I have to confess that it took me so long to get back to writing about Gospel-centered preaching because I have been doing research for one of my last seminary papers: a theology of women in ministry. Even when I’m not supposed to be doing research, I’ve come across stuff in unexpected places. I just can’t get away from it!
Doing research for this paper has been a painful experience. Not the typical lots-of-work kind of pain, but a deep personal pain related to wrestling with an issue that cuts close to my identity and calling. This wrestling is a good experience, but it has often been made all the more painful by insensitivity of those who write about and discuss this topic.
With that in mind, I have a few thoughts about how to handle this issue, regardless of what you believe about the roles that are available to women in ministry.*
First, this issue is always personal. It pains me to hear people say, “Hey, the Bible says this and I know it’s not popular, but it is what it is.” It is critical that we teach the truth of the Bible to the best of our abilities, but we also need to do it with love and humility. This issue is personal for women and when people treat it as if it were just another theological issue, they dishonor their sisters in Christ.
Second, both sides make valid points. Wrestling with this issue is complicated because there are people who have solid arguments on every side. It’s not as simple as “The Bible says…” because both sides argue from the Bible. Both sides also employ arguments from logic and experience.
Third, hold on loosely to what you’ve been taught and tightly to God. Whether you grew up in an environment where women were never allowed opportunities to formally minister or in one that taught women were the same as men, you need to do your own wrestling and research. Nothing can replace your own learning process. I increasingly believe that this is a matter for serious prayer and Biblical study, not simple answers.
Finally, don’t let this issue, or any other, supplant the Gospel as your main focus. Our enemy would love it if we spent our time chasing people who disagreed with us in the Church rather than the lost people that God came to seek and save.
My mind is not settled on this issue, but I am committed to seeking God’s will. I believe our highest calling is to love God, which naturally flows into loving others. We need to carefully choose the issues that are worth dividing over and do our best to protect the unity of the body in everything else.
*Note: I believe these principles apply to a great number of theological issues that we like to debate, not just women in ministry.