A few months ago, I read an interview with a complementarian pastor. He was explaining how successful his ministry became when he made a decision to preach only to men. Apparently, his church population grew by the thousands. He interpreted this as a sign of success.
The interview reminded me of the many, many stories I’ve heard from Christian women who have attended complementarian churches, probably much like the one just described. In these churches, male pastors encourage “young men” (and young men only) to prayerfully consider whether or not God has “called them to the ministry.” If a young woman claims that God has called her to be a pastor, she may be reprimanded. The call could not have come from God. If it did in fact have a spiritual origin, it must have come from the devil.
I’ve lost count of the number of young women who were told this by their church leadership, which was of course all male. “A subjective sense of calling to pastoral ministry must never contradict the word of God,” women are told, by men who never stop to consider that their interpretation of the Bible may be equally subjective, and possibly wrong.
Women tell me that other men at church approach their husbands with outstretched hands, greeting them warmly. The women, however, are ignored. Sometimes men won’t speak to them. Often men will not even look at them. Apparently, looking at another man’s wife, even in church, may lead to “lust” or the “appearance of evil,” I’ve been told.
Many women have told me that when they take communion to remember the death and resurrection of our Lord, the table is presided over exclusively by men. A Catholic student I taught at Bible College explained that she could never hope to be a priest because she was not a man. In some churches, women are not even allowed to read the Bible from behind the pulpit, allegedly because the pulpit is a sign of male authority in the church. Do these churches realize that there were no “pulpits” in the New Testament, and that “church” often took place in women’s homes?
How does it feel:
-when pastors won’t preach to you?
-when men do not talk to you?
-when men will not look at you?
-when opportunities to serve are denied you?
-when you’re told that you’re being influenced by Satan because you want to be a pastor or a priest?
-when you’re not allowed to stand and read the Bible where only a man can stand?
–all because you are a woman?
At best, women tell me they feel invisible.
Is this the sign of a successful ministry? Are we being good ambassadors for Christ when we treat women this way?
-did Jesus treat women in this manner?
-did Jesus fail to make eye contact with Mary, when he went to her house and taught her the ways of God as she sat at his feet? (Luke 10:38-39)
-did Jesus fearfully or angrily pull away when a woman (regarded as unclean by the religious leaders of her day) lovingly kissed his feet, washing them with her tears? (Luke 7:36-38)
-did Jesus entrust the good news of his triumph over sin and death exclusively to men? (Matthew 28:1-10)
Jesus did not ignore women. He looked at them; he taught them; he touched them and was touched by them.
He loved them, and he entrusted them with the good news of salvation through faith in his death and resurrection. The church that bears his name should do no less. In our ministries let us follow the example of Christ, not the example of the religious leaders of his day, who confused the traditions of men with the word of God (Mark 7:8).
By the way, they also had large followings.
YOUR TURN: Have you or someone you know had the experience of being treated as “invisible” in the church? How might we begin to change this type of church culture?
Graphic Credit: Katie Hickman http://www.goldbugdesign.com/