In my role as leadership consultant with the Dallas Baptist Association I have an opportunity to speak with women from different size churches that hold positions of volunteer, ministry leader, or staff. These women are very different in many ways, but they share one thing in common. Each has asked me why there is a controversy about women leading in the church! So, what do I tell them?
Turning to the Bible I show them examples of women leading in spite of a culture that would tell them it was not allowed. When Jesus was conducting his ministry women were not allowed to speak to men in public. Women were considered unreliable and could not testify in court. They were not allowed to be taught by the Rabbi and were kept behind a partition in the synagogue. Women were seldom seen or heard. That does not sound like an environment where women might excel, especially as leaders.
However, Jesus encouraged worshipful women even when religious leaders disagreed (Luke 7:36-48). Jesus brought a woman into the men’s area of the temple even though it was considered inappropriate (Luke 13:10-17). Jesus welcomed Mary of Bethany to sit at his feet to learn (Luke 10:38-42). Most revealing of how Jesus viewed women was that he first revealed his true identity, that he was the Messiah, to a woman (John 4:26). Did you know Jesus’ longest recorded conversation was with a woman (John 4:5-27) and he entrusted the most important message to all humankind to a woman – that he had risen from the dead and then he told her to go and tell (John 20:11-18).
Sharon Jaynes has a phrase I love. “Jesus took the fearful and forgotten and transformed them into the faithful and forever remembered.” He not only accepted women as they were, but he challenged them to do more, to be more, than they had thought possible.
Closing the Bible, I then tell these beautiful women of God to grow in knowledge and strength. To prepare themselves for whatever mission the Lord has prepared for them. Church leadership is not defined by a building or position. Women have no shortage of places to lead when they accept that they are both fully capable of spiritual leadership and have been called to that place of service.