Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Woman At The Well: The First Evangelist?

Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well is, in my opinion, one of the most remarkable, socially-unacceptable, counter-cultural instances told in scripture. As if being a woman during this period was not bad enough, to be a Samaritan woman was a double curse. Jews did not associate with Samaritans and would never share a drinking vessel with them, lest they, too, become unclean. Samaritans were considered "half-breeds" and were avoided at all costs.

Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well and asks her to give him a drink. She is stunned, informing him that she is a Samaritan woman and He is a Jew, so how could He ask her for a drink. Jesus then teaches her the lesson of living water, tells her about her five husbands, and finally reveals to her that a time is coming when people will be able to worship God in spirit and truth, only through the power of God's spirit. (That's quite a heavy conversation, one He had not even shared with the 12). When she proclaims that she knows there is a day when a Messiah will come, Jesus says, "I am He." Again, this is more information than even the disciples are aware of at this point. She runs back to town and tells many of the men (plural, so probably men and women) about Jesus, confessing that He knew everything about her.

"From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all the things that I have done" (John 4:39).

Mr. Davidson, from the Church of God, highlights some interesting facts about this famous encounter between Jesus and The Woman at the Well:

“The conversation with the woman at the well is the longest recorded discussion Jesus had with anyone—and she, a Gentile woman. Further, the lesson Jesus gave her about living water was just as profound as the lesson he gave Nicodemus—and the woman had a better response. Unlike Nicodemus, she was willing to be associated with Jesus. She told her neighbors about Jesus, and many of them believed in Jesus 'because of the woman’s testimony.'”

The most fascinating part of this story is that while she ran back to town to tell others to come see the one who could be the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus is praising her work through a parable to his returning dumbfounded-disciples, who are marveling at the fact that Jesus would be talking to a Samaritan woman, apparently alone! Scandalous. This is surely not only a social violation, but a theological violation. Yet, the disciples were too chicken to ask aloud: "why would He be talking to this woman...."

So, Jesus schools them about the unlikely partnerships and co-working in The Great Upside Down Kingdom of God....

"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he [original translation: "one"] who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together." So in this case the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.' "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor."

Jesus, The Ultimate Seed Sower, plants His Word into the woman's heart, who in turn plants His Word in the hearts of others. This must have been a trying and puzzling lesson for the disciples, who previously wouldn't even have made eye contact with a Samaritan, let alone work along side them, partnering up in the cause of God, to invite "half-breeds" to become followers of Jesus.

Isn't the story of the woman at the well a reflection of what evangelism is really about? Churches that forbid or discourage women from preaching the gospel in the presence of men miss the entire point and essence of true evangelism. Preaching the Good News of Jesus should not be a means to gain or exercise authority/control over people. To portray it as such (since that IS the reason sited to bar women from becoming public evangelists), perverts the spirit in which evangelism should be acted out. Evangelism is about pointing people to JESUS. It's about teaching people what the gospel is, what Jesus said and did, and to invite others to began their own faith journey. How sectors of the church can restrict women from preaching the good news of the gospel in the presence of men is just tragic to me. The Samaritan woman's sense of urgency, as she runs back to town to tell anyone who will listen about the Messiah, says it all. Where's that urgency today? Are we too busy squabbling over which gender can say and do what in the presence of which people and in which forums? Titles and positions of preacher, teacher, pastor, evangelist and so forth, should not be viewed as ways to get authority, but as an avenue to live out the authority and calling of the gospel for those gifted and equipped in each area.

Why do we split such flimsy hairs when it comes to women in ministry: woman can preach the gospel, but they cannot BE a preacher. Women can DO evangelism. but cannot BE an evangelist. Women can SHARE the gospel, but cannot TEACH the gospel.

Don't we want to reach as many people as we can? Why do we make teaching the Gospel a matter of "authority over others" and "proper gender roles"? (Again, I am speaking to the more rigid branches of complementarianism).

The Woman at the Well did not hold an "official" position (so don't misunderstand my intent), but as one of the first people EVER for Jesus to choose to reveal Himself as the Messiah and as the first person to spread the news of Jesus beyond the Jewish people, she sets an important example of the true heart of ministry.

I came across this three-minute creative, contemporary, beat-poet-ish video, portraying this story from the Samaritan woman's perspective. I found it compelling.


