Tough Questions (8 thru 16) About Women and the Church
More Answers From God's Word That Will Set you Free
Welcome again to our next session from J. Lee Grady's thoughtfully inspired book: "25 Tough Questions About Women and the Church." In this part of our book report on our Hub we will be covering Part two, chapters 8 thru 16. Are you ready to glean more answers to tough question about women and the Church?
Question #8 - When Marriage and ministry collide
I sense a definite call to ministry, but my husband does not even believe women can function in ministry positions. I feel torn, I know I must submit to him, yet I feel I am being unfaithful to God by not pursueing my calling. What should I do?
J. Lee Grady says, this is a complicated and potentially divisive question, and he hears it often. Each women who struggles with this issue faces a unique set of circumstances, and he would do a disservice if he offered a one-size fits all pat answer. Some women are married to non-Christian husbands. others have Christian husbands who simply do not share their passion for ministry. Others are married to Christian men who strongly disagree on a theological basis with the idea of a woman preaching or pastoring.
In this chapter J. Lee Grady relates to us the example of Aimee Semple McPherson and how her marriages suffered from her need to serve God, It is intriguing that the denominaton Aimee founded has emerged as one of today's fastest- growing Pentecostal bodies, particularly in Africa and Latin America. One cannot help wonder how different the world would be if this unusual woman had put her marriages in front of her call by God to preach the gospel. You need to get a copy of this book and read more about the details of at what expense Aimee was willing to obey her calling.
Jesus warned in Mark 3:35, that there will be situations when folllowing God's plan marriages can be disrupted. He warned that radical discipleship can and will disrupt families. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 10;34-36: Do not think that I came to bring peacee on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For i came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a ,man's enemies will be members of his household.
The apostle Paul also wrote that married people would experience more difficult problems in ministry than those who are single. Unmarried people are free from concern (! Corinthians 7:32) while a married man is concerned about the things of the world and how he can please his wife, and their interests are divided. This can happen when a marriage partner does not have the same interest of the other spouse.
There are things you can do if your mate does not share your interest in serving God's ministry. the following seven guidelines should be followed if you find your self in one of these situations.:
1. Don't be angry or defensive.
Be honest with your husband about your desires, and share what you feel God is saying to you. If he is hostile, or if he dismisses your sense of calling, don't allow an offense to grow in your heart. take your situation to the Lord in prayer and cast all your anxieties on Him. Constantly allow the Holy Spirit to check your attitudes, and by all means, don't allow a spirit of pride or spiritual superiority to lodge in your heart. Stay humble and loving. And don't be impatient. God is not required to act according to your schedule. Let Him work sovereignly.
2. Pray for your husband.
If your husband is resisting God's will for your life, then God is certainly able to soften his heart. Perhaps your husband is struggling with the fear of losing control. or perhaps yur husband has had a negative exprience with ministry that causes him to resent Christian workers in general.. ask God to touch the hidden places of your husband's heart where fear, cynicism, anger or offense resides. Also, be open to the fact God could be using your husband's resistance to speak to you. Perhaps you are not as ready for a ministry assignment as you think you are. If your husband is a spiritual man, he may be seeing something that you don't..
3. Develope a proper attitude about submission.
Many Christian couples have been taught that the apostle Paul's words about marriage in Ephesians 5:21-33 require women to blindly obey their husbands in all situations - as if Paul were setting up some kind of hierarchy in the home with the husband on a throne. This was not Paul's intention. In fact, he never once called on women to obey their husbands, right or wrong. Such reverential obedience would actually be idolatry. His point in the passage was to reinforce the unique and intimate relationship that husbands and wives enjoy - a harmony that can be achieved through mutual submission and selfless love.
Paul told wives, " Be subject to your own husbands, as to the lord (Eph. 5:22, emphasis added). In Colossians, he said, "Wives be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord" (Col. 3:28, emphasis added). Charles Trombley points out that this places definite conditions on how a wife submits to her husband. "In both passages the wives' submission is to be in accordance with what is acceptable to the Lord - it is not a blanket order." This means that it would actually be sinful for a woman to concede to her husband's wishes if he is asking her to do something that is outside God's will.
4. Discern your calling properly.
If you feel called into the ministry, and your husband is resistant to your involvement in church activities, don't quickly assume that you have all the answers or that your husband is standing in your way. Trust God to intervene on your behalf and to confirm His will for your life. If your calling is from God, you will not be able to escape it, nor will your husband be able to snuff it out. Others will recognize it, and doors wil be opened for you because of God's favor and blessing. This could lead to potential conflict, but you should seek to maintain peace.
5. Keep fueling the fire of personal revival.
It can be discouraging when the one person we love the most does not support our aspirations and goals. Many women who feel called to some aspect of ministry, and who don't find any encouragement from their husbands, allow their spiritual passion to wane. Don't allow your fire to die out. You have your own relationship with God -- your husband is not your spiritual mediator. If your husbands lack of encouragement is enough to keep you off the spiritual battlefield, what will you do when persecution comes from others? Perhaps this is the test to see if you will remain faithful in devotion to God no matter what opposition is thrown in your way.
6. Learn to embrace the fire of testing.
Author Bob Sorge, in his excellant book The Fire of Delayed Answers, says that one of God's most effective means of purifying our lives is to delay answers to our prayers. After enduring some difficult personal trails, Sorge realized that God often puts His people in a "prison" of circumstances or afflictions in order to test and purify us. But the out come of this affliction, he says, is always one of hope:
You've been persevering for weeks or months, or possibly even years. You've known darkness, pain, perplexity and fire. You don't understand why God is allowing all this. and then one day it's as though you awaken from a sleep and it suddenly hits you. "I'm different! God has used this trial to revolutionize me! This tribulation is none other than the love of God for me,"
If you find yourself in a prison of limitation, embrace the season and allow God to draw you closer to Himself. God ,may have imprisoned you in order to change you. When it is time for your release, let God open the door. After passing through His fires of testing, you will be ready for whatever assignment He has for you.
7. Be willing to make a difficult choice.
Many women have said to J. Lee Grady, "I would like to be more involved in ministry, but, my husband won't let me." J.Lee Grady is not convinced that such and excuse will be acceptable when we stand before God and give an account for our lives. Rarely would he ever counsel a woman to end her marriage because her Christian husband did not want her to fulfill her ministry call. But, by the same token, He would not tell a woman that keeping her marriage together "at all costs" was her absolute goal in life, To say that would be to put family on a higher pedestal than God.
J. Lee Gray says he knew an evangelist who felt called to a life in the inner city. Conditions were tough on the streets, but this man and his wife carried out a fruitful ministry among drug addicts,, prostitutes, homeless people and poor children. However, after a few years the evangelist wife began to grow weary of the strain of urban life. She disliked the constant fear of violence, the smell of the streets and the people's endless need for pastoral care. She wanted to leave the ministry and find a more "normal" life in the suburbs. Her husband, meanwhile, felt he could not abandon his call to work with the poor.
As it turned out, the woman chose to leave her husband. She basically told him, "It's either me or the ministry." That is a hard choice for anyone to make. After all, most popular books about Christian marriage and family would suggest that this man should have done whatever he could to salvage his marriage. Instead he allowed his wife to leave him. She eventually remarried, and he continued his work on the streets, knowing that he would suffer constant criticism. in the end, he felt he had to obey God's call.
Some Christians will probably always hold this man in contempt and say that he should have put his wife first. others have defended him and blamed the wife for being selfish. Ultimately, the judgments of men do not matter. If this ,man was following God's call, then ultimately it will be made obvious at the judgment seat of Christ.
I hope you do not have to face a hard choice like this, but if you do, keep a humble spirit and be open to the correction and counsel of mature Christians. And remember that you too will give account for the spiritual gifts you have been given and for the way you invested them in the kingdom during your lifetime.
Question #9 - Lets hear it for single women.
I am a single woman, and pastors at my church have told me that I cannot serve in a leadership capacity until I am married. Is this Biblical?
No, their prohibition against women is another false flag. Gifts from the Holy Spirit are given to all of God's children whether they are married or not, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11,28-31. This same prohibition is also used against young unmarried men by saying that they also need to be married if they desire to become ministers or deacons in a church.
Most of these ideas are usually found in male hierarchical churches which still follow a pagan chain of command format. It's kind of a strange teaching since some churches have only male ministers that follow this same misogynistic format handed down to the churches from pagan philosopher like Socretes, Plato, and Aristotle and Gnostic pagans and teachings from the Jewish Kabalah mystics.
