Should Women Be Elders and/or Lead Pastors? Not written by EM

Blog: Should Women Be Elders and/or Lead Pastors?

Reposting with Dr. Shank’s permission.

Dear Class;

Hello, and good morning.  I have been meaning to write a blog on the topic of women functioning in the office of elder/pastor in the church for some time (hereafter: “pastor”).  Last term I began this blog, but I haven’t found the time to complete it; nevertheless, it is good enough for now.   Undoubtedly, this blog will make me a less popular prof, but so be it.  I decided that since this issue has become so significant in our churches, and since many students are basing their opinions on dangerous and faulty presumptions, I felt it necessary to finally address it in a blog.  This blog will address this topic from different but common arguments that I sometimes hear from students concerning this issue; consequently it is a little fractured and not as smooth as some of my other blogs.  Think of it in the same manner of Paul’s letter to the Romans (only not inspired—lol).  In other words, I will be addressing this issue from several different objections and angles, and although they are somewhat different, in the main they are all still related to the same basic topic.  Of course in the future I will need to refine this blog.  I will also need to address what women can and should do in ministry.   Nonetheless, this is the best I can do for now, and with that, please read below.

First, a common argument is that Paul’s instructions prohibiting women from functioning as pastors in local churches were only his “opinions.” They were not doctrines that were inspired and guided by Holy Spirit.  This is a poor argument since generally speaking Paul did not present his letters as being comprised of suggestions based primarily of his opinions; and in the very few occasions he did provide his “opinion,” even then he claimed that he did so by the direction of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 7.40).  There is a catastrophic danger for the church and the gospel if we start identifying parts of Paul’s writings as only his “opinions.” It will basically become open season on everything Paul wrote.  Moreover, we no longer have a functional doctrine of inspiration since anybody, armed with nothing more than their person opinions and preferences, can start rejecting parts of the Bible.  Some assert that since Paul wasn’t a “prophet” then he didn’t speak with prophetic authority.  It may be true that Paul was never identified as a “prophet.”  Nevertheless, he was an apostle commissioned by the risen Lord to spread the gospel and build churches, and as he did so the Holy Spirit inspired him to provide the foundation instructions for what it meant to live for Christ and how to build New Testament churches.  Moreover, especially with respect to women functioning as pastors for local churches, he instructed that any prophet present should recognize that what he wrote was by the Lord’s command for the building up of churches everywhere and in all ages; thus his instructions were to be universally received, obeyed, and enforced (1 Cor 14.37-38; 11.16).  Moreover, if anyone, whether a prophet or a layperson, did not accept Paul’s instructions as coming directly from the Lord, then they were no longer to be recognized as qualified to speak in the church.

Second, some assert that the prohibitions that Paul wrote concerning women not functioning as pastors was because of some crises in specific churches instead of universal principles and mandates for all churches everywhere.  This is simply not the case.  Moreover, it is an extremely poorly defended argument to assert that when Paul wrote to Timothy, Titus, or the church at Corinth with respect to women leading or teaching as a pastor that he was attempting to avoid a similar crisis that he wrote about in his epistle to Philippians.  While Paul was writing his letters to different pastors and churches there was no such thing as a New Testament, or even a Pauline corpus.  In other words, the church at Corinth or Ephesus could not open their Bibles and turn to Paul’s epistle to the Philippians in order to understand what he was trying to teach them.  Consequently, we cannot or should not marginalize or sidestep what Paul prohibited by the direction of the Holy Spirit to the church at Corinth and Ephesus because of a specific problem at the church of Philippi.

Thirdly, Paul’s instruction prohibiting women from functioning as pastors was exclusively for a specific congregation for a limited period of time, they were never intended to be universally applied to all churches.  This is objectively not the case, Paul prohibited women from functioning as congregational leaders and preachers in the churches at Corinth, and he instructed both Timothy (at Ephesus) and Titus (at Crete) to preserve the office of teaching pastor to only qualified men, and lastly he specifically instructed Timothy to prohibit women from functioning in roles where they would be teaching or exercising authority over men.  In other words, we observed Paul’s instructions on this matter in 3 completely different areas, and he provided them for entire church networks throughout those areas, and he gave no indication that there would be cultures or times when they should be relaxed.  Consequently, the prohibition against women preaching and holding the office of pastor was not a prohibition that arouse because of an unusual but temporal problem at specific church.  They are part of the foundation of New Testament theology concerning the leadership of local churches.  Paul presented them as universal qualifications and instructions; consequently, they should be received and respected as such.

Lastly, some assert that Paul’s prohibition against women functioning as pastors is a relic of a patriarchal culture.  This is an argument that is inherently flawed while undermining the doctrine of inspiration.  It is extremely problematic to assert that because Paul’s wrote while ministering in a “patriarchal” society that we no longer need to obey his instructions prohibiting women from acting as lead pastors.  Such an assertion is also a functional rejection of the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy, regardless if one claims to affirm these doctrines.   Paul also wrote to polytheistic, sexually immoral, socially segregated, politically corrupt, dishonest, and vengeful cultures.  Are we going to assert that the Holy Spirit could inspire the writers of the NT to command believers and churches to reject all of those cultural sins, but was somehow constrained by the patriarchal oppression of that time?  Of course not.  Furthermore, the prohibitions against women holding the office of elders and teaching men or local churches was not based upon some misguided attempt to protect a cultural sin, but was ultimately based upon God’s created order (1 Tim. 2.13).  Some assert that the woman’s submission to the husband in the family was a result of the fall; consequently, the church’s purpose is to “reverse the curse,” which means reversing all of the consequences of the fall.  Such a focus for any church is misguided, but that is a topic for another time.  Paul wrote that male leadership in the home was the design of God at the beginning of creation rather than the consequence of the fall; thus, he based the doctrine of qualified male leadership of local churches upon God’s revealed design at the beginning of creation.  Consequently, regardless of the period of history or what are the acceptable culture norms of any specific society, the instructions that the office of pastor or elder be reserved for qualified men are to be universally affirmed by all churches everywhere and at all times.   These instructions are not relics of a cultural bias or the result of patriarchal opinions from which the Lord and the Holy Spirit were not able to protect future churches located in enlighten and egalitarian cultures.   They are directly from the Lord and were documented in writing by the power, inspiration, and guidance of the Holy Spirit; thus they are to be obeyed in spirit and practice in local churches everywhere.

