The evangelical space of the internet erupted last month when prominent pastor and theologian John MacArthur mocked author and speaker Beth Moore, telling an audience full of male pastors she should “go home” rather than use her gifts in the church. MacArthur later clarified his views on women in ministry in an hour-long sermon, stating “empowering women makes weak men,” and women serving in leadership positions are a “disgrace” and exude “flagrant disobedience.”
The aim of this post is not to weigh in on the role of women in ministry except to point out that, despite MacArthur's dogmatism on the issue, arguments have been made on both sides of the complementarian/egalitarian spectrum by theologians who adhere to the absolute inerrancy of Scripture. Before firmly settling on a position on this important issue that has consequences for the entire church, please prayerfully search the Scriptures and conduct your research. For a thorough list of helpful resources, check out Dr. Sandra Glahn's blog post, "Resources for Revisiting the Question of Women in Ministry."
For those of us women currently serving in ministry, it wasn't MacArthur's position that was so hurtful, but rather, the mocking, derisive tone by which he delivered his stance. Though many Christian leaders rightfully called him out for his arrogance regarding Moore, this incidence is not the first or last time women in vocational ministry will face misogyny. So, how should we sisters respond and support each other while serving in a subculture where “go home” is applauded by a small subset of our church family?
Your spiritual formation is far more important than your ministry position. As a Christ-follower, conformity to His image is your goal, not a particular title. The very best thing we can do for ourselves and for those we seek to serve is to grow in our love for the Lord. And…take comfort knowing that Jesus embraced, empowered, and utilized women to further His Kingdom and message.
Part of MacArthur’s strong reaction likely stems, in part, from “Celebrity Evangelical” culture, which values charisma over Christlikeness. Example: while the blogging world has given many women a sphere of influence they might not otherwise enjoy, it’s also given rise to some misguided teachings which are too often overlooked because of an audience’s love for a particular personality. In order to be taken seriously, we need to be serious about depth. Keep studying. Pursue further training. Get equipped. Bounce your thoughts off biblically grounded theologians you respect and accept feedback and criticism as encouragement. Pursue depth. God’s word is the best story ever told. Never slack off in your study of it.
The John MacArthur’s of the world are not the enemy. The Enemy is the enemy. And he uses situations like this to further sow division within the church. Our best defense: prayer. That’s why I’m thankful for author Kristen Padilla’s recent Facebook event: Day of Prayer for Women in Ministry. One of the best ways we can support one another is to cover each other (and our brothers) in prayer.
Stop Comparing and Competing.
A wise woman once told me that no one has my exact sphere of influence. When you are tempted to look at another's success/family/books/position/followers/looks/ministry and compare that to your own, you are in dangerous territory of either pride or insecurity - issues of the heart that will keep you sidelined. No one has your exact sphere of influence so your passionate pursuit of humbly utilizing the gifts God has given you is 100% needed. (I share about my own battle with comparison here.)
Given the last point, cheer one another on. Promote the ministries of your sisters. Connect with other women who are wholeheartedly pursuing Christ and elevating His word and share their resources with others. Be part of a tribe. For Dallas area friends, organizations such as AWMP are a great way to deepen your relationships with other women in ministry.
Use your Gifts with Excellence and Humility in Whatever Context you’ve been Given.
Shed those insecurities. Remember who you are and whose you are. For inspiration, check out Kat Armstrong's book, No More Holding Back. Take yourself seriously and seek God's glory as you anticipate how He will welcome you home with arms open wide, a big smile, and the words, "Well done."