Why I Don’t Feel Disadvantaged as a Woman in Ministry

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.

 

Comments

  1. Chantel Ortiz says

    This is great! It’s refreshing to read anything on women in ministry that isn’t laced with cynicism, snark or rigid list of cannots. I grew up in a church environment where I was never told I couldn’t do or be something because I am a woman. I know there are a lot of hurt women out there who had an opposite experience. I love this!

  2. jennadewitt says

    Thanks for sharing your beliefs so graciously and honestly, (though I completely disagree and am a strong egalitarian. haha) I love that there is room enough in the Church, and in the Christian blogosphere, for you, for inCourage, for Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans, for A Deeper Story, for Her.meneutics, for all the diverse women out there sharing their ministry in the way they see is faithful to Scripture and openly wrestling through that. Even if we land on opposite interpretations of what those scriptures mean, working them out together is what community is about. :)

  3. says

    Like you, the only label I’ll accept is “unlabellable!” I believe, though, that you have found a good “safe” niche and outlook, even though there are the inevitable ones who will be contentious.

  4. says

    A thoughtful, grace-full, wise perspective. I’ve spent a great deal of time wrestling with and dialoguing about this subject (perhaps too much time?). I agree … God’s sovereignty trumps all.

  5. says

    My response is simple: I applaud you. (Sorry you can’t hear the clapping.) But my own belief is that there are enough exceptions in the Bible and in real life so that if God calls a woman to be a full-fledged minister, in charge of a church, that’s great. I can cite Deborah in the Bible, Mother Teresa, Lillian Trasher, and a friend of ours, Joan Uda (Methodist, not Baptist). And more.

    I’m also intrigued by the contrast between Genesis 2, where part of Eve’s punishment for tempting Adam was that he was not longer to be her “husband” but her “master,” and Hosea. I think Genesis 2 is where most of our doctrines on women originate (Unless it’s even simpler: Men are usually taller, which almost always makes shorter men, and women, defer to them as leaders.)

    Anyway, did you ever notice that Hosea 2:16 says that when Israel returns to him, “she will call me “my husband” instead of “my master?” I can’t help wonder is that doesn’t mean that when we turn to God and accept Christ, the basic rules of what men and women can do may not change? (And yes, I can just hear all the people having fun with that one. But it IS there, in Scripture.)

    God bless you.

    • says

      Interesting thought, Pete. The context, though, seems to indicate the time after Christ’s return, rather than the act/process of salvation. Those with arguments against “replacement theology” might have some issues there as well.

      On the other hand, there’s Galatians 3:28 to throw into the mix.

  6. says

    All I can say is, “You go girl!” ;-)

    Seriously, if you have peace in your soul that you are following your passion, using your God given talents and following him where he leads you to minister then it doesn’t matter if some others don’t accept it. If we do something out of the mediocre someone will always criticize us. Oh, well.

    A lot of folks didn’t get Jesus either.

    Blessings on your ministry.

    • says

      Thanks Doug. I hope it did not come across as bucking the system as it is completely about submission both to God, His word. And I do submit to the authority He structured in place over me. Anyway, I appreciate your kind words!

  7. says

    I am ok with being a slave because the apostle Paul said I should serve my master. So I am not going to fight against the injustice of slavery because ‘God is sovereign’ and he will sort it out.

    And my slave owner is a good person and let’s me do things that other slaves can’t do. I am not bothered about the the slaves who have it worse than me.

    So I don’t think I will fight for freedom today. But thanks for asking….

      • says

        Thanks Anne.

        I have just reread your post and think I understood it correctly.

        Is it possible that you didn’t understand the comparison I made between your comfortable stance with complementarian ideas and how a slave might feel if your logic were used when Wilberforce was fighting against people using scripture to justify slavery.

        Your thoughts would be welcome. Al

        • says

          I don’t think a comparison can be drawn. People take scripture out of context for horrible reasons and to support horrible things, but people also remove submission – a Biblical concept that is meant to bring beauty and fullness to relationships. I believe in and am happy to submit to those the Bible says I should submit to, and I am sorry for those who are abused when those verses are used for power plays.

  8. says

    Anne – stopping by to say ‘hi!’ I took a social media break last week, but connected with you over the joy & grief concept. Thanks for sharing your Relevant article, and especially for writing this.

    “He has made me a woman and has called me. The two can’t contradict.” These are the words I have been searching for all year. Thank you for writing them. Great to connect with you.

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