I hear it all the time from my peers; circles I have run with and continue to run with. They say, “Sure, women can be leaders in the church; they just can’t be a lead pastor.” I try not to let them see the steam coming out of my ears because most the time I know that they are just repeating someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about.
Oh yes, this happens quite often in the church. Someone of influence makes a bold, black and white statement and claims that this is what the Bible says and we all say “Amen.” I won’t lie; it does frustrates me that anyone and their mother can make any theological claim and throw down the Bible as their trump card.
Needless to say, there is not one Bible verse that prohibits women from being lead pastors. That is right, not one! Why would there be? When the New Testament was written, the idea of a “lead pastor” was a very new concept. The first Christians did not worship in church-buildings as often as they met in homes or even catacombs to “do church.”
We do not see many examples of “lead pastors” with maybe the exception of Timothy (who was very young and just figuring out what being a “lead pastor” actually meant). For the most part, early Christians simply gathered together to “do church” and this looked more like what we would today call a “small group” or “Bible study.”
In general, women were more attracted to the early church than men were. Christianity offered women freedom and respect that they were not accustom to in Jewish, Greek, or Roman culture. This trend of allowing women to be equally discipled in this new sect started with the founder – Jesus.
Therefore, female Christ-followers outnumbered male Christ-followers in the very beginnings of the church. There is a substantial amount of evidence that many upper-class women who were single flocked to Christianity. They would often offer their homes as meeting places for early Christians to “do church.” Since these women were not married, they were considered “the head” of their home and most likely served as “lead pastors” to some degree.
Regardless, the argument that females are not permitted to be lead pastors due to “husband-headship” ideals is nonsensical. Even if one holds to the most traditional understanding of “husband-headship,” I am not clear what marriage has to do with church leadership.
Many have reasoned that if the husband is the head of the home, than “a man” must be the head of the church. Can you see what a far stretch this is? Women were never called to submit to men in general.
Further, within early Christianity, the “lead pastor” was not even considered the highest ranking authority in church-leadership; but rather, an Apostle was. The Apostles included all the bigwigs such as Peter, Paul, and Junia. Who the heck is Junia? I am glad you asked!
Paul states, “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was (Romans 16:7).” Throughout the centuries, sexist Bible translators have tried to kill Junia off by changing her name to more masculine forms, but more and more reputable translations are changing it back and reviving our sister’s rightful legacy (head over to my friends at http://juniaproject.com to learn more).
Those who are against women teaching men altogether have a more systematic argument to hang their hats on, but the Bible is not a systematic book. Rather, it is a book made up of historical accounts, poems, parables, and letters. Some try and use Paul’s word’s found in 1 Timothy to shut this conversation down, but there are enormous problems with this.
The passage states, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety (1 Timothy 2:11-15).”
If we simply read these words through the filter of our English language and 21st century context, than we are forced to not only accept that women are never to teach men under any circumstances, but also that women are not even saved through the atonement of Jesus Christ, but through giving birth to a child. How unfortunate for the women who are infertile or marry too late to have children.
We must remember that Paul is writing to a specific audience when he writes these words and most scholars agree that this advice was never meant to stand as a universal and timeless principal to ban women from ever teaching men in the church.
There is great evidence that many women within Timothy’s church were unlearned and dominantly proclaiming false doctrines. Therefore, Paul was simply telling Timothy that the women in his specific congregation should learn quietly – this was an attempt to stop dangerous women from spreading heresy.
All throughout Paul’s letters in the New Testament, he recognizes women in church-leadership and they no doubt taught both men and women. Think about it this way. Say you had two sons and one son leaned more towards a legalistic approach to life and the other leaned towards a more liberal approach to life. Would your advice to them not look much different?
Paul’s letters are not written to us, but to very specific churches with very specific problems in the framework of an ancient civilization. Everything Paul says in his letters must be filtered through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ – God in the flesh. Jesus is our ultimate example and Jesus went out of his way to equally include women in all aspects of spirituality.
Aside from theology, think about how ridiculous it is to tell a woman who feels called to start a church that she is not permitted to do so because of her gender. Practically speaking, why would God prohibit someone from spreading the gospel by starting a church simply because they are female?
What if no males want to Pastor a church, say in another country? Should we just have less churches or no churches or can we make an exception and call it godly in this case? Do you see how silly this can get?
Do we not serve a God who has redeemed all things? Do we not serve a God who used an ass to speak to a man (Numbers 22:28). Surely if God can use an ass to teach a man a lesson, He can use a woman. God uses what the world deems as foolish to confound those who think they are wise and those the world deems as weak to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27).
Since the beginning of time, people have called women both foolish and weak – a woman seems like God’s perfect candidate to lead-pastor a church if you ask me!
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