Women Are Called to Preach – Part 1

The prevalence of women preachers is a fair measure of the spirituality of a church, a country, or an age. As the church grows more apostolic and more deeply spiritual, women preachers and workers abound in that church; as it grows more worldly and cold, the ministry of women is despised and gradually ceases altogether.C.E. Brown

Christian women should be  encouraged to be preachers of the gospel. Scripture affirms it, Jesus modeled it, and the the Apostles supported it. Women in leadership reflect the coming of God’s kingdom.

Jesus included women in his ministry
One of the revolutionary aspects of Jesus’ earthly ministry was the way he included women in everything. He rejected the assigned gender roles of his society (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus taught women. He healed women, calling one a “daughter of Abraham” (Luke 13:15-16). He treated women with dignity, valued them, and encouraged them to participate in his ministry (Luke 8:1-3). He did all this in a society where women were valued no more than dogs.

Jesus consented to the Samaritan woman proclaiming him as the Christ.
John 4:7-41 records the remarkable story of the Samaritan woman at the well, the first person in John’s gospel to whom Jesus revealed that he was the Messiah. Jesus entrusted this non-Jewish woman to proclaim him as the Christ to her people. John records that, Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” (John 4:39).  The Samaritan woman openly testified Jesus as the Christ.  People heard her and believed. Her testimony was blessed and it bore fruit.

Women were entrusted to be the first to proclaim the Lord’s resurrection.
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her (John 20:18). All four gospels record that women were the first to see the empty tomb, and the first to proclaim the Lord’s resurrection (Mathew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20). Women were the first to share the good news. Jesus trusted women in this role.  We ought to be able to as well, following his example.

Women are liberated in Christ.
In Christ, a woman is as valuable as a man. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galations 3:28). There was a time when Christians tolerated racial supremacy and slavery. Today we recognize that these practices are sinful. Likewise, exclusion of women from ministry is sinful.  It denies the full value and potential of a person created in the image of God to do good things for him.  Itt denies the woman in her God given calling, and quenches the Holy Spirit.

Women in leadership reflect the healing of creation.
The oppression of women was not part of God’s original plan. Man’s dominion is a result of the fall (Genesis 3:16). In Christ, we overcome the sin of the fall. We look forward to creation being liberated from its bondage. Women in leadership reflect the way God intended for things to be. They give evidence of a healed creation.

A thistle free garden
Some argue that women should stay subservient because it was part of God’s curse at the fall. Using this line of reasoning, one should also argue that a garden full of thistles is better than a weeded one, given that thistles were part of Adam’s curse (Genesis 3:17). A weed free garden is beautiful, useful, and better reflects God’s original intent. Likewise, women in leadership reflect God’s intent. It is good and right to honor and support women in their calling as they follow Christ. In doing so we declare the coming of the kingdom of God, and we have a foretaste of what is to come.

Women led in the early church.
Scripture indicates that women prophesied and taught in the early church. They were accepted in these roles by the Apostles. Phillip the evangelist had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9). Peter, quoting the prophet Joel, declared that “your sons and daughters will prophesy” (Acts 2:17). The prophesy of women is mentioned in 1 Cor 11:15. Pricilla and her husband Aquilla are mentioned as leaders who helped disciple Paul. It is significant that Pricilla is listed first when the couple is named. This would have been a very unusual way of addressing a married couple at the time, and strongly indicates that Pricilla was the more active leader of the two. (Acts 18:2-3,18, 26; Romans 16:3-4; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19). Lydia, a friend of Paul, ministered from her house (Acts 16:13-15,40). Nympha ran a house church (Col 4:15). The book of Second John was written to an unnamed woman. It is apparent from the context that she was in a leadership role. Paul mentions Phoebe as a leader (deacon) of the church in Cenchrea (Romans 16:1-2). Junia is mentioned as outstanding among the apostles (Romans 16:7).

Women should preach because God desires it. Jesus was the first to allow women to preach. His disciples followed him in that practice. Women are blessed by God in this role.  Women in leadership reflect a healthy church.

Next up: Part 2 – Scriptural Prohibitions?

See also: Women Leaders in the Wesleyan Movements


Filed under women in leadership

31 responses to “Women Are Called to Preach – Part 1

  1. BOB

    So why weren’t half of the 12 Disciples women?

  2. Good question Bob. Scripture doesn’t explain why Jesus chose twelve Jewish males, but we can speculate as to the possible reasons.

