A married woman with two children, ages 9, 13 by the name of Brenda Maxwell is a prominent member of First Baptist Church Big in a large metropolitan area. She is a very gifted communicator with a vibrant, charismatic personality. For quite some time she had been contemplating how she could use her gifts of communication and connecting with people in a greater way in the church. One evening, she read a verse of scripture which says, “But every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven” (I Corinthians 11:5). As she was reading the passage in I Corinthians, she remembered that the prophetess Deborah was one of the Judges of Israel. She quickly turned to the Book of Judges and read, “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:4-5). Brenda meditated upon the verses for a few days and came to the conclusion that God was speaking to her about starting a Sunday School class. She approached her husband Kevin with the idea, and he was predictably enthusiastic about the idea. He responded, “I know of no one who is a more gifted communicator, and people always respond so positively to you!” With that, she had her answer. God had told her to teach a Sunday School class in the church. With her husband’s support, she requested a meeting with her pastor, a well-known man who had served in a number of high-profile positions in the Baptist denomination. When she told him about the task to which she believed God was calling her, he responded with great affirmation and excitement. He said, “I’ve known this was coming for a long time. I knew that the Lord was calling you to do something like that!” He continued, “The next Sunday School quarter starts in three weeks, and the teachers are already in place, however, I see no reason why we can’t go ahead and start the class next quarter.” He suggested that she begin by forming a class for women who were not currently attending Sunday School. Brenda Maxwell agreed, and was excited about her new assignment. She told the pastor that she would like to do a study on the subject of spiritual gifts, and he agreed. She went home, began studying diligently, and contacted women who were not involved in a Sunday School class.
Three weeks later, at the beginning of the new Sunday School quarter, the new class began. All the preparations had been made, the people contacted, and a large number of students were present for the first class. By all accounts, the class went very well and everyone was pleased. The new teacher was pleased with the crowd and her teaching. The class was pleased and excited to be taught the Bible by such a gifted communicator, and the pastor was pleased about a large number of new Sunday School members. “Why didn’t we do this a long time ago?” the people asked. Word quickly began to spread throughout the church about this wonderful new teacher, Brenda Maxwell.
The new Ladies Sunday School class was seemingly going well when one day after church, the husband of one of the ladies in the class said, “I’m just not happy with my class. Brother Smith is a good man, but I’m just not being fed. I hear you talk every week about what a wonderful teacher Brenda Maxwell is, and I was wondering if it would be alright if I attended your class?” The wife said, “I don’t see why not,” and the following Sunday the man was seated on the back row of Brenda’s class. When Brenda saw the man in her class she said, “You know that this class is for women,” but the man said that he was just “sitting in,” and to pay no attention to him. Brenda thought, “well, I can’t stop him from sitting in” and continued with the teaching. The man was so impressed with Brenda and her teaching that he began to encourage other men in the church to attend the class.
The next Sunday, an overflow crowd of men and women attended the class. Some of the men hurried about looking for extra chairs to accommodate all of the new students. Brenda, although nervous, was excited about the large crowd and reasoned that the men were not there because she had invited them. The new attendees left the classroom testifying about Brenda’s insight into the Bible and how that they were “being fed” through her teaching.
The pastor soon received word about what was taking place in Brenda’s class and, though not yet in panic mode, was somewhat concerned. He and Brenda had agreed that she would teach a ladies class, but now both men and women were attending the class. The pastor requested a meeting with Brenda and her husband. During the meeting the pastor expressed his concerns that the class was to be for ladies only and he also expressed his concern that according to I Timothy 2:11-12 women were not to teach or have authority over men. Brenda explained that while she did not necessarily agree that the I Timothy passage was applicable in this situation, she noted that she did not invite or encourage the men to attend her class and also indicated that she was under his authority as pastor and willing to accept whatever remedy he prescribed. Appreciative of her attitude, the pastor told Brenda and her husband that he would like a couple of days to think about the matter and get back with her. The pastor was now faced with a dilemma: Brenda’s class was now the largest and most popular at First Baptist Big. The class had attracted a number of new members and Sunday School attendance was significantly higher since the class began. If he insisted that only women could attend Brenda’s class, it could cause a serious schism in the church. The pastor determined that he would call a special staff meeting to deal with this potentially volatile situation in the church.
