Archive for August 10th, 2017


Should Women Be Involved in Ministry?

This blog is posted for students in my courses. However, you are welcome to read it. That being said, try not to be distracted if you get a sense that I am addressing a specific audience.

I recently posted a blog on the question of whether women should serve as pastors and elders of local churches. If you have not yet read that blog, then I recommend that you do so before reading this blog. In that blog I promised to answer to some objections that my first blog may have raised; consequently, the blog you have before you is an attempt to keep that promise.

Should women be active involved in ministry? Simply and emphatically stated, yes! While women should not be pastors or lead elders over men in local churches, all believers should aspire to some form of ministry regardless of gender and spiritual maturity. So, before elaborating more precisely on what this means, it is first necessary to establish a few universal biblical principles. One caveat before I begin, this blog deals with ministry in and outside the church. It does not address secular professions. Simply put, there are no biblical mandates prohibiting women from participating in secular careers such as: teachers, governors, presidents, queens, senators, garbage collectors, stock car racers, plumbers, CEOs, etc., etc. With respect to women participating in such employment, there is no biblical prohibition against women participating in financially productive careers or offices of public service. That being said, however, every parent’s first responsibility, whether they be mothers or fathers, is to actively and properly care for and raise their own children in the ways of godliness so that they become functional Christians, and in general this specifically requires that mothers leave the work force for a season for the sake of their children (Prov. 31.10-31; 1 Tim 2.15; Tit 2.3-5).  However, if fathers and mothers functionally abandon their children to the care of others in order to pursue careers that they think will be more “self-fulfilling” instead of raising their own children, then the consequence will be that many of their children will grow up to reject the gospel, and the end result will be that their parents have done immeasurable damage to both their children and the cause of Christ. Lastly, Israel enjoyed the leadership of women as judges and royalty, and we do not find the prophets denouncing them for being leaders simply because of their gender. If they were rebuked it was for the injustices that occurred under their authority or the apostasy and heresies that they fostered and protected, but not simply for their gender. With that said, let’s begin.

  • All believers regardless of gender receive spiritual gifts. Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 12.4-6 that the Holy Spirit gives each believer a spiritual gift or gifts, while the Lord Jesus Christ determines the ministries in which they are to be used, and God the Father empowers them to be effective. Consequently, spiritual gifts are a blessing conferred by God upon all believers regardless of gender.
  • All believers are equally valued by God. Paul explained that we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3.26-28). This passage is by far the one that is most abused by Feminist and Christian Egalitarians. Clearly God loves all believers equally, and both men and women are equal inheritors of the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, God created us differently; consequently, we function differently both in life and in the body of Christ with respect to ministry (i.e., the local church; although the term “body of Christ” can also refer to the universal church). Remember that in 1 Corinthians 12.5 Paul explained that it is the Lord who determines our ministries, both in and outside the church. He further elaborated more precisely on these issues by providing the qualifications of elders for local churches in the Pastoral Epistles. It is poor theology and exegesis to pit what Paul stated in one letter against what he clearly taught in other letters. Paul knew what he wrote in Galatians 3.28 (Galatians probably being his first epistle), and it didn’t prohibit him from providing further clarification concerning ministry qualifications and responsibilities in the Pastoral Epistles. Paul was not schizophrenic as the Holy Spirit inspired him to write; consequently, he did not contradict what wrote in Galatians by what he wrote in the 1 Corinthians and the Pastoral Epistles. Lastly, there are a few who assert that because Paul described specific women as “servants” of the Lord at the end of some of his epistles (e.g., Romans 16) it necessarily means that these women must have been fellow pastors or elders. This is a poorly defended assumption. Paul certainly did refer to some women as partners with him in the ministry, but that does not demand that they were pastors of local churches, or that they were prophets or theologians that taught entire congregations. There is little doubt that there were women who assisted and partnered with Paul by making preparations for his ministry before his arrival in cities where he intended to preach (e.g., Phoebe). And just as with Jesus, it is highly probably that Paul relied upon spiritual mature women to disciple and mentor new female converts into the Christian faith. Nevertheless, it is irrational to conjecture that Paul partnered with women in his ministry by allowing them to teach and instruct men and local congregations while at the same time prohibiting other women from serving as pastors and elders of these same churches. Let’s give Paul more credit than to assert that he promoted such an obvious and transparently ludicrous contradiction. Consequently, there is no objective biblical example in which the women who partnered with Paul in ministry functioned as pastors or elders of local churches.
  • All believers regardless of gender receive the Holy Spirit when they place their personal trust in the Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. While preaching during Pentecost Peter explained to the crowd that had gathered that what they were witnessing was the arrival of the Holy Spirit as promised by God and proclaimed through the prophet Joel. As he did so he quoted the specific prophecy of Joel indicating that the Holy Spirit would be given equally to all believers regardless of age or gender (Acts 2.16-18 and Joel 2.28-29 are the relevant verses for this discussion). Therefore, women should not be perceived as possessing a lesser measure of Holy Spirit. Moreover, we have clear biblical examples of women referred to as “prophetess” and spoke under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1.39-56; 2.36-38; Acts 21.8-9; 1 Cor. 11.5). Consequently, all believers receive the full measure of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. This of course does not mean that all are equally guided by or in submission to the Spirit’s influence and direction. Submission to the Holy Spirit, however, is not an issue of spiritual capacity but an issue of spiritual maturity; consequently, all believers are called to grow in maturity in Christ. Moreover, the New Testament knows nothing of the doctrine of a “second blessing.” It does, however, encourage all believers unto greater submission to the Holy Spirit’s power, influence, and guidance. And as believers begin to mature in their faith and relationship to the Lord then they will also learn more about how to use their specific spiritual gift(s) as they walk with Christ and live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit—irrespective of their gender.
  • Gender does not demand that women are inferior teachers. At this point I must take a brief side bar. There is a difference between the natural ability to teach, and the spiritual gift of teaching. Simply because one is a professional teacher (e.g., math, English, history, social studies, cooking, etc., etc.) does not mean that the Holy Spirit has given them the ability to insightfully teach on spiritual, theological, or biblical matters. The spiritual gift of teaching refers to a Spirit given and God empowered capacity to serve in the kingdom of God by imparting spiritual insight and knowledge from the Scriptures for the purpose of enlarging the church and building up of the body of Christ. For example, I may be a giving person with my finances; however, that does not mean that the Holy Spirit has given me the gift of “giving.” When the Spirit gives a person the gift of giving it means that God uses that believer in a supernatural way by multiplying his or her generosity to accomplish God’s desires no matter what or how much that believer gives for the cause of Christ. Moreover, one does not even have to be rich in order to possess the spiritual gift of giving. Consequently, while all believers are called to give of their means to support the ministry of the gospel, not all believers have the gift of giving. All believers are called to share the gospel, not all believers are gifted as evangelists. Now concerning the spiritual ability to teach, in Titus 2.3-5 Paul directed older spiritually mature women to teach and disciple younger women. Paul was not simply asking older women to teach home economics, but rather that older godly women disciple and teach younger women in the ways of godliness as they minister within their families and to other women. Additionally, Paul also reminded Timothy of the godly influence that he received from his mother and grandmother. These were godly women and they faithfully guided and taught young Timothy in the ways of godliness while he was a child. No doubt their influence was instrumental in preparing Timothy for God’s calling upon his life as an adult. And at this point I need to take another brief side bar. The New Testament knows nothing of cross-gender one-on-one discipleship or counseling. Those who engage in such are setting themselves up for disaster. Discipleship and spiritual counseling are incredibly intimate endeavors that naturally draw people closer. Those who engage in these ministries while crossing gender lines should not be surprised if sexual temptation occurs, or if rumors begin to spread. Consequently, discipling and counseling in one-on-one contexts should be carried out by those of the same gender, and to be honest this is just a matter of common sense. For example, no husband or wife really wants their spouse being alone and talking to someone of the opposite sex about their sexual problems—enough said. Furthermore, Jesus had female disciples (Luke 8.1-3), and we can be assured that as women came to Jesus for healing (e.g., the woman with an issue of blood, Lk 8.40-48) or in repentance and for forgiveness (e.g., the prostitute in Lk 7.36-38), that Jesus would eventually, and for obvious reasons, direct them to spiritual mature female disciples for further discipleship and mentoring. So, while women had access to Jesus’ public preaching and personal teaching (Luke 10.38-42), the biblical model for one-on-one discipleship is gender specific, as Jesus himself modeled for us through his discipleship of the 12 apostles. If cross gender discipleship had even a possibility of being a productive idea, then Jesus would have selected a few women to be among the 12, but he did not. Moreover, there are some ministries that only women should fill, such as chaplains in women prisons; sexual abuse recovery ministries for women; indigent care for women. The principle here is that there are many ministries in which women are more gifted and better qualified to carry out, and in such contexts men generally make very poor substitutes.

