“Should She Preach?” – A Commendation

Posted on September 2, 2013

What I am concerned to examine is the notion that any man who is a Christian can preach and should preach. There are some sections of the Christian Church who have taught this regularly. There has been the slogan, ‘Give the new convert something to do; send him out to preach and to give his testimony’ – and so on. There has been this tendency to thrust people out into preaching. Much of this can be attributed to the influence of Charles G. Finney and also D.L. Moody, who was very keen on that idea of giving the new converts something to do.

On what grounds are we critical of this attitude of preaching? I suggest that it is due to a failure to understand the difference between saying that every Christian should be ready, as Peter puts it in I Peter 3:15 ‘…to give…a reason of the hope that is in [him]’, and saying that every Christian should preach the Gospel. That is the distinction. Every Christian should be able to give an account of why he is a Christian; but that does not mean that every Christian is meant to preach. [1, 101-102]

ShouldShePreach_R1-2One might wonder what the above quote by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has to do with a book titled, “Should She Preach?”, but I suggest that Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ concerns form, at root, the fundamental basis for Tony Miano’s thesis in his forthcoming book on whether women should preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the open air. Just what is preaching, and just who should preach?

The question of “should she preach?” is an important question for me personally. In fact, Tony’s book is very timely as I have also been working through “should he preach?” most of 2013. While the latter question is not the topic of Tony’s new book, whether a woman should preach and what kind of man should preach are closely related.

While I have only been preaching in the open air for 2.5 years, I have learned much about this biblical evangelism principle. But, I have made mistakes along the way, and I have seen its abuses. With noble intentions four years ago, I was swept into a movement that has revolutionized biblical evangelism in the public square. Though this movement has many successes in encouraging Christians to be more bold and faithful in taking the Gospel outside the four church walls, it is largely a movement detached from real local church ministry and commitment, a movement that uses pragmatic means to justify potential ends, and a movement that has birthed a pseudo-church evangelism community that really shouldn’t exist insomuch that it has cultivated an incomplete understanding and practice of the fellowship of the gospel.

Please don’t misunderstand, there is a lot of good that has come out of the recent years’ street evangelism “explosion” (to borrow a phrase), but a lot of damage has been done as well. These concerns deserve needed constructive examination, but are not the point of this article. I only mention them to say that I recognize some issues in the “street evangelism community”, and some of the issues have impacted Tony Miano’s own experiences and why he was compelled to write, Should She Preach? So when I was asked to be a part of a peer review team for this project, I took on this responsibility with much enthusiasm as similar questions on preaching were already a part of my current study.

Tony opens his thesis on whether women should open-air preach with deep, heart-felt compassion for the women who will likely read this book. This book is primarily for them – not to be a discouragement to them, but an encouragement to them to find their godly and biblical role as Christian women in evangelism. The introduction makes clear that Tony loves the women he has trained in the past, and this fact played a significant role in Tony’s reasoning to write his book.

Tony also lays the groundwork for why his position has changed and makes a concerted effort to make clear his present conviction is derived from Scripture. Thus, his argumentation is grounded in God’s Word and not by deconstructing opposing viewpoints. No reader, whether male or female, will be able to walk away from this book with the attitude that Tony has an agenda against women, or that he is seeking to undermine what has become a relatively popular means to fulfill the Great Commission in recent years. What the reader will find by honest assessment is that Tony desires nothing more than to be faithful to God’s Word, and when Scripture changes his mind on something – whatever that something is – he is obligated as a Christian to conform his thinking and practice to Scripture. I am thankful for Tony’s transparency in this regard. He bears a Christ-exalting example of humble confession and changing one’s teaching and practice if found to be contrary to biblical commands and principles  (biblical repentance).

After building his thesis on the foundation of God’s created order for men and women, Tony makes an air-tight argument for why women should not open-air preach, using 1 Timothy 2:12 as a critical verse. This verse, and complimentary texts, instruct that women should not teach or exercise authority over men in the local church assembly or in a public setting, as doing so would be contrary to the woman’s natural, God-given role as a woman (gentle, quiet spirit; godly, humble submission; inward beauty, etc.). Tony also provides depth to his argument by taking a close look at the Greek word “kerusso” (which means – to preach), as well as addresses Scripture-based arguments often employed to make a defense for women in open-air preaching, including “the woman at the well” and the often-referred Great Commission passages of Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:14-18.

