4 Truths About Women in the Church

Krysti Wilkinson

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4 truths

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.

Krysti Wilkinson

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13 Comments

  • Ohhhh these words are so sweet to me eyes and soul! Can’t get enough of them!. Thank you for telling them. We should not stop telling these truths over and over again…

    • Thanks, Tellou! It can be hard to not get lost in the lies of the world; I think constantly reminding ourselves of Truth is so important 🙂

  • I’ve put in my membership in a nondenominational Christian church that doesn’t support gender equality in some things (they do in others), and I sometimes feel like I want to do something about it. There’s just a few problems: 1. It’s a very small church with mostly older people (many of whom it’s the only church they’ve been to in their entire life) who probably aren’t familiar with egalitarianism, and I don’t know how many of them would react (a lot of people who haven’t been attending as long have stopped coming, though). 2. I’m still living at home and my father’s the pastor of the church. I feel a lot of pressure about doing something like nominating a woman for the board of elders (and I do have a couple women in mind) would cause a church split or many regular attendees to leave. 3. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the congregation who supports gender equality. 4. I have Autism, ADHD, and bipolar disorder and am afraid of acting out or doing something that would drive people away.

    Any advice?

    • 1. Never become a church ‘member’
      2. Find a place that ‘fits’ you…you will never be happy in a place that you need to change.
      3. Write a book

    • “The whole congregation – not half – deserves to have someone on stage, in leadership, on the elder board that represents them”

      Does anyone wonder why there is a revolution in the churches…a Biblical feminist revolution? The U.S.A. was founded upon the rebel cry…”no taxation without representation”…if the male gender would not stomach this why do they think we will? The rebellion is caused by those who insist on refusing representation to women…I is not caused by the women who want representation…yet the blame is cast on women…and they are insulted for wanting what men have always demanded and they are called ‘Jezebels’…my answer is the Gadsden flag’s message they sent to Britain “Don’t tread on me”…In fact I don’t like war, but this is a war against women by Complementarianism and it is a war against liberty…How can we be on any other side than liberty…for God is there.

    • Hi there! I like the way you are thinking. It would help to know the reason why the church doesn’t support gender equality in some things. That way you would know where the heart of the issue lies. Others in your situation have started with a private discussion with the pastor (something you’ve probably already done!), providing egalitarian resources to those who preach on passages about women or the more difficult passages, encouraging more participation of women overall (reading scripture, serving communion, preaching, etc.). It is usually easier to do these things that to start by trying to change the elder board structure. I think a worthy goal would be to keep investigating how others in the congregation feel about this. If you could find a couple of allies, you could do a small group study together and invite others. Hope those ideas are helpful! Gail (site admin)

      • They have women giving announcements or leading prayer, but they don’t approve of women serving as elders or giving sermons or things like that.

    • I’d definitely encourage you to try and start some conversations – either with the pastor or members of the congregation! Asking questions of others can be a great way for you to get a feel for where they are at in terms of gender equality, and is usually a great way to expand your own viewpoints. Plus simply starting conversations versus trying to enact change from the get go can be easier for other people to get on board with.
      Praying for you to find some allies!

  • I totally agree, Krysti. The Body of Christ is so rich and multi faceted, much like the God we serve. It’s a crying shame that so much of that richness and diversity is smothered by legalism, fear and prejudice. Let God arise and his enemies be scattered so that the whole body might do the work it’s called to.

    • I agree! Living and acting out of fear gets us no where

  • Thanks Krysti – I love that phrasing at the end – we don’t need to replace women with men or replace men with women, we need to come together. That sums up the idea so well!

  • Let’s face it either Jesus came to save men and not women or the whole argument is moot. Complementarians act as though only the male gender has a relationship with Him and women need men to get some help from God…

    I have left the church entirely and am following Christ without the ridiculous church that these men have built on their own egos.

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