Why Vineyard Columbus Encourages Women to Preach, Pastor & Church Plant
The conversation concerning the appropriate roles for women in the church today starts, unsurprisingly, at the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1 - the fundamental creation text:
Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26-27, emphasis added).
Equality between the genders was established in creation. Equality between the genders was confirmed in redemption.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28, emphasis added).
So in approaching the subject of appropriate roles, one of the fundamental questions that we need to answer is what is our starting point in scripture? If we start with creation and redemption, we have a foundation of basic equality between the sexes.
A second way to approach the subject of women's roles in the church is by spiritual giftedness.
My understanding of appropriate roles in the church is based on my conviction that spiritual giftedness determines one's role in the body. The Vineyard movement has been shaped by our experience of the Holy Spirit. Our experience is that the Holy Spirit is non-discriminatory among us. For example, we read, "Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy" (Acts 2:18, emphasis added). This text is fundamental to the worldwide Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Empowered Evangelical streams of the church. And it is also a good example of why evangelicals need the perspective of the charismatic emphasis on giftedness. Pentecostals and charismatics have tended to be more affirming of women in ministry, largely because of their understanding of the Spirit and his gifts.
When we study Paul's teaching about spiritual gifts, we see that gifts are not given due to human merit, ethnic origin, social status or gender, but are simply the result of the will of the sovereign Holy Spirit, as well as the grace of the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11; Romans 12:6-8). There is no text that limits the endowment of leadership or teaching gifts simply to men.
Thus, as I consider whether a role in the church ought to be open to a person, my first question is, "Has the Holy Spirit sovereignly gifted that person for that role?" If I see teaching gifts or leadership gifts in a woman, I find myself in the position of the Apostle Peter, who, when he was challenged by the Jerusalem church because he had eaten with Gentiles, said, "The Holy Spirit fell upon them just as he did upon us at the beginning. So, who was I that I could oppose God?"(Acts 11:17). I never want to find myself opposing what God is doing in the life of another person. If God is gifting a woman to teach, lead or church plant, then who am I to stand in God's way?
Third, women's roles are to be determined with an eye to the coming Kingdom of God. The central message of Jesus was the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. This means that through the coming of Christ, God's reign, God's rule, was breaking into this world. Christ introduced the age to come into this world in which God would reign unopposed. In the coming age, every other rule, every dominion, every power and every authority that stands in opposition to Almighty God will ultimately be destroyed. Because Christ introduced that future age in his first coming, we get to taste something of God's ultimate purpose right now.
So when we wrestle with theological, ethical or practical problems in the church, we must ask the question: What is God's ultimate purpose? To find God's ultimate purpose we must ask: What will the coming kingdom of God be like? What will the world be like when Christ returns and sets up his kingdom here on earth?
The Lord taught us to pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). What are we praying for in that petition? We're praying, "God, bring your reign into this world now just as it will be when Jesus returns and sets up his eternal kingdom." "Bring your reign into this world now in such a way that my mother's cancer is healed." "God, bring your reign into the world in such a way that my friend decides not to leave her marriage, but instead chooses to be reconciled." "God, bring your reign into the world in such a way that hungry people are fed, thirsty people are given clean water, and children are loved and protected and not sold into prostitution."
By focusing upon the coming kingdom, abolitionists during the 19th century said that slavery does not reflect God's ultimate purpose for this world. They understood that there is a trajectory to scripture. It points ahead of itself toward God's ultimate reign. And in the ultimate reign of God there will be no slavery. Likewise, when the ultimate reign of God comes, men will not rule over women.
The Binding of Women's Consciences
If it is not ever the will of God that women teach men, then the multitude of women who believe they are called by God to preach in a church (or lead a co-ed small group, or teach in a Bible college or church plant) are in serious error. And according to the very conservative argument, the source of their error must either be the world, the flesh, the devil or some combination thereof. In other words, although a woman may believe that she is called (and despite the fact that she may have had this calling confirmed by her church, her leaders and abundant fruit via conversions and changed lives), her so-called "calling" is a product either of a society in rebellion against God, her own over-active imagination or unchecked ego, or the devil's deception.
I want to make an appeal with all my heart to fellow leaders. Do not allow women in your group or congregation to spend years second-guessing themselves - wondering whether they are full of pride and selfish ambition because they feel called to leadership or teaching. If you believe that the Bible does not prohibit women from leading or teaching, then boldly say so. Bless women in your group or congregation. Affirm their gifts. Actively work to promote them in various roles. In your teachings, use women as examples of leaders. In other words, don't just wait for a courageous woman to emerge. Look around for women who can be promoted. In so doing, you will be following the path of your Lord, about whom Dorothy Sayers wrote in her book titled, "Are Women Human?," "Perhaps it was no wonder that women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this man. There never has been such another." Two millennia is enough time for women to meet other men who are like that Man.
For the full position paper written by Rich Nathan on women in ministry titled: "Women in Leadership: How to Decide What the Bible Teaches?", click here.