So, should women be in ministry, absolutely! However, somewhere along the line in the “business” of Christianity, the modern church has been deceived by the impression that “effective” ministry mostly occurs when large audiences gather, sit, and passively listen—let’s call it the Mass Media syndrome for lack of a better description. As a result Christian Egalitarians and Secular Feminists, because of a worldview that promotes the lie there are no such things as God-designed differences between the genders, demand that women have equal access to these “important” ministries. This is one of the greatest tragedies inflicting today’s Evangelical church. Lasting ministry, authentic fruitfulness, and significant impact for cause of Christ does not occur only on Sunday mornings merely by speaking over largely passive audiences. The most fruitful and enduring ministries occur through small groups and one-on-one discipleship. This Mass Media approach to ministry has caused untold passivity among millions of believers, both men and women, resulting in spiritual lethargy and biblical illiteracy.

What about Christian education? Should women be allowed or encouraged to participate in undergraduate and graduate biblical studies—unquestionably! All believers should do so, and if not at Evangelical universities and seminaries, then at their local churches. The church is not served by being filled with biblically illiterate believers and spiritual infants. We all start out as babes in Christ, but we are certainly not called to remain as such regardless of our gender. And the stark reality is that half of the world’s population is female; consequently, the Lord is not pleased and the church is not served by discouraging or prohibiting women from actively participating in ministry or Christian education. The bottom line is this, women are essential for effective well-balanced ministry, both in and outside the local church. Furthermore, there are no biblical prohibitions against women having influential and effective ministries. However, if anyone, whether male or female, pursues graduate degree in biblical studies with the purpose of finally setting right the church’s “archaic” view of women so that they can finally have equal assess to all the church’s ministries and find self-fulfillment by being lead elders and/or teaching pastors in local churches, then they are already standing at the precipice of a very slippery slope. No one can undermine clear biblical instruction and theological principles and think that they are not inflicting great damage to the cause of Christ. Remember, while the Holy Spirit gives us our spiritual gifts, it is the Lord who is the head of the church; consequently, He is the one that determines our specific ministries inside and outside the local church. So if you believe that there nothing wrong with women functioning as lead pastors or elders within local churches, then your conflict is with the Lord Jesus Christ and the scriptures.


Copyright, © by Monte Shanks, 2016



Read Full Post »