J. Lee Grady says, "Policies that exclude single women from certain positions in the church life are usually rooted in one of two erroneous views of Scripture. One is based on the apostle Paul's qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:2-7, which include a stipulation that a man must be "the husband of one wife." Some churches use this passage to require that all elders must be males; others have used it as well, to insist that only married men can serve in a pastoral positions."
Many Bible Scholars however, believe that that Paul was actually stating was that a male church leaders, who where being specifically addressd in that passage, cannot be involvd in polygamy. In fact, 1 Timothy 3:2, is the first and only time in Scripture when the practice of having multiple wives is addressed.
The second erroneous view is loosely based on 1 Corinthians 11:3, which states that " the man is the head of a woman." (this verse should actually be translated, "The head of the wife is the husband."). From this passage some traditionally minded evangelcals have derived a concept of male covering, which suggest that a woman who does not have a husband is uncovered or out from under proper authority. Thus some churches have crafted a policy that states that an unmarried woman cannot serve in any leadership role until she is married and obtains a head covering.
Neither one of these Scriptures can be used as a basis for such a rule. In 1 Timothy 3, after Paul gave qualifications for male church leaders, he also listed qualifications for female leaders (v.11). Unfortunately, some Bible translators have changed the meaning of the verse, assuming that Paul's directives were being given to "their wives" or "the wives of deacons," rather than to "women" as the Greek clearly states.
Paul in fact had many women on his apostlc team, and he mentioned several women in his epistles who were either pastoring churches or active in itinerant evangelistic ministry. Of course we do not know if Phoebe, a deacon mentioned in Romans 16:1-2, was single, but we have no reason to believe that Paul would have disqualified a person from ministry because of a single-ness.
The idea that a woman must have a "male-head" in order to function in an authoritive role is at best a form of superstition, because it has mo basis in the Bible. Paul's reference to a husband being the head of the wife is an illusion to the Creation story, in which Eve was taken out of Adam. Rather than establishing a chain of authority, the headship principle reminds us that husbands and wives enjoy a mystical union that is not paralled in any other human relationship. Headship implies connection and partnership, not domination or hierarchy.
To suggest that a single woman cannot serve in the church because she does not have a "male head" is in fact heretical, because it implies that a man, rather than Christ alone, can give a woman spiritual authority and genuine anointing..
As you read through this Question #9 (get your copy of this book) you will find many examples by J.Lee Grady about certain women who became ministers while single and did their ministries with amazing zeal and accomplished great things for Christ. Women are loved by God and are of great value whether single or married. They have that "servant leadership spirit" that Christ desires in all of us, Matthew 20:27-28.
The Value Of Woman
Let's examine a few passages in the Bible that make it clear that women have their own intrinsic value in the sight of God apart from their attachment to men.
1. The Case of Zelophehad's daughters (Numbers 27:1-11)
Zelophehad, a member of the Tribe of Manasseh, had five daughters who were bold enough to approach the tent of Moses and ask for an audience with him. Their complaint was that they were going to be denied an inheritance because of their gender. They told Moses, "Give us property among our father's reatives" (v.4,NIV). When Moses inquired of the Lord about this, God said to him, "What Zelophehad's daughters are asking is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father's inheritance among their father's relatives and turn their father's inheritance over to them" (v.7,NIV).
This was a revolutionary moment in th history of Istrael, because what God said to Moses contradicted centuries of unjust treatment of women. The counsel that Moses received from the Lord that day became a legal precedent in Israel, overturning previous notions about women's inferiority. The counsel of the Lord was clear. Women have the same value and the same right as their brothers.
2. God's hand on single women in the Old Testament
We have plenty of evidence that God went out of his way to anoint single women under the Old Covenant. Moses' sister Miriam, the first worship leader in the Bible, was a prophetess who had governmental responsibilities (Micah 6:4),yet the Scriptures never say anything abut Miriam having a husband. Linda Belleville, in her book Women Leaders and the Church, writes:
Miriam's ministry skills were not only recognized and confirmed, but she was accorded the same respect Aaron and Moses received. In fact, her leadership abilities were held in such high estem that israel would not travel until she had been restored to them (Num. 12:1-16).
One of the most beautiful written parts of the Bible, the Book of Ruth, tells the story of a young Moabite widow whose faith in the God of Israel placed her in the very linage of Jesus Christ. While her sociey considered Ruth a lowly outcast because of her ancestral background and widowed status, God chose to use her life to illustrate His miraculous plan of redemption. Because of her faith, her mother-in-law, Naomi, praised her as being better "than seven sons"(Ruth 4:15).
The young maiden Esther, an orphan girl who was valued only for her beauty by a pagan king, was used by God to deliver Israel from genocide. Her faith, joined with the fasting and prayers of her young maidens, brought about spiritual victory. Likewise, the faithful prayers of the prophetess Anna, an eldrly widow, paved the way for the advent of the Savior. Like many other old testament prophets (she is is referred to as a prophetess in Luke 2:36),. Anna publicly called God's people to anticipate the coming of the Messiah.
3. Jesus attitude toward single women
While the society of Jesus' day pushed women into the sidelines and shadows, causing them to suffer horribly, Jesus went out of his way to touch them, heal them and lift them out of the prison of injustice. he healed a hemorrhaging woman who had spent her all of her money on doctors who couldn'y help her ( Mark 5:25-34). He broke every rule of cultural decorum by ministering to a Samaritan divorce who had been abused and mistreated by all the men in her life (John 4:7-26).
Jesus also had women friends, including two sisters, Mary and Martha, who were single. He had women followers on his apostolic team, and although we don't know the marital status of all of them, it is most likely that Mary Magdalene was unmarried. Jesus chose her to be first to announce His Resurrection.
Jesus had a special place in his heart for widows. He frequently usd them to illustrate His parables (most writers of the day did not pay attention to women at all), and He singled out a poor widow as an example of selfless giving, when she brought her two small coins to th temple treasury (Luke 11:1-4). When He told the crowd that the poor woman had put in more than all of them (v.3). He was making it clear that women- even those deamed worthless by society- had exceptional value in the eyes of God.
In spite of the predjudices of men, single women have for centuries been used by God to serve the church and to carry the gospel around the world. If you study the history of missions, you will find that that some of the greatest spiritual breakthroughs were accomplished by dedicated single women who left marriage and family behind and risked death to pioneer Christ's work in China, India, Africa and even in the cold Artic.
I wonder how many mission fields remain desolate today because single woman either didn't have permission from their church leaders to go, or they didn't think God would work through their simple offering of pure- hearted faith and devotion. Single women can be called, equipped to do whatever the Holy Spirit directs them to do, and the church should be funding their efforts rather than putting obstacles in their way.
Question # 10 - Women Aren't Second String.
Someone once told me that the only time a woman can be called into the ministry is when a man refuses God's call. Is this a biblical view? Are women God's "second choice" for leadership roles?
Well if women are only supposed to be second string, then what happened to to men who claim to be first string when God needed first string leaders to go into China, Africa , India and the cold Artic to witness for Him. How come woman were forced into the mission field to do this work. Were there no brave men first stringers for the tough jobs over seas? God does not see women as second string leaders because of their gender.
J. Lee Grady says, this is not a biblical view, but many women throughout church history have believed this lie, that they were God's second choice. Kathern Kuhlman, the great charismatic healing evangelist who brought widespread renewal to mainline churches in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, was said to have believed that she was called into the ministry only becuse a man was running from his assignment. British missionary Gladys Aylward, whose work in China was the inspiration for a Holywood film, believed that she was sent to the field only because a man refused to go.
This odd notion took hold in the 1800s because of the bizarre double standard that America churches and mission agencies adopted toward female ministers. Women were barred from preaching or holding pastoral positions in most denominatons at the time, but if they went to the mission field, they often were trust immediately into the rigorous work of evangelism, Bible teaching and church planting. Some male missionary leaders encouraged this trend, while others simple looked the other way and pretended to ignore it. But when these same women visited the home front, even those that carried on public preaching ministries were told they could not even stand in the pulpit, much less, address an audience. How sad and cowardly must those men have been that they would deny these preceious servants of God proper respect to preach and teach here in the United States. Shame, shame, shame on them! What will they say to Jesus Christ when he returns?