    He didn’t because he preferred all male disciples.
    He didn’t because of social constraints.
    He had symbolic reasons (to represent the twelve tribes).
    They were still under the old covenant.

    It should be pointed out that Jesus had many female disciples (Mary Magdalene was one). But the 12 were male. They were also Jewish (there were no Samaritans, Greeks, etc.).

    A fair question to ask here is: Can only Jews preach because the 12 were Jewish? If not, why allow an exclusion for race but not gender?

  3. Kevin,
    I’m one of those rare Wesleyan oriented souls who will not sit under the authority of a woman bishop, I would also make a definite distinction between a woman preaching a message and one having the assumed authority of a bishop. All the saints of God should be prepared to preach Christ whenever a soul is deemed in need but I think this is significantly different than what my Wesleyan fellows practice.
    I found your last sentence interesting. Paul tells us why in Romans 9. God has a right to do as He wishes and He chose Israel for this purpose. He also deemed His order to be paternalistic. I am not prepared to challenge Him on that.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts A.M. As a matter of clarification, what is your definition of a bishop? Head of a group of churches? Lead pastor of one church? Associate pastor? Children’s pastor? Worship leader? Adult Sunday school teacher? Children’s Sunday school teacher? I’m curious where you would draw the line, and for what reasons.

    BTW, I don’t think there are “scriptural prohibitions”, rather there are a certain set of verse that opponents of women in leadership reference. Maybe I should reword that. :)

  5. Interesting thoughts. My attitude toward women being in preachers has been one of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” LOL. From my reading of Acts 2, the Spirit was to be poured out on all flesh and God said through Joel that women would prophesy. If they can prophesy, they can teach, evangelize, etc. My only warning would be that in discipleship, a woman should disciple a woman and a man with a man since the two become so close.

    • Hi Roy, good thoughts, and I agree with your discipleship warning.

      • Kevin, the discipline example is a good one. Even in discipleship, there must be an authority. My use of bishop refers to the head of the church whether that is one small church or several plantings. I do not make a distinction between elder, presbyter or bishop for that matter with regard to qualifications. I do however differentiate between a bishop or elder and a preacher or teacher. They can be the same or they can be separate callings. I have no problem with women preaching a message or teaching a Sunday School class.
        My perspective is closer to the general Baptist view than Wesleyan in this matter.

      • I see. Thanks for explaining. :)

  6. Interesting thoughts by everyone. Historically speaking, Wesleyan Arminians (Methodists, Wesleyans, Nazarenes, etc.) tend to be more egalitarian, while Classical Arminians (Freewill Baptists, etc.) tend to be more complementarian. However, I don’t see the differences in their theology (namely “entire sanctification” and “whether apostasy is without remedy”) being a driving force of this historical trend. Rather, I think it’s purely historical, just like how historically speaking, many Calvinists are also amillennialists.

    And indeed, in the blogosphere, there are some Classical Arminians that are egalitarian, as well as some Wesleyan Arminians that are complementarian.

  7. I approach the issue of women’s ordination not from roles or gifts, but from calling. God has called all Christians to evangelize. He has called all Christians to serve Him wholeheartedly. However, He has only called certain people to pastor a church. Those who are not called to be a pastor, whether men or women, should not be a pastor. And it is my understanding that God has not called any woman to be a pastor.

    That being said, I believe women (like Phoebe) can serve as deaconesses, because being deacons or deaconesses do not put them in a position of spiritual authority over a congregation. Also, women can be in a position of authority over men in business and in government, and that is neither sinful nor a sign of judgement. God called Deborah to be a judge, not because there aren’t capable men at that time, but because He wanted to glorify Himself through her. It seems Barak was a more godly man than Gideon or Samson, and would be a very good judge, but God chose Deborah instead.

    That being said, there are godly evangelical Christians on both sides of the issue, and it’s counterproductive to equate mainstream egalitarianism with liberalism or to equate mainstream complementarianism with semi-Arianism. I myself attend a bilingual egalitarian church, whose English pastor is one of the founders of Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE).

  8. Practically speaking, I would find it hard to believe that God would prohibit half the world from being called to preach.

