What does the Bible say about Women Pastors?

Photini from knowyourmothers.com

Can women pastor?

Feed this question into Google, and you’ll be led to a bunch of websites that say no, women cannot pastor or lead churches.

Which goes to show you that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet.

(Yes, I appreciate the irony.)

Under the old covenant, only men could be priests, but gender distinctions have no place in the new creation. This is why so many prominent women are named in the New Testament. And this is why Saul locked them up along with the men. Christian women in the first-century led from the front, and they got arrested for doing so.

In the Old Testament, women were largely non-speaking extras on the stage of history. But when Jesus showed up, he listened to women and he made sure their voices were heard. Consequently, the early church had female apostles, pastors, prophets, evangelists and teachers.

Since the Bible offers an emphatic and positive answer to the question above, why do so many people think women cannot lead or pastor churches? There are a dozen reasons, all of them wrong:

1. “Women can’t lead because Paul said women must be silent in church.”

Except he didn’t say that. And that would be more obvious except some translations trim Paul’s words making it appear that he did.

2. “The Bible definitely says women aren’t permitted to teach men (in 1 Tim 2:11-12)!”

It doesn’t say that either.

3. “Paul told Timothy and Titus that only men could be elders?”

Another common misperception, but again, Paul said no such thing.

4. “Women led in the Old Testament, but they didn’t lead in the New.”

Also not true.

5. “Jesus was a man, therefore pastors must be male.”

By that logic, pastors should also be celibate Jewish carpenters.

6. “Pastors are shepherds and shepherds are always men.”

There were female shepherds in the Bible.

7. “The word pastor is a masculine noun, meant only for men.”

The Biblical word for mankind is also a masculine noun, yet it includes everyone, regardless of gender. Masculine plural nouns in Greek are often used to describe mixed groups of men and women.

8. “There are no qualification lists in scripture for female pastors.”

Nor are there lists for male pastors. We are not qualified by our gender, marital status, or behavior; we are qualified by Jesus.

Paul told the Ephesian elders they had been qualified to shepherd the church by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28). It is the Lord who calls and equips people to pastor. How can we disqualify those whom God has qualified?

9. “Women can lead Bible studies in the home, but not in the church building.”

In the New Testament there were no church buildings. The church met in people’s homes. To lead in the home, as Priscilla, Chloe, Nympha, and others did, was to lead the church. There was no difference.

10. “Eve was deceived which means women are dupes of the devil. Women can only be entrusted to teach children and each other.”

Yeah, that makes sense. When Paul said Eve was deceived, he was saying “don’t neglect to teach women.” He was speaking up for the right of women to learn and be discipled – a radical view at that time.

11. “Don’t focus on what women can’t do, but what they can do. Many women excel at the gifts of hospitality and child-minding.”

SMH.

How people can say this with a straight face is a mystery to me.

12. “Women can preach and teach in the mission field, but not in America.”

By that logic it should be acceptable for female missionaries from other countries to preach and teach in America.

Strip away the silly rhetoric, and you will find there is only one reason why some believe women can’t lead:

That’s just not the way we’ve done things.

The only reason why some are opposed to women exercising their God-given gifts is because tradition has taught them to disregard God’s Word. They have inherited their mindsets from the sexist philosophers of Athens and the patriarchal rabbis of Israel.

I speak from experience. I used to teach that women can’t lead. I taught this because it was what I had been taught. By the grace of God, I have repented for my unthinking discrimination.

I now realize that when Paul said “there should be no division in the body” and that “every part should have equal concern for each other,” and especially those parts that seem weaker, he was talking about women (1 Cor. 12:22, 25). More than ever, we need a Biblical view of women.

The world needs shepherds who carry the DNA of the Good Shepherd. If God has called you to pastor or teach, don’t let anyone stop you.

To go deeper into these topics, check out The Silent Queen: Why the Church Needs Women to Find their Voice. And don’t forget to get the new study guide. It’s free!

12 Comments on What does the Bible say about Women Pastors?

  1. megagenius // March 7, 2021 at 10:21 am // Reply

    God can anoint anyone at anytime He so chooses according to His own good pleasure and will.Who are we to even try to stand in His way?

  2. Barbara Bartlett // March 8, 2021 at 1:09 pm // Reply

    So there are religious traditions that would accept that I am qualified to be a lawyer and advocate for clients but not qualified to advocate for Christ?

  3. To think that if we are still having a discussion about the womens roles, then we have not moved on very much. The discussion is probably necessary but j laugh sometimes at irony of it all. Put it this way, if God did not had given women mouths to speak, then that would be another story. Why give us moths and passion and desires if he did not want us to use it for the good of mankind. When we submit to the Holy Spirit while we read his words, then we would know the truth in regards to this topic.

