The Old Testament seems to be filled with predominantly male leaders. If we fast forward to the New Testament you’ll see that Jesus’ twelve disciples were all men. The Apostle Paul even said in a few places that women should be submissive and/or silent in the church. So what about women in ministry? Should women preach or teach? Should they hold a leadership role in the church? This is probably one of the most controversial topics that theologians have debated for centuries. Some denominations ordain women, while others oppose the practice. In no way will I be able to resolve this question in my short blog, but I would like to share my 2 cents worth since we do have women ministers on our stage at HungryGen.
First of all, under the Old Covenant, we see that God used women. Not only were they used by Him, but they also were known as prophetesses. In fact, in the Old Testament, there were four women named as prophetesses: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chronicles 34:22), Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3). God spoke through these women to His people; He wanted them to prophesy. It wasn’t like one day they decided to preach, write books, or host women’s conferences. The Holy Spirit inspired them to speak to God’s people, Israel. This alone debunks the myth that women should shut up and be silent in church. God didn’t make a mistake when He used women in that capacity.
Deborah was a prophetess, a wife, and also a female military leader. She recruited the general of the army, Barak, to deploy 10,000 troops. She told him what God wanted him to do and he followed her instructions but under his own conditions. Barak was hesitant at first, but he agreed that if Deborah went with him into the battlefield, he would go and fight. The enemy was totally defeated just as Deborah had prophesied and nowhere in this story do we see that this victory was somehow contrary to the Lord’s will, or that Deborah’s leadership was a violation of God’s order (see Judges chapter 4 and 5).
Coming to the New Testament, we see that Jesus’ Apostles were all males, but He included women in His ministry. When the disciples criticized a woman for pouring out expensive perfume on Jesus, He defended her. Jesus healed a woman with an issue of blood when she touched Him by faith, as well as Peter’s mother-in-law and a 12-year-old girl. Jesus also revealed plainly to a Samaritan woman that He was the Messiah. She, in return, “…left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, ‘Come, see a Man who told me all the things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ Then they went out of the city and came to Him,” (John 4:28-30). The first evangelist of Jesus Christ was this Samaritan woman. Her simple witness had a better outcome than most male pastors have these days. Look at the results of her preaching: “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did,’” (John 4:39). She brought the news about Jesus the Messiah to her city. While Jesus’ guys were busy buying tacos at the nearby taco stand, she got men from the city to come to Jesus. Jesus is looking for laborers with similar passion who will share His good news.
Today, our dying world is looking for someone with that same good news. For example, it matters very little if the person delivering my mail or packages to my home is a male or a female, just as long as the packages are delivered in a timely manner. If you were drowning, I am pretty sure you wouldn’t be picky about which gender threw you a life jacket. When you were hungry, your mom prepared your food, and you were not offended because she was a female.
Another preacher of the Good News is Mary Magdalene. She was delivered from 7 demons (Reference Luke 8:2) and was one of the followers of Jesus’ ministry and also one of His financial supporters. She is mentioned more than any other woman in the Gospels. The Gospels record that together, with 2 other women, she went to the tomb on Sunday morning only to find the tomb empty. After the others went back into town, she then encountered the resurrected Lord who told her to go to His guys, “…go to My brethren and say to them…Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that He had spoken these things to her” (John 20:17-18). That astounding information was hard for the male disciples to accept, probably because a woman was telling them what Jesus had said. Those 11 dudes had been with Jesus in His close circle, and yet, Jesus entrusted the message of His resurrection to a woman. In that day and age, women weren’t trusted as they are today. They didn’t have rights as they do today. This was revolutionary of Jesus. I truly believe that Jesus elevated the value of women more than anyone else in ancient history.
I know you are thinking about those verses in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”
Let’s look a bit into the context of Paul’s letter to Timothy. First of all, Paul sends Timothy to Ephesus to stop the spread of bad theology in that church (1 Timothy 2:9-10). After addressing things like bad theology, prayer in church, and women dressing up flamboyantly, he touches on this topic. Keep in mind, false teachers had already penetrated that church and were preying on women because at that time women were not educated as men were. Educating men, not women, was the priority of that age. I believe Paul is saying that these Ephesian women shouldn’t preach because they had been deceived by false teachers, using the example of Eve when she was deceived by the serpent and then she led Adam astray. Women at the Ephesian church were like Eve being deceived by false teachings; they needed to come under Timothy’s leadership and get proper theological education so that they could grow spiritually and become like the great women ministers such as Phoebe, Junia, and Priscilla.