  9. “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” -Samuel Johnson

  10. Here’s another for your list: Dorcas (Tabitha) is listed as a disciple in Acts 9:36

  11. Scooter

    There is perhaps no more hotly debated issue in the church today than the issue of women serving as pastors/preachers. As a result, it is very important to not see this issue as men versus women. There are women who believe women should not serve as pastors and that the Bible places restrictions on the ministry of women, and there are men who believe women can serve as preachers and that there are no restrictions on women in ministry. This is not an issue of chauvinism or discrimination. It is an issue of biblical interpretation.

    I would be deeply concerned if a woman were given the position and authority of Pastor of the Arminian Methodist church I attend. The Bible proclaims, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). In the church, God assigns different roles to men and women. This is a result of the way mankind was created and the way in which sin entered the world (1 Timothy 2:13-14). God, through the apostle Paul, restricts women from serving in roles of teaching and/or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors, which definitely includes preaching to, teaching, and having spiritual authority over men.

    Perhaps the most common scripture used to bring women into church leadership is Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave, nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This scripture, particularly, “there is no male and female”, is used to show that since all are one in Christ then all roles are equal. But this is a giant leap to make such an assertion. The context which always has to be understood makes it clear that Paul is not talking about church leadership but simply that the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile is removed for those united to Christ: all in Christ are Abraham’s seed. In fact, no human distinctions avail as advantages in the matter of salvation
    Now there are many “objections” to this view of women in ministry. A common one is that Paul restricts women from teaching because in the first century, women were typically uneducated. However, 1Timothy 2:11-14 nowhere mentions educational status. If education were a qualification for ministry, the majority of Jesus’ disciples would not have been qualified. A second common objection is that Paul only restricted the women of Ephesus from teaching (1 Timothy was written to Timothy, who was the pastor of the church in Ephesus). The city of Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, a false Greek/Roman goddess. Women were the authority in the worship of Artemis. However, the book of 1Timothy nowhere mentions Artemis, nor does Paul mention Artemis worship as a reason for the restrictions in 1Timothy 2:11-12.

    A third common objection is that Paul is only referring to husbands and wives, not men and women in general. The Greek words in the passage could refer to husbands and wives; however, the basic meaning of the words refers to men and women. Further, the same Greek words are used in verses 8-10. Are only husbands to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing (verse 8)? Are only wives to dress modestly, have good deeds, and worship God (verses 9-10)? Of course not. Verses 8-10 clearly refer to all men and women, not only husbands and wives. There is nothing in the context that would indicate a switch to husbands and wives in verses 11-14.

    Yet another frequent objection to this interpretation of women in ministry is in relation to women who held positions of leadership in the Bible, specifically Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the Old Testament. This objection fails to note some significant factors. First, Deborah was the only female judge among 13 male judges. Huldah was the only female prophet among dozens of male prophets mentioned in the Bible. Miriam’s only connection to leadership was being the sister of Moses and Aaron. The two most prominent women in the times of the Kings were Athaliah and Jezebel—hardly examples of godly female leadership. Most significantly, though, the authority of women in the Old Testament is not relevant to the issue. The book of 1 Timothy and the other Pastoral Epistles present a new paradigm for the church—the body of Christ—and that paradigm involves the authority structure for the church, not for the nation of Israel or any other Old Testament entity.

    Similar arguments are made using Priscilla and Phoebe in the New Testament. In Acts 18, Priscilla and Aquila are presented as faithful ministers for Christ. Priscilla’s name is mentioned first, perhaps indicating that she was more “prominent” in ministry than her husband. However, Priscilla is nowhere described as participating in a ministry activity that is in contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:11-14. Priscilla and Aquila brought Apollos into their home and they both discipled him, explaining the Word of God to him more accurately (Acts 18:26).

    In Romans 16:1, even if Phoebe is considered a “deaconess” instead of a “servant,” that does not indicate that Phoebe was a teacher in the church. “Able to teach” is given as a qualification for elders, but not deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9). Elders/bishops/deacons are described as the “husband of one wife,” “a man whose children believe,” and “men worthy of respect.” Clearly the indication is that these qualifications refer to men. In addition, in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9, masculine pronouns are used exclusively to refer to elders/bishops/deacons.

