This article is a convergence of ideas on
Women in Church Leadership
Our Title for this Study is:
Can Women Be Called of God to Church Ministry?
Or: The Art of Listening to Voices
Most women now in Christian ministry have had to learn how to resist the negative voices of those who believe that women should not take a place of leadership in the governance of a church. A flawed scriptural interpretation that believes that only men should be in church leadership prevents women from reaching their full potential as servant leaders in the Body of Christ. It also deprives the world and the Church from their vital contribution.
How do some women choose to swim upstream against the current of this popular Christian belief and demonstrate that women in church ministry leadership are not an anomaly in the universe, that they are not out of God’s will, and that they are not offending some biblical stipulation?
Let’s Take a Look at History
History has demonstrated that women, who desire to preach and teach, lead and feed, and thus serve Christ with passion in the local church, are often perceived as those who have exceeded the boundaries of what is scripturally permissible. This perception still remains strong in many denominations and Christian groups. Aspiring to lead and oversee God’s people is not to be celebrated in these Christian communities, but is to be treated with suspicion and disdain.
Many women, although feeling called to serve in the Church are often initially cautioned by the idea that they may be trying to push their way into a realm which is reserved only for the brothers in the faith. Many resist that negative perception and proceed to take a risk with God.
Women must struggle with the Scriptures, with their sense of calling, and with the historical role model of others who have gone before them. They prove for themselves that they need to forget what is behind and reach forward for what is before them (Phil. 3:14). They remember the admonition of their Lord when he said that it was important for a plowman not to look back, once the hand has been put to the plow (Luke 9:62).
Launching out in Christian ministry is not easy for anyone. Add to this that your gender may be an impediment to completing your mission can add an unjustified burden. The feeling that one is alone in a jungle with only a simple machete does not describe a welcoming ministry atmosphere for those of the fairer gender.
Nevertheless, women remain undeterred because they are sure that they have heard the voice of the Shepherd of the Sheep and, therefore, are intentional about following it.
At a recent women’s convergence, where women’s gifting was celebrated, there was a general consensus that if a job needed doing in a Christian community that women should just get about doing it. It was simply part of their nature to contribute and get a job done.
It is not only men in some denominational streams who oppose women in church leadership, but many women in those groups are appalled when women identify themselves as pastors or leaders in local churches. This makes for double gender pressure to concede to the parameters of the perceived place of women in the Church.
When fear of disobeying God is at the root of one’s theology about women in church leadership, then there is huge reluctance to even think that women could be considered as equal administrators in the Kingdom of God.
American history demonstrates that when the ‘color bar’ kept showing its ugly head in society that people of all colors needed to take a stand against this injustice. The repercussions of the ‘gender bar’ continue to register dissonance in the Body of Christ today. Although it is the twenty-first century, the subject of who can and who cannot lead in the Church, based on gender, continues to take dominance in many sectors.
The issue of sound biblical hermeneutics is at the core of this controversy.
It is painful that many in the Church don’t get it. The world can look at the treatment of women in the Church and see another instance of an archaic, patriarchal, irrelevant belief system and walk the other way.
Women Wounded by the Church
Multitudes of women have been severely wounded by church leadership as well as by their denominational overseers. Many women have simply switched denominations in order to cope with their distressing experience of any type of support for an egalitarian view of church ministry leadership.
It is significant in the church that Christian women have been put in the position of having to ‘leave’ something. They have had to leave their church, to leave their denomination, or to leave the entire institutional church. Though forgiveness has been practiced, there has been spiritual and emotional injury that has happened and this needs to be recognized.
Wounding continues to go on as young women experience the resistance in a church system which seeks to stifle their spiritual calling in Christ and relegate them to a diminished serving role. Any deviation from the prescribed theological and historical pattern is viewed as borderline heretical and beyond the bounds of decency among godly women who claim to be God’s children.
Women are often charged with having a lust for power which flows out of a secular feminist worldview. Any hint of this perceived erroneous leaning must be prevented from infiltrating the ranks of their women folk.
Women’s Voices Are Being Heard
Thankfully, more and more women are not being detoured from God’s calling and destiny for their lives. Each woman has had to weigh up this calling in light of the pervasive negative stand held by many in Christendom–regarding the place of women in church leadership and governance.
In spite of that fact, multitudes of feminine voices are now being heard. Women continue to follow in the footsteps of women in the Bible and of gutsy women who have gone before them in history. Women are leading in fresh ways. They are managing many ministry roles with skill and sensitivity. Women are preaching and teaching with competency and vigor. As well, they continue to demonstrate leadership by caring for the needy and the oppressed.
Women are encouraged by other women who have had the same internal struggles as they have had. Women are mentoring other women and are blazing a trail for those who follow. Women are spurred on by the egalitarian persuasion of husbands, fathers, brothers, and brothers in the faith, who they work alongside as co-laborers in Christ’s Body.
For those who oppose women’s passion to serve fully in Christ’s Kingdom, there is grace and forgiveness given. For those who support women’s vision and creativity in the Kingdom, there is joy and thanksgiving.
The question of who can serve in the Kingdom of God can be easily answered by considering who has been ‘born into’ the Kingdom. Recognizing that the Church is not subject to Old Testament rules and rituals, but is an entity born and empowered by the Holy Spirit should change the way that Christians look at gender roles in the Church.
Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.
And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
(Joel 2: 28-29. See Acts 2)
The empowerment of the Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost. God’s desire has always been that both his sons and daughters have equal place in the Kingdom of his dear Son. This anointing comes from both the Father and the Son.
Women and men, daughters and sons have been enabled by God’s Spirit to minister in Jesus’ name.
What will it take to get the word out that women are joint heirs in the Kingdom and that there are no gender restrictions placed on them by God for ministry in the Church today?
Change Begins When Faulty Belief Systems Are Changed!
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