Should Women Preach?

Sermon Transcript/Article: Should Women Preach?
By Shari Hole


Should women be allowed to preach? I told myself that I wasn’t going to speak about this topic again. But I can’t help myself. It’s one of the most debated subjects among Christians. This topic is more popular than the subject of gay marriage. It is the most popular question at the Christian website Should Women Preach? was the most viewed post on my blog. Since I wrote it in May of 2008 it has had 17,565 page views. I can’t believe it. When I wrote it, I did my best. But in the past 7 years, I have learned more and fine-tuned my view, so I’m doing a revision to that post.

You see, when I was a kid, I didn’t realize that “women preaching” was an issue. I grew up going to a church where I saw both men and women equally participating in all aspects of the church. In fact, every Sunday night, I heard a woman preach at our church. I grew up thinking that women could be just as knowledgeable and wise about spiritual issues as men. In my childhood church the men didn’t appear to feel threatened by the women and the women didn’t appear to be overstepping any bounds. It seemed like they all just worked well together. But then I became an adult and I realized that this is a real controversial issue.

What People Are Saying
I decided that I wanted to speak on this subject, because it is actually a serious problem in the Christian church. People have become hurt, frustrated, angry, and divided over whether or not women should preach about God. That’s not what Jesus wants for us. Jesus wants Christians to encourage one another in the faith, and in ministry, and for us to live in unity with each other. Paul reiterated this to the Christians in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 when he wrote “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” But a lot of Christians sharing their opinions on this subject have not done so in a spiritually encouraging way.

I’m going to refer back to the blog post that I wrote in May 2008. In that post, I supported the idea that women should preach and I received 62 comments about it. All of them were strongly opinionated and many of them were down right rude and hurtful. But, I thought I’d share a few with you so you can see where people are coming from on this issue.
I’ll start with Louis who said “You have the spirit of Eve. Women are not to teach or preach because they are susceptible to deception.”

Amy said “I commend you for having the courage to write all of that. I love it that my church has allowed women to teach and to be in leadership. Though, sadly, many left over the issue.”

Anonymous said “You are part of the lukewarm Apostate Church. Get right with God now, the time is short.”

There was a woman that said “We just need to be under our husband's spiritual leadership. If your husband believes you should preach, follow him. If he doesn't, then don't.”

Another Anonymous person said “For a woman to hold any office in the church is sinning in pride for self-gratification and should not be permitted.”

Pastor David said “I am preparing a teaching regarding women's ministry and I wholeheartedly believe in the need and right for women to minister.”

Nelly said “The men are to teach and preach the Word, while we as women are to be in subjection to them and to stand behind their backs, praying for them. And I believe this is an honor for us. If a woman were teaching a man he would have a hard time concentrating on the lesson because she was immodestly dressed.”

And Whitney said “The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to everyone, male and female, and one of those gifts is teaching. We certainly can't fathom the mind and thoughts of God, but I don't see why He would call a woman to do something if He wouldn't allow her to do it.”

What are Women Feeling?

Denise George wrote a book called What Women Wish Pastors Knew. In order to write this book she surveyed a variety of Christian women. The results from her survey showed that the majority of the female respondents actually believed that women should be serving in all areas of church leadership and not forbidden from any position. She found that women simply want to serve Christ. But because of the controversy of women in leadership some feel afraid to pursue their call due to being misunderstood. Some experience humiliation because people publicly speak out against their type of ministry. Some feel deprived of serving because although they use their skills in the secular world they are not allowed to use those same skills in their churches. She also found that they feel frustrated, excluded, overlooked, held back, stifled, unimportant, and some feel like second-class citizens.

Why Do Women Want to Preach?

Now, why would a woman even want to preach? Well, maybe it’s for the same reasons that men want to preach. I can tell you about myself. When I write a speech and speak it to other people, I am doing it as an act of worship to God. My Christian faith is important to me. I appreciate the sacrificial death of Jesus and that I have salvation and eternal life through Him. I want to tell other people about this and about how to be a follower of Jesus. When I speak about the Bible I aim to tell only the truth about God’s word. Along with reading Bible commentaries – I try to read the verses in context, to look at the cultural setting and to attempt to understand the author’s original purpose in writing. When I speak, I want to teach people about the attributes of God and point out the exciting things that I see in the Bible. I want to offer ideas to help make the Bible applicable to people so that they can use it in their everyday lives. And when I speak, I try to show compassion and offer real hope to the hurting. I encourage people to serve God and to reach out to people in their communities. I try to speak out against injustice and advocate for the vulnerable. I speak about Jesus, because I enjoy it and I want to glorify him. And these may be some of the reasons why other women want to preach. And these may be some of the reasons why men want to preach.

