Bad Examples of Women Pastors (But Great Examples of Godly Women)

Women serve an incredibly important role in the church

“God made men and women different from day one of creation… sorry, day six. He meant for men to fill certain roles and women to fill certain roles. We are one body in Christ made of individual parts, each functioning in their own way. One person is not to infringe upon another or take it upon themselves to do the task given to someone else.”

 

In 1 Timothy 2:11-12, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” The context here is church leadership, an instruction that continues into chapter 3. A woman is not permitted to be a pastor in a church (elder, bishop, overseer, etc.). Only a man can be a pastor.

This instruction is not limited to the time-period in which Paul was writing. It applies to all people in every place at every point in the history of the church. How do we know this? Because Paul goes all the way back to Genesis with his explanation: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (verses 13-14).

So the first reason the role of pastor is to be filled by a man is because Adam was formed first, and Eve was formed from Adam as his help-meet. The differences between the sexes and the different roles they are assigned are not a result of the fall. They were established at creation and have applied to all people in all cultures at all times.

The second reason a pastor is to be man is because Adam was not deceived by the serpent, but the woman was deceived and transgressed the law of God. This might seem unfair because Adam certainly sinned as well, and death came to all men because Adam sinned (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21). But Adam wasn’t deceived, and Eve was. So whether we’re talking about a perfect, sinless world, or the fallen, sinful one we currently inhabit, God intends that a man be the one to shepherd the flock of God (pastor means “shepherd;” see also 1 Peter 5:1-5).

Elsewhere, Paul wrote, “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak at church” (1 Corinthians 14:33-35).

This doesn’t mean a woman is supposed to have duct-tape over her mouth from the moment she walks into church to the moment she walks out. The context is teaching the church, or administering the authority of the word of God over the gathered people of God. The role as overseer is set apart for specifically a man to fill.

This also doesn’t mean a church that obeys this instruction is oppressing women. Heavens, no! A woman sitting in that church during a gospel sermon is no more oppressed than any man in the congregation. The truth does not oppress those who listen to it — it sets them free (John 8:31). It is a woman’s delight to learn quietly with all submissiveness, and she does this in honor of the Lord.

Women serve an incredibly important role in the church. If a church was all men and no women, that would be a dysfunctional church (see Titus 2:1-8). The church is to be made up of men and women, young and old, complimenting one another in their strengths and weaknesses, working and growing together so that we may be a functioning body of Christ.

But each according to their own purpose. God made men and women different from day one of creation… sorry, day six. He meant for men to fill certain roles and women to fill certain roles. We are one body in Christ made of individual parts, each functioning in their own way. One person is not to infringe upon another or take it upon themselves to do the task given to someone else. We all submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

Bad Arguments for Women Pastors
Over the weekend, a friend got into a discussion over this topic with a feminist, and the feminist retorted with a list of names — women of the Bible who were more than just “helps” but, in her view, were qualified to be pastors. That list was as follows: “Deborah, Hannah, Miriam, Ruth, Esther, Jael, Proverbs 31, Wisdom personified as woman in Proverbs 8 (present with God at creation), Phoebe, Lydia, Prisca, Mary, Mary Magdalene, [were] all just there ‘to help’?”

This is a very common tactic when arguing for why women deserve to be pastors: throw out the name of a woman from the Bible. Boom! But that name is always taken out of context. There are no examples of a woman serving as a pastor in the church. None of the apostles were women, for that matter. I can say “period” and leave it at that. The instruction in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is clear.

But for the sake of teaching, I’d like to go through that list of names and explain why they’re actually bad examples. While they are not examples of women pastors, most of them are certainly great examples for being strong women of God.

Deborah
The book of Judges captures a very dark time in Israel’s history. In those days there was no king in Israel, and the people did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25). But God gave them judges to be their leaders, decision-makers, and deliverers.

The pattern of the story of Judges goes like this: the people sinned and worshiped false gods, the Lord sent an enemy to punish and oppress them, the people cried out for mercy, so God sent a judge to conquer their enemies and deliver a semi-repentant Israel. Wash, rinse, repeat. Three of the most famous judges were Samson, Gideon, and a woman named Deborah.

Deborah was a prophetess and a God-fearing woman who judged during a time when there were no God-fearing men. In Judges 4, Deborah confronted Barak, commander of the Lord’s army, who was reluctant to do what God had told him to do: gather his troops and fight the Canaanites. Instead, Barak told Deborah, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” So Deborah mommied him and led him by the hand to get him to obey God.

If you had been reading through Deuteronomy and Joshua, by the time you got to Judges 4, you’d recognize Israel’s digression in faith and obedience. In Deuteronomy 1:15, the tribes of Israel had wise and experienced men as heads over them. In Joshua 24:1, these men met with Joshua to renew their covenant before God. But within a generation, Israel began worshiping the Baals and forgot what the Lord had done for them (Judges 2:10-12).

It got to the point that the men weren’t doing what the leaders of Israel were supposed to do. So God placed a woman over them as though to say, “Sure, I’ll deliver you from your enemies. But to your shame, I’m going to send a woman to do what no man will do.” It was an embarrassment that Deborah was judge, not a high achievement (consider Judges 9:53 where it was to Abimelech’s shame that he was killed by a woman and not a man). In Deborah’s song of victory, she praised the tribes that stepped up to fight and lambasted those who stayed home (Judges 5:14-18).

Isaiah 3:12 says, “My people — infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them.” It is the judgment of God upon a nation when women occupy the roles that should be filled by men. Barak should have been the judge of Israel, following in the footsteps of Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar before him. But because he was kind of a weenie, God gave Deborah to do what Barak wouldn’t.

So using Deborah as an argument for why it’s okay for a woman to be a pastor really isn’t a good move. It would be to admit, “There are no godly men here, so a woman is going to have to do this job.” When a woman is pastor, the church is immature and disobedient, just like Israel was when Deborah was judge. She is a great example of a God-fearing woman. She is not an example of a pastor.

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