    The structure of 1Timothy 2:11-14 makes the “reason” perfectly clear. Verse 13 begins with “for” and gives the “cause” of Paul’s statement in verses 11-12. Why should women not teach or have authority over men? Because “Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived.” God created Adam first and then created Eve to be a “helper” for Adam. This order of creation has universal application in the family (Ephesians 5:22-33) and the church. The fact that Eve was deceived is also given as a reason for women not serving as pastors or having spiritual authority over men. This leads some to believe that women should not teach because they are more easily deceived. That concept is debatable, but if women are more easily deceived, why should they be allowed to teach children (who are easily deceived) and other women (who are supposedly more easily deceived)? That is not what the text says. Women are not to teach men or have spiritual authority over men because Eve was deceived. As a result, God has given men the primary teaching authority in the church.

    Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, and helps. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on women. Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5), only from having spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).

    God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are necessarily better teachers, or because women are inferior or less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. Women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3-5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching men or having spiritual authority over them. This logically would preclude women from serving as pastors/preachers. This does not make women less important, by any means, but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and His gifting of them.
    I have been aware of differences in Methodist-Arminian doctrine to the traditional historical faith that I’ve been able to live with but I believe this particular failure to follow scriptural guidelines will bring much harm to the church.

  12. Today in my blog, I shared my thoughts on a topic that I feel is far more important than whether women are called to preach in the church: Gender and the New Creation. What female Christians will be doing for trillions upon trillions of years is more important than what female Christians are doing for a few decades. Ditto for male Christians. Strangely though, there are very few online articles dealing with the roles, rewards, responsibilities, relationships, activities, well-being, and status of male and female Christians in heaven from a well-exegeted biblical perspective.

    I wonder why that is so.

  13. Lucian

    Preaching the Gospel to unbelievers (the Samaritan woman) or teaching it to children (Timothy’s grandmother) is one thing; but instructing fellow Christians is quite another. [Believers > Unbelievers; Parents > Children BUT Woman < Man, and Wife < Husband].

    Deacons and deaconesses (Phoebe) don't preach in church. Again: they may preach to unbelievers (Stephen), and even baptize them (Philip), but teaching fellow Christians in church is quite different.

    When it comes to teaching and preaching in the church to grown-ups, the Bible is clear: they are to be silent in the church, and not teach or preach to fellow Christians (1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:11-12).

    You are right about the restoration of women: Mary harkened where Eve disobeyed, the Myrrh-bearers are transformed into Apostles to the Holy Apostles, etc.

    But restoration is not the same as anarchy, and equality as to nature does not imply lack of submission as to personhood: from the Father is the Son begotten, and from the Same does the Spirit of life proceed. Likewise, from Adam was Seth begotten, and from his rib was Eve (Life) taken. The Father is greater than the Son as person (John 14:28), yet one with Him (or equal with Him) in nature (John 10:30). — So the fact that wives listen to their husbands and children to their fathers is rooted in the Divine order of creation, and NOT in the fall of man (1 Corinthians 11:3).

    You're also right about involvement and grace: no-one forbid them to sponsor and foster Christian communities (Priscilla), nor does God with-hold his charismatic gifts from them (Philip's daughters), nor are they less able to attain sanctity than men.

    The Twelve Apostles were a recapitualtion of the Twelve Patriarchs of Israel, and the 70 (male) disciples were a recapitulation of the 70 patriarchs of the Gentile nations, according to Jewish reckoning (Exodus 1:5; Acts 7:14). The latter appear only in Luke's Gospel (Paul's right-hand man, the Apostle of the Gentiles: Romans 11:13; Galatians 2:8; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11). That's also why Luke's genealogy goes back until Adam, and does not stop at Abraham, like Matthew's.

  14. Lucian

    There’s also another reason: the family is the image of the Holy Trinity (Genesis 1:26-27): Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are like father, son, and mother/wife/woman. The Spirit is NOT the Word: we’re trinitarians, not binitarians. (I’m not saying that the two aren’t connected, but oneness does not imply identity: as in John 10:30 or 1 John 5:8, for instance).

  15. Bonnie

    I am a woman who God has called to evangelize. The scriptures many have quoted concerning women are not complete. I have found that many times people just read one verse and not the whole chapter or further more the whole book. Paul was a very sarcastic man and if anyone took the time to study his writing they would know this…
    “And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. OKAY READY FOR THE VERSE AFTER THIS ONE? What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? 1 Corinthians 14:36…He said “What?”

    And if you study the verses in 1 Timothy about women you would realize they were being out of order. God does things in order.If Paul didnt think women should teach or speak he would not have went over the rules for them prophesying and had so many active ones in his ministry. Not only was Tabitha a disciple, Junia was an apostle.
    I’ll tell you what, while everyone is standing around trying to decide if women should preach or not God will use one to drive a tent stake through the devils head and another one to win souls for the kingdom.

