Earlier this year we shared a guest post titled “Why I’m at a Church That Doesn’t Support Gender Equality”. The post led to a robust discussion of the pros and cons of staying versus leaving. Today a seasoned leader shares a consequence of staying in a complementarian church that did not come up in earlier discussions and is worth considering.
Do I stay or do I leave?
This is the question a Christian woman faces when she realizes that her pastor and church leaders do not believe in women serving in the gifting and calling that she has. What it comes down to is that a patriarchal or complementarian pastor often chooses not to shepherd a woman with a calling to serve in certain ways (especially teaching, preaching, or leading). They clamp down the glass ceiling and refuse to assist her spiritual growth in those areas.
The work of a pastor is fashioned after the work of a shepherd who watches over, protects, nurtures, encourages, and loves the sheep.
John 10: 11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His [own] life for the sheep. When a sheep wanders off and is hurt, the good shepherd runs after that one and guides or carries it to safety. If a lamb is caught in a crevice the good shepherd does whatever is necessary to free the lamb and heal its wounds. The good shepherd sings to the flock at night soothing their souls encouraging peace. When danger encroaches, the good shepherd chases away the enemy even fighting or killing them if necessary. The good shepherd has eyes on each member of the flock at all times for their betterment, safety, and joy. Jesus is our example of the good Shepherd.
After 40+ years of serving in teaching, preaching, and leading capacities I’ve accepted the fact that pastors and leaders who do not believe in women ministering in these ways will simply not shepherd women in their spiritual development.
We are on our own there. I have done well enough in many churches of shepherding my own growth, but there is always a point where help is needed and we have to go elsewhere for it, or we simply don’t get the help we need.
It has been my experience, and that of most gifted women I know, that only pastors and leaders who believe women are equally called by God in all areas will unquestioningly nurture and shepherd women.
Some will allow women to teach women but not the men. Some will allow women to teach a mixed group under certain circumstances. And others will even allow women to preach. But the question should never be what is allowed, but rather what is God doing that we can encourage, support, and release.
Here’s a question for my fellow sisters who find their heads bumping against a similar glass ceiling:
Can you get by where you are without the freedom to pour forth from your spirit the living waters that God has put in your soul? Is there someone in your church who will minister to your soul to release you further?
John 7:38 Whoever believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Me], as the Scripture has said, ‘Rivers of living water will flow continually from within them.’” (NIV, AMP)
I want to encourage those who are in these struggles to never give up.
God will always provide a way. It just may or may not be where you are.