The Workings out of Women’s Work

WomenAtWorkGiven my genetic makeup and consequently the fact that I wear makeup, I am in the position once again where I am required to address my thoughts and beliefs regarding women in ministry. Just the other day I was in the regular weekly meeting with our senior pastor discussing ministry, difficulties and general feedback when, at the end of the hour, I was asked the question. For the ignorant among us, the question when speaking to a woman who is in, or wants to go into, ministry is, “what do you think the woman’s role is in the church?”

Over the years I have been encouraged on more than one occasion with regards to my teaching ability, and I have also cherished and thoroughly enjoyed the moments I have spent teaching and explaining ideas – particularly the Scriptures. New acquaintances generally assume I want to work with little children, but when during my college years I declared that I am not in the Children’s stream but the Pastoral stream of Theological training I was met with the raised eyebrow, concerned stares and the occasional, “…Oh!” I assume many think I want to pastor a church, impose feminist views on the congregation and achieve world domination. Sorry to disappoint, but that’s not at all what I’m looking for. I simply love teaching, I love explaining, and I love to see others cherish and understand the Word of God.

However, my pastor was right; as a woman I need to be able to give an answer to the question. Men might have all sorts of ideas and views, and at times they have the liberty simply to say, “It’s difficult and I’m still working out what I think exactly and where to draw the lines”. This would not be a satisfactory answer from a woman though, because it directly affects the way she lives and ministers now. Before the woman can do anything she must ask the question.

There are many passages of Scripture I could turn to however, I think 1 Timothy 2 speaks most clearly on the issue; and when I say clearly I mean most directly addressing men and women in the church without focusing mainly on the roles of husbands and wives. “But…but…Paul is a male chauvinist and is just asserting his culturally impaired views”. No, Paul is an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope (1 Tim 1:1); the reason Paul is writing at all is to preserve the doctrine and witness of the church and, Paul grounds his reasoning in universal and timeless truth since creation (1 Tim 2:13-14). Stott suggests that we use ‘cultural transposition’ at this point, and in many ways that is a helpful way of looking at the text, however it still places the reader in the judgment seat deciding what to file and what to put through the shredder.

Now obviously women are allowed to speak, since we have vocal chords and do the whole talking-thing way better than most men do. But the setting, situation, context in which women speak is the issue at hand. Women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3-4) and there are instances in which women are permitted to exercise their gifts in the appropriate way (1 Cor 11:5; Joel 2:28-29); but it is at the corporate church gathering that the shepherding, rebuking, correcting and teaching is to be done by a man.

For many women the problem comes down to desiring the position and headship of the man, but this was even considered at the very beginning where part of the curse was that Eve would desire her husbands’ authority, and man would often abuse it (Gen 3:16). This is a hard verse for me to hear because yes, my own heart’s desire does often drag me to the steps of treason, but as women we often become too caught up in the roles we can’t play that we ignore and neglect those key areas that only we can fill.

women and cakeFor women: Women’s ministry in many churches has been reduced to tea parties and gossip sessions. It’s our job to teach, instruct and model godliness to other women. Being women teaching women means we can connect and teach on a level that no man could attain. We can teach women gospel truth, deep theological gems, and fulfill our God given role, and even eat cake at the same time. If we neglect this role, there is no other man who is going to step in the gap. This is our baby and we need to take responsibility. It is my own conviction that when women do minister in a more corporate setting that it never questions the leadership of the elders or assumes authority over the pastor; it must always be done in a spirit of humility and submission.

For men: Encourage women to get involved in women’s ministry. Just because women cannot hold the role of pastor and shepherd does not mean that every other door must be closed. Women have great potential if only they were taken seriously. I think in many cases the topic of women in ministry has become an issue simply because women are restricted from exercising their gifts at all. How many pastors do most churches employ before they see the need for a women’s worker?

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Jade Poole
works as a pastor in PE in areas of women's ministry and music, maintaining productivity with quality doses of coffee. She is married and has, objectively, the most beautiful baby girl in the world.
  • David Kobedi

    It’s hard not to enjoy reading something that you firmly agree with. Nevertheless I find the article more interesting not just because I agree with it but because it has a positive view on the matter. And the fact that it comes from a woman adds more credibility to it.

    I agree that women should be encouraged to be in ministry. And instead of fighting from a negative angle of what women should not do, we should dwell more on what they should do. Thanks for the post.

  • Olivia

    Yes, lovely to hear a positive take on the dreaded question

  • Don Holmes

    Hi Jade. I am a pastor. I appreciate your respect for the authority of scripture and I applaud your desire to interpret Scripture as close to it’s plain meaning as possible. I however share a slightly different view to you. I believe that if a woman has been gifted to preach/ teach/ prophecy, she perfectly within Scriptural authority to do so. I would say that if she is in committed fellowship to a church that has no problem with the exercising of her gift, then this is fine, no one is rocking the boat and upsetting the flock. I particularly like Dr Martin Pohlmann’s book, “Equally Good News”. You may or may not Martin, assuming you don’t, he is the principal of Baptist Theological College in Randburg. Yes, I know that this is a divisive issue and I’m sure you aware of other equally compelling evangelic viewpoints on this. I just wanted to encourage you. If you have the gift, treasure, nurture and steward it; may God be glorified and may men and women be blessed by his ministry through your life.

  • Hey Jade,

    I just saw one of Zondervan’s new Counterpoints volumes is entitled “Two Views on Women in Ministry”. The quoted text I saw was:

    One of the continuing hotbeds of debate in evangelical circles today is the nature and scope of leadership roles open to women in the church. Can a woman preach God’s word? Can she serve communion, baptize, or lead in worship? Can she marry and bury? Can she serve as the lead or solo pastor? Can she teach an adult Bible class? Can she serve as a bishop, elder, or deacon?

    I found that as I read this list I realised complexities in the issue that I had not noticed before. The questions of “serve communion, baptize, or lead in worship” juxtaposed with “serve as the lead or solo pastor” relates aspects of ministry that I had not realised had bearing on one another.

    This is an issue that I still have a long way to go on before I’ve worked out where I stand. I guess the danger is that I find that the conservative position to which we are inclined to default is that of preventing ministry – which may well be as bad as allowing it to be done in an inappropriate way. It makes me think we should have some more urgency when it comes to figuring this stuff out…

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