Just the same these same courageous women accepted this double standard with an awkward graciousness. One Methodist missionary to India, Isabella Thoburn, agreed to speak at a church while she was home on furlough, but only on the condition that she would speak from the front pew, and not from the podium. Woman like Thoburn obviously felt that they were doing a "man's job" if they preached from a pulpet in a Western church, yet they felt much more comfortable doing this same task in a foriegn country because they were functioning in the role a man had "refused."
This all sounds silly, but this strange idea still haunts many women today. Society and the church, inspired by the Devil, tell them these strange things like woman are only second class. What utter foolishness comes out of the mouth of fools who deny woman their first class rights in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2:1-15. To understand this fallacy we need to understand what the Bible says about our spiritual calling, Galatians 3:27-29.
Many of the prophets like Jeremiah were set apart from the womb of their mothers. Even King David was ordained before he was born. Women are also apart for ministry now at God's calling. This is true of each of us. We Christians have been called to preach and teach the Gospel in this end time. The sad thing is we can be lulled into as phony comfort zone by men who wish to deceive us and make us think that only ministers (male only) need preach while you support them and accomplish very little in a game of squelching the gospel. All are called to preach and teach and give a witness for Christ.
This is true of all of us. We have a destiny. God does not simply throw us into the world to see what we will do; He fills us with the sense of prophetic mission. The apostle Paul taught that God predestines his plans for and purpose for us, Ephesians 1:11-12, and then he prayed for the Ephesians believers that they might, with spiritual insight, "know the hope to which He has called you' (v. 18, NIV). Paul explained that each of us, as believers has been created with a special purpose . not just to warm a seat and give money, but: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them, Ephesians 2:10.
So if this is true than men and woman are called by God from birth for specific assignments. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that if we don't fulfill our assignment, God gives it to someone else. God madeJonah to go and finish his assignment. He tried to shirk what was given to him but in the end he accomplished it. God did not replace him with a woman.
Assignment can also be given to women. Esther is a prime example. She was put in place as a Gentile king's wife. She was used to deliver her own people from being killed. On and on it goes in the Bible both men and woman are used by God. Esther was God's first choice. Mary the mother of Jesus was.God's first choice and so are we called now over many others to be first to go and preach the gospel now. If you are waiting for a man to send you it wll more than likely not happen. However if you are reading the Bible and searching and seeking for the truth it is more than likely that God Almighty wants you to come now and work for Him.
Question #11 - Role- Playing and other Dumb Games
I'm discouraged because there are so few opportunies for ministry at my church. Most positions are for men only, and I don't feel particulaly gifted to do children's ministry. What should I do?
First of all if there are role problems in your church it is more than likely because your church has been institutionalized to think this way. Institutional churches generally follow some kind of hierarchical format that practices gender discrimination. Its the same old story of listening to the teachings of men rather than the teachings of the Holy Spirit or Jesus Christ so what can you expect when men's teachings superceed and ignore the egalitarian teachings of Jesus Christ for the same old pagan practices of men who think they can put aside th truths of God for some silly idea about roles for men and women in these type of churches, Matthew 20:25-28. Gender should not be a cause to ignore the many talents of God inspired woman ready to be gifted by the Holy Spirit for different types of ministries. The apostle Paul made it plain in Galatians 3:28 that neither neither nationality, race, station in life nor male and female gender
are not a problem for God or His work. All are called to produce the good fruits of the Spirit as part of the body of the church, 1 Corinthians 12:11-14.
Conservative evangelic churches have developed some odd ideas about what men and women can do in ministry. It is assumed that only men can lead (since he is the "head") and that only men should teach Scripture to mixed groups. So the men are drafted to head committees, spearhead projects or teach classes, even though qualified women are usually available and willing to serve. At the same time women are exhorted to fill support roles when it may actually be a man who is more gifted to serve in those functions.
All this type casting is based on a nebulous idea of biblical "roles" for men and women. Although such roles are not defined in the Scripture, the traditions ( of men, Matthew 15: 7-9) have been passed down from previous generations of churchgoers and then upheld by traditionists in our institutional seminaries. Today those traditions warn us that if we allow women to teach the Bible or pastor a church, this will destroy the "biblical role of women" and thus lead all of us into heresy and culturural depravity. Mean while, they say, the institution of the family will be annihilated because women are abandoning the home to pursue goals or careers that are not within the feminine "role." And of course if you keep your old tradition you cut off half of God's work force who were calld to perform these functions in the first place.
So what is the "biblical role" of a woman? This is an odd question indeed since women in the Bible carried out all kinds of diverse assignments. They were prophets, entrepreneurs, queens, servants, slaves, deacons, midwive, dancers, evangelists, messengers ... the list could go on. It would be one difficult to to draw lines of limitation and say that women must be one thing or another. The bible, in fact, says that every person is created in God's image with unique special gifts, and callings. Why would we want to limit any person to a particular role?
Not all women are married, nor all women are mothers. Therefore it is especially odd that the church has told women for centuries that their "role" is to guard the home and raise children. And just because women have children, does this mean raising them is their only assignment in life? We cetainly do not say that about men who are fathers.
And what is the man's "biblical role" ? Again, traditionalists define this narrowly by saying that man is called to lead his family and the church. But again, let's look at men in the Bible. Were all men leaders? No- they too had all kinds of assignments. They were apostles, farmers, shepherds, warriors. priest, kings, prophets, physicians, scribes,scholars, poets, musicians and artisans. Some were married and some were not. Some had great responsibilities and others carried no titles, and governed nothing.
Of course, Scripture requires men to be men, and women to be women. God does not endorse androgeny, homosexuality or any form of gender bending. God is glorified when men act masculine and women as feminine. a woman dos not have to have children to be feminine. Nor does a man have to be a leader to be masculine.
A man who works as a janitor does not become effeminate simply because he does not have authority over someone else. By the same token, a woman who cares for a congregation and preaches from a pulpit every week does not take on masculine mannerisms or slowly begin morphing into a man.
Gender Myths in the Church
The assumption that " men always lead and woman always follow" has created an odd and dysfunctional set of myths in the church. Some of these myths include:
1. Women are more suited to do chidren's ministry.
That's ridiculous , because men often are gifted with the ability to communicate the gospel to children. Just because women care for babies or young children at home does not mean they particularly want to spend their Sunday mornings in the church nursery. Yet we typically pigeonhole them for this role.
Jesus as a man, related well to children - and He rebuked His disciples for minimizing children's importance in the Kingdom. We would never say that a woman are better at parenting that men are- because it takes a mother and father to make a good set of parents. For some reason we need men and women ministering to children.
2. Women are more suited for prayer ministry.
This is a totally unbiblial notion, but many pastors promote the idea that "woman pray better' because they are not allow to do anything else. The Bible certainly does not segregate the prayer meeting by gender.
Yes, there are plenty of examples of powerful women intercessors in the Bible - such as Hannah or Anna. Conservative church leaders love to applaud these female prayer warriors as great biblical examples for women today, yet they conveniently fail to mention other biblical heroines like Deborah or Miriam who held senior governing positions. Mean while, men are rarely exhorted to emulate the prayer lives of male intercessors like Daniel, when God certainly does call some men to hidden lives of devotion.
3. A woman's most valuable ministry is that of a mother.
While this statement certainly laudable ( who wants to mininmize the impact of a mother's love?), there is often an attitude lurking behind it. That attitude says, "A woman's role is home with the kids- that's what she was created to do, and nothing else."
That doesn't do much for a single woman, except to suggest that the only way she can have value to God and the church is to get married and have babies of her own. It doesn't do much for the woman who doesn't have children, either. And what does it do for the woman whose children are grown? Is she now supposed to throw all her energy into her grandchildren?
4. Women are better suited in support roles., The traditional religious model says the church can hire women to be secretaries administrative assistants, and receptionists. Females need not apply for ministerial positions that give them authority in the congregation. Again, that's unbiblical (as we have stated throughout this book) because we have examples of women in the Bible who were given substantial ecclesiastical authority
And the Scripture does not say that the gift of leadership, mentioned in Romans 12:8, is given exclusively to males. Nor does it state that any of the offices in the fivefold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 (apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher and evangelist) are for men only. In fact, Paul speciically gives us character requirements for women who serve in ministry. (see 1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 2:3-5.)
