A FRIEND OF THE BRIDEGROOM

“It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less”. John 3:29-30

As Christians, we often spiritualize the idea of self-promotion.  After all, the more successful and popular we become, the better Christian witnesses we will be, right?  But surprisingly, that’s not God’s pattern at all.

At the peak of John the Baptist’s ministry, Jesus started baptizing, and people began coming more to Jesus than to John.  John’s followers seemed disturbed by this trend, and told him, “Behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!” (John 3:26).  They must have felt jealous on behalf of John, thinking, “Why is John suddenly getting overlooked?  People aren’t noticing him as much now that Jesus is around!  John should do something to promote himself and his ministry!”  And yet John knew that his sacred commission was to make Jesus – not himself – known to the world.

He told his followers, “I am only the friend of the bridegroom; not the bridegroom Himself; when the Bridegroom is ee0e98db35658c4bed8a5200113540f4seen, my joy is complete.” (John 3:29, paraphrase) And then John made a truly profound statement, completely opposite of the self-promoting messages we are so used to today.

He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  What an amazing attitude!  His primary concern was getting out of the way, so that Jesus could be seen.  John knew that if he tried to take center-stage, Jesus would not receive the glory that He deserved.

The same is true in our own lives.  When we try to be seen and applauded, Jesus fades into the background, and people look at us, not Him.  But when we focus on getting out of the way and pointing others to Him, He receives the glory He deserves. This doesn’t mean we can never cultivate the unique talents and strengths that He has given us.  It is certainly possible to use our gifts to glorify God (in fact, that is why He gave them to us in the first place!) But first, we must ask some critical questions:  “Am I doing this for His glory or for my own applause?  When people see this part of my life, are they drawn closer to Jesus, or are they merely impressed with me?”  If we are more concerned with what others think of us than what they think of Jesus, then we have not learned how to be a faithful “friend of the Bridegroom” as John the Baptist was.  If we are pursuing our dreams in order to “get what we want out of life” rather than to lead others to the Source of true life, we are missing a crucial part of the Christian life.

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  (Matt 16:24)  The word “deny” here means “to forget one’s self and lose sight of one’s own interests.” What an incredibly different message from the “do what makes you happy” notion that our culture promotes!  Jesus says that in order to truly follow Him, we must lay down all pursuits of self-glory and seek His glory alone.

I once heard a true story about a young woman who left everything – all her dreams and personal pursuits – in order to share the hope of Christ among the destitute and dying in a foreign country.  One day she was walking down a filthy alley, watching several sad old men sifting through garbage cans in search of food. They were long-time drug addicts at the end of their miserable and hopeless lives; their bodies shriveled and wasting away, their souls lost and despairing. No one knew their names or cared whether they lived or died.  As the young woman watched the heartbreaking scene in front of her, she silently said to God, “It would be worth my whole life if I could just reach one of these old men for You, Lord.”

At the peak of her youthful potential, when she had her whole life ahead of her, this young woman was ready to leave it all behind just to lead one hopeless old man to Jesus Christ. Such a self-sacrificing attitude might at first seem foolish to our logical minds.  If we could speak to her, we might say, “You are such a bright and beautiful young lady; don’t throw away your life for the sake of one old man!  Surely there are better ways – bigger ways – for you to make an impact in God’s kingdom!”

But God doesn’t measure success the way we do. Mary of Bethany poured out her most priceless ointment upon the feet of Jesus without applause, recognition or fanfare, and some thought it was a waste.  Yet Jesus said, in essence, “what she has done for me is a picture of the Gospel itself.”  (See John 12:3-8)

The apostle Paul had loads of worldly accomplishments and accolades that he could have been leveraged to gain a bigger platform for his ministry. But only when he was willing to consider his earthly achievements worthless and become a fool for Christ’s sake, was he truly effective as a witness of the Gospel.  (See Phil 3:8, 1 Cor 1:27)

Jesus said that if we cling to our lives, we will lose them, but if we are willing to give up our lives for His sake, we will find true life.  (See Matt 10:39)

Instead of striving to be noticed and appreciated, we are to take an entirely different posture into every area of our life – one of humility and self-denial. Whether we are recognized and applauded, or disregarded and overlooked, it should make no difference to us.  A woman who has truly taken up her cross to follow Christ only cares about knowing Him, and making Him known.

Thanks to Leslie Ludy of Set apart girl for these words of guidance. https://setapartgirl.com/devotional/friend-bridegroom

Women in Ministry – Is there an issue?

I’ve been meaning to re-blog this post on Women in Ministry by the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) for a while now especially with the regenerated debate on the role and function of women in the church. I hope it enlightens as it blesses. God bless you.



The United Pentecostal Church International has always recognized the ministry of women, including ordination to the preaching and teaching ministry. Over the past several decades, the percentage of credentialed ministers who are women has declined, but in recent years there have been renewed efforts to affirm and encourage women in ministry. Let’s take a look at this subject historically and biblically.[1]

Historically the Roman Catholic Church has never allowed the ordination of women as priests, and until the mid twentieth century the many Protestant denominations followed this precedent by restricting pulpit ministry to males. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Holiness and Pentecostal movements recognized the ministry of women based on the anointing of the Spirit. For example, both men and women served in the leadership of the Azusa Street Revival. When William Seymour, the founder of the Azusa Street Mission died, his wife, Jennie, became the pastor. Maria Woodworth-Etter was the featured evening speaker of the 1913 worldwide camp meeting in Arroyo Seco, California, that served as a catalyst for the emergence of the Oneness message. In the earliest Oneness Pentecostal ministerial directory that we have (1919), 203 of 704 ministers, or 29 percent, were women.

