Sometimes I find it amusing that our churches of today seem to be more anti-women than the Bible is.
We doubt women’s ability to preach truth, when the first person to share the gospel – He is risen! – was a woman.
We question the idea of women in leadership, when once upon a time Israel was delivered by a female judge.
We debate where a woman’s place in a church should be, when Jesus made it pretty clear: women were welcome at his feet, as disciples – learning, growing, and asking questions the same as his other followers.
We can go back and forth until eternity, nitpicking cultural context, the meaning of certain Hebrew or Greek words, or the particular audience Paul was writing to. For every verse that proves one way of thinking, there are two verses to counteract it.
Complementarian or Egalitarian, Protestant or Catholic, seminarian or lay folk – no matter where you land, it’s time all churches stop contributing to certain lies and start embracing the truth.
In order to combat the lies, we must remember these 4 truths…
Women are children of God, first and foremost.
We tend to solely define people by their gender, and then limit people by their gender. When others see me first and foremost as a woman, this filters the way they view my opinions, my gifts, my talents, and my weaknesses. I am proud to be a woman, I don’t think we should shy away from our gender; God created male and female and called them both good. Yet, first and foremost, I am a child of God, I am called “friend” by the King of kings, I am made in God’s image. That should be what defines me above all. Gender, race, age, or otherwise should never take precedence. When we label those around us by their sex before remembering they – like all of us – are chosen by the Savior of the world, we lose out on the life God invites us to, the family that God calls us to be a part of.
Women’s voices matter.
We hear it too often – in many churches women are allowed to teach Sunday school, they might be allowed to share a testimony from time to time or even lead prayer, but they aren’t allowed to preach. Often women’s expertise is welcome in kids’ church or at the reception desk, but seemingly nonexistent in matters of theology. No matter your personal beliefs on women in the pulpit, we can’t deny that God speaks to women. And, in turn, God speaks through women. Ruth, Mary, Mother Teresa, Corrie Ten Boom – there is no shortage of godly women whose wise words we all quote and brave actions we all aim to mimic. We must stop automatically deferring to the men in the room and overlooking the voices, opinions, and discernment of women.
It’s the man’s fault when the man stumbles.
A product of purity culture, I remember far too well being extra conscious of what I was wearing to church. As my body changed, so did the critical looks from members of the older generation. I was scared of wearing something too revealing, of sending the wrong message to males around me, of my actions conveying something other than my intentions. I was terrified of the worst offense a woman of faith can commit: causing a brother to stumble.
As women in the church, our impact on others is often over-sexualized, and our influence is undermined. Modesty is important – for men and women – in our clothing choices as well as our actions. But it shouldn’t be the ultimate focus, and it should never be solely a woman’s burden. When I’m too busy thinking “Was I too friendly??” as I walk away from interacting with a man, I’m distracted from the more important questions – “Did I encourage my brother? Did I speak truth into his life? Did I do my part to show him Jesus?”
We need one another in ministry.
“Kids’ ministry is women’s territory.” “Teaching pastors must be male.” “Women make the best secretaries, while men make up the elder board.” We have fallen into “natural” rhythms that are hurting the core of the church. Kids need male figures to teach them Sunday school, just as they need fathers at such a pivotal point of development. Similarly, teenage girls need female staff to turn to in youth group, on nights when surviving high school as a girl seems next to impossible. The whole congregation – not half – deserves to have someone on stage, in leadership, on the elder board that represents them: their beliefs, their opinions, and their life experiences.
We don’t need to replace women with men in some areas, we don’t need to replace men with women in others – we need to come together.
We need each other! We need all of us, using all our gifts, to help bring God’s kingdom to earth. We need to be aware our sex doesn’t define our strengths, our spiritual gifting, or our worth in the eyes of Christ. Being forced to stay in our genderized boxes of ministry hurts the mission of the church.