I’m almost afraid to write this post.
I’m almost afraid of the reactions of others. Whether they say it out loud or not, some will think, “Paul told women to be quiet. She just needs to obey Scripture.” Or, “How nice. Alan’s writing about women because his wife feels like she’s called to preach. What a good husband!” Or, if they’re really being honest, “Uppity woman! She’s just whining, and he feels like he has to defend her.”
I’m just being honest here.
There’s another reaction I’m hoping for, though: “Really?? Women can be leaders? Women can teach, preach, lead—despite what I’ve been taught for years? Maybe …”
There is such a thing as a glass ceiling. It exists. But not necessarily where we’ve been taught that it exists.
It exists in the church.
In our society, a woman can go as far as she wants. She can become CEO of a Fortune 500 company or run a country. She can make money—lots of it. She has choices; she can stay home, homeschool, homestead, home-based business, etc. She can learn what she wants to learn, pursue an education in any field she chooses. Does she sometimes face resistance? Absolutely, but in society as we know it it’s expected that when she meets that resistance, she will fight it. And when she does, we applaud her.
But in the church?
Well, sure. She can teach Sunday School—if it’s the kids. She can lead a ladies’ group; we always need more! She can run family ministries, teach women’s classes, even teach small discipleship classes. There’s plenty she can do! Volunteer to lead mission trips! Serve in the kitchen! Prayer team! Do music ministry!
See? All kinds of ways to serve—uh, minister. Nothing wrong with any of those things; they’re central to our ministry. But have authority? Well, that’s another subject. That’s man’s territory, ladies. Sorry
And if we begin to question the barriers, we’re confronted with words like rebellion, submission, and even Jezebel spirit. As if by questioning and confronting the cultural status quo, we’re somehow single-handedly ushering in the age of the Anti-Christ.
Hence my fear.
I wonder if my questioning or stepping out into what I know God has called me to do and to be will result in an eye roll and, “Boy, he’s got his hands full with her!” I wonder if there will be backlash. I wonder what those in spiritual authority over me will think.
I’ve hit the glass ceiling. Again, and again, and again. I’ve watched other women hit it too; looks painful. I feel the lack of mothering in the church as a whole; I have several women who speak into my life personally, but I’m missing that impartation on a large scale. I see the Church struggling to be the Bride, and I know why: men cannot teach how to be a bride—but I can. The powerful women around me can—if they’re given authority to do it.
And not grudging authority. No caveats, no patronization. No affirmative action, either; don’t put people in the position of authority—no matter which gender—if they don’t belong there. Allow the Church—male and female—to fully become who they are called and redeemed to be, regardless of gender. Allow them to bring balance to the Body of Christ. Allow them to bring the rest of the image of God to the forefront.
Instead of leaning on cultural mores for our way of doing things, let’s ask questions. Dig in. Discover what the Bible really says about women. Let’s invite women into the discussion; they have a little bit invested in that process, after all. Let’s begin to take the “neither male nor female” thing Paul talks about in Galatians 3:28 seriously, allowing women to become all—and I mean all—they are created to be.
And let’s create a safe environment in which they can become themselves. Let’s develop leaders of both genders, training them in Bible study (not just someone else’s Bible study, but how to really dig into the Word), leadership principles and communication skills, and then give them some opportunities to practice and grow in these skills.
Let’s call those women who are already functioning in their calling by the labels we would use for men: Leader. Apostle. Pastor. Preacher. Teacher. Elder. Prophet. Deacon. Let’s honor their calling, gifting and authority the way God does.
So while I’m almost a little afraid to write this post, I’m going to anyway. For my daughters’ sake, for the sake of the powerful women around me, and for the sake of the health of the Body, I’m writing—and then publishing—this post.
Nancy Smith is Alan’s wife of 18 years. She’s mom to Lauren, Anna and Ted. Nancy is a professional editor and writing coach. You can find more of her stuff on Destiny in Bloom and also on her Personal Blog.