What the Bible Says About Female Ministers

Jun 15, 2018

Caroline Bellemare

I have been raised by a strong woman. One that taught us to enjoy the beauty of thunderstorms, and that the value in each of us has nothing to do with the depth of our pockets. That woman was not a Christian, and she did not know any female ministers, yet, she paved the way for me to become one.

If the idea of combining the words female and minister together sounds ungodly to you, I understand. The damages caused by abusive patriarchy are still very much felt in society, and in many churches. Let’s look together at a portion of Scripture that is classically used to deny women ministry positions, and why these verses actually support women in ministry.

Should Women Remain Silent in Church?

In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, we read: “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (NIV) Paul, the author of those lines, was a true OG church planter. (Yes, I just called the Apostle Paul an “Original Gangster,” or a pioneer, if you prefer.)  Church was not organized with well-defined liturgies as is nowadays. And so, he provided guidelines for order in services.

That’s what 1 Corinthians 14 is all about, and where our text appears. If we choose a literal interpretation of remaining silent, and not being allowed to speak, then women shouldn’t speak in Church. Like, ever. No praying out load, not women’s ministry, no children’s ministry, no Scripture reading, no worship leading, etc. Clearly, that’s not what it means. Some say it means that women shouldn’t preach. But honey, even the Greek text does not ever say preach in those verses. The verb used is Laleo (λαλεω) which means speaking, talking, as a common thing, not as preaching. Therefore, interpreting it as preaching is a stretch. So, if Paul was not telling Corinthian women to be completely silent, what exactly was he saying?

Put a Lock on the Chatter Box

Back in Jesus’s days, the Temple in Jerusalem was designed in a way that only allowed a specific religious elite all the way in. The non-Jews could only access the outer court. Jewish women had access to a more inner court. Jewish men to a more inner court still. The priests also had their own VIP section, and the high priest had access to the Holy of Holies. Simply said, women never really participated in Temple life like the men did.

Can you picture how excited women were when they could finally access religious life as equals? Men were well trained in Scripture, women, not so much. Women most likely disrupted the service with all kinds of questions, and Paul preferred for them to ask their husbands at home since the service needed to continue.

Think for a second about an enthusiastic student that keeps on asking questions in class. He/she might be asking great questions, but it might be disruptive and make it difficult for the teacher to stay on course with the program. Since Paul was concerned with order, it was highly likely that he was simply telling women to not be disruptive in church. If Paul was alive today, he might have said like this, “Ladies, y’all ask too many questions during the service and it’s disruptive. Control yourselves! Just wait until you get home to ask the hubs.”

Female Ministers, Yes Sir

As you may have noticed, the verses we are discussing actually prove that women were restored their God-given, equal-to-men status through Christ. The Church was actually at the forefront of feminism. God’s Word does say “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NLT) Simply said, the temple divisions were removed. We all have access to the same God in amounts equal to how much we search. Our gender does not dictate our service. God does. If He calls you to serve Him through the preaching of His Word, best believe He means it.

That said, there is still so much work to do to help people see that God was not making any mistakes when He said through the prophet Joel, “In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike. (Joel 2:29, NLT) That requires patience, a loving and kind spirit, and a reminder that we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. I know it’s hard. Believe me, I do. But let’s consider for a second that those who don’t believe in women’s ministry may have the exact same intentions as us: obey God. Let’s be humble, let’s let the gifts speak louder than our complaints. Let’s discuss the Word and be opened, even when others are not.  If you’ve enjoyed this article, look for a book below that you might enjoy.

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The title speaks for itself. Answer Sarah Bessey’s invitation to consider “people with real lives and real stories and real hurts, real marriages and real churches and very complex needs” and where they stand on the issue and how to make peace with it.