DeeAnn said...

Yes! If you have a testimony, go tell it! When the Holy Spirit leads you to spread the gospel, follow Him. Just like God used Corrie ten Boom to share words of love, redemption and forgiveness to men and women all over the world, most of all the very murderers of her sister and friends.

The thing that I want to nit-pick is: Are women really still being oppressed? It seems that there are quite a few women in ministry out there. And if you are a woman who gets jaded by men who don't want to hear you preach, then maybe God is using them to move you to a different location or venue. If you have the confidence if Christ and you are certain you are doing His will and not your own, then who cares what ANYBODY says?

Now personally, I have felt that my role in the home and in ministry is more of a complementary role. Paul and I have been talking and praying about doing some street preaching and getting involved in a misistry with homeless in ATL, and the entire time I have felt that it is my role to pray while Paul talks to people, and pray with them as they receive it. I'm just using that as an example of how women can still be very useful and not be up front. But, that's kind of how I feel about everything we do. I like being his helpmeet and I feel that God uses me as I serve my husband. We haven't done it yet because we do have a newborn and it's still chilly out. I also have an important role in raising our many childern full time so that they can be equipped to share the good news.

I really like the post and the video, but I have gotten a little riled up by the "10 Lies the Church Tell Women" book. I don't disagree with anything he says, I just feel that even the title portrays a negativity toward the church. I love my church and absolutely everyone in it, even you Tia, and I would never want the 'world' thinking that that kind of oppression goes on within it even though women aren't preaching to men on a regular basis.

DeeAnn said...

I meant to say "confidence IN Christ" in the second paragraph. It's early and I really like to play the 'I just had a baby' card.

Carlos said...

Preach on Tia Lynn.....

musicmommy3 said...

While I COMPLETELY agree that women in America play the "oppressed" card too much I have to say..."You do realize that GCF (Deeann's local church) is very different from the normal status quo right? :):):)

I think writers are referring more to the body of Christ as a whole.
I could be wrong.

Tia Lynn said...

Well, of course, I agree that women have it MUCH better in America than other places around the world. But that doesn’t mean certain teachings within the American conservative evangelical church have not contributed certain injustices against women. Evangelical households in America have one of the highest rates of domestic violence, second only alcoholic households! My mother was ostracized from her church when she left my dad because he beat her (while pregnant, among other things) and right now, my dad’s current wife agonizes with guilt about leaving him because people from the churches she’s been in over the years have made it quite clear that there is NEVER a reason for divorce. It doesn’t matter that he beats, serial cheats, lies, steals, doesn’t work, neglects and abuses the kids, is in and out of jail, endangers them all, uses the bible to justify it all, and has never uttered the words, “I am sorry,” in his entire life. Right now, he is sitting in jail for viciously beating my five year old brother. Again, without an ounce of remorse. And while we would like to think this is just a wacky and extreme case, there are thousands of women trapped in these sorts of marriages with their churches remaining silent on the topic, or putting all the burden on the wives to keep their marriages together.

Deann, J. Lee Grady (author of ten lies) LOVES the church and is working toward the vision of a unified church that releases women in ministry, frees men from pride, and the church from faulty “biblical” teaching. Also, this book is written to a Christian audience, sold almost exclusively in Christian bookstores, I don’t think the world is taking much of an interest. The title is strong because his conviction is strong. If people read past the title (as anyone should before making a judgment,) they will immediately recognize this is not an attack on the church, but a call to change...

The point is not to force churches or men to listen to women against their will; that would be foolish and counterproductive. The point is to aim to teach the bible accurately, to change hearts and minds, to transform congregations into bodies that bear each other’s burdens and submit themselves one to another, allowing all people to be led by the spirit.

