How do these issues affect women workers in missions? Others have written volumes about how these matters should be handled Stateside. But how do we handle overseas in our own contexts the role of women workers in ministry?
I'd like to begin by posting a bit of Galen Currah and George Patterson's Women Mentoring Women from their MentorNet #42. While not 100% in agreement with the entire article, much of what they express conveys my own views and feelings about the role of women workers in church, missions and church planting in general.
We who mentor church workers must facilitate the training of women in ways that honour Scripture, respect culture, empower women, advance the gospel, and cause new churches to reproduce continually.Ironically while so much debating is going on Stateside, in many parts of the world, there is a huge spiritual revolution going on. In contrast, the "women's role" debates are a minor whisper on the global scene. It seems strange that so many back home in the States are not up to speed with the way God is moving amongst the nations. I fear our testimony diminishing amongst the world's believers who are less pharisees on these issues and more obedient to simply be about the Lord's commands. What good is it to have all the right answers if we are not obeying the clear commands of our Lord like the Great Commission?
The New Testament provides significant examples and teaching about women workers. Likewise, church history and the contemporary church reproduction around the world reveal some powerful facts about women workers.
Biblical and Current Examples
- Around the world, the majority of church workers are women, often poor, even illiterate, women. If only males were allowed to plant churches and train leaders, then most of that work would never get done, and most of the major church planting movements currently underway around the world would grind to a halt.
- The New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit distributes ministry gifts to all believers, according to His will. The result is that “each one” has a gift to share with others (Rom 12:3- 6; 1 Cor 12:7; 1 Pet 4:10-11). Thus, woman believers all have one or more gifts of the Spirit which are for the common good, enabling them to share in church meetings, to start new church meetings, to train new leaders, and much more. Among the five kinds of gifted persons that Christ gives to every church or cluster of churches (Eph 4:11), some are women:
Women apostles. Here we are not talking about the Twelve but about ordinary church-planting apostles. Junia and her husband Andronicus (Rom 16:7) were wellknown apostles [not “known by the apostles”], as were Priscilla and her husband Aquila (Rom 16:3; 1 Cor 16:19; etc.).
Women apostles should be empowered and trained in how to organize new cells and congregations, and in how to appoint and mentor leaders
Women prophets. Anna, a prophetess, blessed Baby Jesus (Lk 2:36-38). Four daughters of Philip, an evangelist, prophesied (Ac 21:9). Paul told women, along with everyone else, that they could prophesy in the church (1 Cor 16:24 & 31) in submission to their husbands.
Women prophets should be trained in how to prophesy while remaining in public submission to their husbands.
Women evangelists. The first evangelists were women (Mt 28:7), and women figured amongst those who received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Euodia and Syntyche labored with Paul “in the gospel” at Philippi (Phil 4:2 & 3).
Women evangelists should be instructed in how to let the gospel flow into families, households, and communities. They need methods and materials that women can afford.
Women shepherds. Lydia (Ac 16:14-15, 40), Nympha (Col 4:15), Julia, and the sister of Nereus provided leadership for churches that met in their homes (Rom 16:15).
Women shepherds should be supervised in how to lead cells and congregations to become obedient to the command of Jesus and of the New Testament.
Women teachers. It is normally older women who teach younger women (Tit 2:3-5). Priscilla, along with her husband, Aquila, mentored Apollos, a competent teacher, in their home (Ac 18:24-26).
Women teachers must be provided Bibles and literacy or easily recallable lessons and Bible stories to pass on others.
- The apostle Paul wrote these sticky passages:
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. 1 Timothy 2:11 & 12 ESV.
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 in church. 1 Cor. 14:34 & 35 ESV
Exegesis of these verses and their context shows that Paul was concerned that wives not usurp authority over husbands... [they write quite a detailed exegesis of these verses for those interested, but will not reproduce it here]
I am not smart enough or knowledgable enough to go head-to-head with those who seem to have a clearer understanding of these "sticky passages." My advise is to debate less and obey more. Let's join the Lord in what the Spirit of God is doing around the world.
I believe if we err, it should be on the side of erring to go out and DO, rather than stand back and DO NOTHING because certain Scriptures lend themselves to several different interpretations. As I've said before, we have made many mistakes over the years in our own ministry and church planting. I don't claim to have all the answers. Many fingers have been pointed to what we have done or not done correctly over the years, but we proceed ahead in faith to the best of our understanding, and that work definitely includes women workers on all levels of ministry.