5. Women are never called to lead worship.
Despite the fact that the first worship leader in the Bible was a woman (Miriam), conservative churches rarely empower women to serve in this position. Does this mean women don't have the same level of musical talent? Does it mean they cannot handle the pressure of being in front of a crowd? Some traditionalist would argue that a woman shouldn't lead worship because by doing so she is being placed in a "position of authority" over men. How ridiculous! Is she beating the men with a whip in order to make them sing?
One woman I know was told she could lead in worship in an interim capacity at her church, but she was asked to do it from the floor of the auditorium rather than from the pulpit! Such bizarre policies are more rooted in fleshly religious tradition than in any biblical principle.
One conservative denomination in the United Staqtes forbids women from being worship leaders, yet their hymnal is full of the classic songs of Fannie Crosby (1820-1915), the blind musician who wrote more than a thousand hymns including :Blessed Assurance," Draw Me Nearer" and " All the Way My Savior Leads Me." why should it be acceptable for her to write the hymns we sing but not to sing them in front of the church?
Darlene Zschech, a worship leader and prolific songwriter from Hillsong Church in Melbourne, Australia, has composed dozens of praise choruses that are now sung in churches around the world. Many conservative churches today will sing Darlene's most famous anthem, "Shout to The Lord." but they would never allow her to lead the song from the pulpit because of this sexist policy. Meanwhile, how many gifted female worship leaders have been ignored for positions because this is not a woman's role"?
6. Women can never teach the bible if there are men in the group.
We will examine this mind-set in detail in chapters eighteen and twenty. Despite the fact that there are biblical examples of women in senior positions of authority (Deborah in Judges 4), as well as instances of women instructing men (Proverbs 8; Priscilla in Acts 18:26), religious traditions die slowly. It may take another generation before we rid the church of this crippling spirit of gender prejudice - an attitude that continues to slow the advancement of the Gospel.
But there are certainly signs that things are changing. It is becoming increasingly difficult for traditionalist to ignore the anoiting that is on prominent female preachers, pastors and Bible teachers today - because they are becoming louder and because men are listening. Many of these women, including Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Juanita Bynum, Stormie Omartian, Anne Graham Lotz and Becky Tirabassi, have television programs, Bible study courses and best selling books in the United States. Their influence can't be denied, and they are not going away.
Indeed, anoited women are arising in the globalist church- in Europe, Aftica, Asia and South America. They are breaking all the antiquated religious rules and debunking all the myths by their example. It is time that we bless them and acknowledge that they have been commissioned and empowered to represent Christ in this generation.
Question #12 - Dare To Be a Pioneer
Does the Bible say that women should always let men initiate things? I've been told that woman who lead churches or start ministries are rebellious. This has prevented me from taking initiative in ministry.
This is just a lot of more foolishness from institutionaliazed men who have this wierd idea that God only uses men to intitiate things. J. Lee Grady writes, "That .there is an unwritten rule in many churches today that says men should always lead the way. Because of this notion, women who attempt to lead are viewed with suspicion, and they are urged to put their spiritual ambitions on a shelf. The underlying assumption is that since man was created first and was made the "head of the woman," he always goes first.( maybe this is why the church doesn't grow to well because it afflicts itself with uncalled for discrimination agains the female gender. Women have proven over and over that they are the initiators that cause churches to grow.
This may sound like a convincing male theory, but it has no basis in Scripture. God doesn't always go to a man first when He wants to start something. There are plenty of examples in the Bible where God called on women to accomplish His will. One good example today is the work being done in the underground Church in China. Young women from the age of 18-24 are carring the brunt work in Pentecostal House Churches. Thanks to females like them over 25,000 new Christans are added every week. to the body of Christ.
We have th daughters of Zelophehad, Shiphrah and Puah, Deborah, Manoah- Samson's mother,Hannah yhe prophetess, Esther, Mary and many other example in both the Old Testament where woman were the initiators of something that God wanted to do.
Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, in her book "Equal to Serve", points out that Mary's role in the plan of salvation dismantles the foolish idea that women never take the lead: She writes,"I have gone to seminars where I heard that as a woman I could make no decisions independently of my husband, father, or pastor, because all women must have some sort of male authority figure in their lives to whom they are accountable. I have also heard Christian speakers say that a husband, father or pastor can negate a vow a woman made to the Lord or over rule a decision she made about Christian service.
But if God wanted to use a "chain of comand," He would have sent Mary's call through Joseph or her father or a synagogue leader. However, inesapable, God's angelic messenger spoke to Mary directly. Therefore the Bible's own record of Mary's life contradicts such teachings.
Mary had to stand alone during this unusual season in her life. Hull suggests that Mary probably did not have the full support of her own parents after she became pregnant. It is likely that they couldn't handle the stigma of keeping an unmarried pregnant girl in their home, and this would explain why Mary was sent to live with her cousin Elizabeth. ( Elizabeth, in a similar way, had to stand alone. She understood God's plan more clearly than her husband, Zacharias, who was such a doubter that he was struck mute until John the Baptist was born.)
Paul the apostle certainly dispelled the idea that women are only "followers," In fact, in his often quoted passage about male "headship." he stated clearly that women are also initiators (! Corinthians 11:3-16). He wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12: However, in the Lord, neither is a woman independent of man, nor is man independant of woman. For as the woman originated from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; all things originate from God.
While Paul agreed that man is indeed "head of a woman" (v,3) meaning that Adam was created first and that Eve originated from his side, the apostle said this does not give the Corinthians any basis to silence women or limit their participation in spiritual life whatsoever. bible scholar Gilbert Bilezikian, who calls verses 11-12 a "sweeping disclaimer," suggest that we could paraphrase this passaage in this way: Regardless of what may have been said or taught prior to this, in the Lord, that is, within the unity that exists among Christians, women may not be viewed apart from man, nor man from women. For just as woman was originally made from man, now man is made with the mediation of woman. So, it all evens out. there is only one who has original primacy, and that one is God, the real source of all things (including both man and woman).
The Scripture could not be clearer! Paul and men should not use their 'headship' ( their primacy in creation order) in any way to claim superiority over women or independence from them. Yet this is exactly what consrvative evangelicals are guilty of doing! We argue that men should "always go first" and "lead the way" because "Adam was created first." why is it that we keep harping on headship while ignoring the apostolic ultimatum in this passage?
What men in the church should be doing is exhorting women to take risks, step out in faith, and set ambitious goals for ministry. We should be prodeding them on. We should be opening doors for them- and gently pushing them to embrace new opportunities. So much new territory could be taken for Christ's kingdom if our women were not so conditioned to wait for men to take the first step.
And when women do take risks and show initiative, men in the church should not be threatened. We should applaud them! And we certainly have no businessd labeling them 'rebellious' because they obeyed the promptings of His Spirit or dared to fulfill the great Commission.
Woman who are assuming leadership roles, planting churches or starting new ministries are not rebels. In fact, the true rebellious women are those who reject the Lord's voice when He calls them out of their timidity and seclusion. Some smug, self- righteous women say to God, "I can't do what you are asking me because it's not acceptable for a woman to lead." These are the women that are operating in a rebellious spirit.
J. Lee Grady says, He is greatful today that so many women are rejecting the unhealthy religious mind-sets that have been set up like roadblocks by Satan himself. In my years as editor of Charisma magazine, I have met and written about literally hundreds of women who are using their creativity and spiritual gifts to pastor churches, start orphanages, launch evangelistic outraches and even claim whole nations for Christ. Often their zeal and tenacity have motivated me, as a man to pursue God more faithfully. These women don't intimidate me - they inspire me!
Jackie Holland - Dalla, Texas
Jackie Holland certainly wasn't going to wait for a man to lead the way. All the men in her life had been abusive. In fact, she shot one of her husbands after she discovered he had committed adultery. Miraculously he did not press charges. but the heaartache of four failed marriages eventually brought her to faith in Jesus.
When I met Jackie in 1999, years after her conversion, she had decided to let God use the garbage of her life to reach other women. She started a food pantry in a poor area of Dallas, and that ministry eventually led her to begin an out reach to strippers and prostitutes. Jackie has been a lifeline for many women who were looking for a way out of the adult entrtainment busiess. When I spoke with her, she was raising funds to buy a bankrupt nursing home facility. She plans to turn it into a shelter for battered women. How desperately we need more women like Jachie to feel God's heartbeat for people who have been abused and mistreated.
Danita Estrella - Haiti
Danita Estrella wasn't expecting God to call her into full-time missions work when she suddenly felt the tug in the late 1990s during a visit to Haiti. When she saw some waiflike children hunting for food in a garbage dump and witnessed a man-beating a child with a whip in the street, her heart broke. Single-handedly, Danita launched the for Hope Haiti orphanage with little more than compassion and some money from friends.