That’s great about your street evangelizing. But do you think your role praying in the background is determined by your sex or by your gifts? For instance, Will HATES public speaking and doesn’t feel gifted in the area of proactive verbal witnessing. He’s gifted in service. He’s shown God’s love to people in more subtle ways, by filling a need: fixing stuff around a person’s house for free, being a big brother to kids with no dad, building playgrounds for orphanages in Ukraine. He always said he’s felt called to more behind the scenes work (which by the way doesn’t have to be an either or). On the other hand, talking to people has always come naturally to me. For seven years, I sat on my front porch every Friday and Saturday night (which was smack dab in the middle of two bars in a crazy college town) and prayed that God would bring by whomever. Over the years, I opened the bible and “taught” lots of college students about the bible, mostly guys. Some of the best ministry moments in my life happened on that front porch. One guy in particular got saved, started going to campus crusade, and to my knowledge, is still walking with the lord. Now is that because of me? No, that’s because God was calling him, and used me as part of this guy’s journey. I also used to go to male gay bars with my friend lauren and talk to the guys in the parking lot. In fact, I would say 95 percent of the people I have witnessed to, opened up the bible with, have all been men. Is that “improper?” Maybe to some. But it’s where my heart as always been and accounts for many of the choices I’ve made in jobs and schools.

My point is that people should base how they do ministry on their gifts. Men aren’t always gifted in public ministry, and sometimes women are. And all people should be willing to take part in the background roles, too. Just because someone does public preaching or teaching shouldn’t exempt them from good old fashion service. If Jesus was called to be a servant, then all Christians should follow that example.

Michelle said...

couple things...

first, only we who are sheltered and (sorry) naive would wonder whether women are still being oppressed, but that is another topic that I should probably not delve into here...not that we should feel guilty for being so blessed, we should be grateful - but we should not let it blind our eyes to the plight of others.

second, I just want to say that this phrase have given me much food for thought: Why do we split such flimsy hairs when it comes to women in ministry: woman can preach the gospel, but they cannot BE a preacher. Women can DO evangelism. but cannot BE an evangelist. Women can SHARE the gospel, but cannot TEACH the gospel.

third and finally, I liked that youtube link a lot, thanks.

Terry said...

"Titles and positions of preacher, teacher, pastor, evangelist and so forth, should not be viewed as ways to get authority, but as an avenue to live out the authority and calling of the gospel for those gifted and equipped in each area."

I agree with this statement completely and entirely. In the old testament, the prophets were reluctant to be God's mouthpiece, and approached their assignment with fear and trembling. In the modern church, it's just the opposite. It seems every one wants to be in the spotlight to showcase the gift God has given them- this goes for women and men alike.

Tia Lynn, I don't know if you remember reading the link I shared from Humblemusings that talked about birth control and the current controversy in the church surrounding the issue. The author (Amy Scott) wrote something profound that has stuck with me. She asked, "What is the trump verse in all of Scripture?" "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself."

Unfortunately, in most instances that is what is missing in all of these debates. Lost in the jockey for position and the desire to be right is the pure love for God and man with no agenda attached.

And you are also right that Jesus' encounter with the woman was counter cultural, unorthodox, and radical. I don't see that in the church today. We have created a powerless subculture that is ineffective in reaching the lost because they can se that beneath the Bible and bumper sticker we are no different from them. I submit that when we live out (in a God-honoring way, not what you have described as your family experience) God's design for men and women, and do so in a way that demonstrates the love between Christ and His church, we in this current cultural climate, are radical, counter-cultural and powerful. And a dying world with broken families and fractured churches can look at us and see the beauty of what God intended when done the way God intended for it to be done.

Tonya said...

Michelle, If you don't "split the flimsy hairs", (or re-interpret the Bible), you are going to have some women who can't move a muscle without being afraid that they might be doing something unbiblical:):):). That's why we need to find the ground between fear of disobedience (keeping us from doing anything) and actual disobedience. We need to live in freedom, but not the kind that causes us to miss the mark.

What did Paul mean when he said that women must keep silent and not teach? Did he mean that a brand new believing woman who had just met Jesus couldn't run back to town and say "I just met the Messiah and you are not going to believe this but He knew everything about me! I am freaking out!!! Come quickly before He leaves! You have GOT to meet Him!". I think not. I believe that if I have a testimony, I can share it. I can talk to the people I meet and tell them of the hope I have! I can sit around the dinner table and discuss theology with the brothers and sisters. Check out Priscilla:). I can pray and prophesy in the assembly. But the question is, can I get up in church on Sunday and preach the sermon (or the like)? Is that Biblical? And if I can't do that, am I being oppressed or causing women elsewhere to be oppressed?

