When I was growing up in the church, I thought the only people that could preach were men, the only people who could pray were men, the only people who could read the Bible were men, the only people who could give devotions were men. I thought, well at least women get to work with the kids, cook food, and work in the nursery. I also thought, thank goodness I am not a girl.
Thank goodness I grew out of this understanding because nothing could be further from the truth. Although, even today some people take a few carefully selected verses of Scripture out of context to fit their idea that men should be superior to women in the Church. We did not get this idea from God that is for sure.
So what shifted my view? My understanding of God shifted my view. Think of how God works, as in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just as they are co-eternal, co-equal, no one would say one of those is greater than the other, I hope. Human beings are made in the image of God, we may be distinct with our genders, but like the Trinity, we are equal- no gender is greater than the other. God speaks through women all throughout Scripture. Deborah is a judge and leader, at a time when only men should do that. God uses Rahab, Ruth, Esther to make a lot of changes in world. Thank goodness God used women through all of history to make a difference.
Jesus really shifted my view. Think about the culture of the Bible and Jesus’ time. Middle Eastern culture was seriously Patriarchal. Women had no rights, they must not speak unless they were spoken to, they were literally the property of their husbands. Jesus completely shifts this viewpoint. I mean, Jesus actually had women disciples (Luke 8:1-3), before Jesus that had never happened. He healed a woman in the synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17). By doing this he broke several norms of that time: stopping his message in the synagogue, calling a woman up front (they were to be in the back), speaking to her, and touching her. Jesus also allowed women to be in the places of men when he was teaching (Luke 10:38-42). And when he appears after his resurrection it is women who see him first and go and preach the message to the disciples. Thank goodness Jesus had women preach.
The early church shifted my view. I didn’t know what to do with Scripture like Acts 2:17: both your sons and your daughters will prophesy. In Acts 8:12 we have Philip baptizing men and women. In the old covenant only men were able to participate, now under the covenant of Christ men and women can come. Women were baptized in their own right, not through the leadership of men. Women in the early church were prophetesses (the 4 unmarried daughters of Philip- Acts 21:9), teachers (Priscilla teaches the great teacher Apollos in Acts 18), deaconesses (Tabitha- Acts 9:36, or Phoebe in Romans 16), Apostles (Junia in Romans 16 she is called noteworthy among the apostles), Co-laborers with Paul (Euodia and Syntyche- Philippians 4), and also teachers of Timothy (Grandma Lois, and mother- 2 Tim 1:5). I didn’t know what to do with all of these examples in the early church serving as teachers, ministers, pastors, and leaders in their churches in Turkey, Greece, and the Middle East in ancient times. I thank God that He had women preaching in the early Church.
Understanding context shifted my view. There are 2 texts of Scripture that people use to defend their stance for why women should be shut down in the Church. 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2. In both situations Paul is trying to stop the spread of bad theology before it gets worse. In the 1 Corinthians passage you have women asking questions and disrupting the worship service, so Paul says, if you have questions ask your husband when you are home, or do it privately. In 1 Cor. 11 it is clear that Paul is okay with women praying or prophesying in the worship service as long as they are doing it in an orderly fashion. In 1 Tim 2 it is a little different. You have high status, highly educated women who were priestesses in the Temple of Aphrodite or Artemis. They thought they could instantly come to the church in Ephesus where Timothy served and take over. What Paul encourages them to do is literally translated, “as of right now, don’t let women take over.” He wanted them to be educated first, it is the same thing he says about all leaders in the church. He doesn’t want them to be new believers. Paul was trying to fix a couple of problems within the church, and I thank God that he didn’t mean that women should ever be able to speak in church. These carefully selected verses found in Scripture to justify the superiority of men owes more to time and place than to eternal truths. Similar Biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid consent of oppressive rulers. Women in the NT church served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers, and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century after Christ that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted the Scriptures to perpetuate their dominance.
Women Pastors shifted my view. I heard a lot of great messages from women professor/pastors in the Christian University that I attended, and I was so grateful to hear their heart. My wife is a great preacher/pastor, and I have listened to several of her messages as well. There are some great women preachers/teachers out there like Ruth Haley Barton, past writers and teachers like Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, or Hannah Whitall Smith that I absolutely love and cherish what they have to say. Thank goodness these women didn’t remain silent and speak up in the church.
Having a Daughter shifted my view. I really recognized that having a daughter is just as great as having a son. My daughter can literally do anything that, if I had a son, could do. If my daughter someday says, “I want to be a preacher like my dad,” and someone tells her she can’t because she was born a girl and not a boy. I would be tempted to smack them, but me following Jesus stops me from doing so. I had to ask the question: Why am I so against women speaking in the church? I needed a wake-up call to speaking up for women in ministry, and I got several. For the Bible tells me so. Thank goodness I was able to see it and my view shifted.