IS THERE A PROBLEM? Yes, there was a problem, and I was in the middle of the turmoil. Here’s the story of how my journey began as I discovered through personal experience the five challenges facing women in ministry.
I had sensed a call to ministry from the outset of my walk with the Lord. I was 14 years old when I accepted Jesus. The president of the Women’s Missionary Union in our church asked me if I’d like to help her with the GAs. I eagerly responded, “Yes!” I would love to do that—having no idea what GAs was. I found out quickly it was the Girl’s Auxiliary, a missions organization for young girls. Since that early venture into serving in a church, I have been active in ministry in one way or another—whether teaching Sunday School, leading a youth group, playing the piano, or co-directing a Christian conference center.
However, I was naïve. And I did not understand that being a woman in ministry is a controversial issue if one does not stay in the proverbial box that is expected of women in the church. (Tweet that!) That is, as long as a woman works in the nursery, or the kitchen, or with children, or strictly with other women, one’s calling is acceptable, but if one’s calling should be in administration, or teaching, or preaching, or pastoral, or leadership, then we have stepped out of bounds. And there are plenty of church members who will let you know you have done so.
Several years ago I read with shock an article in my denomination’s monthly magazine discussing the role of women in the church which ended with this quote: “A man’s bad decision is better than a woman’s good decision.” I cannot tell you how offensive that was to me.
I have traveled the rocky road of struggling to follow God’s call on my life through prejudices, pre-judgments and downright meanness in the church. I have been put down and slandered. I have been teaching and watched elders turn their chairs around and engage in a private conversation during my lesson. There were men in our little town who refused to attend our church because I was allowed to teach and preach. But I have also known some wonderful men who have championed the cause and stood with me as I attempted to follow God’s call on my life. (Romans 11:29). This article is to point out some challenges that a female seeking to be in ministry might encounter.
- CHALLENGE #1 – LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF THE BIBLICAL TEACHING CONCERNING WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
One day an elder came by our office and was discussing with us the upcoming deacon election. I asked, “Isn’t it time we considered electing women deacons?”
“It’s not biblical.” His snapped his quick response at us.
“Hmm.” I had made it a matter of course to never be argumentative or dogmatic about the issue. If it came up, which it did from time to time, I would take a deep breath and determine to keep my voice soft and non-confrontational. My husband smiled, and I took my deep breath and asked, “Have you studied the issue? Really studied it?”
Whenever a member of our congregation or in the community came to my husband, the senior pastor, about my position in our church, he would discuss it with them, but then he would always say, “Why don’t you talk to Golden about this? Oh, and by the way, you’d better carve out a block of time and be studied up. It will probably take a while.” I don’t ever remember anyone coming to me about it after his admonition.
Later that week at our Wednesday night supper, this particular elder came and sat down beside me as I was finishing my meal. He nudged me with his elbow. “I studied it.”
“You did? What did you find out?”
“You’re right. Women deacons are biblical.” (Tweet that!)
I wish everyone would adopt that attitude and study Scripture for themselves before they are willing to go toe to toe arguing a point they think they believe. But they’ve only heard perhaps what a particular church’s stance is or what their parents believed or what a Sunday School teacher said.
Most people have not really studied the tough passages dealing with the role of women in the church. To be sure, it is not an easy study, and it is fraught with layers of tradition and culture. This is not the place to go into a Bible study about the role of women in the church, but unless the following guidelines are maintained, one will come up with incorrect interpretations: (1) grammatical integrity; (2) contextual integrity; (3) historical integrity; (4) timeless truth versus regulation for a certain people at a certain time.
If a woman desires to answer a call to ministry in the church, she must thoroughly study and understand what the Bible really teaches about it. (Tweet that!) Going by these guidelines and doing a deep study of the role of women in the church brings one perhaps to an entirely different conclusion than held previously.
Next time we’ll discuss CHALLENGE #2: MISUNDERSTANDING.
I would love to hear stories from my readers on this important topic. Has there been a time when you encountered misunderstanding as a women in ministry? What was your response? What did God teach you through that experience?
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