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