Q What does the Bible say about women pastors?
by Pastor Matt Ritchey, Managing Editor
Estimated Time to Read: 6 Minutes
ANSWER: I am a big believer that Christendom (used to denote all those who claim to be Christian) should admit when it has done wrong and move forward in truth. How the “church” acted in the past shouldn’t reflect on what the Bible said; church history is not our source of doctrine, the Bible is always the source of truth, even when the church is disobedient to certain truths.
If we are honest, in the past, society and the church hasn’t always treated women in the way God intended. Women were sometimes treated as lesser members whose only value was in how many children they bore, how clean their house was, and what benefit they offered to others. Critics have used past shortcomings (often misrepresenting and dramatizing the past) to charge the church with being sexist against women. (News flash: the church was mirroring society.)
While we have nothing against mothers or clean houses or being kind, we know the Scriptures present the marriage union as a partnership (with differing roles and accountabilities), not a dictatorship (Gen. 2:18,23-24). The woman was not created to be man’s slave.
Arguments for Women Pastors
Others insist that the church should follow society in blurring all gender distinctions and let everyone have an equal opportunity at all roles. By-the-way, the church has been guilty of feeding into gender stereotypes as well. Case in point, not all boys like to get dirty and not all girls mind being dirty; not every male likes sports and not every female enjoys shopping. Despite the sometimes misplaced stereotypes, male and female WERE created different by God (Gen. 5:2).
Then there are some that argue a woman is just as capable of pastoring as a man and oftentimes is very well-versed in the Scriptures. We do not doubt the knowledge of the Bible that is possessed by some of our godly ladies; yet the Scripture, in assigning responsibility, does not base roles on ability and deservedness. Otherwise, none of us would be able to serve the Lord (Rom. 7:18; cf. Rom 8:2).
We cannot let Christendom’s abuses, cultural bullies, or lack of male pastors’ cause us to waver in what the Bible teaches about church leadership. The specific question was about women pastors so we will confine our answer to the topic.
The Importance of Women
Let us first establish the importance of women in the local assembly. Too many children would not be raised in the things of the Lord if it were not for a faithful mother/grandmother. Many widowed women are the most faithful supporters and attendees of the local assembly. Countless women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, serving, children’s ministry, shut-in ministry, encouragement, praying, and sharing the gospel.
Honestly, much of the ministry in the local church depends on women. Women are gifted by the Holy Spirit and share a high calling. Women are called to serve the Lord and to allow the Spirit to bear fruit. Women are equal members of the Body of Christ. Thank you, ladies, for what you do for the Lord and our local assemblies. Never allow yourself to feel like you are of lesser importance.
Speaking of ability, Priscilla would serve as an example of a capable minister who, along with Aquila, helped others come to an understanding of God’s grace and the Savior (Acts 18:26). This woman was greatly used by the Lord. Yet, we have no information that would lead us to believe (nor should we) that Priscilla was pastor of a church. Leadership is a separate issue from effectiveness. Again, this is not a question of ability or intelligence, but of God-given expectations and responsibility.
The question is answered clearly in I Timothy 2:11-12 where the Word of God proclaims, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” Despite all the ways I have heard this verse abused (e.g., a woman can’t ask questions in Sunday School) and all the baseless objections to this verse (e.g., Paul was only talking to the women at Ephesus), the warning is against a woman contradicting and usurping the God-given authority in the local assembly—a responsibility He has entrusted to qualified male leadership (note the masculine pronouns in I Timothy 3:1-7).
In the church, as in the home, God has assigned different roles to men and women. The men have been given the assignment to lead the local assemblies according to the doctrines of the Body of Christ. Bluntly, this excludes women from serving as pastors over men, which definitely includes preaching to them, teaching them publicly, and exercising spiritual authority over them.
I personally do not think this means they cannot have a “say” in the happenings of the local assembly, although there are appropriate and inappropriate avenues. I do not think this means they have to sit down and shut-up, but they do not have a right to mutiny and take-over leadership. God has entrusted the responsibility of leading the local assembly to the men. Unfortunately, it is due to the lack of willingness in our men to lead that has led to many vacancies in church leadership.
Answering Our Calls
Men, embrace the blessed obligation to lead the church of God. Get involved and stop making excuses to remain on the sidelines. We need pastors and missionaries and elders. Too often women feel forced to take on semi-leadership roles because they care about the church and no male is willing to step up and lead. Are you willing to be a benevolent leader in your local assembly? We need you.
Ladies, you are important. Don’t let the world tell you your worth comes from breaking the glass ceiling in local churches, and don’t let your leaders tell you that you are less important than the men on the board. The Bible is full of women—Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Esther, Ruth, Mary, Martha, Phoebe, and Priscilla—who played an essential role in God’s work. I also implore you to recognize the burden the leadership of your church carries. It is easy to be critical and think of all the ways you would do it better, but make it a goal to be an encourager.
Read another article from this edition of the BABQ:
Question 4: I heard this pastor say that, in Luke 16:19-31, Abraham’s bosom was in Heaven because the angels took the beggar to Heaven while the rich man went to Hell and torment. I have been teaching that this is NOT a parable but truth because Jesus uses names which He doesn’t do in His parables. If this is true, then the rich man can see into Heaven and talk with Abraham who is in Heaven. That can’t be true.