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What do you think about women pastors and what would you say to a young woman interested in the pastorate? I was recently asked about this by a very special young lady. This is what I told her. If you are thinking of reading it, please do not, unless you are willing to read the entire letter.

Dear Sister in the Faith,

I am so glad to hear that you are interested in being a pastor. Not long ago Rachel and I were talking about how we saw God working in your life. It seemed to us he had given you a love for himself and a desire to allow his Word to take root in your life. So while I am happy you have had an interest in being a pastor I am even more excited to hear that you desire to know if this is what God would have for you.

You have asked a great question. To answer it, I think we need to go all the way back to the beginning. We need to answer two questions, “Did God create men and women to have different roles?” and if he did, “What are those roles?

Genesis 2:5-8 and 2:15 tells us that God created man to work the garden and keep it. Then in 2:18 God states, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” So we see that the man was given the role of working the garden to produce fruit and of guarding the garden and the woman was given the role of helping the man. Therefore, we should notice that according to God’s plan, before sin entered the world and messed things up, God intended for the man to have a leadership role with the woman as his helper. The proper order of authority was then God, man, woman, and then creation (the animals and plants).

But notice when Satan came to tempt the humans he turned the order of authority upside down. He, an animal, went to talk to the woman and not the man whose job it was to protect his wife. This was Satan’s way of rejecting God’s established order of authority.

Then sin entered the picture.

It is important to notice that when God speaks to the serpent and the humans in 3:14-19, he first curses Satan (But he does not curse the humans!). He then causes the woman’s pain in child bearing to increase and the man’s pain in working the garden to increase. God causes pain to occur in the areas related to the woman’s primary role and the man’s primary role. He also says to the woman in 3:16, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” This means the woman, because of sin, will desire to take the leadership role over her husband. But God then reestablished his original plan by saying the man will “rule over” (or lead) the woman.

So, why does all of this matter? It matters because we see that different roles for men and woman are not the result of sin but are part of God’s good and gracious plan from the very beginning. Therefore, to say that men should lead and protect is not being sexist, traditional, or abusive. It is how God has created us. But I have to emphasize, because of sin men tend to be poor leaders and poor protectors. They can be overly authoritative and abusive or they can be reluctant to lead or to protect at all. Both are sinful and not right. Because of sin, women also tend to either want to take leadership over men or make the opposite mistake of thinking they cannot do anything without a man. These distortions are also sinful.

But you asked about women serving as pastors. What does any of this have to do with women pastors?

It seems that God’s original plan for different roles between men and women is also present in the New Testament. For example Ephesians 5:22-33 teaches that men are to take a leadership role in caring for their wives. They are to love their wives as Christ loves us, the Church. Women are to submit to their husbands because they know this is what it means for them to follow Christ (“as to the Lord” in verse 22) The order of authority from Genesis is again present in verse 22: God is the head (meaning authority) of the Church (both men and women) and man is then the “authority” over his wife. It all goes back to God’s plan in Genesis. It then follows all the way through the Bible to this passage where it was revealed for the first time that men and women are suppose to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and his Bride; the Church. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32)

To understand all of this allows us to understand the major passages on women in ministry. They are 1 Timothy 2:11-15, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, and 1 Corinthians 14:34-36. The easiest one to understand is 1 Timothy 2:11-15 which says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” and goes on to tie the reason for this to God’s original plan in Genesis.

The next passage 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, seems pretty difficult to understand at first. But it teaches that women should dress like women when they pray or prophecy in church. (At that time a head covering was considered dressing like a woman.) But why would Paul care what a woman was wearing? It is because dressing as a woman indicates that the women praying knew her distinct role as a woman. She was not trying to reject God’s plan for men’s and women’s roles by dressing like a man. It showed that the woman was recognizing her submission to the male leadership as she prayed or prophesied.

Finally, 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 is another verse that seems hard to understand. It is set in the context of interpreting prophesy. It is talking about how the Church should interpret what God has said. It tells us that, “women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission.” But! This does not mean women are supposed to sit silently in church. As we have seen in the previous verse women are allowed to prophesy and pray in church. Both of these require a woman to speak. We need to remember that this verse is in the context of interpreting prophecy. It is only saying that women, because of the role they have been given, should not stand before the congregation and interpret what God has said. Today, the person who stands before the congregation and interprets what God has said is the pastor. This is why I believe Scripture teaches that only men should serve as pastors.

But please do not be discouraged by this! I am very glad that you have a desire to serve as a pastor and even more thankful that God has given you the desire to see what his Word says about it. I think you very well may have a calling to “full-time” or “professional” ministry, just not as a pastor. Women can, and should, serve in roles appropriate for what God has designed. Women are desperately needed to teach younger women (Men are not allowed to do this), children, or in a women’s ministry (Something men would not be good at!). These kinds of ministries are extremely valuable to the glory of God. I think you may be called to full-time ministry. I think you should seriously consider it and pray about it!

