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The Evidence of Scripture
A brief survey of Scripture suggests God delights in using both women and men as spiritual leaders. And there is no dichotomy between secular and spiritual leadership.
Furthermore, among God’s people, leadership and sacrificial service are inseparable. Perhaps this is one reason the apostle Paul addressed most of his letters to whole churches rather than to individuals. In correcting error, in offering encouragement or sending praise, Paul rarely wrote directly to leaders. Likewise, he almost never singled out individuals as leaders.
What does that tell us about authority and gender in the early church? It suggests that everyone is called to lead—because everyone is called to serve and use his or her God-given gifts to build up the church (Eph. 4:12).
Although Paul sometimes referred to himself as an apostle, most often he called himself a servant or slave to Christ. He recognized that leadership and authority are rooted in service. In contrast to the gentiles, whose leaders held their authority over others, the followers of Jesus were to be ready to sacrifice their lives in service to others.
Paul equated his authority as a leader with his commission to build up and encourage the church, a commission we all share (Acts 7:49; 20:32; Rom. 15:2; 1 Cor. 14:12). Though people in the world seem eager to grasp positions of authority and leadership, Scripture makes it clear that hard work and self-sacrifice are integral to one’s calling as a leader.
Biblically, one’s reach as a leader stretches only as far as one’s willingness to stoop and serve others. Whoever is most prepared to put aside his or her personal wishes and ambition in order to build others up is most ready for leadership, regardless of gender.
Women have been called to gospel service and leadership from the beginning, and their God-given abilities have and will draw many to Christ. This is a biblical and historic reality. Women’s prominence as spiritual leaders is hard to ignore and impossible to suppress because their power does not have human origins but is from God.
Mimi Haddad is the president of Christians for Biblical Equality. She has contributed to seven books, including Global Voices on Biblical Equality.
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