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