I’m still answering questions we didn’t have enough time to cover during our “Hot Seat” Sunday back in August, and today’s question is a biggie: “what does the Bible say about women in ministry?”
Excellent question – one that’s been hotly debated in different church circles for years, and that I’ve answered several times through our history at CLC.
Let’s start with what I know: the Bible never contradicts itself. NEVER. Never, ever! Otherwise, it loses its authority and we are left without a rudder – we simply wouldn’t know what to believe.
And since I know that the Bible never contradicts itself, I personally don’t see any way that 1Timothy 2:11-15 (or the only other passage in Bible that seems similar, 1Cor 14:34-35) could possibly mean what some have interpreted it to mean; i.e., that ministry or leadership positions in the New Testament church are reserved for men only.
I say that because there are so many other references in Scripture to women who obviously ministered publicly: John 4:39; Exodus 15:20; 2Kings 22:14; Acts 18:24-26, Acts 21:9; Romans 16:1-2, Romans 16:7; Joel 2:28 w/Acts 2:17-18.
Think of women in the Old Testament who influenced nations, like Deborah and Esther. Or how about the “ministering women” who defied the custom of the day in Palestine to follow Jesus, and their names have been recorded for us as a memorial of them. (Luke 8:3; 24:10). These women were among the last at the cross (Matt 27:55-56) and the first at the His tomb! (Mark 16:1-2)
Personally, I’m convinced that Gal 3:28 makes it clear: women can fulfill any ministry that a man can fill. In fact, my experience in ministry over the last 43 years tells me that the real issue is usually gender-bias or male chauvinism! And in my mind, the only thing worse than human prejudice is when we try to use Bible to justify it.
I’ll get down from my soapbox long enough to try to address the specific passage you asked about – 1Tim 2:11-15, and I can tell you that ‘silence’ in verse12 is the same Greek word as ‘quiet’ in verse 2. According to Greek scholars, it does NOT denote a verbal quiet, but a quiet as in peaceful. (I’m not a scholar, but I’m told that there are 2 Greek words, one which indicates ‘tranquillity arising from without’, and this one, indicating ‘tranquility arising from within; meaning, ‘causing no disturbance to others’, and this word was also used in 1Pet 3:4, so it is often associated with ’meek’, to characterize the spirit or disposition of a person.
Finally, IF that one verse of Scripture is to override all the rest of the Bible and truly forbids a women to minister publicly, then why has God blessed so many women in ministry through the years, including just a few that I’ll list here:
- Sojourner Truth – an ex-slave, mother, evangelist, abolitionist, author, women’s rights advocate, temperance activist. Those who knew her remembered her as a “dynamic woman with strength, integrity, poise and wit. She was a powerful public speaker and knew large portions of the Bible by heart, but never learned how to read or write. Sojourner Truth spent more than 50 years on the front lines.
- Aimee Semple McPherson started a church, the Foursquare denomination, and a Bible School. She applied for and received the first FCC license ever issued to a woman and was the first person to ever operate a Christian radio station. In her lifetime she composed 175 songs & hymns, preached thousands of sermons and graduated over 8,000 ministers from L.I.F.E. Bible College. It is estimated that during the Depression, some 1.5 million people received aid from her ministry!
- Bertha Smith was a missionary to China for nearly 42 years. She retired at age 70, returned to USA where she had another ministry of almost 30 yrs, awakening American Christians to their need for revival and inspiring them to pray for an awakening in their land. During her travels and constant speaking engagements she touched thousands of lives. She died just five months short of her 100th birthday. She left a legacy in the form of the Peniel Prayer Center, a retreat center for spiritual life conferences.
- Kathryn Kuhlman was known for a worldwide ministry that began to develop in 1950. Her messages were heard all over the United States and overseas. Most of us remember her as a woman of miracles. However, although there were thousands upon thousands of miracles, the greatest miracle to Kathryn was when a person became born again. It was common for tumors to dissolve, cancers to fall off, the blind to see and the deaf to hear. Migraine headaches were healed instantly. Even teeth were divinely filled. It would be impossible to list all the miracles that took place during her prolific ministry.
Sorry to wax eloquent on this subject, but I do feel passionately about how the Church has oftentimes gone into battle with one hand tied behind our back as it were, because of a refusal to allow women to fulfill the calling that God has placed upon their life to minister, simply because of their gender.
I do understand the authority that God has delegated to the husband in his household and the principle of men in leadership even in the Church. But as I’ve explained in the past about our ministry here, my wife is not “usurping” authority at CLC; I have given it to her, knowing that God has gifted her to pastor here alongside me. In addition, we sometimes invite other women pastors and leaders to minister here, including Pastor Sarah Bowling, who will minister at our upcoming Women’s Conference, Living the Dream” this November 17-18 (plus stay over for Sunday, November 19 and speak at all 3 services in Tinley Park that day)
Hope this helps a bit. Would you like to join the conversation or submit YOUR question below?