Devotionals

7 'Reasons' We Don’t Empower Women Leaders

This week the Church of England overturned centuries of tradition by voting to allow women as bishops. Anglicans already approved women priests 20 years ago, but on Monday they opened the door for women to serve in the highest office in the church.

Reaction to the landmark decision was mixed. Government leaders in England applauded the move. Others vowed to fight it. And some observers scratched their heads, wondering why it took this long. After all, Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, served as Prime Minister for almost 12 years, and Queen Elizabeth has been on the British throne since 1952.

Here in the United States, the issue of women in leadership is a hot potato. Many conservative denominations bar women from top positions, citing a biblical mandate that men must always be in charge. Meanwhile, Pentecostal and charismatic groups, while biblically conservative, allow women to function as top leaders—yet their policies are reflected more often on paper than in actual practice.

Many Spirit-filled women still feel resistance if they volunteer to lead anything other than a women's Bible study. Why is this? During the 14 years that I have been a vocal proponent of women in ministry, I have observed these key reasons why conservative evangelicals tend to limit women in the church:

1. We misunderstand Scripture. Conservatives who bar women from leadership typically cite 1 Timothy 2:12 or 1 Corinthians 14:34 ("women are to keep silent in the churches"), and yet they ignore verses affirming women's spiritual gifts. Deborah, who served as senior leader of ancient Israel, is ignored, and New Testament women leaders such as Priscilla, Phoebe, Euodia, Syntyche, Junia or the daughters of Philip are dismissed. We also conveniently forget that Peter announced on the day of Pentecost: "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy" (Acts 2:17b). Scripture actually calls certain women to leadership rather than banning them from it.

2. We are bound by religious tradition. Martin Luther was a prophetic voice to the church when he exposed religious corruption and heresy. Yet he was still so bound by his own 16th century bias against women that he believed God created females only for the purpose of childbirth. Many conservative Christians still hold antiquated ideas about female inferiority. This explains why so many churches didn't allow women to wear pants or makeup a decade ago, and why women today are still expected to serve only as cooks or babysitters in some denominations.

3. We don't give the Holy Spirit full control. Paul the apostle wrote: "There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28b). He understood the amazing equality of the Holy Spirit, who gives spiritual gifts to "each one" (1 Cor. 12:11)—not according to gender, class or race but simply according to God's choice. Scripture teaches that God chooses whom He wills; He does not qualify based on human criteria. This means we must affirm the valid gifts and callings of our sisters. If God calls an Esther to lead, we should not hide the scepter from her.

4. We are afraid of "feminizing" the church. Some insecure Christian guys have complained that there are already too many women making decisions in the church. One author even demanded that flowers be removed from church altars because they are feminine! My response: The same God who created deer antlers and buckskin also made carnations and orchids. Genesis 1:26-28 says God created male and female in His image. Only when we have men and women functioning in their full capacity in the church will we see His image fully manifested. It's silly to try to rid the church of women's influence when God appointed both fathers and mothers to run a family. It took Abraham and Sarah to give birth to Israel; God wants both genders involved in His work.

5. We associate women leaders with a liberal agenda. In the United States many of the women who hold political office do not reflect Christian moral values. For this reason some people automatically associate women preachers or pastors with a radical feminist agenda. This is unfair. In America's past, some of the greatest leaders of social change were women who held Christian beliefs—brave women like Harriet Tubman, Phoebe Palmer and Sojourner Truth—and they would have never advocated abortion or same-sex marriage. We need an army of women leaders who will speak as prophets on the national stage.

6. We don't see enough positive examples of female leadership. In the early Pentecostal movement it was not uncommon to see women preachers traveling across our nation planting churches and conducting evangelistic campaigns in roadside tents. Women preachers including Aimee Semple MacPherson, Carrie Judd Montgomery and Myrtle Beall made a huge spiritual impact on their generation. Today, while there are significant numbers of women pastors and missionaries in the Assemblies of God and other Pentecostal groups, the most prominent Christian women featured in mainstream media tend to stay in their place. They are incredibly gifted, but they are viewed as Bible teachers to women only.

7. Some Christians hate women. It's sad but true. Misogyny is alive and well, and sometimes it is even preached from pulpits. In one prominent evangelical church in a Central American country, the pastor often jokes about women and seems to trivialize adultery. It's no wonder domestic violence thrives in that country. Until some brave men have the guts to challenge the sexism of the good ol' boy network, abuse will remain a problem among Christians. (I am not saying that there aren't women who hate men, or that men are never abused—but statistics show the majority of abuse cases involve women victims.)