  4. Yes, the idea women can’t lead in church gives unbelievers fodder to criticize Christians. How best to explain to unbelievers when they criticize “wives submit to your husbands?”

  5. Simon Ingram // June 26, 2021 at 5:02 am // Reply

    If you are making a case, it is customary to present an argument, so for example it is not good enough to simply say ‘Paul didn’t say that’ or it ‘says no such thing’ when any honest person can read the text and see that Paul definitely did say, for example, that elders had to be ‘husbands of one wife’. In other words an honest reading of the text leads inevitably to a single conclusion, namely that elders have to be men. An isolated scripture should not be interpreted alone, but the accumulation of such scriptures means that we must accept the biblical conclusion. We may not like it. It matters not one jot. You can argue that the scripture is not authoritative or that this was Paul’s opinion. These are arguments. Poor one’s to be sure, but arguments. This article doesn’t rise to this level. It is a series of assertions and straw man arguments. In short, it lacks integrity.

    • This article is a collection of links to other articles that delve into these matters more deeply. Perhaps that was not clear from the colored text. I agree that scripture should not be read in isolation, and our opinions matter not one jot. This is why I have repented and changed my views about women in leadership. Yes, Paul said elders should be husbands of one wife, but it does not follow that elders cannot be women or unmarried men. (Here’s the link.) Indeed, Paul named and praised several female leaders in ministry. Incidentally, Paul also said deacons must be the husband of one wife, yet he named and praised at several deacons who weren’t, including at least one female.

      You are welcome to your own views, but I’m sure you will agree that scripture must be our final authority.

      • Simon Ingram // June 28, 2021 at 7:31 am //

        Hi Paul,
        thanks for your quick reply. Apologies! I didn’t realise the highlighted texts were links!

        Having now read some of them I would LOVE to believe you.

        Yes, the passage 1 Tim 3:1+ does say ‘anyone’ who wants to be an overseer, desires a noble task and anyone can be a woman, but this is to misrepresent the passage, since the text goes on to qualify the requirements. So there is no point making a big deal about the ‘anyone’.

        The same applies to the fact, highlighted in your King James piece, that the masculine pronouns in English are also gender inclusive. This IS NOT the reason that the passage is interpreted as applying to a man. Paul is saying that the ‘person’ is a ‘husband’, a point you finally concede.

        Your argument, then, is that since Jesus, Paul and Timothy were single, the rules Paul lays down for overseers do not apply ‘only to husbands’ so they can apply to women. Jesus and Paul were not overseers. Your argument relies on the fact that Timothy was single. Do we know this? No. We infer it. I could be that He was married, since marriage was so much taken for granted in those days that it is usually assumed unless the contrary, as in Paul’s case, is specifically asserted. An argument from silence here is not compelling.

        Since the case for female deacons is extremely tenuous in the NT (occurring only once) most translations call Pheobe a servant. To say ‘since women can be deacons, they can be elders’ is to stretch a point to say the least.

        BUT … you could be right and it would be so great if you were.

        It does make me wonder why the Holy Spirit is not a bit more explicit on these issues. Why does He make so many interpretations possible?

      • I think you misread me. I am not trying to argue the case for women as much as explain why the church has got it so spectacularly wrong for so long.

        The case for women in leadership is plainly obvious from scripture. It needs no argument from me. It’s the long and convoluted explanations we come up with for disobeying scripture that need explaining. It’s the translators who change the meaning of words and rewrite the Bible who need to offer explanations. It’s those who look at scripture sidewise, ignore the context, and put a patriarchal spin on everything that need to offer explanations. For the simple believer, the words of Jesus ought to be enough. No further explanation is needed.

        Jesus said “Disciple nations.” He added no qualifications based on gender, race or age. No explanation is needed.

  6. Bryan Poirier // August 24, 2021 at 2:00 pm // Reply

    Without going into a long dissertation, conscience dictates that I carry the traditional view of women as pastors. I have met at least one woman pastor who was very good at what she did (and did better than many male pastors I’ve known). But I still cannot believe, from my own perspective, that God’s Word ordains women to lead churches in a pastoral capacity.

    I’ve heard the debates back and forth on the interpretations and translations of various parts of the Bible referring to women to be able/not able to serve in pastoral roles. They’re fascinating. As far as I’m concerned, that part is unresolved. I don’t know or understand Greek, so I can’t read the texts myself to make a conclusion of my own based on those writings. I can only rely on those who can translate those texts…

    It is a fascinating subject, with strong viewpoints on both sides. But like it or not, it’s going to be an issue that divides us for some time to come. That’s not a bad thing either. Healthy debates hold us accountable to Scripture.

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