New Life started house church ministry in July 1999 with 6 house churches. One of the shepherds was a single female college student named Catherine Lee. She did everything exactly the way I taught all the potential shepherds
who were asked to go through the 11-week shepherds training from April to June. Catherine’s house church grew the fastest and multiplied the most.
As the church started to grow and got older, there was a need for us to hire a children’s pastor. We were blessed to find one. He and his wife worked very hard to lay down the foundation of our children’s ministry. Unfortunately, he was not on the same page as I am on certain theological issues, and one of them was women’s issue. He did not think it was right for women to teach over men or serve as a house church shepherd. After having multiple discussions with him, I decided to accept his stance because it was a secondary issue for me, and it was more important for me to pursue unity in Christ’s church and retain him as our children’s pastor.
When this decision was made, we had about 5-6 female solo shepherds. During those years, the men of New Life were immature and lame. When my wife and I gathered these solo female shepherds at our home and shared with them about the situation and what they thought about stepping down and turning the shepherding role to one of the men in their house churches, almost all of them said they had no problem doing it. In fact, they shared with me that the only reason why they were serving as shepherds was because I encouraged them to do so.
So, we called a Family Meeting and decided to go with all male shepherds. And we made changes in our bylaws, or so we thought.
That children’s pastor is no longer with us. Years have gone by. Now, New Life has more than 80 house churches. I see that going forward, house church multiplication will take place much more frequently. And some house churches have more female members who are mature and willing to step up and serve as shepherds. If these house churches that have fully grown in number do not multiply in a timely manner, then they will soon become stagnant and have a hard time reviving their house churches again.
After sharing with LT about this issue and looking at it from a biblical perspective, we have decided to allow solo females to serve as shepherds. Again, this is a secondary issue, biblically speaking. However, having females serve as solo shepherds or teach over men are not unbiblical. In fact, I, as your senior pastor, believe from the Scripture that it is more than warranted for females to teach, preach, and exercise authority over men, granted they do it with the spirit of humility, submission, and gentleness. Often, it is not what people do that is an issue with God, but with what kind of heart and spirit people do what they do that is a concern for Him.
God revealed Himself as our Father. Jesus was a man. The Holy Spirit is referred to as “He.” And every woman I have spoken to tells me that they would like to be loved and led by spiritually mature, healthy, and strong men. This is something innate that God has placed in us, both men and women. So, I believe in male leadership through the Bible. This leadership is not a lording-over-others kind of leadership. It is servant-leadership. Regardless of our gender, we all appreciate servant-leadership because Jesus came to us as the ultimate Servant-Leader.
However, this does not mean that women cannot serve as shepherds. In the Bible, we see women serving as a judge and a prophet for the whole nation of Israel. We also see them in the Bible praying, speaking in tongues, and prophesying during worship, building up the body of Christ. In fact, the Holy Spirit has given all His gifts to all people, both men, and women, so they all can use them to strengthen and edify Christ’s church.
To share all this and decide to allow females to serve as solo shepherds, we were planning to have a Family Meeting. However, when we looked at our bylaws, we could not find anywhere that says women cannot serve as solo shepherds! Hence, there is no need for a Family Meeting! 😊
Therefore, going forward, if your house church must multiply, both men, and women will be considered to serve as a shepherd/deputy shepherd. If your house church is made up of predominantly singles, then it is wise to have one male and one female serve as shepherds for obvious reasons. However, if your house church situation is such that you can have only solo female shepherd, then she will attend monthly shepherds’ meetings and will be strongly encouraged to attend bimonthly female shepherds’ meetings.
Ladies of New Life, thank you for being patient and respectful in all this!
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