“Daddy, Can I be a Preacher One Day?”

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A couple of weeks ago I agreed to do an interview with podcaster, Bryan Dupuis (find full interview at end). He was motivated to seek me out because his 5-year-old daughter leaned over to him one Sunday morning at church and asked, “Daddy, can I be a preacher one day?”

Bryan grew up in a complementarian church and still attends a more traditional church. He told me that he affirmed his daughter’s desire, but found himself thinking, she could not be a preacher in our church.

Bryan also told me that his daughter pretends to preach at home and delivers little sermons, but before she does, she heads into her brother’s room looking for a clip-on tie. At five years old, this little girl probably has a calling to preach, but she already has internalized that only men are preachers.

This whole story got me thinking about my own life as a little girl. My parents and grandma tell me that when I was about 5 years old, I would preach to my baby dolls. At 6 years old, I remember evangelizing to my best friend on the swing set in my grandmother’s backyard.

I had not completely understood that I was a sinner and needed Jesus’ grace until I was 13 years old; yet, I was already operating in my calling – what I was born to do.

My dad has been a preacher my whole life. I remember being fascinated with his preaching. While other children were in Sunday School, I would sit on the edge of my seat in “big people church” watching my dad deliver a sermon. My tiny heart was subconsciously taking notes.

I too would be a preacher someday.

I was raised in Pentecostalism, so I was taught that women could be preachers, but I cannot remember seeing one woman preach until I was a teenager. The truth is that Pentecostalism and Charismatic traditions still very much prefer male preachers to female preachers.

It seems the only way a woman preacher gets through the patriarchal system is if she’s an ultra-dynamic preacher and submissive to men (or at least pretends to be). Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but this is the norm.

The truth is that it’s difficult to become a woman preacher without becoming some sort of celebrity or “trophy preacher,” especially in the evangelical tradition. Patriarchy is a sickness from the fall (Gen. 3:16) that the evangelical church has generally embraced as “biblical” and the “trophy woman preacher” is just one symptom.

By the time most women preachers become famous, they have already sold themselves out to patriarchy in the evangelical church and almost never speak out against it. They will normally be afraid of losing their influence or financial backing. There are serious consequences to bucking against patriarchy within religious circles. There are also rewards for remaining quiet and submissive.

So the “trophy woman preacher” does nothing to change a broken system for 5-year-old girls, even though she is the very person who has the power to do so.

It is true that many little girls will never be able to become preachers in their local churches because of fear.

Girls with the calling will often become teachers in the secular world. Some girls who have a strong calling to preach will become bitter towards the Church due to rejection, and will become powerful public speakers for secular causes.

Many girls will become women who will lose connection with the Church and will desperately try to use their gifts out in the world. Yet, they will go to sleep at night unfulfilled, and the Church will have missed out on whatever message they were supposed to bring us.

But what if we began to train our daughters to buck against fear like Jesus did? What if we taught our girls that they are more than conquerors in Jesus Christ? What if we stopped limiting them based on stale religion and poor theology?

I am not naïve; I know that I am getting caught up in the evangelical church’s sickness of giving only “public figure” women space to speak and lead.

I would have loved to find a nice pastoral job at a local church working with young adults, but I am working with a broken system and the costs of being accepted are to silence myself and submit to the curse. Even when I did submit to the curse in my twenties, I still found myself employed as a children’s pastor.

So I will not sell myself short or sell my sisters out in order to be embraced. I will not be silenced and I will not submit to any system or unit that does not mutually submit to women. I will die knowing that I didn’t allow fear to keep me from speaking on behalf of 5-year-old girls who are at home preaching to their baby dolls.

The reason for this is that I was empowered in my calling as a child. Life and prophetic prayers were spoken over me as an infant, still in my mother’s womb. I was washed in the Word, who is Jesus Christ Himself. My fearless heart was praised as a holy and righteous attribute.

My bold leadership gifts were not trained out of me; rather, they were fostered to bring glory to God.

At 13 years old, when I was filled with the Holy Spirit from head to toe, I became a force to be reckoned with. I was told that I could do all things through Christ who gives me strength and that the Spirit that lives in me is just as powerful as the Spirit that lives in any boy or man.

I was taught that I could be anything I wanted to be as long as I was physically and literally able. If a 5-year-old girl is able to preach, surely women are able to preach. If a 5-year-old girl can lead, surely a woman can lead.

Yes, darling, of course you can be a preacher one day.

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15 Comments

  • Another great article! It’s depressing to me that many girls with a heart for truth, leadership, and pastoral care never even consider roles of preaching, teaching, or pastoring. I would have loved to be a teacher/pastor, but the thought never occurred to me — I couldn’t even teach high school or lead youth group, even though I had more formal theological training than anyone except the head pastors. I often wonder what my life would have looked like if I’d become egalitarian sooner. I don’t regret anything because I’m doing things I love now, but it’s still a fascinating question — would more women go to seminary if it occurred to them that women could be pastors and preachers?

