Scriptural: Who Denied The Church?
Devastating. Humiliating. Insensitive. Harsh.
How many more words are needed to describe the words and attitudes of "sit down and be quiet" that have pierced the hearts of women who have attempted to use God-given spiritual gifts in the local church? This is more tragic than the greatest of bank robberies. Somebody has denied the Church of some of its most God-given assets. What kind of human organization would God build? Jesus tried to show us by giving an incredible model called the Church. The Church has been limited of its full strength and power from what God originally designed and intended it to be.
Intimidating and effective was the scheme the enemy of the Church devised in disqualifying women from using God-given spiritual gifts in the organization that God was building as a model for us. Half God’s army is disqualified when women are silenced from ministry. The Church and a lost and needy world are being robbed of the ministry of multiplied thousands of women who are called and gifted by God for ministry.
Some Heavy Questions
Doesn’t the God who created the sexes know if the persons to whom He gives gifts are male or female? Why would God give spiritual gifts to a woman unless He meant for the gifts to be used? Consider for a moment our inconsistencies within the church. We often preach, teach, and quote Scripture that says women should be silent in church (1 Corinthians 14:34) and not be allowed to teach (1 Timothy 2:12). Yet, we affirm a woman’s right to teach Bible studies, Sunday school, children’s classes, and speak at major retreats, seminars, and conventions. If we hold to the teaching that women should not speak or teach in the church, and if we believe the church is "where two or three are gathered together in [His] name," (Matthew 18:20) then are we not being self-serving to let women teach at all? We must rethink church.
The paradigm shift of including women into full ministry in the church is not because the Scripture has changed but because God’s Spirit is awakening a fresh understanding of the Scripture on what has been denied the church. Many arguments could be given concerning the scriptural place of women’s ministry in the church. Let me share a few thoughts on appropriate and biblical treatment of women ministers in the local church.
The Golden Rule
Incredible strength is added to the church’s ministry team when anointed women are released to function in the spiritual gifts God has given to them. Through the years spiritual gifts operating in women have most often been challenged by two groups: insecure men and jealous women.
Whether a woman is on staff, a layperson in the congregation, or an extended colleague in ministry, the Golden Rule still applies to how male counterparts should treat women in ministry. To speak to or treat a woman in ministry in a condescending or patronizing way is a violation of Scripture. The Golden Rule is more than a childhood clichÃ©. It applies to how any man of God treats a woman of the Lord—or anyone else. Staff or non-staff—evangelist, pastor, or teacher—the man of God, above all others, should model for the world how a woman (and certainly God’s anointed) should be treated.
Superior attitudes are not acceptable under the biblical Golden Rule admonition, regardless of whether it’s at your church or mine. Treating a female staff person as though she doesn’t know as much or her input is not as valuable as a male staff person is totally wrong. It is in direct defiance of the scriptural Golden Rule and should not be part of any clergy mind-set. Respect; trust; value; meaningful, fulfilling assignments and responsibility; and corresponding authority belong to female staff as well as male staff. God wants to give to the body of Christ some of the most gifted, sensitive, and anointed treasures the Church has ever known. One of the great tragedies of the Church Age is men who have been spiritually blinded to God’s gift of women in ministry—they are one of the Church’s greatest strengths.
My leadership is not threatened or usurped when I freely allow another anointed servant of the Lord (male or female) to stand alongside me or on my behalf to use his or her spiritual gift for His glory. I willingly delegate responsibility and ministry to others. I rejoice that I can share with others (both male and female) the wonderful privileges of ministry; the honor, respect, and trust of others; and the joy of being collaboring servants with God. There can only be one head under Christ. But, according to the Body and spiritual gifts chapters in Ephesians, Romans, and 1 Corinthians, it is clear the Lord doesn’t expect the head to do everything. The head is to let other parts of the Body function. And since "there is neither male nor female" distinctions in the ministry function of spiritual gifts, we have the incredible opportunity to release into ministry—with respect and thanksgiving—those who are able to add their part to the ministry God has entrusted to us.
Some husband-wife teams have also been especially blessed with ministry together. Although this ideal situation may not fit everyone, the principles are certainly relevant to everyone in ministry. See the sidebar that addresses four principles of strategic importance in successful husband-and-wife team ministry.
The days of telling a woman to "sit down and be quiet" are behind us. Women are serving in key ministry roles. Those who would disallow the local church of spiritually-gifted women are fading into the shadows. The Spirit of God is giving a fresh anointing to all flesh—"your sons and your daughters." God is using men and women. Women in ministry are one of the greatest gifts to the body of Christ. Let us take care of them, build them up, strengthen them, and use them. Not to use God’s gifts in this generation would be one of the greatest mistakes any church could make.