Women who are gifted and called to preaching and teaching ministry are a great blessing to the church!
The Christian faith is built on the good news that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Who was the first person to bring this message of good news? A woman! In John 20 we learn that Mary Magdalene is the first to see the risen Christ. Verse 18 tells us, ‘Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.’
Theologian and historian NT Wright says, ‘within that culture, the idea that the prime witness to the most important event in the whole story would be a woman in tears is so counter-intuitive that as a historian, I would have to say that no one would ever have made up that story.’ He goes on to say that God would choose a woman to bear this news was the beginning of a cultural revolution in which women and men together proclaimed the good news of the risen Christ and built the early church. Read through Romans 16 to see how Paul acknowledges and thanks many of his female colleagues in the work they have done together.
The fullness of God’s personhood is expressed not only in masculinity but also in femininity. We were created to be reflections of God – in our distinctiveness, we speak and act for him. The world of theology and Bible interpretation has traditionally been a male-dominated world; men interpret the biblical texts and bring their lived experiences and stories to the teaching of it. The history of the church has benefited enormously from the male perspective, but we gain a richer and deeper understanding when women also have the opportunity to interpret and teach Scripture, to lead, and to show the whole congregation what it looks like to follow Jesus. God revealed himself through both men and women and continues to reveal himself to the world through his people. Women bring feminine perspectives, insights, and pastoral sensitivity that benefit the whole church. God chose to bring the gospel message through a woman in tears – surely this tells us that He wants to hear his women speak up for what they know, and he wants them to do it in their uniquely female ways.
Kay Northcutt in her book, Kindling Desire for God makes the claim that preachers are spiritual directors for their congregations, and that ‘sermons do for congregations what spiritual direction does for individuals.’ Northcutt argues that the preacher should be preaching around themes that include a call to see God in the everyday moments of life, a call to ‘wake up’ and consciously co-create life with God, a call to see each moment of ordinary life as sacramental, a call to see as God sees and a call to develop vocational matters. In doing this, the preacher is guiding the spiritual formation of her congregation and calling them to a closer relationship with God. This is a task not to be undertaken only by men – oh how we miss out when we don’t invite women into this task! To teach our whole congregation to walk closely with God and see at work in all aspects of our lives requires an understanding of what our lives are actually like. As best they try, men cannot really understand what it is like to be female, just as women can’t understand what it is like to be male. To skillfully shepherd our congregations, we need the preaching ministry of both men and women.
For more info:
Watch: Tom Wright speak about women leading in the early church https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=os8M9ln2cM0
Kindling Desire for God: Preaching as spiritual direction by Kay L. Northcutt (Minneapolis, MI: Fortress, 2009)
Questions in this series:
1. How do we read the Bible to decide what to do today?
2. What principles of interpreting Scripture should we apply to understand the passages that are used to limit women’s leadership in the church?
3. What roles did women play in the early church?
4. Did Jesus have female disciples?
5. Does the Holy Spirit give spiritual gifts to all Christians?
6. How can men pave the way for women to have greater opportunities in the church?
7. Why is it important to hear women preach and teach Scripture?
8. I am uncomfortable with the fact that women are restricted from leading and teaching men in my church. What advice can you give to help me raise this issue at my church?