I Don’t Like to Fight

I didn’t get into ministry to fight this battle.

I’m not one to stir things up and I really don’t enjoy invoking criticism or argument.


After 5 years of ministry, the fact that I’m a woman in a high level church leadership position occasionally raises some eyebrows.  I’ll be honest.  I took my job at Cross Point with limited knowledge regarding what the scriptures have to say about women leaders.  I was just doing what God had naturally gifted me to do and that was never challenged until I applied those gifts in the church.

I encounter people every day with varying interpretations on what they believe the scripture to say in regard to women leaders, pastors, teachers, etc.  It’s funny because it felt so foreign to me that gender would matter in any of these areas.  It really caught me off guard as I began to get questioned about it.

So for the last couple of years I’ve been researching and studying what the Bible has to say on these issues.  I understand why there is confusion.  I understand why the church has wrestled with this for literally a couple of thousand years.

I’ve been praying for God to give me insight and clarity.  I’ve been praying that he would remove my pride and my bias.  My heart is to help the church better understand God’s unique design of people – all people, all races, both genders. I pray that the church could be effectively functioning as the body of Christ rather than bickering over interpretations and prejudice.

My heart is heavy on this.  I don’t have all the answers yet.  I may never have them all in this lifetime.  But I’m committed to studying and seeking God’s heart.

Recently I was sent a copy of a brand new book on the topic: What’s With Paul and Women?

In this book, Jon Zens tackles one of the most confusing passages of scripture regarding women, 1 Timothy 2.  If you are just beginning your journey of study on this topic, this is a great place to start.  It’s a quick, insightful read and I particularly appreciate the cultural context that Jon explains.

If you’re a ministry leader, will you join me in this study? Will you take some time to study and seek God’s clarity on the gender dynamics in scripture?

I believe this issue is one of the most misunderstood and the most avoided discussions in our modern churches. But the issue is bubbling under the surface and as church leaders I believe we have a responsibility to seek understanding and lead with clarity and discernment.

If you have done some personal study on women leaders, pastors, or teachers, what resources have you found beneficial?

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  • Rindy April 13, 2010  

    I've been on both sides of this discussion–1st as part of a denomination that embraced women as leaders/pastors/elders and now as part of a church who embrace the leadership…with limitations. I also entered into this realm with very little knowledge of this 'controversy' and am really attempting to learn more. I would definitely like to join in and discuss figuring it all out!!

  • kristiapplesauce April 13, 2010  

    No, I have not studied it. I can't wait to hear what you discover though – as that book is not available here. But I did just pick up a book on woman and the church. I would love to read that and discuss later what it's says.

    For me, being in a foreign land, we have found that although the woman DO everything, it is still the man's position to make the decisions and have his voice heard. So we just go around it. Whenever I need something done, or people to back whatever it is I'm trying to do, I ask my husband (who is seen as a pastor here) to speak for me. It has taken a while to get used to….not having a voice, but then again – things are still getting done, and it has made our married relationship stronger for some reason. Maybe because I am looking towards my hubs more to lead us and I have submitted my right to talk all the time.

    • jcatron April 13, 2010  

      Kristi, I admire your patience to work through and with your husband. You're wise to be sensitive to the cultural issues of where you are. I'm sure your dynamics are very unique. Thanks for chiming in!

  • tonytsheng April 13, 2010  

    [sorry if this is a duplicate comment…]

    i read "Two Views on Women in Leadership" about a year ago and it was a huge help – some of your readers might also appreciate it.

    i agree with you too – this is a very important issue that leaders need to understand. even more, leaders need to be able to articulate the whys of where they fall on the decision.

    • jcatron April 13, 2010  

      Thanks for that resource Tony. Great point – we need to be able to articulate the whys of where we fall… I think so many leaders (including myself) just took what was passed down to us without deliberate study for ourselves.

  • Andy Borgmann April 13, 2010  

    The "problem" with all of Paul's writings (I know that is probably a controversial statement in and of itself) is that if you read all of Paul's writings as a whole, a clear theme of Jesus' imminent return is very obvious. To Paul, he thought Jesus was returning at ANY moment. If you would have told him that Jesus still hadn't returned by 2000 years later, he wouldn't have believed you, and it might even have shaken his faith.