Are Women to Remain Silent in Church?

The verses that Christians often refer to when debating whether or not women should preach are found in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth. The passage is 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and it says "The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” (NASB)

Now, these words written in Paul’s letter mean only one thing. But the problem is that theologians, Bible scholars, and preachers can’t agree on what Paul’s original intention was concerning these specific words. As a result there are a variety of interpretations despite the fact that there is only one real meaning. I found that some of the interpretations are vague, some are very specific, and with most of them people add their own ideas to Paul’s original words.

One interpretation is that it was a rule for a specific time and circumstance and so there are now obvious exceptions. However, even though Christianity emancipated women it did not give them equality with men. Another idea is that Paul’s words don’t mean that all speaking by women in a public assembly is prohibited – just preaching, teaching, and prophesying. Women can still share about how God is working in their lives just not in an authoritative manner. There were extraordinary instances when women led spiritually such as with Deborah, Huldah, and Anna, but these were rare cases and must not be used as an example of what the norm should be. One interpretation is that women cannot speak with spiritual authority unless they have an extraordinary revelation to communicate which is given to them by the Holy Spirit. Another idea is that God has ordained men only to have spiritual authority in the church through preaching. However, women may take a less authoritative role by encouraging other women and teaching children. Yet another interpretation states that it is only okay for women to teach or preach indirectly such as through books or audio recordings because if a woman taught in person, her femininity could be a distraction. Some churches won’t allow women to speak from behind the lectern during the official Sunday morning service, but they are allowed to teach and preach in other rooms of the church building at any other time. Other churches will allow a woman to be a guest speaker even on a Sunday morning in front of the entire congregation – as long as it isn’t called preaching. Some simply say that men were called to preach and to be the spiritual leaders, but if they aren’t going to do it than women will have to. Another thought is that this passage of Paul’s was directed only to the Corinthian church. His reasoning was based on a localized cultural issue in which certain women may have been disrupting the church service. And yet another idea is that this passage was actually a quote from the original Corinthian church’s letter that Paul was responding to. The quote reflects the traditional thinking of the Jewish law and that is why Paul’s words that followed this controversial passage in verse 36 states: “Do you think God’s word originated with you Corinthians? Are you the only ones to whom it was given?”

Well, this was just a sample of the various interpretations of this passage of scripture. Most people choose the one that they like best. While some people determine their theological beliefs depending on who said it. I don’t think anyone can say with 100% certainty what Paul really meant. So I am not going to choose one of the previous ideas and promote it as the truth. Instead, I’d like to look at the example of Jesus. We can understand so much more about this subject by looking to Jesus rather than debating Paul’s confusing words.

Looking at the Example of Jesus

Jesus’ relationship with women was considered revolutionary and radical in the Jewish patriarchal society in which women were treated as social and spiritual inferiors to men. Jesus challenged the traditional gender restrictions and cultural taboos. Women were used to being bartered off by their fathers and were considered the property of their husbands. They were not allowed to learn about spiritual truths from the rabbis yet Jesus commended Mary of Bethany for listening to Him and for understanding His teaching that He would die and become the Savior of the world. Women were considered unclean, untouchable, and in need of purification after their monthly cycles and childbirth. Yet Jesus allowed a woman with a 12 year chronic bleeding condition to touch Him. He was so impressed with her faith in Him that He healed her instantly. Jesus forgave the sins of women, like in the case of the woman who was about to be stoned for adultery. Jesus spoke against the men who oppressed and persecuted women for their sins yet weren’t interested in condemning men for the same sins. Jesus asked women to evangelize for Him as seen in the example of the Samaritan woman that He met at a well. He invited women like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many others to travel with Him as His disciples and to help with His ministry of proclaiming the kingdom of God. After His resurrection, Jesus commissioned Mary Magdalene to go and speak for Him saying that He was returning to God.

Jesus was very liberating for women and he was able to use their services in His ministry. He was impartial and treated them equally which was a foreign concept in their culture. Impartiality is one of God’s attributes. He does not display prejudice towards any person or esteem some as being more important than others. In Acts 10:34 we see that there is no favoritism with God. He accepts people from every nationality and race. Paul reiterates this in Romans 2:11 saying that there is no partiality with God. And Deuteronomy says that He is the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. It is part of the very nature of Jesus to treat all equally and that is why he did not discriminate concerning a person’s gender, race, nationality, or socioeconomic status.