The staff of FBCB assembled for staff meeting not knowing what to expect. Staff meetings of this type were rare and they usually meant that a serious problem needed to be addressed. The pastor explained the situation to them and asked each of them for their opinion. Some opinions were more practical than biblical. One staff member opined, “Pastor, you can’t put the milk back into the bottle. If you insist that men cannot attend Brenda’s class, we will have a mutiny or even a church split on our hands.” However, the majority of the staff argued that the Bible does not prohibit a woman from teaching men, but only from serving in the role of pastor. They argued that there are too many biblical occurrences of women teaching men to prohibit Brenda from teaching men in a Sunday School class. The pastor, though he still had concerns, agreed to let the class continue.
After a while, word began to spread about the teaching ministry of Brenda Maxwell at FBCB. She began to accept invitations to speak at other churches and associational functions and although the meetings were advertised as ladies meetings, men would usually be in attendance. Brenda believed that God was using her, but sensed that He was calling her to do more. After a season of prayer, Brenda announced that God had spoken to her to begin a full-time public teaching ministry. Of course, Brenda said that her calling was to teach women, but if men attended her meetings she could not control their actions. After all, she reasoned, she was under the authority of her husband and her church, and neither had issues with her stated call. Brenda’s ministry became very successful and she was away from the home for long periods of time. She regretted spending much less time at home as a wife and mother, but assured herself that her husband and her oldest child could handle matters at home. After all, God had spoken to her and she was fulfilling His call.
One Sunday, the pastor at FBCB announced that in three weeks he would be preaching at an important denominational meeting and asked that the church pray for him. One of the deacons approached him and said, “Pastor, have you thought about asking Brenda Maxwell to fill in for you while you are away?” The pastor replied, “No, but I will consider it.” The pastor had some concerns, but thought about the staff meeting where it had been decided that as long as Brenda was not a pastor it was acceptable for her to speak to a mixed congregation. The pastor asked Brenda to substitute for him and now she often fills the pulpit in his absence. Brenda Maxwell continues to speak to mixed crowds to this day.
In addition to her public speaking ministry, Brenda Maxell has become a prolific author. Her books and Bible studies are among the best-selling books published and distributed by NewLife Book Stores. Although many concerned Christians have expressed their concerns to NewLife about the unbiblical teaching in her books, NewLife executives have chosen to continue selling her materials. Recently, Brenda posted on her blog that she is sad about all of the “heresy hunting.”
Where did the pastor go wrong? He clearly violated the timeless theological principle of I Timothy 2:11-12 regarding the God-ordained roles for men and women that are to be observed in the home, the order of Christian worship, and in church government. He violated the clear command of Scripture that women are not permitted to teach or have authority over men, but are to have a quiet and teachable spirit, graciously submitting to the authority God has given them. Rather than correcting the problem, he exacerbated it via the means of justification and pragmatism. Because he led his church to act unbiblically, the action can most likely never be undone under his leadership. As a result, Brenda Maxwell is occupying a role that God never intended for her. Robert L. Dabney wrote:
A few years ago the public preaching of women was universally condemned among all conservative denominations of Christians, and, indeed, within their bounds, was totally unknown. Now the innovation is brought face to face. . . and female preachers are knocking at our doors. We are told that public opinion is so truckling before the boldness and plausibility of their claims that ministers of our own communion begin to hesitate, and men hardly know whether they have the moral courage to adhere to the right.
Paul was unequivocal in his letter to Timothy that women were not to teach or assume authorityover men, but they were to recognize and adhere to the God-given roles of men and women in the home, the church’s public worship, and in church government (2 Timothy 2:8 – 3:14) as well as the God-ordained subordinate position of women in the order of creation (Genesis 2:21-24). Therefore, it should also be concluded that, in addition to concerns about her doctrine, Brenda Maxwell is operating outside of the biblical mandate of I Timothy 2:11-15, I Corinthians 14:34-35, and Titus 2:4-5.
 B.B. Warfield, Robert L. Dabney, and Geoffrey Thomas, Women Speaking in the Church: What Does the Scripture Say?, Michael Gaydosh, ed. (Vestavia Hills, Alabama: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2014), 4.