Me with President of SAGU, Kermit Bridges and his beautiful wife on a university trip to Italy in 2006.
When I was just 13 years old I found myself on my knees, face down, crying both tears of repentance and joy. A year prior to this I was struggling to find myself as a 12 year old girl. I wanted to be popular and that was all I wanted. I was consumed with how to be cool, what to wear, how to make the right kids like me and my parent’s Christian faith was cramping my style. I didn’t mind Jesus, but I thought of Him sort of like a relative who my parents seemed to really love, but I never met him for myself, so I didn’t care either way. That all changed the summer after I turned 13.
My mom and dad had been dragging my sister and I to an Assemblies of God church 30 minutes from our home because it was known to have an exceptional youth program. The youth leader was a young guy in his thirties who wore a tie dye t-shirt, had a strong Kentucky accent which stood out in Western PA, bleach blond hair, and a “no shame in my game” approach.
It was easy for him to grab my attention because he was cool. He told us stories about his party days in high school, his athleticism, and the girls – oh the girls. He was fluent in our teenage language and knew how to relate to us. Perhaps the best thing about him was that he was as crazy as we were, never hesitating to get involved in shaving cream battles, pranks, and sliding down mile long slip and slides. He made Jesus look cool and because all I cared about was being cool, he sparked my interest.
Not long after we started attending this AG church, my mom asked me if I would like to attend a youth convention with my new youth group. I said yes as any 13 year old girl would, thinking I would get some freedom from my parents and knowing I had nothing better to do. Right before the convention, however, my mom informed me that the convention took place over a holiday break and I was furious because I would have rathered spent time with my friends then go on some “stupid” retreat. My mom basically said, “too bad, too sad, I already paid so you are going.” Little did she or I know, that weekend would change the entire course of my life.
I don’t remember much about the AG convention except that is was being held in an arena that held thousands of teenagers and that we had a service each night. The last night I was there, something in my heart shifted and my eyes could finally see. I don’t remember what the preacher spoke on that evening, but I do remember him having what us AGers like to call an “alter call.” My heart began beating out of my chest and I knew Jesus was asking for my life and I wanted to give it to Him. I walked forward, fell to my knees and sobbed for what seemed like hours. As I was on my knees the Holy Spirit spoke to my little heart and told me that I was called to be a minister.
That day, I did not just stand up as a new Christian, but as a tiny minister who was ready to preach the Word of God to anyone who would listen and that is exactly what I did. My whole life became about making Jesus cool and my greatest joy in life was leading my friends to Him. Together, my girlfriends and I rocked our high school for God and I began preaching as a teen. The AG church fostered my calling, never once told me that “girls can’t be preachers or leaders.” I had never even heard of complementarianism (the belief that women should not lead, preach, or teach men) until I was 18 years old. I am immensely grateful to the AG church for that.
After a two-year Bible school program at Christ for the Nations Bible Institute, I attended Southwestern Assemblies of God University down south. I graduated with a BS in Church Ministries thinking I would be able to find a full time job in church ministries other than children’s ministry and I never did. I have been a graduate of an Assemblies of God University now since 2006, have applied for jobs in Colorado, Virginia, and Pennsylvania and have yet to find a full time ministry job (other than children’s ministry) inside or outside of the AG church.
I have noticed that many of the male “ministry majors” I graduated with have found jobs and most of them do not have a theological master’s degree as I do. I have noticed that the women who I graduated with are mostly serving as children’s pastors and teachers at private Christian schools. I personally have been both a children’s pastor and a teacher at a Christian school because these were the only jobs I could ever get.
I look around at all the local AG churches and I see many male pastors and little to no female pastors (with the exception of children’s pastors and pastor’s wives). I know that the Assemblies of God tradition has a rich heritage of equipping and honoring female ministers, but I fear our denomination has become apathetic about putting our beliefs to practice. My hope is that leaders in the Assemblies of God Church would start being intentional about hiring a female pastor for every male pastor they hire, honing in on equality in a way they have never done.
Women with theological degrees and a calling from the Lord to lead in the Church are giving up on applying. Many complementarian churches are actually writing “males only should apply” on their job descriptions. You will have to draw out qualified women and make it clear that you are searching for female candidates because many have grown convinced that it is a waste of their time to even fill out an application. If women are not applying, it is not because they don’t want to lead, it is because they have been told in both words and actions that men are the preferred leaders in the Church.
I can say this to you my dear AG friends because you understand the prophetic; the time is now to allow your daughters to prophesy as Acts 2:17 suggests. We are in the last days and both the sons and daughters of God need to hear the female voice. Will you honor our tradition and put more women who are called and whom you have equipped at the decision making tables, in your church pulpits, on your pastoral staffs, at your general assemblies, at your universities and at your youth conventions?
There just may be a 13 year old girl sitting it your pews hoping that someday she will be able to fulfill her calling in Jesus’ Church or a 20 year old woman sitting at one of your universities dreaming about serving as a pastor someday or a 31 year old female blogger hoping and pleading for better days for women in ministry in the AG church and the entire evangelical church alike. Let it begin with us.
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. -Acts 2:17
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