Why am I so passionate about women in ministry? When our spiritual enemies are attacking and the hour is late, both Deborah and Barak are needed on the battlefield. This is an issue that is on the Lord's heart. I pray we will affirm and celebrate all women who sense a call from God to lead.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His next book, The Truth Sets Women Free, will be published in September.

Devotionals

Why Team Ministry Is Better Than a One-Man Show

Last week I served alongside a team of pastors at a ministry school in Debrecen, Hungary, a city I've visited four times. Even though I don't speak Hungarian (it's one of the most difficult languages on the planet), I had a blast working with my friends Zsolt, Eugene, István, Pál and Attila. We shared meals, worshiped and prayed together and opened our hearts on a deep level—with the help of my interpreter and, on a few occasions, the Google Translate program on my phone.

Nobody tried to be the star as we shared teaching slots during the week. We preferred each other and encouraged each other. And we laughed a lot because we really enjoyed each other's company. Every leader contributed his part—and in the end the students were blessed that their teachers flowed in harmony.

Teamwork is an essential part of God's plan for ministry. In both the Old and New Testaments, we see teams of people working side-by-side to further His kingdom. Moses shared leadership with Aaron and Miriam (see Micah 4:6) and David had a group of "mighty men" who performed valiant deeds under his command. Solomon appointed a team to serve as his deputies, Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem with teams of workers, and Esther's maidens prayed and fasted with her before she saved Israel from genocide.

Jesus loves teams. He gathered a group of hand-picked disciples and then sent them out to minister in pairs (Luke 10:1). He involved them in feeding the multitudes and healing sick people. In the same way, the apostle Paul never traveled anywhere alone, and he always credited the people who helped him. His love for Timothy, Phoebe, Luke, Silvanus, Titus, Priscilla and other team players is an obvious backdrop in his epistles.

So if teamwork is so essential to Christianity, why do we prefer the celebrity model of ministry today? Here are five clear reasons that teamwork is a better approach:

1. Teamwork accomplishes more. Anybody who has ever chopped down a tree with an axe or painted a house knows the job gets done quicker and easier when more people are working. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says: "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor." Ministry leaders are compared to oxen in the Bible, and Jesus said He would place a "yoke" on us when we are called to ministry (see Matt. 11:29). A yoke connects a team of oxen. Jesus never referred to his followers as renegade stallions who run off on their own. He called us to be yoked together with others. You will not achieve as much if you insist on doing everything yourself.

2. Teamwork unlocks people's potential. In a one-man show, a leader performs the up-front job, a few overworked people help in the background, and the crowd watches. Religious spectators are trained to sit—as if they have nothing useful to contribute. Yet the New Testament tells us the Holy Spirit gives every believer certain gifts, and we all are to use these gifts for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7, 11).

In today's megachurch culture, the celebrity pastor looms large on the big screen, and he may even broadcast his message to several satellite congregations. This might effectively reach some people for Jesus, and it might be a short-term solution for growth, but does it encourage every church member to discover his or her potential? The best leaders know how to involve lots of people to reach God's goal.

3. Teamwork encourages healthy relationships. It's easier to do ministry alone. But you will never grow if you do a solo act. When you are part of a team you must deal with competitive attitudes, jealousy, pride, complaints and hurt feelings. This is exactly why Jesus wants us to work together! You will never confront the flaws in your character unless you work with others. They will expose your selfishness, and you will expose theirs. Proverbs 27:17 says: "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." God will use Brother Bothersome and Sister Sandpaper in your life to make you more loving—and more humble!

4. Teamwork prevents scandals. Years ago after televangelist Jim Bakker was released from prison, he admitted that he had surrounded himself with yes men who didn't have the courage to tell him he was making unethical business decisions. Leaders with a one-man-show mentality are in danger of doing incredibly stupid things because they lack accountability. Team ministry encourages transparency, and senior leaders recognize the value of getting honest feedback from their colleagues. You will fail as a leader if you don't have wise counselors who have access to you. Surround yourself with team players and ask them to point out your blind spots!

5. Teamwork keeps us from idolizing men. A well-known pastor in Nigeria was known to record his sermon each week and then send tapes of his message to his pastors throughout the country. The pastors were then expected to stand in their pulpits the following Sunday, play the recorded sermon ... and move their mouths to the words! They had no message of their own. They were simply clones of the "All-Important Man of God."

That may sound silly, but aren't we guilty of similar foolishness when we put leaders on pedestals and idolize their preaching style? The one-man show may have worked in the past, but the emerging generation has zero tolerance for religious phoniness. People today want healthy leaders who know how to share power instead of grabbing or abusing it.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. He is the author of The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and other books.

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