    This doesn't make Paul's writings wrong, or non-inspired. However, everything he writes should be viewed through this lens. Take for example his stance discouraging marriage. Most of us think that is crap theology (ok, we wouldn't admit that, but we do by our obvious theology around marriage is a good thing / encouraging everyone to get married). Well it made sense if you thought Jesus was returning in a few days not to encourage marriage because what was the point.

    Women in leadership is the same boat. If Jesus is coming back shortly, then it makes sense to keep as much order as possible, not to rock the boat, and address the "problem women" in Corinth firmly and directly in order to keep the church focused on what they should have been focused on: Jesus' return.

    Contemporarily in an egalitarian society, it a.) isn't controversial / off putting to have women in leadership in other areas of life so it shouldn't really be that jarring to the church, and b.) we obviously recognize that some of Paul's theology was a bit localized (i.e. the anti-marriage concept), so why shouldn't this be either? It doesn't mean it isn't inspired by God and that there aren't lessons to be taken from it. It just means that the theology behind his actions is more important than what was actually said/done in the local church in Corinth.

  • Eve Annunziato April 13, 2010  

    GREAT POST and a very well crafted word. Nancy Beach put it beautifully when she states in her book, "Gifted To Lead," that the Holy Spirit clearly didn't make a mistake when giving strong and amazing women, like you, the spiritual gift of leadership. It was God's plan for talented women to lead, and yes that includes leading in the church. So many churches miss out when they misunderstand that their calling includes exclusion. There's no such calling. I'm thankful and blessed that our awesome community @ CP hasn't missed it at all! Thank God!

    I now plan to pick up that book and I agree it's an avoided and complicated issue and topic. Thanks, Jenni for bringing to the forefront. I admire your spunk!

    • jcatron April 13, 2010  

      Thanks Eve!

  • alece April 13, 2010  

    i was JUST talking about this last night! i've received criticism for being a woman in leadership plenty in the past, but i know it's only going to increase now that i'm no longer co-leading with my husband. i feel like the "strikes against me" just increased. not only am i a woman in leadership but i am a single, divorced woman in leadership.

    i wish i had more a biblical foundation for doing what i feel God calling me to do. i wish i had more solid answers or responses when i was challenged. i'm definitely interested in trying to study and learn about this as much as i can…

  • Makeda April 14, 2010  

    I grew up in a church that did not allow women to speak on anything of importance in the church. I had a female pastor but she had not real authority and in business meetings if she wanted to say something she had to tell her son who would speak on her behalf; it was crazy! Thankfully I am now in a church that fully embraces women in leadership positions. The pastor's wife co-Pastors the church with him and I am the executive pastor. Despite this thought, we still have people who love our church but won't come back because they have disagreed so strongly about women being in leadership. It saddens me really and I hope that some time soon the church world as a whole will come around. Thanks for sharing this today.

  • Amy Nabors April 14, 2010  

    I'm not in a ministry position, but there are many in my church that feel this way. Thanks for sharing this book. I definitely want to check it out.

  • jennyrain April 14, 2010  

    One of the things my church did when developing a stance on this issue was study extensively not only the scriptures (in original languages and also the historical context of the scriptures) but what makes me respect them so much is that they researched the most liberal of the liberals and the most conservative of the conservatives and everything in between. They also took an extensive time to study it… did not rush coming to a conclusion. It was cool to watch…

  • missional girl April 16, 2010  

    Wow. Powerful post. As the daughter and granddaughter of staunch Baptist pastors, I continue to get a share of those furrowed eye brows (many of them from my own family). There are a number of great resources out there that get to the point without bashing men or deifying women:

    Beyond Sex Roles–Gilbert Bilezekian
    Women Leaders in the Church: Three Crucial Questions–Linda Belleville
    Biblical Equality

    These are just a few. I like to also suggest reading books that would disagree with the aforementioned offerings. The best known is probably the Council on Biblical Manhood and Woman's Biblical Manhood and Womanhood offering.

    • jcatron April 16, 2010  

      Thanks for the added recommendations!

  • Stephanie Bennett April 30, 2010  

    I have read Jon Zens' book cover-to-cover and it is the single most excellent explication of the scriptural passages dealing with these issues that I know of. It would be my pleasure to join you in this study, Jenni.
    God bless!