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Churchman—although not entirely unheard of, it’s not a word that we use very often. It refers to a man of the church, a man whose whole life revolves around the church, a man who dedicates himself to the service of the church.

The church today needs churchmen. Her need is not simply for members who are male, but for male members who are truly men, that is, strong men of God.

Especially is this need urgent in the evil days in which we presently live. The church throughout history has always needed strong men, but that need is all the more pressing as wickedness and chaos reigns in the wicked world and as apostasy becomes more prevalent in the church world. Living in such a world, the church cries, “God, give us young men who will be churchmen!”

By considering in this article the church’s need for godly men, we bring to a conclusion our series on biblical manhood. Undoubtedly, more could be said about the subject, but I have tried to keep a narrow focus on those areas of life that particularly apply to young men. And the last main area is the place of men in the church.

 

Serving in special office

God has given to men the unique calling to serve in the special offices in the church: the offices of pastor, elder, and deacon. Only men may serve in these offices; women are prohibited from doing so.1

The position that only male members may serve as officebearers is a controversial one. There are many churches today—including Reformed churches—who allow women to serve as deacons, elders, and pastors. The idea that women are not allowed to hold these offices is considered old-fashioned and discriminatory.

This position is, however, the “position” of God Himself as expressed in His timeless, inerrant Word. When Jesus appointed apostles in the church, He appointed men. When the first deacons were ordained (Acts 6:1-6), the church appointed men. When the inspired apostle laid out the qualifications for officebearers (I Tim. 3:1-13; Tit. 1:6-9), he made it clear that only men were to be chosen: “…the husband of one wife…” (v. 2).

Two passages make this prohibition explicit. In I Corinthians 14:34, 35 we read, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husband at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” And I Timothy 2:11, 12 say, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

The reason God prohibits women from holding special office in the church is that He created the woman after the man, out of the man, and for the man (I Cor. 11:8, 9; I Tim. 2:13, 14). God placed the man in the position of being head of the woman and gave to him the authority to lead and rule. This principle applied to the church means that only men may serve in the official offices of authority and leadership in the church.

To say that women may not serve in the special offices does not mean that women have no place of service in the church or that the place they have is unimportant. Women do have a place in the church. An important and necessary place! Far from putting women down as insignificant, the Word of God lifts women up and extols their important place in the church.

The place of women in the church is to teach. No, not to teach in an official capacity, but still to teach. If God is pleased to give them a husband and children, they have the important calling of teaching their children. “Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing…” (I Tim. 2:15; cf. also I Tim. 5:14; Tit. 2:4, 5). With or without children, women also are called to teach one another. Especially does God lay before the older women the calling to help teach and guide the younger women (cf. Tit. 2:3, 4).

Women also have an important place in the church in nurturing the relationships among the church members. Generally speaking, women are much more relational than men and are much more adept at building and strengthening relationships. Just as, practically speaking, a mother is the glue that holds a family together, so women are the glue that holds the church together. In a thousand, small, oft-unnoticed ways, they nurture the life of the congregation by serving the other members, bearing the burdens of the struggling, rejoicing with those who rejoice, and grieving with those who grieve. The thought of a church without the service of women is too frightening even to consider!

As important as the place of women is, only men may serve in the special offices in the church. Although most of the young men reading this may not yet be serving in a special office, nevertheless, there are important things for you to consider.

In the first place, you ought to desire to serve in special office some day. I Timothy 3:1 says, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of bishop [elder], he desireth a good work.”

Be careful not to misunderstand. It is possible for a young man to desire special office in an unholy way. He might want to be an officebearer out of a sinful desire for honor and the praise of men. Or he might want to be an officebearer out of a lust for power and being in charge of others. Or he might want to be an officebearer out of a proud attitude that he is more gifted, more knowledgeable, more Reformed than the other men in the congregation. This can lead to bitterness when such a man is not chosen for office. He becomes bitter toward the church and critical of men who were chosen instead of him. Beware, young men, that you not desire special office out of pride or self-seeking!

That being said, there is a holy, Spirit-wrought desire for special office. This desire arises in a man’s heart because he loves Christ, loves the church of Christ, and desires humbly to serve the church. Young men, pray for and cultivate this holy desire for special office!

In the second place, young men ought to prepare themselves to serve in special office some day, if the Lord wills. If and when the Lord calls, be prepared to meet that call.

