Jesus and Women in Ministry

Part 2 of my Series on Women
[ Part 1 | Part 2 ]

It appears that Jesus came into the culture and broke from traditional roles for women, here are a couple examples…

  1. Leadership.
  2. Reliable witnesses.
  3. Heralds of the gospel message.

More from Lee Grady’s book, 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, and some personal observations.

Did Jesus Believe Women Could Lead?

This strong church bias against women in leadership is peculiar when we examine Jesus’ own inclusive attitudes toward the women who followed Him. Jesus affirmed the equality of women in the midst of a culture that denied them basic human rights. He called them to be His disciples during a time when religious leaders taught that it was disgraceful even to teach a woman.

So, what is the point of teaching a woman if the knowledge or training cannot be passed on? Perhaps she CAN teach, but only to her children, in the home or in VBS, or even Sunday School (certainly before the boys get into the youth department) but that does not seem right.

The Same Holy Spirit

When Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon the church, as recorded in the Book of Acts, many of these same women were in the upper room and received empowerment on the Day of Pentecost. Those who were Christ’s disciples had been commissioned to go into all the earth as witnesses, but they had been instructed to wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them to empower them to fulfill this commission (See Acts 1:4–5). When the Holy Spirit came to fulfill this promise of empowerment for ministry, both men and women (including His own mother) received Him. This was noted by Peter, who then recited the verse from Joel’s prophecy: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17). If Christ commissioned solely men to the ministry of the gospel, why did He send the power for that mission upon both men and women?

The Samaritan Woman

In the story of His visit with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7–42), we read that after He revealed His true identity to her (and she received forgiveness of her troubled past) she began telling others about Him (John 4:28–29). Here we see perhaps one of the clearest pictures in the Bible of Christ as an ordainer of women. The gospel account tells us that after her encounter with the Jesus, “from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman” (John 4:39). Why would the Messiah send this woman into her village to tell others about His power if He was opposed to the concept of women in ministry?

Certainly you agree that every follower of Jesus has the opportunity and responsibility to share the good news of Jesus by telling what Jesus has done for them, and women are no exception. But there are many in the church who somehow draw the line when they do this in a leadership role, certainly never in a professional capacity in the role of a lead pastor.

Unreliable Witnesses

Grady reminds us that we must remember the cultural context of John 4. In the land of Israel at the time of Christ and, indeed, in all of the Roman world, women were not considered reliable witnesses. Men were taught that the testimony of a woman was not to be trusted because women were considered ignorant and easily deceived. Yet, to whom did Jesus choose first to reveal His resurrection on Easter morning (Luke 24:1-12)? And whom did He commission first to tell others that He had triumphed over the grave (Matthew 28:5-7)? Was it not His brave women disciples who were willing to identify with His death while His male followers hid from their persecutors?

After His resurrection, Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17). Was He not affirming her as a witness of the gospel? Was she not commissioned by Jesus Himself both to go and to speak for Him? Why then do we deny women the opportunity to carry the same message in a professional capacity?

Living Life in a Submissive Role

In conservative Christian circles women are expected to live contentedly in the background (presumably to focus on domestic duties) because this is their humble, God-ordained “place” in life. It’s a place of invisible service and of godly but quiet influence over children and the home, or perhaps over the church nursery, Sunday school class, or women’s Bible study. Women, of course, are told it is an honor to live in the shadow of their husbands or other male authorities and a disgrace for them to assume a place of significant spiritual authority. But we need to ask: Where did we get this warped idea when it was not the perspective of Jesus Christ, nor is it promoted anywhere in the Scriptures?

Women in Ministry

Part 1 of my Series on Women
[ Part 1 | Part 2 ]

Some people see women in ministry leadership as compromising God’s standard found in the Bible, but is that true? Is it heretical for women to accept the call of God to preach or pastor a church? For some people, they would even say that God cannot call a women to preach since that would violate his revealed Word, but is that true?

There are authors who have researched and written extensively on the topic so I will simply share some of my own observations and thoughts on what I have discovered in the Bible.

J. Lee Grady writes this in his book, “Ten Lies the Church Tells Women” about our current environment regarding women in ministry:

This was most obvious in June 2000, when the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, passed a policy that states: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” One Baptist leader who opposed the measure, Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville, Tennessee, told a reporter in Orlando, Florida, that the fifteen-million-member SBC “has pulled up the drawbridge to the 21st century and locked its members into a 19th-century cultural castle.” Why is it that the church always seems to be fifty or one hundred years behind the times when it comes to making social progress? Why must we drag our feet so clumsily when the Holy Spirit is urging us to break free from religious traditions that hinder His work? In the 1950s and 1960s, when American society was coming to terms with the ugliness of racial discrimination, the white evangelical church should have led the way in calling for justice for our African American brethren. But instead, many white churches opposed desegregation and even used the Bible to fight it. The same is true today regarding the issue of women in ministry. We live in a culture in which qualified women serve as governors, senators, mayors, university deans, corporate presidents, ambassadors, and even military commanders. Women have achieved remarkable status in diverse fields including space exploration, medicine, business, and athletics. Yet a majority of evangelical churches remain closed to the notion of a woman assuming the role of senior pastor. As a result the world views the church as ignorant, insensitive, and irrelevant. Sadly, we deserve that label.

I intend to post many of the issues and observations I find in the Bible (and Grady’s book and others) in my Women in Ministry series.

My Most Notable Observation for Today: it appears to me that while the BF&M 2000 statement on women in ministry prohibits women pastors, the Bible does not forbid it. Nowhere does the text say that pastors are to be men only, or women are never to serve as senior pastors. Theology and biblical interpretation would be easier if it was specifically addressed, but many in the church today read into the text with their male pastoral bias. I submit to you that we should not interpret the PATTERN of male pastors in the New Testament as a PROHIBITION against women being pastors.