Women In Ministry (In 2017)
For the past few years I’ve been teaching a class at my alma mater–Hope International University. The class is called Introduction to Youth Ministry. Over the years, I’ve had classes of different sizes. One year I had as few as five; another I had as many as fourteen.
My class this year is on the smaller size. I have six students. But what’s even more interesting than that is the class is all girls. Working each week with these young ladies who are passionate about being pastors and serving in the church has been incredible and eye-opening in a number of ways.
First off, I have to admit that I was kind of naive about what it’s like to be a woman in ministry (for more than the simple fact of gender). I think my perception has been skewed.
See, I grew up in a church that had women in leadership. I don’t remember women “preaching” per say, but they led various parts of the church and spoke often from the stage.
My mom baptized me and would often give communion and offering meditations. In hindsight, for being a Christian church in the nineties, I thought this was at least some progress. Not enough, but movement in the right direction.
I also had lot’s of conversations growing up with one of my favorite aunts whose church had a woman pastor. I was convinced, without a shadow of a doubt, that a woman could preach and teach and lead in the same way a man could. I never thought any different.
Flash forward to the present. I now live in a suburb of Los Angeles and it’s 2017. This isn’t the Bible belt or the South. I figured most churches around here have plenty of opportunities for women to lead and serve.
But the more I’ve gotten to know these ladies in my class and their stories, sadly, this isn’t always the case.
How can we be in 2017 and still structure so much of the leadership in our churches without including women?
It seems like it’s the same setup most churches have clung to for years, telling women they can serve with children or in a supportive roles, but not given the opportunity to lead or preach.
And even more troubling to me is most of the youth pastors I know are males. What I’ve heard from several people is that churches are open to having women pastors, but they feel more comfortable with males in those positions.
This is a sorry excuse that is hindering the church.
Some of the ladies in my class shared with me the rejection, the stigmatization, and the closing doors of opportunity that have happened, even in their young age.
One young lady talked about her parents discouraging from pursuing ministry. They told her to find a more suitable career because they didn’t believe any church would hire her.
My heart broke because God calls both male and female to serve in His kingdom. He’s given us both gifts to lead in the church. And maybe it’s time we get out of the way of what God is doing.
Two things here.
First, let’s stop trying to uphold a Biblical principle that says women can’t lead or serve in the church. Any good Biblical exegesis of NT passages will reveal that context is key to understanding Paul’s teaching on women “being silent” in the church or “forbidding them from teaching.”
Moreover, much of what the whole of Scripture says about the role of women was patriarchal, not definitive unchanging Biblical truth. Jesus’ ministry was supported by women in the gospel of Luke. He empowered all members of society.
And then it’s hard to overlook the fact that women were leaders in the early church. They were teachers and church planters, undoubtedly using their gifts to instruct both men and women.
So if you’re still quoting Scripture to keep women out of ministry in the church, handle the text with a little more care and insight. You’ll find good, accurate interpretations of those texts wipe away fossilized cultural beliefs.
Second, if we are really convicted that women have a place to serve and lead in the local church, then the local church actually needs to do something about it.
We say we believe in women in leadership, and yet, we still don’t have women pastors or elders. It’s like the person who really wants to go on a diet, but keeps eating that slice of chocolate cake for dessert.
You know what you call that? Not really wanting to do something.
Because if we did, we’d be willing to rustle some feathers in pursuit of what really matters. If you don’t have women in ministry in your church because that’s the way it’s always been done or because you’re scared about certain reactions of people in your congregation, maybe it’s time to get your brave on.
Are we in ministry to keep people happy because we tell them what they want to hear? Or are we set on following Jesus?
If we truly believe we’re about following Jesus, that means we get to push back on what we think or feel in order to pursue how God is moving.
Let’s stop withholding the church from the game changer of letting people use their gifts.
It’s been a joy over this semester to teach these future leaders in my class. I’ve told these ladies to fear not. Because soon this issue will be a distant memory. The future of the church is bright and beautiful. Praise God for that.
But in the meantime, we need to pave the way forward. And that takes leadership and boldness.
I can’t wait for the day where our churches reflect this truth with both men and women leading and co-leading together. When this happens, the world will be impacted. And the church will grow.