Women in Ministry: I am Not God’s Plan B

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“I told my dad what you said about what you wanted to be when you grow up,” spouted my little moldable eighth grade friend. It was the year 2000, and we were working on a school project about our futures.

“Oh yeah?” I asked, confused about why it mattered. “What’d he say?”

“He said that it would not be right for you to go into seminary. Women aren’t supposed to be preachers. It would be disobedient to God.”

This statement didn’t jumble my theology, nor did it dissuade my high hopes. If it did anything, it probably fueled my stubbornness. I would show his dad. I would show their congregation. I would go into full time ordained ministry.

Gender equality in the local church was always something my parents supported. We were devout Methodists, and women pastors were in existence. Good ones, kind ones, competent ones. But growing up in a town of less than 3,000 folks, we mixed and mingled with the other denominations quite frequently. The Baptists held the Bible drills, the Methodists had the potlucks. The Assembly of Gods had the worship nights, the Pentecostals held the revivals. I grew up in a hodgepodge of influence and Christian diversity for which I am quite grateful.

However, even in the thick of denominational diversity, the topic of women in ministerial leadership—you know, the executive staff meeting kind—was primarily taboo.

This pushed my “stick it to the man” button for years.

But, despite my ache to shift the perspective, I eventually grew to understand that the ability to shove a “take-that” in someone’s face wasn’t a good enough reason to go into seminary. Plus, I was feeling more and more drawn to service and community and poverty. I decided not to seek a full ordination out of spite, and instead I began to work among the poor.

However, I still wrote. I still preached when asked. I still organized and led movements. And it wasn’t because there were no men to do so. (In fact, there were plenty of men, and they were doing so alongside of me—and I alongside of them.) It was because God had lit a fire in my very bones and called me. He’d made me. He’d crafted me to bring a message and a hope. He’d created me as a woman and as a servant leader, neither a mistake, both in support of each other.

Now, 14 years later, I’ve seen much growth in conversations, empowerment, & understanding when it comes to the way that we as the Church in America talk about and posture ourselves toward gender equality in ministry (and business, and employment, etc). This is good news to me.

I am not a powerless stone crying out when it’s silent.

But, even with the stirrings of a more equal-opportunity Body, there remain remnants of the voice of my 8th grade friend–happenings that bring me to write today.

A little while ago I met with someone inquiring about whether a few of our friends would be willing to take part in leading a faith program. “I think it’s going to be fine for a woman to do so,” this person offered. “We can get by with it because she wouldn’t be the Pastor, just the leader. And the Bible says that even the rocks will cry out if no one else does. I think we’ll be ok.”

It was shared with sincerity, and I welcomed it. And to be fair, this person spoke not necessarily from their own perspective, but from the preferred one held by the group they represented. It is a foot in a good direction at least, I thought.

But the more I mulled over it the following days, the only thing I could think was this, “I am not God’s plan B.”

I am not the one he decided to call because someone else of the male influence refused to speak up. (This mindset is shame ridden on all sides.)

I am not the vessel he’d draw near only when the numbers were low.

I am not a powerless stone crying out when it’s silent.

I am made in the image of a strong, nurturing, hopeful, wise, loving, powerful, complex God. And I am not His plan B.

In community, we’ve met and lived amongst many different folks who have been called in many different ways to initiate change for God’s Kingdom here on earth. We want to empower those image-bearers (women and men) to walk as salt and light and hope with confidence in who and how they were made. Sure, we have different roles (all of us) that we best fill depending on our wiring, gifts, and passions. But the physical make-up of how we were born does not, cannot, should not disqualify us from carrying the front-line flag of God’s redemption into the places where He has called us.

And at the end of the day…certificates and human opinions can’t keep you from being Love and speaking Truth to the world.

They can keep you from a lot of things, but sister, the Good News is not one of them.

To the women in ministry: you are not God’s second choice in leadership. You were called because of who an how you were made to be—gender included. Not in spite of it.

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” -Galatians 3:28

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