Earlier this year, I spoke at a church on a Sunday morning. This isn’t out of the ordinary for my schedule; I often have pastor-friends who need someone to fill in, often last minute, and teach during a Sunday morning service.
After the service, I was speaking to another pastor at that church when a gentleman approached us. He wasn’t at the service but was a pastor at a different church in town. After learning I was the guest speaker, it was clear he was not happy that a woman was teaching to the entire church.
This doesn’t bother me. I understand where he’s coming from and had to think through my own philosophy of women in leadership at churches. Growing up in a very fundamental Baptist environment, women were only allowed to be in certain roles and usually that meant never teaching to both men and women.
Here’s what I see: I do believe that men are called to lead and have authority over a church. If one of these men thinks the message I am sharing will help grow the people trusted to him, he can choose to have me teach that message. While I may be the one speaking to a congregation, I’m doing it under the decision of that church’s leader. And I do believe God calls and appoints specific men to specific local congregations.
Many times I’m asked if – and sometimes it’s assumed that – I am more of an egalitarian than I am because I am ordained and I do frequently teach/preach/whatever. I’m not. I dislike labels, but if you had to call me something, I’m a closet complementarian.
And many times I’m told, “I’m so sorry that the church looks down on women” or “I wish more churches let women lead” … something to imply that as a woman, I’m at a disadvantage in ministry. That I won’t sell as many books as a man could (someone once commented in a review that I was the wrong gender to write about ministry leadership). That I’ll never speak in certain churches because I’m not a man.
While some people would fully agree with those statements (and maybe, in essence, factually they are true), I don’t feel disadvantaged as a woman in ministry for one simple fact:
I believe in the sovereignty of God.
He has made me woman and he has called me. The two can’t contradict.
If I am prayerfully seeking Him, cautiously listening to His spirit through Scripture and through, well, that mysterious way the spirit works, and the voices of those in my own life who I’ve submitted to, (Submission is not a terrible thing. I wish it didn’t get such a bad rap.) I can confidentially walk into the opportunities that God has placed in my path that do not go against those things.
Sovereignty, structure, scripture and submission…they aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re all needed as we grow and live out our gifts and callings, male and female, unique and unified.