Today, this former promotional model is a mother to dozens of Haitian children - some of whom are HIV - positive. She purchased a building, started a school and even launched a church for the impoverished communuty where she now makes her home. Today, whenever she speaks, people "adopt" her Haitian orphans by pledeging to support them financially.
Diane Dunne - New York
It's a good thing pastor Diane Dunne did not wait for a man to lead the way because none of the male pastors she knows in New york have been willing to assist her with her unusual outreach to the homeless. On Wednesday aftrnoons, about three hundred homeless people gather at the corner of Avenue C and Ninth Street in Manhattan Lower East Side to receive free hot dogs, groceries and a sermon from this spunky woman preacher with a thick Brooklyn accent.
" I live by faith," she told Charisma. "Doors don't open to speak or to raise money because I'm a woman. If you're a woman, you've got to work twice as hard in the body of Christ." Dunne, a former cosmetics company executive, quit her career and moved forty- one times while scrumping to save money for a home. She has sacrificed everything to serve Jesus among the poor. Should we stop her because she didn't wait for a man to start this ministry?
Suzette Hattingh - Germany
South African evangelist Suzette Hattingh never imagined that God would one day send her to what she considered a missionary's graveyard - Western Europe. But today she bases her ministry, called Voice in the City, in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2001 she conducted a city wide campaign in Deggendeorf that energizaed struggling churchs and led hundreds of people to first-time conversions. "Europe is dry, but I believe that there is no such thing as a country you cannot reach," she says.
Fortunately for Hattingh, she had the support of a man - German Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. He employd her on his staff for years as his prayer coordinator, but he says God told him in 1997 to "let Suzette fly like an eagle." If only more church leaders today were as willing to let women launch out on their own.
Cathi Mooney - San Fransco
Few Men I know are as daring as Cathi Mooney. A former advertising agency whiz, she traded her business suits and salon hairstyles to wear tie-dyed T shirts, jeans and dradlocks so she could reach the homeless hippiies and 'deadheads" of San Fransco's Haight-Asbury district In 1993 Cathi Launched The Pioneer Project to give the gospel, warm beds, and free drug counseling to some of the two thousand kids who sleep on the city's streets every night.
Not content with her ministry base in a three-story Victorian house on Asbury Street, Mooney is now planting other evangelistic outposts to reach hippie travelers overseas. One of her burdens is to evangeliz the many Israeli hippies who travel to Nepal searching for a spiritual high.
All of these women have one thing in common; God gave them a vision, and they pursued it with faith. None of them had extra ordinary support from men. In fact, some of them have experienced opposition from men and have stood strong without taking offense. These women deserve our full support, as do so many others who have not yet stepped out to fulfill their destiny. what an army of women we could release today - if the church would discard silly notions about headship that cripple our efforts to evangelize the world.
Question # 13 - Strong Men, Weak Women
I don't think God equipped women with the same spiritual gifts as men. After all, the Bible says women are the 'weaker vessel." why should they be expected to lead when the new Testament says they are supposed to be "gentle" and "quiet"?
Traditionalist love to quote one particular Bible verse about woman being the "weaker vessel" to make a case for limiting women's influence or impact. It is assumed that since women are normally not a muscular as men, and because their bodies are designed to bear children and nurse them, that this somehow disqualifies them from leading, teaching Scripture or assuming spiritual responsibility. What is implied is that masculine spiritual strength qualifies a person for leadership.
This is certainly what the ancient philosophers believed. They embraced all kinds of odd conclusions about women based on their negative views of women's bodies. The Alexandrian philosopher Plato, for example, taught that because women were soft to touch, this meant that she "easily gives way and is taken in by plausible falsehoods which resemble the truth." ( maybe women are contnually being lied to by men on purpose? Maybe they just like Adam men are always trying to mislead women so they can rule over them?)
The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote that women are "defective by nature" because of biology. He believed this because women cannot not produce semen which contains a full human being." Obviously Aristotle and his Greek colleages did not understand the science of reproduction too well. He also thought that woman's inferiority was due to the fact that she lacked the body heat necessary to "cook" her menstrual fluid to the point that it would become semen!.
Meanwhile, Plato taught that women were not completely human because they lacked masculine characteristics. "It is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls," he wrote. Such degrading ideas, rooted in paganism, unfortunately were carried on by the fathers of the early "Christian Church." (which were not the Church founded by Jesus Christ and started by the Holy Spirit in 31 A.D.but pagan institutional churches that still were male hierarchy led. jesus Christ forbade any such organizations, Matthew 20:25-28. Pagans like St. Agustine carrid this Greek philosophy to its natural conclusion and taught that women were not created in God's image (Genesis 1:26-27 says women are created in God's image). Another revered pagan church father, Clement of Alexandria, believed that what made man superior was his beard and body hair, duh. He wrote: by god's decree (maybe a Greek god), hairiness is one of man's conspicuous qualities, and, that is distributed over his whole body. For what is hairy is by nature drier and warmer than what is bare; therfore, the male is hairier and more warm blooded than the female; the uncastrated than the castrated; the mature, than the immature.
Of course all of this is foolishness, says J. Lee Grady. There is aboslutely nothing in the bible that says males are superior to to females or a person's value is determined by whether they have a penis, muscular strength or body hair. What is most tragic is that such bizarre pagan ideas were imbraced by the so called leaders of the church in the third and fourth centuries and passed down as truth to some of the most oft-quoted leaders of the Reformation period, including John Calvin and Martin Luther and John Knox. All these men promoted sexist views that have more in common with the spiritual darkness of ancient Greece and Rome than with real Christianity that Satan has forever been trying for centuries to snuff out. And yet the writings and theological views of the reformers continue to shape our seminaries institutional character against women ministers. It is no wonder that our churches are still plagued by gender prejudice.
All this trash against women made in the image of the Holy Spirit is very offensive to God Almighty and he will soon put an end to these rediculous pagan ideas from the devil. The Greeks were the worst when it comes to treatment of women. They viewed women as intellectually, emotionally weak. They type cast women as stupid and less then animals, only good for having children. How stupid can people be?
This became real to J. Lee Grady a few years ago as it did to me also. Jay asked a prominent theologian at a respected seminary to review something he had written about women pastors. He knew this ,man did not believe women should hold the pastoral office, but I wanted know exactly what Scripture he based his views on. Jay was shocked to discover that he did not base his theology on a scripture at all, but rather on his own extra- biblical theory that "women are intellectually weaker than men and therefore are not able to teach doctrine."
This is a primary example of how Institutional churches ignore the teachings of Scripture from the Holy Spirit and exchange them for the foolish teachings of men which if you look very hard at, come down to us from the same Greek philosophers who were pagan to the core and taught misogynistic teaching of demented evil thinking men based on the teaching of men and Satan to cut off one half of Christ priesthood - women - made in God's image, Matthew 15:7-9. This young man was substituting the teachings probably of his seminary for the teachings of God.
There is a lot more that J. Lee Grady has to say about this Question #13, You should certainly try to obtain your own copy if you want be able to confront the false teachings of men and Satan that have been used to cripple the work of Jesus Christ by keeping women out of Christ's priesthood of all believers, from reaching their goals as servant leaders for Jesus Christ.
Here are a few more examples of women who have a strong passion to serve their Savior. Just like those Christians of old they are ready to take on Satan and do damage to the kingdom of darkness. Women are far from weak in the spiritual warfare against Satan's evil devices. Throughout the centuries, Christian women have given their lives as martyrs for the cause of the gospel. They have been burned at the stake, torn to shreds by wild animals, had their tongues ripped out, endured rape and sexual mutilation and been left to rot in dungeons.. Courageous missionary women sailed to foriegn lands and risked disease and death while ministering amid hostile tribes. Today, brave Christians women in the Middle East are being tortured with acid or electric shocks when local Muslims learn that they have been sharing the faith.
