Strategies: Strength in Diversity; Working With an All-Male Team
I am a senior pastor with five staff members who are males. I also serve as a district presbyter with some 30 male presbyters and district officials. So I can look at our subject from a unique position.
First, we will consider the historical precedent for involvement of women in ministry. Then, a biblical precedent for women in ministry in a male-dominated culture. Then an Old Testament model of a female who served in a predominately male situation. Then, a contemporary setting of some dynamics of being a female in a predominately male ministry environment.
Historical precedent for women in ministry
In Pentecostalism’s early years it was not unusual to see women preaching, pastoring and leading. And although the Assemblies of God has the highest per capita percentage of credentialed women among any denominations, with our most recent statistics showing that there are 5,225 credentialed women, yet the number of women who are serving in senior leadership roles presently is minimal. Presently only 387 serve as senior pastors, and 10 serve as sectional presbyters.
The Assemblies of God ordained women at the first General Council in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1914. And by 1936 there was one ordained woman for every four ordained men. At one point six of Azusa Street’s 12-member credentials committee were female. Florence Crawford founded the Apostolic Faith movement out of Portland, Oregon. Aimee Semple McPherson founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel; at one time 37 percent of its ministers were female.
While most denominations allowed women to preach, few have them allowed them to hold leadership positions. Some felt as though women should be allowed to evangelize and do missions work, but not pastor. We must be biblically based in our view of women in ministry and how God calls, ordains, and appoints women. No Scripture says that a woman is called only because there is not a man to do that job. What validated the ministry of a woman and what opened the door for her ministry was the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon her life.
We have about 30 nationalities in our church; about one-third of our members are Hispanic. In the Hispanic culture, men are macho. About one-third of our congregation is Caribbean. Caribbean men are strong and they dominate their culture.
A Caribbean gentleman from Jamaica came to our church. The one who invited him did not tell him there was a female pastor. The moment he saw me on the platform he said he became angry and said, "This is not right. That’s against God." He decided to stay because he didn’t want to offend his friends. He said that, once I started to preach and he saw and felt the presence of God, all of that melted away. Eventually he gave his heart to the Lord, was baptized in the Holy Spirit, and served on our board and in various positions of leadership. In the Book of Acts, the Spirit brought down the racial, prejudicial, and gender barriers. We do not have to march for equal rights. God’s anointing witnesses to the call even if denominations and individuals deny recognition and opportunity for ministry.
Things changed after World War II. Some women chose to remain in the workplace, while evangelicalism superimposed the picture of the stay-at-home mom as the ideal Christian woman. In effect, the message to women was: "Your calling is your family. Your calling is your kids." And so there was a decline in the involvement of women in ministry, and today female pastors are rare. Today a woman in ministry is generally playing on an all-male team. That’s where we started and how we got to where we are. Now the tide is turning as our leadership is saying, "We have done an injustice – not intentionally, but in practice – because the Assemblies of God has always recognized that God calls and ordains women." I praise God for that.