Part of the reason, as Tony puts forth, that women are encouraged or supported in open-air preaching by various churches or parachurch ministries, is that open-air preaching is wrongly viewed as an extracurricular activity (so to speak) for individual Christians, and not a fundamental ministry of the local church. Before devoting an entire chapter on this issue, Tony writes,

However, many churches, pastors, theologians, and evangelists who hold that a woman cannot preach in a pulpit, serve as an elder, or teach or disciple men in the context of the local assembly of believers are just as adamant that women can preach the gospel in the open air. I think the reason for this is simple, and yet profound. Many of the before-mentioned see open-air preaching in a certain way—an unbiblical way. But for the times when a church engages in an evangelistic “event,” (usually corporately on church property or in a public venue, such as a local park) the American Church, by and large, often errantly sees evangelism as a personal activity engaged by individual Christians. With such a mindset (a prevalent one at that), many American churches, pastors, theologians, and evangelists do not see open-air preaching as the work of the Church. Instead of seeing open-air preaching as a work of the Church, a healthily-functioning and necessary activity of the Body—the family of God; open-air preaching is seen an extra-curricular activity, away from the church.

As such, women are wrongly taught or encouraged that they can assume their own authority to stand up and preach. Not even men should assume their own authority, circumventing God’s processes in the local church to affirm qualified men and send them out for this Gospel ministry, but Scripture gives no instruction nor makes any provision for women to fulfill these ministry shoes.

Tony does well to not only make a strong case for why women should not open-air preach (for the same reason they should not preach in a pulpit – this is thoroughly presented in the book), but he also does a fine job emphasizing the significant role women have in biblical evangelism. One of my favorite parts of the book was the story he shared about a Christian woman who ministered to a disheveled, perhaps even possessed, woman who had just been incarcerated. This Christian lady ministered to her in a way that only a godly woman could, and her tenderness and compassion in sharing the love of Christ and the Gospel led to the salvation of this otherwise hopeless person. No man could have witnessed to this woman in this way, and this is just one beautiful illustration of how God uses women to fulfill His Great Commission. As Tony explains, women have different roles than men. Women are not unequal in dignity, but rather function in different roles, and some roles only they can fulfill – to the glory of God! Tony’s hope, and mine, is that women will come to better understand (and enjoy!) their role in evangelism to see people come to saving faith, but they must first understand God’s predetermined (and good!) order in the Body of Christ. I am hopeful the  intentions of this book will be met in the hearts of sincere students of God’s Word.

While I have not read them, an added feature to the book are interviews Tony acquired from seven pastors, a few of whom you may know:

Steven Lawson – Senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, AL, and teaching fellow of Ligonier Ministries

Phil Johnson – teaching pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA; executive director of Grace to You; and founder of the Pyromaniacs blog

Tom Drion – Co-pastor of Grace Life London, a Grace Community Church plant

Steve Camp – Singer/songwriter and senior pastor of The Cross Church in Palm City, FL

Geoffrey Kirkland – Senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Bible Church in St. Louis, MO, a member of the Grace Advance Fellowship

Michael Morrow – Senior pastor of Union Baptist Church in Marion, KY, and adjunct professor at Mid-Continent College of Mayfield, KY

Randall Easter – Senior pastor and evangelist of First Baptist Church of Briar, TX.

These interviews will not only bring an increased curiosity to read Tony’s new book, but also provide greater credibility that Tony is rightly dividing God’s Word on this important topic.

I am looking forward to reading the final copy of Should She Preach? It is one that will bring encouragement to the women who currently or have previously preached in the open air (whether at the abortion clinic or on the street corner), and hopefully it will help men and women rightly understand God’s Word and the role of women in biblical evangelism. Not only this, but I am also looking forward to the continued discussion on the role of men in open-air preaching as it relates to the local church. In my opinion, Tony’s new book may serve as a helpful catalyst for that needed conversation in the modern evangelical church.

Should She Preach? Biblical Evangelism for Women can be pre-ordered at One Million Tracts, and a Kindle version will be released soon.

Tony Miano can be followed on facebook and twitter, and you can listen to him live on Sunday nights on Cross Encounters Radio.

Endnotes: [1] Lloyd-Jones, Martyn. Preachers and Preaching. London: Hodder and Stoughton Limited, 1971.

[Update:  I am hearing concerns about Tony’s position that women should use caution when witnessing to men. I hear it in such a way that women fear they are being silenced. However, I was more impacted by Tony giving caution to men witnessing to women than women witnessing to men. It actually lifted a burden from me to view each witnessing opportunity with a woman as to how or even if I should engage her, depending on the context of the situation. My first priority is my marriage and to protect it against even appearances of evil. I also have my personal integrity and ministry to protect. If I cannot witness to a woman without potentially compromising these elements, then I need to reconsider and trust the Lord to provide someone else to witness to the woman. Tony gives helpful examples and points on this issue, and he is far from leaving this burden on women to be cautious. I left this chapter feeling his admonition was directed more heavily toward men, and the Lord used it to heavily admonish and edify me personally.]

Posted in: Evangelism, Preaching