leadership roles.  Women are referred to as church elders in ancient extra biblical texts (4 Maccabees). A synagogue plaque has ‘Sophia of Gortyn’ described as an elder andsynagogue ruler.

It was the Council of Laodicea (circa 360 C.E) which banned ordination of female elders. Clearly, this indicated that the ordination of women elders was taking place in up to the 4th century.

Of note among more recently women leaders are people like Catherine Booth, a driving force in the formation and early years of the Salvation Army and outstanding missionaries like Amy Carmichael, Bertha Smith and Marie Monsen.  Early Pentecostal revivals saw the likes of Lilian Yeomans, Carrie Judd Montgomery, Minnie Draper, Ida Robinson, Aimee Semple McPherson and Florence Crawford rise in leadership ministry; some started churches that continue to this day.

(It might cause pause for thought as we consider our practice regarding overseas missionary ministry.  There have been various women missionaries overseas who have served in roles of leadership that would never have been allowed in our home nation, by virtue of their gender. If we can’t recognise women in leadership roles in the UK then surely it is hugely inconsistent to do so when they are overseas.)

Influence of Culture 

It is argued that previous generations used the Bible to support race discrimination and slavery by virtue of the cultural lens through which they viewed humanity, society and life. Further, that as views in society have changed, then so has the law and practice around race discrimination and slavery. However, it may also be argued that the same is true when it comes to gender. This is reflected across wider society but is also significantly relevant in terms of church life and leadership ministry.  

As Christianity moved from an obscure and persecuted sect or cult to the state religion of the Roman Empire, it is logical to observe how culture had a far greater influence on the church.  Many argue the Laodicean Council decision to stop ordination of women exemplified the church bowing to the culture of the day.

The attitude to Greeks is illustrated by some of their outstanding writers.  For example, Socrates believed that women were halfway between men and animals, while Plato said that evil people would be reincarnated as women and Aristotle commented that women were defective males.

Some relatively modern philosophers have also contributed their thoughts.  Like Schopenbauer who saw women as foolish and useful only for children, Nietzsche, who  considered men shallow who thought women to be equal, Darwin who found women inferior in all aspects, and Freud who saw women hopelessly envious of man’s biology.

The Church Fathers also had their own views. John Chrysostom, mentioned earlier,  believed women to be a ‘necessary evil’ and a ‘natural temptation’.  Tertullian saw women as ‘the devil’s gateway’ of sin to men.  Augustine said another man would’ve been a better for Adam as women were for procreation only.  Thomas Aquinas thought women were defective by nature, not imaging God. Men, he thought, needed to dominate because women can’t reason well.  Luther said man reflected God’s image but the woman only lesser, similar to the sun and moon. Man’s dominion was woman’s punishment for introducing sin into the world, while John Knox said women should be subordinate because the female nature was ‘stupid, weak, unstable, and cruel … it was repugnant by nature for woman to be in leadership’.

Calvin saw women as ‘born to obey men’ and Charles Hodge said that for the general good all women should be deprived of the rights to self-government.

‘Christianity has not been spared from error merely due to a sincere dedication to scripture and prayer. Our best theologians have been proven grossly wrong in the past. Are we above error today? Because of this we should step cautiously and humbly into areas that would restrict others’ freedom.’ (Remy Diederich)

In our recent past, believers have been forbidden people to wear make-up or jewellery, go to the movies, play sport on Sundays, buy anything on Sundays, play cards, women to wear trousers or have short hair, men to have long hair or wear shorts. All in from a tradition that had an extraordinarily high view of the Bible – but it didn’t mean it was right. 

Concluding Thoughts and a Final Word

Both sides of this argument believe that major hermeneutical gymnastics are required to negate their view. However, there are far too many issues to simply accept Paul’s injunctions in Timothy and Corinthians as universal and timeless prohibitions. The balance of evidence significantly favours other interpretations, understandings, local and cultural factors.

