Should The Church Accept Female Preachers?

Should The Church Accept Female Preachers?

Pastor Vincent - 4 September 2021

Weekend Devotion: Should The Church Accept Female Preachers?

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Now, as a pastor, I was often asked about my stand on female preachers in the church. Yes, we have female Sunday school teachers, female cell group leaders, but the very controversial issue is whether the church can have female preachers standing on stage to teach a congregation of people, which comprises of men.

 

Now, the verse that is commonly used as a deterrence is <1 Timothy 2:12> where the Apostle Paul plainly states that he does not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. Now, I understand this issue is not an easy one to deal with, especially for those who have been taught to take this verse in its literal sense. On the other hand, this verse can be overlooked or loosely refuted by those who felt that this should only be taken in its cultural context, where in the early church, there are probably rich women who allowed false teachers to teach in their homes, and in turn these teachers likely allowed the women to teach men. So for this group, they are quick to conclude that as long as sound doctrines are being taught, it’s all right for women to teach in a church, or even to be ordained as Pastors or Elders. So I hope to put this right once and for all in this episode of devotion.

 

Now, in all sincerity, I have to say that those who sounded the note of caution for female preachers are doing so in good faith, and they want to be right before God.

 

But the Biblical arguments behind “female preachers” must be rigorously looked into, if not we can end up doing a disservice, both to the Biblical doctrine, and also to the rights of Christian women to serve in their best capacity.

 

So first, I want to be very forthcoming in saying that based on <1 Timothy 2:12>, it must be clearly understood that God has set forth the qualifications for church leadership with that verse. So in that sense, I believe, and strictly speaking, that female believers should not be filling the role of Senior Pastors or Elders in the church. It is for the church not to undermine that biblical instruction by plainly giving that position with judiciary authority to a sister in Christ, just because she is gifted, talented, or spiritually mature. God has laid down guiding principle for church leadership for the spiritual protection of the church. And it is wise to understand that the spiritual make up of a sister (no matter how spiritual or wise she is), can subject her to temptation if she is in a leadership position, as in the case where Eve was tempted when she made critical decision in neglect of Adam’s leadership. Without doubt, the devil knows how to make a woman fall no matter how wise she is, and that is why the Bible advocates male leadership in a church. But now the question is does that mean a woman is not allowed to teach in a church, as a preacher, as a deaconess, or as a cell leader? Now, I understand we are treading on fine line here, but we need to be deliberate, so that we don’t subject sisters to needless constraint and cause the church of God a loss.

 

Now, with reference to <1 Ti 2:12> where Paul said: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man”. I have to deliberately point out that the word “teach” here when view in the context of <1 Timothy> actually refers to the teaching of doctrine. Now, why do I say that? Because in <1 Ti 1:3>, Paul said,  “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach (notice here, it’s the same usage of word “teach” as chapter 2)… And not to teach what? Not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. So in the context of <1 Timothy> where the word “teach” is used here, Paul was actually referring to the teaching about doctrines. 

 

So to be accurate and intentional in applying the text, Paul is actually reminding his listeners that where Biblical doctrine is concerned, it came from man, as biblical revelation, together with its doctrines were revealed to men, not women. All the a postles and all Bible writers are men. Woman are not supposed to come out with doctrine or new teachings. And the Bible went on to say that she should not have authority over a man, which in this case, the word “authority” means “overbearing authority”, or in the case of a church “judiciary authority”, where she makes critical and final decision in the church. So in our church, we do not let woman assume the role of Elder or Pastor, i.e. in positions where she makes critical decision in the form of leadership. But can she teach? Can she speak? On stage? In cell group settings? Or can she lead worship? My answer to that is “Yes”. Why yes? Now listen carefully.

 

Because just as we quote from <1 Timothy 2>, there are verses like <1 Cor 11:4-5> where women are allowed to pray or prophesies with her head covered, just as men are allowed to do so with their heads uncovered. Now, notice the parallel here. What men can do, women could do also, but women are to do it in a different way. So over here, it is indicated that women are allowed to prophesies, which has the meaning of speaking and teaching. In fact, in today’s context, prophesying is seen as a form of teaching also, as we dun see there is a need to prophetic prophesying anymore in New Testament when Biblical revelation is complete. All who prophecies now prophesized through the teaching of the word, but for the women to do so, the catch is she must have her head covered, which figuratively means to do it in a woman-like and submissive way instead of a man-like instructional way.

 

In our church, our female preachers, deaconess or cell leaders were under the authority of the Senior Pastor and Elders and they were carefully instructed to teach with grace, gentleness and humility as and when they were required to do so. But of course, having said that, our church judiciary authority and most of the preaching are still done by brothers, and we saw that as an adherence to biblical teachings.

 

Now, I understand that for some believers who have been taught otherwise, contention do subtly arise within them when they see a woman teaches on the stage, and sometimes in our church. But let me clarify that first, that does not mean that she is holding any overbearing or judiciary authority (as the Pastor or Elders). And second, it is important to note that she adheres obediently to male leadership in the church. So having said that, let us be perceptive when we see a sister opening up the bible to teach. And if she does so with her head covered, it goes to show that she is doing so to discharge her teaching obligations in obedience to God. And likewise, throughout the scripture, there are women who engage in speech acts in the worship service also, as in the case of Miriam in <Ex 15:20-21> and also in the early church in <Col 3:16>. So with that, we should try not to have a knee-jerk reaction each time we see a woman preaching and leading worship in the church.  

 

But having my point on female preaching made, I like to end with this note. Because of what has been pointed out clearly about the reservation of female preaching, I am however especially wary about those churches who unreservedly ordained female Pastors or Elders or who frequently have sisters take the pulpit to preach. It is not unfamiliar to see that when women start to enjoy that kind of authority over the church, they could even be greatly tempted to develop her own theological doctrine from their subjective experiences and encounters. And truth to be told, women are relatively prone to that. You saw that clearly in the case Ellen White, where she came out with the 7th Day Adventist doctrine, which some of them were erroneous and deviates from sound biblical teachings. So there is a reason why just as we allow female preachers, we should also be mindful about the increasing prevalence of female pastors and preachers taking over the reins of the church, and forming their own understanding of the Bible. The Church must come to the understanding that this is far from being biblical, and in doing so, it is treading on dangerous ground.

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Pastor Vincent Choo
choochisan@gmail.com

Vincent is the Senior Pastor of The Life Church and Missions (Singapore) and is an ardent missionary to the Chinese World. He currently lives in Singapore with his wife, Qiufen, and has three kids, Mary, David, and Caleb.

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