These women are heroes. In light of their testimonies, do we dare suggest that women should be weak? Instead of misusing Scriptures like 1 Peter 3:7, we should be inspiring our sisters to be strong in the Lord. The Holy Spirit who dwells within them can and will empower them to do exploits. Women can take courage from the example of Valentina Savelieva, a Russian Baptist woman who shared her faith continually while she was moved from one Soviet prison camp to the next during the 1980's. She wrote of her experience: We had to keep our coats on all night because it was so cold - the temperature was seldom above 41degrees Fahrenheit... When we awakened in the morning, we had to be careful not to rise too quickly for their hair was frozren to the dirt. It was impossible to remain free from lice. Everyone was sick, and ,many died from tuberculosis. Food was sarce and hardly edible, and often our food was stolen. The prison was full of demon- possessed criminals, who cursed day and night. They wanted to destroy our faith.
This is not the testimony of a weak woman? Valentina's unshakable faith endured long after the Soviet Empire crumbled and Christians in Russia were given freedom to preach the gospel openly. Today because of the strength of women like Valentina, a new army of Russian women has arisen to claim their nation for Christ. One of these women, Natasha Shredrevaya, the first woman in Russia to be elected by her male peers to lead a denomination.
As president of the Calvary Fellowship of Churches of Russia, Natasha overseas thirty churches in that country and another three hundred in other former Soviet republics. Her ambitious goal is to reach the thirty-six thousand remote villages in the former USSR, a vast region that covers eight time zones. Would we deny her this opportunity because she is "too weak"? If so, what strong better equiped men are volunterig to take her place?
The hour is short, and w don't have time to play childish games - as if men and women in christian ministery must compete for opportunities. Thre is plenty of work to do and we and God wants everyone of our sisters working alongside their brothers in the harvest.
A woman's weaknewss is not the issue. The real question is whether both men and women in the church will earn to trade our inherent human weaknesses for His divine strength.
Question #14 - What do We do with Deborah?
What do we do with Deborah in the Bible? She held a position of senior authority, but I've heard pastors say that her story can't be used to defend women in leadership.
Well, it's the same old story of men who have been led by the Greek philosophers, Gnostics and Jewish Kaballah to accept women as inferiors. These same false teachings have filtered down to our day with this misogynistic attitude against women to the point that these men trained in their religious institutions too contnue this white wash against women, even Deborah.or wherever they can find fault with word of God. We must remember that no Scripture is given for private interpretation but for inspiration by the Holy Spirit, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.. Deborah ia a qualified prophet, Judges and servant of God, It ssems that Peter is right about Paul's teachings being hard to understand by those that claim they are God's ministers, 2 Peter 3:15-16. When the blind lead the blind in their institutional seminars they all fall into a ditch, Mark 15:14.
The Old Testament most certainly allows women in positions of authority. We've already mentioned two other female prophets in the Old Testament, Miriam and Huldah. Traditionalist who attempt to ignore or redefine the ministry of the prophet Deborah (detailed in Judges 4-5) are guilty of manipulating the text to their own advantage. They might as well take a pair of scissors and snip the book of Judges out of the bible.
God ordaind Deborah as His mouthpiece to Israel during a forty - year period. She served as a civil and spiritual leader in much the same way that the prophet Samuel did years later. Her leadership and her sensitivity to the guidance of heaven ushered Israel into a period of peace and prosperity.
Deborah's name means "bee" perhaps a reminder that even in the insect kingdom God has set an example of female leadership. although she was married to a man named Lappidoth, the Bible makes no mention of his involvement in his wife's role as a judge. She describes herself as "a mother in Israel" (Judges 5:7), a reference to her governmental office. (Nineteeth- century Bible Scholar Katherine Bushnell points out that the Hebrew word for "mother of Israel" is to be translated "female chief.")
The fact that she called herself a mother also makes it clear that although she held a position of senior authority, she was not tryingt to be a man, nor did she carry out her duties in a masculine way,. She was not blurring gendure distinctions. God had placed her in this key position. She was a mother, but mothers can rule.
Judges 4:5 tells us that "the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment," indicating that she was gifted with the supernatural wisdom and insight necessary to resolve disputes and uphold justice. She also had overwhelming trust in a transcentent God who, in response to her prophetic prayers for Israel's defense, "marched from the field of Edom' (Judges 5:4) to subdue Israel's foriegn invaders.
As the story goes, Deborah summoned Israel's chief warrior, Barak, and gave him prophedic instructions on how he would subdue the Canaanites and their war lord, Sisera. Then Barak made a curious commment: "if you will go with me, then I will go up, but if you will not go up with me, I will not go." (Judges 4:8). Deborah agreed to accompany the Israelite troops into the fray, but she uttered a curious prophecy before they departed. I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman, Judges 4:9.
The Bible never says that God was displased with Barak. The fact that his name appears in Hebrews 11:32 as an example of courageous faith cofirms this. In addition, Deborah's victory song in Judges 5 makes it clear that Barak's valor rallied israel and helped win the war. Because he was humble enough to listen to God's prophet and to put his trust in the Lord, Israel conquered the Canaanites. And because he was willing to listen to God speak through a woman, Barak's humility releasd a woman to rise up and strike the final blow.
Their are conservative theologians who love to type cast Barak as a weak-kneed whimp who wanted a mother figure to follow. This attitude show a lack of understanding among many theologins that come from institutional traditionalist churchs. They misinterpret meekness for weakness when actually Barak was a brave general who put his faith in God and God's prophetess.
It is interesting that even today that there are Jewish rabbies who cast Deborah in a negative light, even though the Bible praises her. They actually developed a play on her name which means "bee" and changed it to "hornet." According to researchers Larry and Sue Richards, these rabbis " implied that Deborah was an arrogant woman who stung rather that provided good things for her people."
Well, her we go again, today men deriy women in ministry as incompitent. The lesson to learn here is if woman are "bees" like Deborah and are more than qualified to lead men and the church and have the Holy Spirit with them. Maybe thoset traditional churchs have to many "drones" standing in the doorway of the church or spiritual "bee hives" and will not let the honey bees out to do their job of polinating the harvest of souls. This may be why these churches will not last very long because the 'Bees' bring food to the beehive, The bee hive will die out if the bees cannot do their work. Churches that resist women in ministry will have a lot to answer to Jesus for when He returns because they disrupt Christ's work., Matthew 7:21-23..
This same antagonism against Deborah is very evident today among traditional minded Bible scholars. They want us to believe that Deborah never should have judged Israel in the first place (typical reasoning of the institutional church) or that her story proves women should not hold senior positions of authority. But the Bible does not suggest such a rediculous conclusion. God is the one who placed Deborah in the Old Tstament to fors shadow the need for more women like her, filled with the Holy Spirit, to be prophetesses to stand as leaders in His church..
J. Lee Grady continues to say, He also heard conservative scholars make outlandish claims that God allowed Deborah to serve as a Judge in Israel because the nation was backslidden - as if female leadership is a type of spiritual curse. If this were the case, then why did Israel most often have wicked kings on the throne during periods of apostasy and spiritual waywardness? And if female leadership is a form of judgment, why did God bless israel during Deborah's forty-year tenure as a national prophetess? Such arguements are not rational.
If we learn the intended lesson of Deborah's story, the church today would experience more Jael- styl victories. and if we had more men like Barak, who trusted the Lord and had the sense to listen when God was speaking through one of His female servants, the enemy's army would be fleeing rather than gaining ground. Deborahs and Jaels functioned in a New Testament setting, too, but they need some Baraks who are willing to support them.
Question #15 - The Good Ol' Boys' Club
If woman can have leadership roles in the church, why didn't Jesus have female disciples?
J.Lee Grady was once asked this question during a dinner with a group of bishops from the largest African American Pentecostal denomination in the United State. This group does not ordain women as pastors, and all twelve bishops in it's presiding board are male. Like many churches in this country, women are barred from senior leadership positions because its leaders believe that God never intended women to serve "at the top."
When I asked one of the group's bishops why women could not serve as pastors, he shot back with and instant reply: "Because Jesus did not have women disciples. If Jesus didn't put women in leadership, then we should not either.'
That might sound like a rational policy, but I learned that this denomination tiptoes on both sides of the issue. This group has a history of sending women pioneers to start new churches. Rather than calling women "pastor" they refer to them as "shepherdesses" - as if this more obscure title denotes less authority. It's a sneaky way to get around the church's own rule.
These shepherdesses win new converts, organize prayer meetings, conduct outreaches and lead worship services until the congregation grows big enough to be considered a tithing Church. At that point a man is sent to take over. So in in the case of this denomination, women were allowed to do all th work of a pastor ( in fact they were sent to do the hardest part of a pastor's job!), but they were never allowed to carrry the title or hold the position officially. They could only do it covertly, almost as if God did not notice that they were bending their religious traditions to get the job done.