    • It’s not that it doesn’t occur to women. It’s that they know their entire career will be an uphill battle to have a normal pastor’s life and their calling will constantly be questioned, second-guessed, rejected, and/or labeled rebellious. With few exceptions.

      One of my college professors urged me to become a pastor. This was in the ’90s. I replied, “What on earth would I do?” It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought of the idea, and certainly his encouragement was uplifting. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to be an ordained pastor and actually do the job.

      Things are changing now, slowly. More than 20 years after I had that conversation with my professor, women pastors today still all have to be pioneers. How long does it take to blaze a trail for hikers who don’t like your trailblazing? Thanks for writing about this experience and this little girl.

      • Sure thing! Ya, it does seem we have been pioneers for quite some time! But, the mountain is slowly moving!

  • Great article Jory. You were very blessed to be born into the family that you have. A Pentecostal preacher for a father that encouraged you all along to fulfill your calling in the kingdom of God?? How wonderful for you! Thank you for standing up for us women who have a call on our life. I was waylaid for a very long time but God has freed me up now to be and do all that I was meant to be since the day I was a twinkle in His eye! Patriarchy. A covert abuser for a father. An even worse covert abuser for a husband. The cards were stacked against me. But God! I will continue to follow your ministry closely and support what you are doing. And praying for God to open the doors for me to break through my own glass steeples! I am excited for all that He may do through me. Bring it on, Satan. I have the Captain of the Lord’s army on my side and last time I checked, you were defeated at Calvary once and for all!

  • Chills! THANK YOU for being a courageous advocate for girls and women! Surely, there are many who have had dashed dreams when their calling wasn’t affirmed, or worse told that answering it would be outside of God’s will!. Preach on, Jory!

  • “It seems the only way a woman preacher gets through the patriarchal system is if she’s an ultra-dynamic preacher and submissive to men (or at least pretends to be).”
    I love this statement and boy is it ever true! Especially the pretends to be part, that is the one I have mastered. However, it is the future of the 5 year old girls, the 14 year old girls, and the 21 year old girls that make me stop pretending and start fighting for them! I spent a year and a half ‘legitimizing’ my calling…I don’t want that for the young girls of this generation, no one should have to do that.

  • I have been a woman preacher for over 20 years. Even in traditions that affirm women as clergy, it has still beenan uphill climb. Sadly it is often other women who are the least supportive. I do have to share a story. In one of my churches, I had the privilege of following another woman pastor instead of being the first women pastor in a church. On Father’s day I askedthe children to share some of the gifts of men in the church. one little girl excitedly put up her hand and said , “Sometimes you let them preach! “

  • In the ELCA Lutheran, United Methodist, and Episcopal denominations women can be pastors. My ELCA church has had 4 female pastors in the last 30 yrs, one of which grew up in the church. And there were 2 other female members who heard the call and we hosted their ordination when they graduated. It is sad that there are still denominations that are discouraging women to become pastors, but there is the opposite experience out there.

  • …”the only way a woman preacher gets through is if she’s…submissive to men (or at least pretends to be)…And how then is patriarchy not evil? Surrender your “self” to us, men, or deny any hope of a voice? PRETEND to please us, men, or be silent? Pretend anything rather than be truthful?…surrender to anyone but Christ?…
    Manipulate men in order find freedom?…seek other mediators than the ONE mediator ascribed to us by God?…reject the doctrine that demands we compare scripture with scripture in order to follow shallow, questionably NEW laws created for women only AFTER the resurrection?…deny Paul’s many instructions that ‘we are not under the law but under grace’?

    “My bold leadership gifts were not trained out of me…” which means they ARE TRAINED OUT OF OTHER WOMEN…and yes they are…When God’s voice is culturally trained out of women one can only admit that Satan is the one behind the ‘training’ despite men not realizing how they are serving him. When will the churches come face to face with the fact that Satan has silenced half of the church and sentenced the other half to unfettered self-centredness? Pretty good tactics that are unrealized to this day.

    Patriarchy can not be Biblical because it is a universal cultural phenomenon in ALL world-wide ideologies and is therefore clearly a direct result of the Fall when our first parents surrendered their wills to Satan instead of to God. If Christianity, of all ideologies, hasn’t fixed this then we have missed the whole point of Christ’s mission on Earth. The only permanent result of the Fall was patriarchy…”The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,…to heal the brokenhearted…to preach deliverance to the captives, … to set at liberty” What better description of slaves and women than our broken hearts, our captivity to patriarchy and our bondage?

  • My girls “pretend” to preach from the pulpit when we are there for activities other than worship. I’m thankful they are growing up considering a career in ministry to be possible, if they so choose. 🙂

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