Paul carried on the example of Jesus and also included women in all aspects of Christian ministry. He told the Christians in Rome to welcome Phoebe as a representative of the church and he endorsed the ministry work that she was doing. He honored his fellow Christian workers Priscilla and her husband Aquila for risking their lives to help him and he mentioned the church they held in their home. Paul appreciated Lois and Eunice, both women, for teaching Timothy spiritual truths that prepared him for Christian ministry. And he recognized the female apostle, Junias, who had been in prison with him. Paul also told the Roman church to say hello to three women who had worked hard for the Lord – Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis. In1 Corinthians, Paul talked about Chloe’s church congregation. In Colossians 4 he referred to the congregation of a woman named Nympha. And in Philippians 4, Paul requested help for the two women named Euodia and Syntyche who struggled along with him as they promoted the Gospel of Jesus. Paul appreciated Christian women and the work that they did to spread Christianity through teaching, evangelizing, and preaching about Jesus.

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit for all Believers

What Jesus had to offer was for all. This was explained to us in Galatians 3:28 – “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In Matthew 28 we see Jesus telling his disciples to continue on with the ministry that He had started. He gave them a commission to go make new disciples of all people and to baptize them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These new Christian disciples included women. And the women were also included with the receiving of the Holy Spirit. This portion of scripture in Acts 1 and 2 tells us that after the ascension of Jesus His followers met in Jerusalem. Among the believers were women which included Mary the mother of Jesus. On the day of Pentecost, they were all together when the Holy Spirit entered the building and filled all of these believers with the Holy Spirit. Then Peter explained to the on looking crowd that what was happening to these followers of Jesus had actually been predicted by the prophet Joel.

This is what Peter said in Acts 2 verses 17 and 18. “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” He said that men and women would be filled with the Holy Spirit and would prophesy.

 And in 1 Corinthians 12:4-13 we learn that the people who are filled with the Holy Spirit receive spiritual gifts to use for Christian ministry. It says “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have. 12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”

Further down in this chapter Paul explained that all of the believers are a part of Christ’s body. And the parts include apostles, prophets, and teachers, those who do miracles, those who heal, those who help others, leaders, and those who speak in unknown languages. But it doesn’t say anything about all of the spiritual gifts being available to men, but only some of them being available to women

Modern Christian Women

Evangelist Christine Caine had some good advice that she shared in an interview for Christianity Today magazine. She said “The Spirit of God lives within all of us who are born again and out of us will flow rivers of living water if we let them. Let's not clog the rivers up with dead end arguments, and let's simply get about the Father's business.” Christians can keep arguing about the issue of whether or not women should preach or hold positions of leadership in the Christian church. But while we are arguing and trying to prove our points, a world of people still exists that needs to hear about Jesus. So like Christine Caine suggested – let’s just get about doing the Father’s business. What God really wants is for his people to make new disciples. He wants as many people as possible to hear about Him, to receive His salvation, and to make commitments to follow Him.

Throughout history, Christian women have bravely gone against tradition. They preached when they weren’t supposed to. They traveled the world as missionaries even though mission agencies said that they weren’t qualified to go. And women today are still challenging tradition. In China, the majority of Christians worship in house churches rather than the official churches overseen by the government. Many of these house churches are led by women. These house churches are the reason that Christianity is spreading so quickly throughout China. If we encouraged women to be spiritual leaders and to preach in this country, maybe Christianity would spread quicker throughout the United States of America, too. According to the Barna research organization in 1999 5% of the Senior Pastors of Protestant churches were female. It doubled to 10% by 2009. I don’t know the most recent number. But I do know that women are no longer waiting for permission from churches and denominations to preach. They are fed up with being held back by religious tradition, spiritual legalism, and especially by their own fears. It is not spiritual to be passive or content with others telling you what you can and can’t do. Jesus wants you to be ambitious and motivated about serving Him. He wants you to take risks for Him.

Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world states on their website that the majority of their students, 59%, are female. And if you look around your churches you will notice that the majority of the people who attend and serve are probably female. Women love Jesus. They want to serve Him and they want to lead other people to Him. So let’s encourage women, rather than hold them back because of our traditions. Women have proved that they are capable of serving humanity in the secular world. Women are successfully starting and running businesses, saving lives through health care, teaching in schools and universities, advocating for those who don’t have a voice, and running non-profit organization. Well women can lead in the Christian world, too

Conclusion and Application

To the Christian Women – I want to encourage you to speak out publicly about Jesus your Savior. I think that if you did, Jesus would be very pleased with you. Can you imagine speaking about Jesus and Him saying to you - “Woman, I really wish that you would keep quiet about me. Stop telling others about me. Stop telling people about how I died on the cross for their sins and that I give the free gift of salvation to all who will accept it. Stop reading the Bible in public and sharing your spiritual incite. Stop. I only want men to do this.” No. I cannot imagine Jesus saying such a thing to you.