The most important preparation is not profound and does not come through some specialized training. That preparation is a grateful life of sincere godliness. Reading the list of qualifications laid out in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, one cannot help but be struck by the fact that it is describing the blameless, pious life that every Christian man is called to live.

Young men can prepare themselves for special office by being men of God’s Word, men of prayer, and men who strive to walk uprightly before God. Young men can also prepare themselves for special office by taking a lively interest in the church. Again, this is nothing profound, but ought to be the case with every Christian man. Know what is going on in your own congregation. Take an interest in the denomination more broadly and in the church of Christ catholic. Keep up with what is going on in the lives of the members of your congregation, and seek opportunities to serve and to minister to the needs of others. God’s people trust men who show that they care for the saints, and will be ready to entrust such men with leadership in the church.

Finally, there is a place for young men to prepare themselves through study. Familiarize yourselves with the confessions, became acquainted with the Church Order, read books and articles on the work of elders and deacons, and watch carefully how respected men conduct themselves in these offices.

Because of wickedness in the world or troubles in the church or the busyness of life, men might not want to serve in special office. But the church needs you! She needs wise, compassionate, courageous men to lead and protect her! Therefore, prepare to serve!

 

Serving as a church member

Although only men may serve in special office, not all men will serve as officebearers. Whether due to a lack of qualification in a man, or an abundance of qualified men in a congregation, or various other circumstances, some men may never be called to a special office. This does not mean, however, that they are unimportant and unnecessary. The church needs men to serve in special office, but she also needs the service of all the men in the office of believer.

Male members need to be aware of two things about church membership. The first is that we need the church more than the church needs us. We men are tempted to think of ourselves as being strong and independent, but the truth is that we are weak and dependent upon the church and the other members of the church. We need the church, the means of grace that are found there, and the support and care of our fellow saints.

The other thing that we need to keep in mind is that we are called to a place of service in the church. We may not take the attitude of consumerism into the church, the idea that church is mainly about what I am getting out of it rather than what I am giving. Our focus rather ought to be on giving to others and seeking to serve them (cf. Q&A 55 of the Heidelberg Catechism). The other members of the church need the leadership and service of the men of the church.

Practically speaking, this means that the life of young men ought to be structured around the church. Our membership in the church ought to be top priority. The church needs us to be active and involved.

Although we might not be officebearers, we ought to cultivate with our officebearers a healthy relationship of mutual trust and respect. We ought to support and encourage our officebearers, and even humbly correct them if the need arises, as they labor to protect the church in her doctrine and life.

Young men also ought to become aware of and cultivate the unique gifts that God has given to them (cf. Rom. 12:3-8; I Cor. 12; Eph. 4:7-16). God has graciously bestowed upon us gifts to use in His service, and as a reflection of His infinite majesty He has bestowed different gifts in different measures to different men. Seek to know the gifts that God has given you to use in the church, and ask other wise men and women to help you know your gifts if you are struggling to determine what they are.

Then, look for any opportunity to use your specific gifts in the service of the church. Keep alert for any needs that might arise, and offer to meet those needs. There are all kinds of opportunities to serve in the church, if only we would open our eyes to see them. The following is just a small sampling of the different ways that men are needed in the church: ushering, parking vehicles for the elderly, running the sound system for worship services, serving on a church committee (for example, evangelism committee, building committee), leading (or simply participating in) a Bible study group, helping organize fundraisers and activities, visiting widows and widowers and those in nursing homes.

As we search out ways to serve in the church, remember: there is no place of service too small or unnoticed for us, no place of service that is beneath us. As Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, so we must be ready to wash the feet of our fellow saints and perform any small, unwanted task in the church.

 

In conclusion…

Young men, I hope and pray you have been encouraged and challenged by these articles on what it means to be a real man of God. Be men!

Young women, if you have read these articles, I would be delighted. Push your brothers in Christ to be real men, and settle for nothing less.

Parents, continue to instruct your sons in what biblical manhood means. In particular, fathers, model manhood to your boys.

Church of Christ, pray that the King of the church would continue to raise up among us stalwart sons.


 

1 For a fuller explanation of this subject, cf. the pamphlet by Ronald Cammenga, “Women in Church Office,” published by the Evangelism Committee of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church (available at prca.org, under ”Resources, pamphlets”).