Secondly, in Ephesus there was a temple of worship Diana, who was the goddess of those people, and it was most common to have female leaders in that temple. For a woman who got saved, her concept of religion was that women are expected to be in leadership roles. But gender alone doesn’t qualify a person for church leadership. That position requires character, anointing, and proper training in the Scriptures. Most local churches at that time had men assuming the leadership role in the congregation. Paul was telling those women in Ephesus that their first task is to learn and to be properly equipped as disciples of Jesus, not jump into positions for which they are not prepared for. It would be as though you are a CEO of a company and when you get saved, you could become a pastor the very next day because you have the experience of being a CEO. Being a boss outside of the church doesn’t make you a pastor within a church. There is a process of time and training to qualify one to preach, teach or take leadership at church.
Thirdly, if a woman should be quiet in the church and not speak (see 1 Corinthians 14:34,35) does that mean women can’t sing, speak in tongues, prophesy or teach in kids’ service? Rather than taking this instruction literally, we need to compare it to the spirit of Paul’s other writings and practices. Looking at the early church we see that women were often involved serving in the church, including using their voice to bring good news to others. For example, the daughters of Philip prophesied (Acts 21:8,9) and prophesying involves speaking. Paul, in his writing to the Romans in chapter 16, commends many women who were in leadership positions in the church and who were his co-workers. Phoebe was a woman leader, serving in the church (Romans 16:1). Priscilla, who was Paul’s co-worker along with her husband, both risked their lives and led a church in their house (Romans 16:3-5). Mary was a laborer for Christ along with Paul (Romans 16:6). As well as Junia, his fellow prisoner, apostle before even Paul (Romans 16:7). He also notes Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis – all women noted to be hard workers for the Lord (Romans 16:12). Apostle Paul had strong, courageous women leaders working alongside him.
Along with many Christian leaders, I view these verses and similar references to the Corinthian letters as simple and practical advice that is historically fixed and not universal and timeless. Before, you jump at me for ignoring the Scriptures, consider this with me. We know that New Testament writers accepted slavery; yep, they did, but we wouldn’t agree that we should return to slavery. In the same way, those verses that seem to suppress the voice of women in the church back in those days don’t mean that leadership roles of women are wrong today. Our society is very different but the principles are the same. Otherwise, why would God allow them to be prophetesses? Why would Jesus involve them in spreading His truth? The Gospel teaches us that women, men and children can be born again through grace, and they have equal value in the eyes of God. That should be our guiding principle, not the customs of the Roman Empire in the first century. Women still served in the early church in spite of all the limitations in their culture, and today we should allow women to serve as well in whatever positions they are qualified to fill.
At Hungry Generation church we encourage women to serve God in whatever way they feel called and equipped to do. That includes preaching, singing, prophesying, leading and ministering healing and deliverance. One thing I want to mention is that the person who is in the senior leadership position of our church is a male. Our founding pastor is Vasiliy and even though his wife is also referred to as “pastor”, the responsibility of the church lies on his shoulders. So it is with me as the lead pastor — even though my wife is my co-pastor and partner, the responsibility lies on me. God established an order in the church and the family which He modeled after Himself. For those of you who feel like it is a masculine entitlement to have the man as the head of his wife and to have a male pastor as the head of the church, it is not. It’s just the way God structured it.
First of all, the order of creation shows that Adam was created first. In other words, the responsibility of men serving in the role of final authority in the church is based on the original creation principle. There was an order to this. God didn’t create man first because he was better than or superior to the woman but because he was meant to be a positional leader. And this established a pattern for the home and the church.
Secondly, this pattern of God putting a man as the head has to do with the weight of responsibility, not to his worth or superiority. When the first woman was deceived and the man committed sin, God first came to Adam to hold him accountable, not to Eve. It wasn’t because she wasn’t as guilty as Adam, but because the weight of leadership responsibility lay on the man. I serve along with my wife at our church, but the spiritual weight of the church rests on the men who are a part of the pastoral team. However, this doesn’t mean that a woman can’t carry that burden when men are not available or willing. In the marketplace, there are many women who lead large, successful businesses. It’s a fact; in places where there is no qualified male leadership, a woman has to step in to fill those shoes. But overall, God’s pattern is for man to be the head of the family and of the church.
Thirdly, our example for this comes from the Trinity. Man’s role of being the head of his wife does not make him any more superior than the Father’s role over the Son. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are equal members of the Trinity but they have different functions. The Bible teaches us that Jesus submits to the Father just as a man should submit to the Holy Spirit and a wife submits to her husband. When church members honor and submit to their pastor, they are not losing their individual identity. When a wife submits to her husband, she is not of less value; she remains his equivalent but has different roles. Even as Jesus submitted to His Father here on Earth, He didn’t lose His place of value as a member of the Trinity. It’s all about God’s order and pattern. These are some of the reasons we believe that the weight of responsibility in the church and family rests on the men, but women do have ministries and leadership roles that honor God as well.
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