You are a disciple of Jesus and you have been filled with the Holy Spirit. He already gave you permission to speak about Him. The gifts of the Spirit and the authority to preach about Jesus are for all. Jesus is the great liberator and He is impartial. Our culture and human made religious traditions hold people back and they exclude many. But if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord than you are allowed to speak, teach, and preach about Him. Men and women are called to preach. All races of people are called to preach. All ages of people are called to preach. Despite all of the human limitations that may be holding you back – Jesus has actually freed you. The message of Jesus is liberating. It provides eternal life for anyone who wants to accept it. Jesus wants it spread to as many people as possible before He returns to this Earth to take His followers to live with Him forever. So, whoever you are – if you are a follower of Jesus, then you have been given the authority and the permission through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to go preach about Jesus. So the answer is – Yes. Women should preach.

Original post from May 2008
Should Women Preach?

I wonder how many women have been called to preach the Word of God, but are silenced in a church because "women are not supposed to preach".

Here are some of the popular Bible verses used to keep women from preaching in the church:Women should remain silent in the churches.

1 Corinthians 14:33b-35 "The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. (NASB)

The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 14 is about having order during the worship service so that people will not be distracted from worshiping God. It addresses speaking in tongues, prophecy, and doing things orderly so that the Lord will be edified. When it says "women should remain silent in the churches", it is not talking about preaching. It doesn't say exactly why Paul said this about the Corinthian women. Maybe they were disrupting the service, questioning what was being said, or trying to get attention on themselves. Paul's reasoning was based on a localized cultural issue. Paul also tells the entire Corinthian church to keep silent if there is no interpreter to tongues - 14:28 "But if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. (NASB) Silence is mentioned again in 14:30 " But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent."(NASB) During this chapter, Paul doesn't refer only to women when he talks about being silent in the church.

The Message Version of the Bible explains 1 Corinthians 14:
34-36 this way. "Wives must not disrupt worship, talking when they should be listening, asking questions that could more appropriately be asked of their husbands at home. God's Book of the law guides our manners and customs here. Wives have no license to use the time of worship for unwarranted speaking. Do you—both women and men—imagine that you're a sacred oracle determining what's right and wrong? Do you think everything revolves around you?"

Women are not to teach or have authority over men.
1 Timothy 2:11-15 "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety."Paul was concerned about the Ephesian believers turning to false doctrines and religious beliefs. In 1 Timothy 1:3 Paul is telling Timothy that the Ephesians are not to teach any other doctrine other than the apostle's doctrine. In 1 Timothy 1:4 Paul wanted Timothy to make sure that they didn't get into other beliefs, since Ephesus was a center for different false religions. These other religions, in Ephesus, were being led by women and they involved sexual orgies. The women were deceiving men and drawing them into these false religions. This probably is why Paul had concerns about the women taking over in churches. Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:11 that he wants the Ephesian women to be submissive to the church leaders probably because of the current situations in Ephesus at that time.

The Message Version of the Bible explains
1 Timothy 2:11-15 this way "I don't let women take over and tell the men what to do. They should study to be quiet and obedient along with everyone else. Adam was made first, then Eve; woman was deceived first—our pioneer in sin!—with Adam right on her heels. On the other hand, her childbearing brought about salvation, reversing Eve. But this salvation only comes to those who continue in faith, love, and holiness, gathering it all into maturity. You can depend on this.Ministers are to have one wife.

1 Timothy 3:12 "A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well."

Since the church leaders in Ephesus at this time were men, this verse refers to the deacons as husbands. Paul wants male church officers to be committed to their wives. He is saying that polygamy is not allowed. This verse was not meant to exclude single men or women from serving as preachers in the ministry.
If women aren't suppose to preach in churches, then we need to find the appropriate Bible verses to back up this belief. The above verses do not apply. They were written to deal with different issues and addressed to the early Christian church in Corinth and Ephesus.

I did not write this post to promote feminism or to dishonor men. My purpose was to prove the fact that these verses do not provide Biblical evidence to keep women from preaching in churches. It's important that we don't twist around the original meaning of verses to fit our desired beliefs.

Just like men, women need to seek God's will for their lives. They need to do what He is calling them to do. Does this mean that women should go against the popular cultural views of the church in order to obey God's leading?