When it comes to women serving in different capacities in ministry, what acts as the final word for you in determining what is appropriate and what is not? What is your ultimate authority or final court of appeals? Does some human authority or some supposed pragmatic reason ever trump Scripture? Have you ever found yourself saying something like, “I know God’s Word says this, but I think…”
If so, then we have a problem. What happens in that moment of “…but I think…” is that we make ourselves more authoritative than God in determining how to live God’s way. We, in essence, become our own God, following our own way. We make the mistake the nation of Israel made when they did what was right in their own eyes instead of obeying God (Judges 21:25).
Regarding women and ministry, don’t ever miss the fact that God wants women involved in ministry! But we need to do it His way and not our own. He has given us guidelines in Scripture (see 1 Tm 2:9-15, 1 Co 11:2-11; Titus 2:3-5). Despite that fact, I have heard many “…but I think…” reasons offered as to why we should let women serve as pastors or serve in some capacity in the church where women are teaching men or serving in authority over men. If you believe (as I do) that God’s Word teaches that there are some boundaries for women as they serve in ministry, then any reason offered for dismissing or overruling God’s directives to women needs to bow to Scripture.
Consider just some of the reasons people use to trump what God says in the Bible about women in ministry:
The Perceived Leading of the Holy Spirit—I have heard many women say that God has “called” them to be a pastor. Why would God contradict Himself? Why would He lead a woman to teach men and have authority over men in the church if He told women not to do those very things in Scripture? Anytime we attribute to God something that contradicts His Word, I am afraid we are actually using God’s name in vain.
The Pastor Gave His Blessing—I had a student one time who was preaching on Sunday mornings at her church. She said she believed it was okay for her to do that because her pastor had asked her to serve in that capacity while he was away from church. While we must certainly respect the leadership of our churches, that doesn’t mean they serve as the ultimate authority. If the Bible clearly teaches something, then pastoral authority does not trump biblical authority.
My Husband Gave His Blessing—What if a woman is married and her husband serves as a pastor alongside her or encourages her to be a pastor? Just like the example above, human authority does not trump scriptural authority. The encouragement of a husband is also not a license to ignore what Scripture clearly says.
Historical Precedents –What about all the women who served as pastors in church history? Church history is great—I love learning from both the good and bad examples in our past, but just because we have examples of women serving as pastors, doesn’t mean women should do so today. We still need to use discernment. Historical precedents can be instructive and informative but are not ultimately authoritative.
Spiritual Gifting—What about women who have the spiritual gift of teaching (Rom 12:7) or leadership (Rom 12:8)? Women certainly do have gifts of teaching and leadership. However, we are still responsible for exercising those spiritual gifts as God as directed. Paul had to correct some believers in Corinth because they were not using spiritual gifts appropriately (1 Cor 12—14). Some believers point out that the list of spiritual gifts in Scripture aren’t segregated by gender, and I agree with that (see Eph 4:11; 1 Cor 12:8-11; Rom 12:6-8). Women can have any of the spiritual gifts, but whichever gift they receive from the Holy Spirit must be used in biblically appropriate ways. I believe one of my spiritual gifts is teaching, and I use it to teach young women. A woman with the gift of teaching or leadership can have a valuable impact on the church while still staying within biblical guidelines.
Success in Ministry—Let’s be honest, there are a lot of women today who are teaching men and having authority over men in the church. When one of those women appears to have success, then she is often held up as “exhibit A” of why women shouldn’t be prohibited from doing anything in ministry. However, that is human reasoning and logic. Who knows what success she may experience if she fully obeyed the Lord. The results of someone’s ministry do not cancel out what Scripture says.
At the end of the day, we must each decide what, or who, our ultimate authority is. Then we must submit to that authority, lining up our experiences, opinions, and abilities under it. For me, I would rather trust God’s Word over my own thoughts any day because I am painfully aware of my own sinfulness and shortcomings. God trumps Candi Finch each and every time, and that is the way it should be. He made me after all.