A Pastoral Strategy for Cultivating Complementarity in the Congregation

I have recently completed my twenty-first year as the teaching pastor at MCC. As I look to the next twenty, I want to be more strategic about cultivating complementarity—the word used to articulate Scripture’s portrait of the diverse and mutually beneficial ways that men and women live unto God in the church and society. My work begins this Sunday as I preach 1 Tim 5:1-16.

John Piper and Wayne Grudem coined the term in response to the rise of feminism among Evangelicals,[1] ultimately launching the Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) in 1987.[2] Since the founding of CBMW, evangelical feminism has not subsided, and gender confusion in society has exploded. As noted recently by Kevin DeYoung in Men and Women in the Church,[3] today, as much as ever, those concerned for biblical complementarity need to lead with conviction and clarity. Here, I list six action-steps pastors might take as they curate a culture of complementarity in the local church body.[4]

First, I call pastors to maintain their posts. In a culture of relational fluidity, the long-term pastorate provides depth to the relational roots necessary for a church to adopt and sustain complementarity despite the cultural pressure to compromise and go with the flow. An I’m Still Here mentality stabilizes a ministry in many ways—including how a congregation views gender roles and family.

Second, I urge pastors to implement an intergenerational leadership structure in their churches. Having multiple generations of men and women fulfilling their ministries—edifying and being edified—makes complementarity attractive in the eyes of impressionable children and teens. We want younger people to think, “Men and women must have always acted like this in my church.” Youth groups and college ministries sprinkled with smiling sixty-somethings of both genders can model the happy destination that complementarity offers for those walking its narrow pathway.

Third, pastors should call attention to the unique contributions women make through their gifted service in the church. Unfortunately, how women-to-women instruction and counseling cultivate discipleship in the church can go unnoticed. Newsletters and social media posts can be used to spotlight women-to-women ministry. Further, these same means can be employed to exhibit how women use their gifts near and far, from supporting their husbands to creating a hospitable atmosphere at church to serving in local and international missions.

Fourth, pastors should prioritize comprehensive pre-marital and newlywed counseling. Each couple whose vows reflect complementarity—and who keep those vows decade after decade—becomes a wall of defense protecting the church from the gender agenda of the progressive left.

Fifth, pastors need to preach Scripture as God’s authoritative word in all subjects it addresses. Sermons that focus on gender roles opposing cultural sin will come off as agenda-driven infomercials. Helping the congregation grasp gender roles in the redemptive-historical grid of Scripture provides the congregation the best rationale for complementarity: the fulfillment and joy and courage discovered by those participating in God’s plan to glorify Himself in the world through the Great Commission efforts of local churches.

Finally, pastors and women’s ministry leaders should advocate for complementarity as they mentor younger men and women to become the next generation of church leaders. As pastors and women’s ministry leaders meet regularly to teach and shepherd the layers of ministry around them, they should periodically include complementarity in the discussion. Reading resources in Eikon or books by authors writing on theological anthropology will help younger men and women in the church to think biblically about the roles God has designed for His image-bearers.

[1] John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, reprinted edition (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), xv.

[2] See https://cbmw.org/about/history/ (accessed January 5, 2022).

[3] Kevin DeYoung, Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction (Wheaton: Crossway, 2021).

[4] Forthcoming under the same title in Eikon (Spring 2022).


Don't lose any sleep over it! We have a delayed start on Sunday, March 10, 2024

EH/MK 10:30-11:20
Worship: 11:30-1:00