Brothers, We Are Not Sisters

Brothers, We Are Not Sisters

To say that one thing is not another thing is not to register a complaint against either.

To say that the sun is not the moon is not to criticize the moon, and to say that the land is not the sea is not to file a complaint against the sea. God establishes differences in the world with the intention of them complementing one another, and not so that his variegated world would try to melt itself down into one great indistinguishable mass. A pine cone is not a cheesecake is not a covered bridge. A man is not a woman, but God bless them both.

And so to exhort my brothers in the ministry to remember that they are not sisters is in no way a form of disdain, either open or disguised, toward the sisters. As brothers in ministry, there are many things we must learn from the sisters, and we must take care to learn these things carefully and appropriately. For just one example, the apostle Paul says he was gentle among the Thessalonians, the way a nurse with small children would be (1 Thessalonians 2:7). The Bible says that women should not set up to teach the men authoritatively (1 Timothy 2:12), but this is a very different thing than men learning from women (Acts 18:26). How on earth would it be possible for a man to live with his wife with understanding (1 Peter 3:7) without learning anything from her?

Masculine Presence in the Pulpit

That said, in these egalitarian times, we must insist on a masculine presence in the pulpit because the church is the bride of Christ, and needs to obey her husband in everything (Ephesians 5:24). The Lord required this of us (1 Timothy 2:12), and so that is what we must do. The individual man in the pulpit must be masculine because the bride of Christ must be feminine. The appropriate feminine response of the Church is to be submissive, and you cannot be submissive while disobeying.

But as we accept this responsibility as the wisdom of God, and embrace it on that basis, we should not be surprised if a number of additional incentives and reasons occur to us as well.

For the Sake of Young Men

We must be masculine in our ministry for the sake of many young men entering the ministry — men who grew to manhood without an appropriate role model in their father. We are their fathers in the work now, and so we must model for them what this kind of masculinity looks like — what courage with an open book looks like. The Bible teaches that the best forms of learning are imitative, and if we want the next generation of preachers to grow up into a true masculinity, then there must be a masculinity out there that they can see in order to imitate. But before we can model it, we must learn it ourselves.

For the Sake of the Women

We must be masculine in our ministry for the sake of the women in our congregations. Because men are naturally competitive, they are more prone to see the differences between the sexes in terms of that competition. Women are more realistic at this point, and do not make this mistake as often. The best thing in the church for the women is for the men to be men. For a man to teach the word of God with authority (and not as the scribes) is not withholding anything from the women at all — it is a gift to the women. Godly women are grieved by usurping women, and annoyed by effeminate men. They are fed by men who teach the Bible with boldness. They need that sort of provision and protection, and they know that they do. We should know that also.

Erasing an Old Perception

We must be masculine in our ministry in order to help erase the centuries old perception of clergymen as the “third sex.” We have a word from the Lord for the nations around us, and they will not be able to hear us if all that comes from us is a diffident bleating. The Lord chose the sons of Zebedee as his “sons of thunder,” and as we consider the state of our nation around us, we should long for him to choose out some more. The humidity levels of our spiritual stupidity are oppressive, and our sins and iniquities have created a mugginess that feels like the atmosphere on Jupiter on a hot afternoon. What we need is five or six first-rate Midwestern thunderstorms to clear all of that away. Nothing is more apparent than that we need for some masculine preachers to cut loose.

The Pulpit: Public Place of Courage

This relates to the last point, which is that we must be masculine in our ministry because the pulpit ought to be the sort of public place where it takes courage to stand. And it is this sort of statement that reveals just how sensitized to unbelieving propaganda we have become. If we say that men should step into pulpits because it should take courage to do so, the retort will come back immediately that we must not believe that women can be courageous. The reply is simple — to say the pulpit is a place that requires courage of a sort peculiar to men is not to say that courage is non-existent or unnecessary everywhere else. But this is just a small sampling of what a minister of the gospel must be willing for — he must be willing to be misunderstood and misrepresented in ways just like this.

Our battles over women’s ordination are often misguided in emphasis. We ought to spend less time trying to keep the women from becoming men in the pulpit, and more time teaching men to become men in the pulpit. Brothers, we are not sisters.


"Brothers, We Are Still Not Professionals: Reclaiming the Centrality of the Supernatural in Ministry" is the theme of the Desiring God 2013 Conference for Pastors (February 4–6 in Minneapolis).

The forthcoming revised and expanded edition of John Piper's book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is now available for pre-order.


Other posts in this series:

Douglas Wilson is pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, and the writer of numerous books, including Against the Church (2014).