Recently John Piper caused a stir by talking about his belief that God had given Christianity a “masculine feel.” Now when I first heard about this speech, I interpreted the heart of it concerning women’s role or lack of a role in pastoral ministry. I doubt that there is a lot of problems with hyper-feminizing God amongst the people that would go to Piper’s conference. I could be wrong.
But what I do suspect is that there are women at these churches or in these communities that feel called to vocational ministry. So instead of tackling that, Piper went over their head. Way, way, way over their head. Thus he projected an aspect that exists in half of humanity as God’s defining characteristic when Scripture says that male and female are made in God’s image.
So I want to bring it back down to where I think this started because the idea of God giving Christianity a masculine feel is on par with the idea of God giving Christianity an American feel. I want to talk about how I believe a woman called to ministry should pursue that call. My reasons are not so much about gender, but rather the good of the Christian faith itself.
Honestly, I could go the Biblical route. I could talk about Genesis 1:27, Deborah, the wisdom Sophia, Jesus comparing himself to a mother hen, women being the first witnesses to the resurrection, Junia, Lydia, Priscilla, Roman House Codes, etc. But far smarter people than I have already tackled that (you can check them out here). So I’m going to grab onto a different aspect of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (you know, because I’m Baptist): experience.
The church my wife and I attend is pastored by a husband and a wife. They typically alternate Sundays that they preach. This has been my first time in a two pastor congregation. It’s wonderful and not just because you don’t have to hear the same person week after week. Dean and Lisa each bring a different set of lenses to the Bible and to the world in which we are called to live out our faith. Because we are pastored by both a woman and a man, it makes for a fuller, richer experience for our congregation of women and men. I am incredibly grateful that I get to call both of them my pastor.
As I sat in church this morning and listened to Lisa preach, I was thinking about this issue. And I wish that I could sit people in there to listen to her preach. God speaks through her and God speaks through Dean because both of them were created in God’s image. Both of them were called to vocational ministry. How sad would it be if Lisa and every other female minister out there didn’t pursue that call? Think of the lives that would not have been touched. Think of the insight, advice, comfort, and whatever else that would not be received. Why would we want to take that away?
As I listened, I thought about my sister sitting to the right of me. She is in seminary as well, but for some it is more accepted for me to be pursuing that calling than for her. Her words, her story are not acceptable because she’s a woman. And we don’t just throw up barriers to ministry based on gender. I thought about my wife sitting to my left. She teaches high school Spanish and is often hurt when people assume that ministry is only something done in the church by a person in a pulpit (or that public schools are turning our children to godless evil, but that’s another post for another day).
Fact of the matter is she serves a function of ministry. All followers of Christ are called to minister. We’ve been given gifts to do certain ministries. Who are we to say one can’t use a certain gift because of who they are? So this is not just about women in ministry. This is about ministry.
Okay, so there actually is a verse—1 Corinthians 9:20-23—with which I want to conclude:
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might be all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
Paul is describing an incarnational ministry model. He becomes like those to which he seeks to reach out. One thing that Paul could not become was a woman. This is not to suggest that woman cannot minister to men and men cannot minister to women. Yet as I have reflected on this issue, it makes me realize that there is great benefit to all voices being heard. A woman is going to be able to bring things to the table that a man cannot and vice versa.
In a world in which the sharing of the gospel is a brutally tall order, why would we not want all hands on deck? Why would we not want voices out there proclaiming the gospel that can reach the ears that others cannot? Why would want to stop genuinely called people from offering council or helping those in need? From the very beginning, the Christian message has been incarnational. God became human so that humanity might be saved. It is a diverse and needy world out there. The church needs every person that is called to go out to that world.