Some times the way we handle the issue of women ministeries is laughable. We make rigid rules to keep women out of leadership, but we can't run the church without their involvement . We don't want them at the top, but we need their money because they are usually the most faithful givers - and they often make up the majority of the congregation.
But we do need to examine this question in all seriousness: Does the fact that Jesus' disciples were all male set a precedent that women cannot serve in senior leadership?
How Would Jesus Feel About Women Disciples?
It is interesting that Jesus never once addressed this issue or issued any kind of rule about it. He never once said, "All leaders in My church must be men" - yet He went out of His Way to confront the oppression of women in Israel. if we look closer at the Gospels, we will see three reasons why we can't use Jesus' male disciples as an excuse to deny women positions of authority.
1. Jesus did have women on His team.
Anyone who claims that Jesus did not have female diciples is not reading the Bible correctly. Luke 8:1-3 says that in addition "to the twelve," a group of women also followed Jesus. These women included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and "many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means." These women were not just cooking breakfast for the guys or fetching water and food. They were in training.
We cannot overlook the fact that it was that it was very unorthodox of Jesus to allow women to be part of His entourage. Jewish rabbis in Jesus' day did not have female disciples, their oral tradition taught that it was hameful to even teach a woman from the Torah. Talmudic tradition also specified that men should not be seen with woman in public or talk to them. Yet Jesus welcomed women to study under His tutelege, and He did not hide His female followers from the watchful eyes of His religious critics.
It is very possible that the Pharisees were observing when Mary was bold enough to sit at Jesus' feet while He was teaching in their home. Sitting at the feet of a rabbi was a public statement; it meant that the person seated on the floor was a disciple. No woman in Israel had dared to take the posture of as disciple before because rabbis viewed women as ignorant, filthy, immoral and the source of all evil. But Mary knelt in front of her Teacher because Jesus made women feel comfortable in that position. When Martha begged her sister to return to the kitchen, Jesus affirmed Mary's place at His feet by saying, "Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42).
Women knew Jesus had a different spirit from all th other chauvinistic rabbis of the day. when the Pharisees were ready to exeute a woman for adultery (even though their supposed "evidence" was questionable), Jesus was moved with compassion and came to her defense. When He healed the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. He refferred to her as "Daughter" (Luke 8:48),an endearing term that no rabbi would have used.
When Jesus carried on a theological discussion with the woman at the well in Samaria, she led her entire village to faith because she had never met an rabbi who demonstrated such love and acceptance (John 4). When He healed the woman in the temple whose back was bent over, he referred to her --- in the presence of the Pharisees --"as a daughter of Abraham" (Luke 13:16). This surely caused a stir among critics beause "daughter of Abraham," was not a commonly used term among rabbis. They often referred to men as "sons of Abraham." But they denied women the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant.
Jesus most definitely had women followers, and they stayed close by His side until the end -- even when the twelve became cowards and hid from the authorities after the crucifiction. Some of the women stood near the Savior's cross, then they showed up on the morning of the first day of the week to attend to His body in spite of the risk that the Roman guards would arrest them. Their bravery made them the first witnesses of His Resurrection. How rediculous that we would suggest that Jesus did not have women disciples, when it was these women who inaugurated the preaching of the Gospel after He told them: "Go and take word to My Brethren..."(Matthew 28:10).
2. The group known as "the Twelve" represented a symobolic new beginning.
Jesus often spoke in parables and He frequently engaged in prophetic acts and used prophetic symbolism. Prophetic signs accompanied His birth; Magi from the East came to His crib with royal gifts to signify that the Gentile nations would one day worship Him as King. His Baptism occurred at the Jordan River because it was on that site that Israel entered the Promised Land centuries before.
An there was a prophetic reason why Jesus chose twelve Jewish males to be His closest disciples. (They also would be responsible to see that women would also have their part as Christ's gifted apostles, evangelist, prophets, teachers and workers of miracles disciples, 1 Corinthians 12:29-31, Acts 2:17-18). On the one hand, they represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and Jesus used them to signify that He had come to call the lost Jewish nation to repentance and rebirth. The Twelve also were a quiet reminder of the spiies who were sent out by Moses into the Promisd Land: yet these men would be commissioned to conquer not just Canaan but all the world, Acts 1:6-8
But Jesus did not create this prophetic group to be exclusive or to make a statement about gender. after all, every man in the group known as theTwelve was a Jew (actually history shows us that most of these men were from the tribe of Benjamin which were attached to the Jews when the house of Israel split from the House of Judah, along with Levi, 1 Kings 12:23-31). There was not one gentile among them. Was this because Jesus intended for only Jewish males to serve as leaders in the church? Of course not. Immediately after the out pouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day Of Pentecost, the newly empowered Christians took their message to Samaria, Asia Minor, Greece and eventually Rome. Within a few short years there were Gentile leaders in the church - including a Roman woman named Junia, (see Romans 16:7).
Yes, it is true that the original twelve disciple were male. (However Mary Magalene was added to their numbers as a thirteenth tribe, John 21:16-18). Just as Adam was created first, the men were initiators. They were the "heads" or point of orgin. But just as Eve was taken from man's side,women disciples came along side their male counterparts to fulfill a kingdom purpose. Though , they did not come come first they were equal endowed with the Spirit's power and were granted equal access to the Spirit's giftings and callings, 1 Corinthians 12:12-14. Nothing in Scripture denies them that place.
3. Jesus had a long-range plan for redemption.
J. Lee Gray has heard people say, "If Jesus meant women to serve in the leadership positions, then He could have put at last one woman among the Twelve." That argument doesn't work, since Jesus was not in a hurry to dismantle every form of oppression in the world during his earthly ministry. (But Jesus did ordain Mary Magdalene as the first woman apostle as I have already mentioned in the previous paragraph.)
Jesus never directly confronted the the institution of slavery, for example, yet the power of the gospel evntually ended the slave trade many hundreds of years later. (Especially here in the USA, it was women that initiated the end of slavery from the teachings of Count Ludwick Zinzendorf the Morovian Theologian, who came to this country in 1741). He did not wage a campaign against racism in Israel, but when the mesage of the gospel took root in the Roman Empire, it demolished barriers of class and race. Jesus did not come to establish a form of government in Israel, but the gospel's influence ended the cruelty of Roman dictatorship after just three hundred years and planted the seeds of democracy, civil rights and the Christian rule of law that would one day become the norm in Christian nations.
In the same way, the mssage ofthe gospel contained the seeds that would one day release women from cultural oppression. The infant churches that sprang up in the first and second centuries in Turkey, Greece and Italy offered unprecedanted oppurtunities for woman to be trained in the Scriptures and to serve as elders,deacons, pastors, prophets, evangelist, teachers and even missionary apostles. This grand liberty for women is imbedded in the Christian Message at its core.
To suggest that the Twelve somehow represent a barrier to women in ministry is to read chauvinism into the text. Jesus was not a chauvanist. After the advent of the Spirit, his first male disciples realized that the kingdom was not about exclusion but about community, liberty and love including male and female in service as ministers of Jesus Christ.
Question #16 - Are Women Elders Called Elderettes?
My Pastor told me that the list of qualifications for elders in the new Testament make it clear that only men can serve in that role. Can women be elders in a local church?
Once again we come up with more chauvanistic positions from pastors about woman in the conservative Christian circles. This not based on facts but more on cultural bias than on sound biblical interpretations. J. Lee Grady believes that if we approach the Scriptures without preconceived religious concepts and depend on revelation from the Holy Spirit, we will find that the Bible frees women to assume leadership roles in the local church. The Scriptures also leave room for women to be appointed to everyone of the five ministerial offices mentioned in Ephesions 4::11 - apostle,prophet,,pastor, teacher, and evangelist.
Women in Ministry With Paul!
The apostle Paul had many women on his ministerial team and that he empowered them with authority through the Holy Spirit. Let's examine a few of these women leaders:
Priscilla (Acts 18:18-21; 24-28; Rom.16:3)
Priscilla was a skilled teacher who had been trained by Paul himself. she and her husband
, Aquila, travled throughout the Roman world strengthening newly established churches. The bible often mentions her name before Aquilla's, most likely because she had a more visible teaching ministry. Some scholars believe that because she was a Roman, she may have been from a wealthy family with access to education that most women did not have. Others theorize that she may have written the book of Hebrews, but this cannot be proven. A fascinating study of this theory appears in the book, Priscilla's Letter by Ruth Hoppin (Lost Coast press, 2000).
Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2)
Paul describes Phoebe as a deacon. This passage says, "I command to you our sister Phoebe, who is a diakonos of the church which is at Cenchrea"(v.1). The word for diakonos is always translated "minister" or "deacon" when to men, but the word is curiously translated in this verse as "servant" in many versions. Is this because Bible translators were uncomfortable with a woman holding a governmental office?
In Romans 16:2, Paul refers to Phoebe as a Prostatis which can be translated "presiding officer." The term definitely carries with it a significant weight of authority, so we can conclude that Phoebe was not simply running a women's ministry or setting up Sunday schools for children. She was an envoy of Paul's carrying apostolic directives - and Paul expected the churches to listen to her. Catherine Kroeger points out that prostatis is often used in the writings of the early church fathers to denote someone who presided over communion.
Junia (Romans 16:7)
Up until th thirteenth century, no one questioned the name of this woman mentioned in Romans 16:7, Junia is a common Roman name. However, translators later began changing her name to "Junias" or Junianus' because they could not accept the idea Paul would refer to a woman as "outstanding among the apostles." But the original New Testament has it right, and we don't need to tamper with the language to fit our chauvanism. Paul singled out this woman because of her apostolic courage and for the fact that she suffered in prison alongside Paul. We don't have record of her ministry activities, but we can assume that she was probably involved in preaching and church planting.
Even early church father John Chrysostum (347-407), who was by no means sympathetic to women, acknoweledged that Junia held a powerful position in the New Testament church.. He wrote in his commentary on Romans: Indeed, to be an apostle at all is a great thing; but to be even amongest those of note: just consider what a great encomium that is. Oh,how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of Apostle."
Nympha (Colossians 4:15)
This Nympha was a very important person because church leaders where told to always greet Nympha in her House Church. Once again the traditionalist will try to twist her gender relationship with God Almighty by saying she was simple hosting the church while men were carrying out the ministerial duties of elders and pastors. If this were so than why doesn't the text say this church in her house was being run by a certain male minister. Why did Paul leave this point out? Was she just hosting by making cakes, cookies and sandwiches. Was Paul just being nice to her because she mad good stuff to eat? No, its more likely she was designated to lead the church that was in her home.
Of course for men from traditional institutional churches to admit that she was a minister or pastor would play havoc with their false concepts. It would go against their traditional teachings of the Bible that it limits only men to be ministers. No way? In Ephesians 4:11, here Paul explains that Jesus has given all to be pastors, teachers, evangelists and apostles, and prophets to the church for its edification to fulfill Christ priesthood of all believers, 1 Peter 2:4-10. Jesus made no rules about gender and neither did Paul, Galatians 3:28. The "no woman pastor rule" isn't mentioned any where in the New Testament. but is very common in many denominations - it is a religious tradition not a biblical precept that is a bad example Christianity.
In the book of Acts we can read about Lydia (Acts 16:14-15, 40),and influential business woman who became the first European convert to Christianity. It is more likely Lydia played a rule in in securing Paul's release from the Philippian magistrate since she had wealth and more than likely political prestige. (The Acts account mentions in 16:40 that Paul returned to Lydia's house after he demanded a trial.) Some scholars suggest that Lydia's story was mentioned in the book of Acts because she really did pastor a church in her home and became a crucial member of Paul's apostolic team as he pushed the gospel westward into the new continent.
Euodia and Scntyche (Philippians 4:2-3.)
Paul called these two women "fellow workers who have shared my struggle" (v.3). They may well have been in prison with him for preaching the gospel. They were definitely not just female members of the church at Phiippi. They were female preachers, and they were even have a serious disagreement on some teaching. Paul had to urge them to settle their problem and to "live in harmony in the Lord" (v.2).
We may never know what caused the tension between them, whether it was a personal problem or method of teaching. but we know for sure it did not have anything to do with gender. He didn't tell them to be quite and stay out of the ministery instead of commending them as colleagues in the ministry.
Women ministers can be found emerging in different places in the New Testament. You can one in John's second epistle which is addressed to a certain "chosen lady and her children' (2 John 1), and based on the letter's content, it was to a church that was combatting a heresy. The elect lady is most likely the Churches pastor or elder. J. Lee Grady doubts John would have used such feminine terminology if the pastor was a man. Even here conservative scholars try to dismiss this woman by saying she was the hostess of the church who provided some kind of financial assistance. Maybe the title "elect lady" was some kind of a code word for a local congregation. Here certain interpreters ignore the obvious.
Not only did women hold offices in the fivefold ministry, the Bibles room for women to hold positions of senior leadership or as elders in a local church. Certain Bible translators have not made it easy to defend women's positions here. Most likely blantent sexism is being applied in key passages that mention women leaders.
1 Timothy 3:1-13
Here in this passage Paul list qualifacations for men who want to be elders. or and overseer. He addresses these men first; then he lists the qualifications for male deacons. Third he list a category of women. Many translators call these woman just "wives of deacons" but this is an erroneous translation. It should simply be translated "the women."
What women? The wives of church leaders? No, the word is not "wives." What Paul was addressing here is a category of women leaders who had responsibilities in the local congregation. And much like the men they had to exhibit a higher standard of character. This is why Paul called them to be dignified and not malicious gossips, but to be temperate in all things.
Titus 1:5 -2:10
Here Paul told Titus how to set up a government of a local church. He gave qualifications for "older men " and older women." He wasn't talking abut how senior citizens should act? He was talking about "male elders" and "female elders". how do we know this? The Greek word used for "older men " is presbytidas and the word use for "older women" in this passage is presbytidas. A similar word, presbytera, is used in 1 Timothy 5:2. It means female elder, and it refers to an office in the church.
Catherine Kroeger notes that these women (are urged in who had responsibility for teaching women in the church, see verse 4) are urged in Titus 2:3 to act "worthy of sacred office." ( Some translations, like the New American Standard Bible, say "Be reverent in their behavior.") n fact, one New Testament dictionary translates this adjective to say "like those employed in sacred service." If Paul were simply addressing the behavior of older women in general, why would he expect them to "act like" they were in full time ministry? Well, because He was addressing women in full time ministry!
1 Timothy 5:1-8
There is still another category of women leaders that Paul mentions. These are "the widows". These were not just women whose husbands died; they were an "order" of women who served in a full time capacity like deadcons.The Churches in Paul's day employed these women to serve in various capacities, most likely ministering to the sick, helping orphans, organizing outreach projects or carrying out pastoral duties. Whatever their specific role, they most definely were empowered with authority to carry out the work of ministry. It is tragic that the modern church has not harnessed the enegies and spiritual gifts of older women in this way.
The records of early church history poves that women were functioning in many roles, very well suited for women of all ages , during the first century after Pentecost. Archeology also has proven it: Tombstone, coffins and other markers from the second century have provided numerous exampls of women who were called presbyteras. We also know that women in these early centuries of the church served as missionaries and bible teachers. One of them, St.Thelca, was known as an apostle, and the remains of a training center she founded have been excavated. on a siter near the ancient city of Seleucia. Another powerful female leader, Pulcheria, helped overcome early heresies, and she defended the bible doctrine of Christ's nature at the council of Calcedon.
There is ample evidence from the Bible and history that women served in key leadership roles in the church. Without them churchs would not have the Holy Spirit, who would be quenched just like many churches who follow traditional teachings and do not have the needed gifts too make them function properly. Institutional churches really move on humanism or efforts of uninspired men who will cause their churches to crash into oblivion.
God's gifted people with gifts and anoitings share these anoitings from the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ freely. We would certainly see more Deborahs, Nymphas, Priscillas, Phoebes and Junias in our day if they are given the opportunity in churches that say they are Christian but follow the traditional teachings by pagan philosophers and false prophets. This is what they really are when they substitute known paganized ideas from misquided men as works of the true God, Matthw 15:7-9..
Now is the time for woman to step out in faith and forsake the teachings of blind guides of tradition. I hope you have enjoyed this portion of J. Lee Grady's book, 25 Tough Questions About Women and the Church.. Be sure to check out Christians for Biblical Equality and reserve a copy for your own studies to prove all things as a true servants of God, 2 Timothy 3:15-17. Check our links. God bless all you women that yern to serve Christ, and God bless all you men who support them.
Men and Women Working Together for the Kingdom of God
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