Is it splitting hairs to differentiate between teaching during the formal assembly of the saints, and conversing with the neighbors about the hope we have in Christ? I am really interested to know this and I think a deeper study of the difficult passages might help. I am taking them apart and looking at them from both POV's to see if I can find anything helpful in interpreting them. It is a good study for me as a woman desiring to honor God with my life. Any way it turns out, I will know my position inside and out. One of the benefits of discussion like this. You come away with greater understanding of why you believe what you believe, or you dump your position for something better. Tia and I were talking about this yesterday.

As long as one is not biblically ignorant (which can lead to being easily deceived so make sure you know your Bible better than you know your favorite theologin's positions), having your position challanged brings greater understanding unless you are scared to dig into your own postion too deeply for fear that it might not be as solid as you thought it was, or too proud to think that you might be wrong. If any Christian has adopted a faulty position it would be best to correct it, right. Pride be hanged:):):).

I hope everyone else is learning new things too and is not so hell-bent on your preferred label that we miss the point that as Christians, we are after the strongest Biblical position (or if there isn't one, simple agreement to disagree when it comes to opinion). God didn't give us His word for nothing, after all.

"All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Tonya said...

Beautifully said, Terry. We were commenting at the same time and I missed reading that until now. I agree.

Christian marriage should depict Christ and His Bride, the church, in every way humanly possible.

musicmommy3 said...

Michelle said:
only we who are sheltered and (sorry) naive would wonder whether women are still being oppressed, but that is another topic that I should probably not delve into here...not that we should feel guilty for being so blessed, we should be grateful - but we should not let it blind our eyes to the plight of others"

First of all- I may be a bit sheltered and naive and I think that LOTS of women ARE oppressed in abusive situations (like Tia described)
I have noticed that people in this country cry oppressed over IMO the tiniest things.

Sure you are oppressed if you are being beaten or verbally abused on a regular basis. Sure you are being oppressed if your husband doesn't allow you to speak to anyone, ever, outside your house. There are real situations out there. I am not naive. I have even been to a third world country so I don't think I'm completely in the dark about true oppression.

Here are the things that concern me:

If my husband did not allow me to pursue something I feel is my calling or gifting - is that REALLY oppression (dictionary definition:The act of oppressing; arbitrary and cruel exercise of power.) would he really be being cruel? Would he be "abusing his power"? Maybe, possibly depending on the situation.
But really could you define that as cruel? Maybe in some circumstances it is? It's possible depending on what the husband's motives were. I PERSONALLY think that one could benefit greatly by cultivating a spirit of humility, praise to God, waiting for God's hand to move the husband. If it's really God's will would God not raise you up to do what He has called you to do? It's not like we women are forbidden to do ANYTHING except stay home and make babies. :) We can share our testimonies, we can encourage one another, we can witness, we can pray, we have lots of things we can do.

And don't peg me one way or the other because I DO believe that people should be pursuing their callings but sometimes there is a waiting period, sometimes it's not the right time in the family. Sometimes the over stressed husband cannot help out any more at home than he is and his wife cannot be free to pursue things inside of her. I have SO MANY things inside of me that I believe are for the future. If I sat around and fussed that I wasn't able to do them right now I might miss the hand of God moving.

I take great offence when people throw around heavy language when it doesn't need to be used.
The word oppression, for me, conjurs up a picture of Tia's description of her family circumstances. That's REAL oppression along with others such as verbal, emotional, sexual abuse.

I would actually like to flip your statement around Michelle and say that only we who are sheltered and (sorry) naive would consider not being able to go after what you feel called by God to do- real oppression. Those who have not seen true oppression may think they are oppressed for whatever reason but those of us who have seen it - know better.

No, I'm not mad. Just passionately indignent when harse language is used to get an emotional response where it ought not to be. :)

And I do think this side argument is worth considering because many precious people cry egalitarianism because of supposed oppression of women instead of examining the Bible. Before y'all jump me I'm not saying that the majority of egalitarians do that. A lot of the ones I've read have searched the Scripture and believe they have the correct interpretation. However, in the spirit of truth here and examining the Bible to see what it really does say:
we need to examine ourselves to see if we have motives behind what we believe that are not scripture based...like these:

Well that's what I've always been taught so C or E must be true.


I am pro-women so I believe in egalitarianism.

