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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