Often we set ourselves up to lose certain arguments by the way we define our terms. We sit there on the branch, manfully sawing the dern thing, and then we wonder how we ended up on the ground with the knot on our head.
One of those arguments has to do with the role of women in the leadership of the church. We make a crucial misstep often in our definition of leadership. What do we mean when we say “leadership”? Well, if you take a quick glance at the landscape, you’d get the impression that leadership pretty much just means making important decisions, telling other people what to do, sitting in comfy chairs in a climate controlled office, giving motivational talks occasionally, and making pumpkin spice latte runs in the afternoons. And by that definition, there is absolutely no reason why women can’t lead churches. Women can make important decisions. They can tell other people what to do. They can be good communicators and motivators. Heck, they can probably make a Starbucks run blindfolded. In other words, by that definition of church leadership, most women would be better than men.
And then Christians wonder how they lost the argument. How did they end up on the ground with a knot on their head? They did it by disobeying Jesus when He told us what leadership actually is. It’s a little bit ironic that the conservative Bible-believing types so frequently ignore what the Bible actually says about leadership. Before we decide who can fill the office, we ought to define what the office actually entails. And we need to define it biblically.
Why did Jesus choose men to lead the church? Because He planned for them to die. Every. Single. One. The apostles were chosen to be martyrs. They were chosen to lose their families, to lose their reputations, to lose their homes, to be mocked and misunderstood, beaten and rejected and killed. Congratulations, you’ve won the chance to lose everything.
The gentiles exercise authority as though it means bossing people around, telling people what to do, sitting in fancy offices writing memos on embossed letterhead. But Jesus said, it shall not be so among you. Whoever will be great among you, shall be your servant. For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mk. 10:42-44).
To lead the Church is to follow on the heels of Jesus who was lied about, betrayed by a friend, rejected by family, constantly misunderstood, and ultimately convicted of crimes He didn’t commit, beaten to a bloody pulp, and executed naked on a Roman cross.
But some of you will say that pastoral ministry doesn’t look like that in America. And I will say to you that this is because many of the men who ascend pulpits in this nation got their balls crushed in seminaries and sunday schools long ago.
In other words, if we want to insist that ordained ministry and leadership in the church is something for men, we need to prove it by doing the hard and dangerous work of following Jesus. For some that means spending a lot more time in prayer. Pray like it’s your job. Pray like it matters. Pray for hours. Pray like a man. Some need to get out of their offices and preach the gospel. Go find unbelievers. Go talk to them. Go to the LBGTQ luncheons and preach Jesus. Go find a street corner. Go next door. You’ll be misunderstood. You’ll be laughed at. You’ll be ignored. You’ll be rejected. You’ll begin to be a man. Some need to address actual sin in their congregations. Name it, explain it, condemn it, and point to Jesus who frees us from all sin. People might misunderstand. People might leave. There might be a church split. Good, then maybe you can learn to be a man.
I’d really like to know why there isn’t a huge vocal feminist movement for women plumbers and women garbage collectors. Why aren’t there more women clambering for the right to shovel crap? Oh, because it’s gross and not very fun and messy and disgusting? Welcome to the world of shepherding sheep, a job for men. Because we never smelled good anyway.