In the UPCI women have served as general youth secretary, general Sunday school secretary, district youth president, district home missions director, Bible college president, national board member (outside North America), and General Conference evening speaker, as well as pastors, evangelists, teachers, and missionaries. Currently, several key offices are restricted to males: all district board members, district global missions directors, and men’s ministry officers. However, other key offices are open to women: general superintendent, assistant general superintendent, general secretary, general global missions director, and other general and district offices not already named. The reason for these distinctions appears to be more cultural and historical than theological.

The proportion of women ministers has diminished over the years probably due to several factors. First, the early Pentecostal movement was about two-thirds female, but as more men entered the movement and as it became more socially accepted, men increasingly assumed leadership roles. Second, there was a backlash against the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s, as Pentecostal women did not wish to be identified with the attitudes and mannerisms of worldly women who fought against biblical morality. Third, Pentecostals were influenced by the theological and social positions of Fundamentalists, who strongly opposed women in ministry. Consequently, many Pentecostal women fulfilled their ministry without seeking ministerial credentials. Often, those who experienced a ministerial call married ministers and worked alongside their husbands without seeking credentials of their own.

In the Old Testament God used women as judges and prophets. (See Judges 4:4; II Kings 22:14; Isaiah 8:3.) The new covenant opened the door for greater involvement in ministry by everyone including public prophecy (anointed proclamation) by both male and female (Acts 2:17; I Corinthians 14:31). The general principle is that in the body of Christ opportunities are not restricted on the basis of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or gender (Galatians 3:28). In the early church, women served in various leadership and ministry roles.

  • The daughters of Philip were prophets (Acts 21:9).
  • Priscilla was a teacher and apparently a pastor along with her husband, Aquila (Acts 18:26; Romans 16:3-5).
  • Phoebe was a deacon (Romans 16:1).
  • Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Euodia, and Syntyche were Paul’s coworkers in the gospel Romans 16:12; Philippians 4:2-3).
  • Junia was an apostle along with Andronicus, apparently her husband (Romans 16:7).

In dealing with a situation in Ephesus, Paul explained that women were not to usurp authority over men but were to minister under proper spiritual authority (I Timothy 2:11-12). Apparently some women there had begun teaching contrary to the established doctrine of the church. Thus he instructed Timothy, the overseer, that they had no authority to teach but needed to be silent. Because of a problem in the Corinthian church, Paul also explained that women were not to interrupt a public assembly to ask questions (I Corinthians 14:34-35). The instruction to be silent is not absolute but specific to the conditions being addressed. Otherwise, if interpreted absolutely, women could not sing, pray aloud, testify, or teach Sunday school, contrary to the principles of New Testament ministry that we have already seen. Paul taught that women could speak in public worship as long as they did so with proper respect for authority and while upholding their feminine identity (I Corinthians 11:5-6).

Bishops (pastors or elders) are to be the husband of one wife (I Timothy 3:2). This statement means they must follow the moral teaching of the church with regard to marriage. While it is phrased in terms of the typical or generic case of males, the purpose is not to imply additional qualifications of being male and married. Otherwise, single males such as Jesus and Paul would not have qualified.

In summary, we should recognize the ministry of women as long as they follow biblical authority in the church and in the home. The same is true of men. Women are not to imitate men but are to exercise their ministry in distinctively feminine fashion, for God has called them as women. Indeed all ministers are to fulfill their ministry in the context of their own unique identity, personality, gifts, and calling. The ministerial or pastoral style of a woman will be different from that of a typical male, but it can still be effective. In fact, we need different types of ministries and churches to reach our diverse population. We need every available worker in the harvest. Those who are dying need immediate attention, and it doesn’t matter whether the physician is male or female. We urgently need more preachers, teachers, pastors, pastoral counselors, and missionaries who can minister effectively in a variety of ways and relate to different kinds of people. There are many reasons why women in ministry should receive ministerial credentials: accountability to spiritual authority, validation of ministry, credibility inside and outside the church, participation in ministerial fellowship and decision making, and establishing of role models for young women who are seeking God’s will. Our world desperately needs more Apostolic ministers, both male and female.[2]i

[1] For a historical discussion see Bernard, History of Christian Doctrine, vol. 3. For a scholarly biblical discussion see Bernard, Apostolic Life, ch. 33. For an exploration of the issue in fictional form see David Norris, Cara’s Call (Florissant, MO: Apostolic Teaching Resources, 2011), available from Pentecostal Publishing House.

[2] This article is adapted from David K. Bernard, The Apostolic Church in the Twenty-first Century (Hazelwood: Word Aflame Press, 2014), 85–88. For a more extensive discussion of passages of Scripture that are sometimes interpreted to forbid women from serving in certain ministry or leadership roles—including I Timothy 2:11-15; 3:2-4; I Corinthians 14:34-35—see pages 89–94 of the same book.