    • Good thoughts Bonnie, and thank you for your faithfulness to God’s calling.

      • winnie

        I used to struggled with this issue for many years…but one night the Holy Spirit woke me up and I heard the Holy Spirit say plainly “I know you’ve heard that I don’t use women but I have called you”. The Holy Spirit did not say that it is written that I don’t you use women, but I know you heard. And yes, I heard and was taught that LIE. Another occassion I was awaken by the Holy Spirit and I heard “I’ve put my word in your mouth and out of your mouth you will speak my word boldly. Jeremiah was told the same thing by God. The Holy Spirit spoke to me in my car one evening and said to me “study to show thyself approved, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Brother Timothy was told the same words by Brother Paul. On two ccasions the Holy Spirit said to me “the spirit of the Lord is upon you to bind up the broken hearted, set the captive free; to bring liberty to those who are bound and it is written according to Isaiah 61 1-3. I was a young woman in Christ and my first encounter with hearing the voice of God and searching the scripture was when the Holy Spirit spoke and said “How beautiful are the feet”. I was young enough and full of the holy spirit to know to go find it in the scriptures according to Romans 10v15 & Isaih 52v7. and as time went on I have had it said over my life by male and female what God has called me to do. A close girlfriend invited me and my husband to a revival at her church one evening and before I could get inside the church a women that I had never seen before said to me “you are a preacher aren’t you and I said “No” my husband is a preacher and she said “and you are too”. I walked on. Never seen or knew this woman at all. I share all this to say, before the foundation of world God called me to represent his Kingdom and I must say i am convinced by the voice of Holy Spirit that I am called to preach the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to a dying world. I am being prepared right now as I speak. I don’t know how to do anything unless Christ shows me. I trust Christ for my very life and Christ is responsible for my life not me. Christ has given me his heartbeat and desire towards his precious mankind and that is that no man be lost but saved according to 2 Peter 3v9 & 1 Timothy 2v3. And yes, some will reject his salvation plan. I am not professing to be anyone great however; I will and have told God yes after years of struggling. Well, I am here to tell you that the struggle is OVER. And God will add and increase and perfect that concering me as I continue to trust him and share the Gospel message to whoever/wherever he sends me. Yes, for the Gospel and the name of Jesus Christ we will be persecuted in this life.

        I too, have been called to evangelize God’s people that they too may live spiritually.

      • Thanks for your testimony Winnie.

  16. Loritha

    I am a Registered Nurse. I have watched many people die. I have had many to die that did not believe in women preachers or pastors. As they lay there, dying agonizing deaths, it is so amazing to watch them as they are pressing that dying pillar, just about to cross the bar, how they will say to someone that they do not believe in “Pray with me”. I then stand back and look at how we limit God. If God could use a woman to carry the Living Word for nine months, why is it so impossible for Him to use her to carry the written Word? Remember, this is the same Word that became flesh and walked among men. I would much rather take the chance on believing that God called a Woman to preach (if He did not), than to take the chance in believing that he did not call her (if He really did). After all he is Sovereign. He can do whatever He wants to, when He wants to, and how he wants to. He use animals and rocks, but cannot use a woman. What will it feel like to look God in His Face and tell Him, “No you didn’t call a Woman to preach”?

  17. Christian Sermons has come out many times that has confirmed the Holy Spirit
    has touched many other. Christian Sermons are really a
    means to express at least to an extent the ability of Jesus Christ.

    Christian Sermons can convict you and practically force you to
    come to terms with the ability of Jesus Christ. Several Years ago I prayed and prayed
    for God to show me the light, the way, and the path
    for my intent. Enoch is an exceptional model of man that walked with God and was taken or
    interpreted. Christian Sermons hopes I have had and validated the answer to many prayers.
    Even though you love God you may very well (if not definitely) still sin but you
    can do the best that you can to avoid temptations that lead to sin.

    I come from the family that preaches the Gospel and Christian Sermons
    are a great way to spread the word of God. It’s crystal clear for the Bible. Genuine Christian Sermons will always support or validate this.

  18. HolyGhost Filled

    Very Good. Peope need to stop trying to have that part of the mind of Christ that only He can have. No one can tell God what He can and cannot do, or who He can and cannot use to do His will.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s