Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
When I was a young woman trying to map out the course of my life before me, I often struggled with whether or not I should go into ministry. It was never a question of if I could be a minister; for, what reason was there that I could not? From my days as a new believer reading the Bible for the very first time, to now, as a more mature believer who has read in-depth translations, studies and commentaries regarding what Paul said to women in the Church, and heard numerous theological debates on whether women should or should not be in Church leadership and ministry, the scriptures have only reinforced to me that God has used and continues to use both men and women to tend to His sheep.
Perhaps, because of my Lutheran, Charismatic and Pentecostal background, for many years it did not occur to me that anyone would even hesitate about whether women could be ministers. It seemed so obvious to me that we could, just as much as any man. Only in recent years have I been shocked out of this ignorance to find what a hotly debated topic this is in Christendom. I thank God that I made it through my formative years as a Christian blissfully unaware of this. I was very fortunate; unlike some women who long to fulfill a calling to preach the word or pastor a church, only to be rejected or stifled by voices saying, “You do not have the right equipment to lead,” I had no outside resistance, only my own internal struggle: as a Christian was I obligated to be in ministry, even if I had no desire whatsoever to be a pastor or a missionary?
This inner conflict was because I felt called to serve God, but I thought that to do so meant I must be in a recognized ministry position– be it pastor, missionary, evangelist, or otherwise ordained minister. To add to that, I tend to shy away from leadership positions, preferring supporting roles over the spotlight. Not only did I not want the title of pastor or minister, but I also did not want the authority, power, or attention that seemed to come with it. Of course, as I eventually realized, ministering before God does not require a title or a position. And any authority or power that we have truly belongs to God. Sure, I could minister as a pastor, but I can also minister as a violist on a worship team, as a wife and a mother, as a writer, as a friend, and as a random stranger in a coffee shop. Whatever gifts I have been given– or others have been given– regardless of titles or positions, can be used to minister to others.
Really, when I think back to those who have ministered to me the most and drawn me closer to God, the majority held no ministry titles or credentials. Instead, it was the friend who gladly was my sounding post when I needed to vent without judgment or condemnation, as well as the gentle voice of correction in love when I was off track; it was other Christian bloggers who bared themselves online, showing what ferocious grace, love and mercy are; it was musicians whose music somehow spoke to a place of deliverance and wholeness in Christ. Once, on a particularly bad day, it was simply someone ahead of me in the Starbucks drive-through who paid for my $5 mocha.
Yes, there have been times when a pastor or ordained minister has brought healing or a much needed word of encouragement or exhortation, but on a day to day basis it is usually through the less obvious agents of redemption. It is likely this is mainly due to all believers being called to minister to each other in some capacity. However, I have occasionally wondered if this is in some part because many who would have been anointed and effective ministers have been thwarted from using their God-given gifts.
It may seem odd that, I, as a woman who much prefers to keep to the background and has absolutely no desire to preach or pastor or really, to lead in any “titled” capacity at all, have such a strong passion to see opportunities for other women to do so. But there it is: I do and passionately so. To me, it is a question of injustice, and we as believers should seek justice for the oppressed and downtrodden. But it is more than that; it is also a desire to see the Church be all that it should be. In hindering some women from the fullness of their callings, we hinder the entire Body of Christ as well.
When I think of women who have been forcibly restricted from using their gifts, the imagery that comes to mind is the ancient Chinese practice of foot binding. In order to conform to an absurd standard of femininity, half the Body of Christ has been broken and tightly bound, unable to grow to its fully intended size. Covered with a dainty and ornate shoe, it certainly gives an illusion of beauty and allure. But in reality, underneath the shoe and the bandages hides a grotesquely and painfully misshapen foot.
The foot, having been forced into a supposedly more feminine form, is now not only decidedly not feminine, but also completely unnatural and unable to fully function in the way that God intended. This trauma doesn’t just affect the foot; it affects the whole body, which now must limp through life, weakened and unbalanced. The whole Body of Christ is effectively crippled when certain members are unnaturally bound and unable to function or grow into the fullness of their callings. It’s time to start unbinding the feet and allowing the Body’s members to grow into all that God created them to be.
*I did not expound on the specific theological and doctrinal arguments for women in ministry and Church leadership in this article, as it has already been thoroughly and eloquently written about by many other authors. If you would like to read more about this subject, I recommend the following:
Junia Is Not Alone by Scot McKnight
What Paul Really Said About Women by John T. Bristow
If you have other blogs or books to recommend, please leave a link in the comments!