Finally, a few side notes. First, it is often said that this point of view allows women to only teach women and children as if teaching men were the really important work of ministry. This is a terrible view that somehow places a greater value on teaching men than women and children. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Men are not more valuable than women!Men and women are of equal worth, intelligence, and ability. Many women would even do a better job serving as a pastor than many of the male pastors I know, but that is not God’s plan. We need to remember it is his Church and he will build it as he sees fit. Second, there are a million objections to this teaching of Scripture. I think all of them are answerable. I will only comment on the most common one. Many people point out that Deborah was a Judge over Israel beginning in Numbers 4. But the story of Deborah does not mean women should serve as pastors. The story is really a condemnation of a lack of male leadership and the book of Numbers itself was written to show us how messed up life gets when we do not live it according to God’s Word. Everything in Numbers is messed up! Nothing is what it is suppose to be! Therefore, we should not try to base our doctrine of male and female roles from the book of Numbers when other passages are very clear in their teaching. Third, a very helpful, short, and free book on this topic can be found here: 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns About Manhood and Womanhood.

My dear sister in Christ, please, please, please consider full time ministry and may the Lord bless you as you seek his will in this area of your life.

In Christ,

will

The End. I hope you made it this far without getting bored!

If you found this post helpful, please let me know by rating it. I also invite your constructive comments.

lightI remember, as a little child, sitting in a church pew wondering if I would go to heaven. It is one of my clearest memories of being a child. I would feel anxious and I would ask myself, “Am I a good enough person to go to heaven?” In the end I was always able to convince myself that I was indeed a good person; that there was no way God could refuse me entry into heaven. Eventually I would find enough comfort in this thought and ignore my anxiety.

Since then I have discovered that this is a very common misunderstanding. Many people I have talked to, even those who consider themselves to be Christians, truly believe they will enter heaven because they are a good person. I know I myself considered myself a Christian. At that point in my life I had attended an Episcopal church, sang in the choir at a United Methodist church, attended a Southern Baptist church, another United Methodist church, been baptized in a third United Methodist church, and attended Sunday school in a Full Gospel church without ever once hearing how to get to heaven.

Once when I was sharing this with a friend at UPS he stopped me by reassuring me that he was a Christian and was a good person who deserved to go to heaven. I was very glad that he brought this up because it allowed me to point out to him that although he considered himself a Christian and believed he would be in heaven with the God of the Bible, he did not believe what the Bible taught or what Jesus himself told us about ourselves or about God. For example, the Bible tells us in Romans (chapter 3) that:

“None is righteous, no, not one”

“No one seeks for God. All have turned aside”

“No one does good, not even one.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Notice how serious this is: “None is righteous,” meaning zero. No one. No person anywhere. And just in case we missed the point the emphasis is added, “no, not one.” It is pretty clear that this is the view of Scripture: no one will make it to heaven by being a good person because no one is a good person in God’s eyes. Everyone has committed sin and turned away from God. The affect of our sin is then described in Isaiah (chapter 59):

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

Therefore, according to the Bible “No one does good, not even one” and because of it there is “a separation between you and your God” so that He has hidden his face (his loving presence) from you. So, please, if you are like I was and you think you can know God or make it to heaven by being a good person, please stop. Be honest with yourself and do not play games. Do not fool yourself into thinking God accepts any “good” person. That is not what the Scriptures say. This idea has no basis in anything but the sinfulness of the human heart wanting to deny that it is really that bad.

But, for those who come to the end of themselves and realize they cannot be good enough there is a great gift. God’s Son was born as a man. His name is Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a sinless life, performed miracles, fulfilled precise prophecies written hundreds of years before His birth, and died on a cross as God the Father had planned before the world was even created. During His death on the cross God the Father punished Jesus as if He were the person who had committed all of our sins. The Scriptures say (Isaiah 53):

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

And this is the gift, God offers us forgiveness. Free forgiveness. And righteousness, the righteousness that Jesus earned as He lived a perfect life. All of this is a gift, absolutely free, if we would place our trust in Jesus. We can never be good enough to overcome the separation our sins have made with God but God has provided a way to cleanse us from our sin if we by faith accept Jesus. This means we must come to a place where we hate our sin and desire Jesus instead. It has to be an intentional response of your will. It will not just happen. It cannot be a one-time-decision, repeated prayer, or walk down a church aisle. It might even follow a period of deep anguish and soul searching. It cannot be earned but it is a free offer:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:10-11)

May Jesus Christ be glorified as the only Savior of men.

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