I recently came across a teaching that I would really like to share.
For more than a decade I served in some kind of church ministry. I LOVE ministering to people and felt the pull to minister from a very young age. And I believe, with all my heart, that it was God who placed that pull in my spirit. There is nowhere else I feel more alive than when I am discipling, teaching, preaching and writing.
But many times, throughout those 10+ years, opportunities to minister were hindered, and sometimes altogether halted, simply because I am a woman…even when I was the right person for the job. And even though a denomination may ordain women as pastors/preachers/teachers, that doesn’t mean that it is fully accepted on a local church level (where, generally, the women are trying to serve). Oftentimes, the discrimination isn’t blatant. Subtle discrimination is difficult to call out and confront, especially if you aren’t one for confrontation. Instead of hearing a “No, you can’t do that kind of ministry,” you are simply overlooked or ignored. Sometimes, male leadership may not fully realize that they are even doing it. Or worse, they just don’t care.
I get it. I was brought up on the same Scriptures about a woman remaining silent in church and not being permitted to teach a man. It’s right there in black and white. It’s settled. How can we argue with what the Bible says?!
Yes, I’ve wrestled with it, myself.
I’ve struggled with the things that the apostle Paul wrote in his letters…especially when reading them in light of other things he also wrote about women (which is covered in the following teaching). It never seemed to add up. And then I look at how Jesus, Himself, interacted with women. When the woman at the well ran to tell the townspeople about “a man who told me everything I ever did,” Jesus didn’t stop her and tell her she wasn’t allowed to do that!
What about Deborah, Mary, Priscilla, Junia, Phoebe… ? Did God make a mistake with these women? If He didn’t, then doesn’t that mean that maybe we are missing something? Perhaps we need to take another look at how we interpret (and apply) those Scriptures. Perhaps we need to go back to the original language, as well as, understand what was going on in the culture at the time and the actual events that Paul was addressing. And let’s not forget about keeping verses in context!
I would like to make something abundantly clear. I am, in no way, a third wave feminist – nor do I agree with feminist pastors. “Hurt people, hurt people” (meaning, people who have been hurt, in turn, tend to hurt others)…and that is what I see in the current feminist movement. I may not agree with their views or actions; however, I do know the pain that drives them. Praise God that He is a Redeemer and Healer!! I am not bitter toward those who have discriminated against me. I know who I am (and whose I am) and I will walk out what God has called me to do as He opens doors that no man (person) can shut…whether they be inside the church walls, or outside.
However, I want to share this teaching for those who continue to sit in the pews, Sunday after Sunday, with a broken heart. You know that you are made for something that stands outside of the boundaries that your church has set in place for the women folk. Or your denomination allows opportunities for your call, but you are often overlooked. You struggle to hold back tears as you watch others walk out your dreams, feeling powerless, hopeless and forgotten. You wonder why God would even place this dream on your heart, if you were never meant to walk it out. Why does God reveal things to you when you aren’t allowed to pour those things out for others…regardless of their gender or age?! You sometimes think maybe it would be better to just not have this call on your life than to continue on, carrying this pain. Yet, you know that it is in the midst of teaching and preaching (if/when allowed) that you feel most alive. How can you just walk away?
Am I resonating with anyone?
To you, dear woman, I say, “DON’T GIVE UP!” Keep your eyes always fixed on God and allow Him to direct your steps. If He has placed a dream – a call – in your spirit, then He also has a plan. And it is not a plan that you can make happen without Him. For ten years I believed that I was supposed to be an ordained pastor. While many ministry and schooling doors opened, that one remained closed to me. I was led (by God) to step down from all ministry leadership four years ago. And I’d be lying if I said that my heart doesn’t ache to be teaching, again. But, God has opened up opportunities for me to not only spend more time with Him, but also to minister to individuals as He places them in my path. What an honor it is when He trusts me enough to minister to one of His beloved.
“Ministry” doesn’t always look like what we think it should. Sometimes He calls us out of the traditional in order to call us into something new. Oftentimes it feels messy and risky, but ministry was never supposed to be “safe.” Nor was it meant to remain within the four walls of our church buildings. I’m getting off topic. However, if you feel called to ministry that you cannot do within the church, then perhaps you are called to ministry outside of the church. Just something to take to God, in prayer. But be sure to address the bitterness you may be carrying before stepping into anything new. Take your hurt and brokenness and lay it all at the feet of Jesus. Allow Him to bring the healing and restoration you need. Trust Him, He will guide your steps.
To the men who support women who are called to be pastors/preachers/teachers – THANK YOU!! God has used you as beacons of hope, support and strength. I am so thankful that my husband is one of these men. He has spoken up on my behalf, many times. He recognizes the burden I have for the Church, and for the lost, and has encouraged me to continue ministering when I had all but given up. He has prayed for me and with me. He has held me as I buckled under the weight of rejection. He has wiped away tears that flowed as I watched others walk out the call that has so burdened my heart. When God placed my husband in my life almost 23 years ago, He knew exactly what was coming and what was needed. And I am grateful.
To the men in leadership who have the matter settled in their mind and heart, and don’t understand why the issue of women pastor/preachers/teachers even continues to come up – there are women in your congregation who are hurting deeply. That same burden you felt when you were called to pastor/preach/teach rests on them, also. These women love the Lord with all that is in them. They are not seeking to be rebellious against God’s Word (I am referring to those who keep God’s Word. There are feminists who have infiltrated the church and preach something outside of the Word of God. I am not referring to those women.) These women just want to serve the Lord in the manner in which they are gifted. While there are amazing women serving in women’s ministry, children’s ministry, hospitality, etc… not all of us were created to fit in those areas. I encourage you to at least listen to this teaching. You may, or may not, agree. That’s okay. I just hope that you would be open enough to hear what is being said and take some time to re-examine the Scriptures. Take this information to God, in prayer. No matter how long we have been Christians, it’s never been so long that we cannot get new revelation, or deeper understanding, through the Word of God. Not that the meaning of the Word changes, but perhaps, our (Holy Spirit led) interpretation and understanding does. And the next time you look out over your congregation – the flock that you have been called to shepherd and care for – consider asking God to reveal the woman, or women, who sit there with a broken heart as they continue to remain silent in church. And then consider asking God what He would have you do with that revelation.
The following is a 5-part teaching series on women preachers and teachers. It is worth the time to listen all the way through. Donna Howell offers some historical and biblical insight that I have never heard on this issue (and I have been subject to all kinds of interpretation and debate on women in the church). I am also interested in what you think about women pastors/preachers/teachers. Please feel free to leave a comment (AFTER watching the series, of course). Did anything in the videos change the way you think about this issue? Is a woman’s role in the church a topic that is important to you? If you are a woman who feels she is called to pastor/preach/teach, what has been your experience?
I hope this series brings some hope and healing. I also hope that it gives us pause long enough to take this issue to God and to re-examine how we interpret and apply these Scriptures…or Scripture, in general. It gets easy to remain in “how things have always been done.” But tradition should never trump TRUTH.
And I would like to reiterate that I share this out of experience and concern – not bitterness. There are a lot of hard teachings in the Word of God. We shouldn’t be afraid to tackle them (in love).
Watch…and Be Blessed!