Well-known theologian Thomas F. Torrance advocates in self-explanatory terms for the ministry of women appealing to the Incarnation when he writes, ‘Moreover, the fact that the Son of God became man through being conceived by the Holy Spirit and being born of the Virgin Mary, that is, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a human father, but of God (John 1:13) means at this decisive point in the incarnation the distinctive place and function of man as male human being was set aside. Thus, as Karl Barth pointed out, in the virgin birth of Jesus by grace alone, without any previous sexual union between man and woman, there is contained a judgement upon man. This certainly implies a judgement upon the sinful, not the natural, element in sexual life, but is also to be understood as a judgement upon any claim that human nature has an innate capacity for God; human nature has no property in virtue of which man may act in the place of God. Moreover, the sovereign act of God in the virgin birth of Jesus carries with it not only a rejection of the sovereignty of man over his own life, but a rescinding of the domination of man over woman that resulted from the fall (Gen.3:16). Thus any preeminence of the male sex or any vaunted superiority of man over woman was decisively set aside at the very inauguration of the new creation brought about by the incarnation. In Jesus Christ the order of redemption has intersected the order of creation and set it upon a new basis altogether. Henceforth the full equality of man and woman is a divine ordinance that applies to all the behaviour and activity that applies to “the new man” in Christ, and so to the entire life and mission of the Church as the Body of Christ in the world.’

The last word goes to an unnamed theologian, who wrote, ‘probably the biggest hindrance to a productive approach to the gender debate is the perceived threat of the ‘slippery slope.’ Many fear that a rapid descent into a secular, liberal, or pagan feminism would be the result if evangelicals were to accept a nonhierarchical, flexible, equalitarian approach to gender relations. In view of this fear, it is crucial that we understand what is and what is not at stake in this debate.  What is at stake is the opportunity for women to pursue their callings whatever they may be, as well as the opportunity for both men and women to benefit from the full range of women’s gifts and to learn from and relate to women as whole persons. What is not at stake is biblical authority, biblical morality, the integrity of the church, or the preservation of the family and civilized society.

‘In conclusion, it is my deepest conviction that the full evidence of Scripture and an understanding of balance and consistency in interpretation mean that we must rethink some of our traditions and reaffirm with clarity and conviction the biblical basis for the full participation of women in the ministries of the church. The underlying biblical theology of a ‘new creation in Christ’ in which there is ‘neither male and female’ is a powerful affirmation of the commitment to equality in the gospel, the Church, and all of its ministries. Jesus’s inclusion of women among his disciples and witnesses, the coming of the Holy Spirit on both sons and daughters, and Paul’s inclusion of women in his circles of coworkers in the ministry all affirm the full and equal participation of both women and men in all the ministries of the gospel. In short, it is biblical for a woman to be a church leader. Moreover, if we deny gifted women the opportunity to exercise their ministries, we reject some of the very people Jesus has appointed and given to his church. The church’s mission can only be enhanced and made more effective when gifted men and women minister together using their complementary skills and abilities. Men and women should be united in the cause of the gospel and in building up the body of Christ, as well as in equipping the people of God to reach the lost’.

Moving Things In The Spirit – by Dom Bird

I really believe it’s time for us to shift some things in the spirit.  What do I mean by that?  As the people of God, Paul tells us that we have been given [spiritual] weapons that have the power to demolish strongholds.  (2 Cor 10:4). This verse causes me to ask two questions: 

1. What is a stronghold?
2. What are our weapons?  

Let me answer these questions briefly.  

A stronghold in the context of what Paul is saying speaks of an area where the enemy seems to have a form of control or dominance.  The word that Paul uses for ‘stronghold’ directly translates as ‘fortress.’  You could say that a stronghold is where the enemy has a strong-hold on an area of your life, where he has established areas that seem to be immovable or impenetrable.  The good news is Paul seems to suggest that these fortresses are established in our mind and therefore we can undermine them in the spirit by making them conform to the knowledge or reality of Christ (2 Cor 10:5).     

In worldly warfare, when the enemy gains a stronghold, the way you overturn it is with military strategy and gun power.  However, in the spirit we do things differently.  We use weapons of a different nature. I believe Paul gives us insight in to what these weapons are in Eph 6:10-20.  You should definitely read this in preparation for tonight as we see what I believe to be the two most proficient weapons we have for undermining fortresses – The sword of the Spirit (aka – the Word of God) and unceasing and  relentless prayer.  

I believe that when we gather together to pray we should come with an understanding of exactly what we’re there to do.  We are there to advance the Kingdom of God through prayer.  As dream builders,  we pray into the vision of Sunnyhill because we know that as the people of God living in unity, we are an army with an assignment to come against the principalities and powers (demonic forces) that are at work to try and keep us suppressed and oppressed.  

I don’t know about you but I’m excited for us to pray together regularly.

Remember, as a dream builder we have daily resources specifically for you to help you create healthy prayer patterns in your life.   Go to the guided prayer area of this website.

Moving Things In The Spirit – by Dom Bird