Engage

How Long, O Church?

I recently attended a speaking competition in which men and women participated. After greeting the audience, the emcee recited a disclaimer regarding the women’s involvement. (Allow me to paraphrase.) “Attention: this situation involves uncertainty and risk. We deny responsibility for offense.”

Did you catch it? Women are the risk. The shrapnel of sexism shot through me like the “Caution: Contents Hot” proviso; it affronts my intelligence.

How long will we suffocate women with subtleties of sexism? The Church either stifles or silences women with “problem texts” that do not prohibit their leadership. We label female leaders as unorthodox or their ministries as uncharacteristic of the workings of God. Such disclaimers disregard giftedness.

How long will we obstruct the expression of gifts? Without repudiation, God has and does empower women to proclaim His Word (Gen 30.24; Ex 15.20–21; 1 Sam 2.1–10, 25.29–31; 2 Ki 22.14–30; 2 Ch 34.22-28; Mic 6.4; Lk 1.41–45, 46, 55, 2.36; Ac 21.8-9). Jesus gifts and calls people, regardless of sex, for the edification and maturation of His Church (1 Co 12.4–31; Eph 2.21–22, 4.7–16). Obstructing women’s use of their gifts results in stagnation in the Body. In response, we strategize.

How long will we subdivide and label it “strategic?” Many Churches regulate ministry based on male/female divisions and generational separations—some of the very characteristics which make her members diverse. This provides benefits but often disregards oneness (Titus 2.1–10; Ro 3.22, 29; 1 Co 7.19, 12.13; Gal 3.14, 26–28, 5.6; Eph 2.11–22; Col 3.11, 15). The Body deteriorates. In response, we build “strategic” ministries that reconstruct the walls Christ died to dismantle (Mk 15.38, Eph 2.11–21).

Christ declares His Gospel without disclaimers. In fact, the only repudiation Jesus offers is against the religious establishment, not sex, race, or any God-designed diversification of humanity. He never cloisters women in kitchens when their calling is to the front-lines of leadership (Mk 15.40-41; Lk 10.38-42; Jn 19.25). He commissions some to preach the Gospel and commends others for serving in the background (Mt 26.6–13, 28.1–10). He disregards social constructs such as prominence and poverty and includes women (Lk 8.2-3, 43-48).

Throughout the New Testament we see the Spirit continually empowering, navigating the Church across geographical and social boundaries and into waters uncharted. He captains this same course for us today, leading us to know and love people – as and where they are.

Let us love ministers more than ministries. Conduct interviews and build relationships – opening a dialogue to assess spiritual maturity, personal needs, and giftedness rather than shoving people into ministry. Develop the potential within people. Establish on-ramps for them to express and grow in their gifts. Create opportunities for women to practice teaching, leading a meeting, and organizing events. Coach them in the process.

All ministry involves risk. But when men and women partner together, we actually reduce rather than raise all sorts of risks. Remember Aslan? He was good, but he was not safe.

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Amy Leigh Bamberg

Amy Leigh is an Alabama native, but never drinks sweet tea or cheers for the Crimson Tide. Ever. She grew up working on her family’s cattle and catfish farm, shucking corn, slinging cow patties, and singing in the church choir. But, she longed for more. She attended Auburn University and studied horticulture and worked for several years in the commercial and residential sectors of the green industry. Then she joined the staff of a local church, equipping thousands of volunteers, developing systems and structures, and pastoring every step of the way. She attended Dallas Theological Seminary where the focus of her coursework was theology of the body, theology of beauty, and the role of women in ministry. Amy Leigh works as a free-lance landscape designer, consultant, author, and teacher. And she still longs for more, which is why her articles address topics such as faith, culture, creation, the church, and relationships.