If we come to the Bible with things in the way we may miss the truth. That's why I'm coming across so strongly here.
Let's try to throw off as much as we can and all of us honestly look at the text and share our opinions about what we really think it says/means.

See Carlos, epistles are OK here. :)
In this type of discussion it's hard to condense what you're trying to say sometimes. :)

Blessings everyone! -Angela :)

Michelle said...

I get what you're saying Angela, couple of responses...

1) I never claimed to be egalitarian, I am learning from Tia but I don't hold a position here and have historically been complimentarian though only for reasons that I'd never investigated scripture on this issue for myself.

2) I think you misunderstand me... I am talking about true oppression. If you want to know what I am referring to, check out my blog and see the past few posts on International Justice Mission and the sex trafficking/slavery that is rampant around the world right now. Women are truly oppressed - that is what I am referring to. That may have nothing at all to do with egalitarian/complimentarian debates but it is sensitive to my heart right now so it makes me reactive when I hear someone ask, "Are women really still oppressed?" We may not be but our neighbors around the world are, and maybe - just maybe - in part due to this pervasive idea that women are "less than"... maybe that let's people feel okay about treating them truly as property.

Sorry to get the juices flowing but maybe that is what this is all about? :)

I continue to learn, thanks to each of you.

DeeAnn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DeeAnn said...

Of course I was not talking about women who are being abused in any way! I am not in the least sheltered or naive. I was referring to women who feel like they need a title or position and whine when they don't get it when they want it. Not all of us are looking for a confrontation.

Michelle said...

Wow. Well... if you all knew me the way you know each other, you would know that I was not trying to be confrontational, either. I do point things out as I see them but I am far from argumentative. I enjoy healthy conversation; maybe that comes across as looking for confrontation, I don't know? If so I'm sorry.

I am slow to jump on a bandwagon or take "sides", I like to hear the entire argument first. I am enjoying this series. I've done extensive study on many other topics, throughout scripture, and arrived at certain conclusions...just not this one - so this is interesting to follow along while I humbly admit that, while I know what I've always 'been taught', the bottom line for me, here, is "Hmm, I don't really know for sure!".

I apologize if my comments re oppression came across as combative. I simply wanted to point out that to say (not that anyone did, persay, but just for context, hypothetically) to say that, "Well, women in Jesus/Paul's time were oppressed but they aren't anymore" is only true from our perspective in the world. More people are in slavery now than any other time in history - a gross majority of those are women and young girls, trapped in sex slavery. While this occurs most often in Asia/Africa, etc, the paying customers are quite often travelling Westerners. Unpleasant to talk about or even think about, I know.. but that is where my mind was. Tia is pushing us to consider context... I guess I was thinking about more of a global context for OUR time. Maybe that makes some amount of sense. I of course realize no one here would ever condone something so horrid, I am not at all insinuating you would... I'm just trying to open our eyes a bit to the reality of many women, that is all, so that as we discuss this issue we have the big picture in mind, not just our small part.

...now in the words of my goofy but wise pastor... "Shalom, y'all" :)

musicmommy3 said...

Got it Michelle. :)

P.S. I never said you were an egalitarian. I noticed that you hadn't taken a position yet. I figured you were waiting till she's done making her case and weighing everything out before explaining what you thought.

p.p.s. I hope you don't feel like I was attacking you. I was simply attacking your idea/thought. I actually respect you. I have purused your blog, read your comments over at Christy's and here. You have wisdom and a heart after God. Sorry if you felt attacked by me.


musicmommy3 said...


Combative isn't always a bad thing as long as you respect/love the people you are debating with.

Look at how combative we all are with each other. We just add an
I love you on the end to remind the other person we are not fighting them; just ideas, ideologies, etc.

Shalom Michelle.
Welcome to the club. :)

the Mc-kids said...

Angela, thanks for the kind words - I echo your "got it". :)

I apologize if something similar to this posts twice, I was sure I already responded but I don't see it here so I'll try again.

It is evident that you all are a great group, I just find blog posting tricky sometimes - I am often concerned that my intentions and meaning/heart are clear. I welcome the back and forth, I just hate to be misunderstood. In "real life" or online. :)

thanks again...

Michelle said...

oh, by the way - that "mc-kids" is me, Michelle.. I didn't know when I tried to start a blog for my kids that mine would get all screwed up... trying to switch it back now. :)