Women in the Pulpit
Many years ago I was privileged to hear Anton Sawyer speak at a church in California. She was from South Africa and the Lord had sent her to the United States at a time when the prosperity doctrine was being preached and embraced by so many Christians. Her theme was “What have we done with God’s Word?” When she was finished speaking she had almost every one of the thousand people in that congregation repenting at the altar. She was the real deal.
The imbalanced doctrines she was sent by the Lord to correct were instigated by men.
God speaks in Jeremiah 31:22 - How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man. God was speaking to His backsliding church at that time, and most likely also to His church in the latter days.
Gifted Deborah was elevated by God to the status of a judge over Israel during a time when the Lord had allowed His people to be placed under servitude to their enemies as punishment for their idolatry.
When God’s people fall into apostasy, the order of man leading a woman is reversed and it is a reproach to the male leadership who have abandoned, or perverted their responsibilities. This is why the apostle Paul says that it is “a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Corinthians 14:35). It can be a sign that the church is slipping away from God’s Word into apostasy. The more liberal a church becomes, women as pastors will increase and a doctrine check is in order. However this does not mean that women cannot be used in leadership.
Paul was no doubt ministering to an unbalanced situation in the Corinthian church where some women apparently had begun to operate in opposition to the male authority. Paul’s instructions should not be taken to mean that women cannot be used in leadership positions in a healthy church that is espousing sound doctrine.
The apostle Paul has also said that when someone is in Christ then there is no distinction between male and female (Galatians 3:28). He accepted that women would prophesize when they were under an anointing (1 Corinthians 11:5) and these women were obviously permitted to utter those prophecies in the church. Thus their sex is irrelevant when operating under an anointing from the Lord. Paul also knew that women prophets were consulted by men in the Old Testament. Therefore we may conclude, that when a woman is gifted and under an anointing from the Lord, it is then up to the male leadership, whether in a school or a church, to discern when an anointed individual, male or female, can be appointed to positions in ministry suited for their abilities and that would not exclude teaching from a pulpit.
Many times gifted women are excluded because church leadership has not taken into consideration the entire counsel of God’s Word concerning women, focusing only on Paul’s instructions to the church in Corinth.
Women are not to usurp the male authority God has established, as Paul has said; yet male leadership, if it is following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will defer to the Spirit when the Lord is raising up the people He has chosen to serve Him.
Paul’s epistle to the church in Ephesus is addressed to all the saints there (Ephesians 1:1). In Chapter Four he tells us that God designates who is to serve as “apostles; and some prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers.” As he is speaking to the entire church it is assumed that some of those positions will be filled by women as well. Because it is God who decides who He wants in those positions, we need to be sensitive to the Lord’s direction in this area or we may find ourselves in a position of hindering God’s will in His church. “But now God has set the members every one of them in the body as it has pleased Him” (I Corinthians 12:18).
In the first century church, the female apostle Junia is named among the other apostles (Romans 16:7). (The male form of the name, Junia, which was Junian, was not in use at that time.) Her anointing was recognized by the male authority and she was included as one with the other males in apostolic leadership. Her job would have been to establish and oversee churches. Therefore she would function as an evangelist. She would also have had authority over pastors to correct any errors in the church.
While there is no specific precedent in the Scriptures for females to minister in the capacity of a pastor, God will use them as leaders of His church when there are not enough males volunteering for the job, especially on the mission fields. The time is short and God will use anyone who is willing to answer His call upon their lives. While some churches today may not ordain women to be pastors, the ladies are certainly not meant to be excluded from speaking or teaching when it is discerned that they are being gifted by the Lord. One woman evangelist was turned down by a church that refused women speakers. She was accepted by another church and twenty people came to Jesus as a result of her message.
So by examining the whole counsel of God’s Word on this subject we conclude, that while women in leadership can be a sign that the church is abandoning sound doctrine and is sliding into apostasy, at the same time when a church is functioning correctly with sound doctrine under male leadership, women who are discerned by the men as gifted from the Lord, can be appointed to any position designated as appropriate by the males.
In a marriage, the man is required to cherish and nurture his wife, and the wife is to submit to and revere her husband (Ephesians 5:22-33). This pattern is duplicated in a healthy church. The women should revere the male leadership and in turn that leadership is required to nurture the gifting of the women and not squelch them. Too often men who are inadequate, insecure or jealous operate from these deficiencies and not the Holy Spirit. Gifted women are then never utilized or recognized in those churches where male leadership has not allowed Christ to be formed in them. These men are actually ministering under a carnal unholy spirit.
When we look at the example given to us in the last chapter of Proverbs, we see a woman operating in a variety of ministries. She is providing for her household, making sure they are clothed; covered in scarlet, representing the Gospel of Jesus (Proverbs 31:21). She is figurative of the church, sharing the Gospel, helping to expand her husband’s vineyard (verse 16). Likewise, anointed women are serving today, raised up by God as shining examples of the glorious bride of Christ, nourished and cherished by her Husband.
Copyright 2016 by H.D. Shively