There is such a thing as a “biblical church culture.”  It is the requirement of all Christians in every culture to conform to that specific biblical model, rather than attempt to conform their churches to the cultural norms of their societies.



Copyright @ by Monte Shanks, 2015

Part II


NB: If you have not read the previous blog on this subject, then it is highly encouraged that you do so before you continue reading.


Should women be ministers?  Simply and emphatically stated, yes!  While women should not be pastors or lead elders over men in local churches, all believers should aspire to some form of ministry regardless of gender and spiritual maturity.  So, before elaborating more precisely on what this means, it is first necessary to establish a few universal biblical principles.  One caveat before I begin, this blog deals with ministry in and outside the church.  It does not address secular professions.  Simply put, there are no biblical mandates prohibiting women from participating in secular careers such as: teachers, governors, presidents, queens, senators, garbage collectors, stock car racers, plumbers, CEOs, etc., etc.  With respect to women participating in such employment, there is no biblical prohibition against women participating in financially productive careers or offices of public service.  That being said, however, every parent’s first responsibility, whether they be mothers or fathers, is to actively and properly care for and raise their own children in the ways of godliness so that they become functional believing adults, and in general this specifically requires that mothers to leave the work force for a season for the sake of their children (Prov. 31.10-31).  However, if fathers and mothers functionally abandon their children to the care of others in order to pursue self-fulfilling careers, with the result being that their children grow up to reject the gospel, then they have done immeasurable damage to the cause of Christ.  Lastly, Israel enjoyed the leadership of women as judges and royalty, and we do not find the prophets denouncing them for being leaders simply because of their gender, but only for the injustices that occurred under their authority.  With that said, let’s begin.

  1.  All believers regardless of gender receive spiritual gifts.  Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 12.4-6 that the Holy Spirit gives each believer a spiritual gift or gifts, while the Lord Jesus Christ determines the ministries in which they are to be used, and God the Father empowers them to be effective.  Consequently, spiritual gifts are a blessing from God to all believers regardless of gender.
  2.  All believers are equally valued by God.  Paul explains that we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3.26-28).  This passage is by far that which is most abused by Christian Feminist and Egalitarians.  Clearly God loves all believers equally, and both men and women are equal inheritors of the kingdom of God.  Nevertheless, how we all function in the body of Christ (i.e., the local church) and in ministry in general is different.  Remember that in 1 Corinthians 12.5 Paul explained that it is the Lord who determines our ministries, both in and outside the church.  And Paul further elaborated more precisely on these issues by providing the qualifications of elders for local churches in the Pastoral Epistles.  It is poor theology and exegesis to pit what Paul taught in one letter against what he clearly taught in other letters.  Paul knew what he wrote in Galatians, and it didn’tprohibit him from providing further clarification concerning ministry responsibilities in the Pastoral Epistles.  Paul was not schizophrenic as the Holy Spirit inspired him to write; consequently, he did not contradict what wrote in Galatians by what he wrote in the 1 Corinthians and the Pastoral Epistles.
  3.  All believers regardless of gender receive the Holy Spirit when they place their personal trust in the Jesus Christ as their savior and Lord.  While preaching on Pentecost Peter explained to the crowds that had gathered that what they were witnessing was the arrival of the Holy Spirit as promised by God and proclaimed through the prophet Joel.  As he did so he quoted the specific prophecy of Joel indicating that the Holy Spirit would be given equally to all believers regardless of age or gender (Acts 2.16-18 and Joel 2.28-29 are the relevant verses for this discussion).  Consequently, women should not be perceived as possessing a lesser measure of Holy Spirit.  All believers received the full measure of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation.  This of course does not mean that all are equally guided by or in submission to the Spirit’s direction.  This, however, is not an issue of spiritual capacity, but an issue of spiritual maturity; consequently, all believers are called to grow in maturity in Christ. Moreover, the New Testament knows nothing of the doctrine of a “second blessing.” It does, however, encourage all believers unto greater submission to the Holy Spirit power, influence, and guidance.  And as a believer begins to mature in the faith then he or she will also begin to learn more about how to use their specific spiritual gift(s) as they walk with Christ and live by the Spirit.
  4.  Women are not lesser teachers simply because of their gender.  At this point I must take a brief side bar.  There is a difference between the natural ability to teach, and the spiritual gift of teaching.  Simply because one is a professional teacher (e.g., math, English, history, social studies, cooking, etc., etc.) does not mean that the Holy Spirit has given them the ability to teach about spiritual, theological, or biblical matters.  The spiritual gift of teaching refers to a Spirit given and God empower special capacity to serve in the kingdom of God for the enlarging the church and building up of the body of Christ.  For example, I may be a giving person with my finances; however, that does not mean that the Holy Spirit has given me the gift of “giving.”  When the Spirit gives a person the gift of “giving” it means that God uses that believer in a supernatural way by multiplying his or her generosity to accomplish God’s desires no matter what or how much that believer gives.  All believers are called to give of their means for the ministry of the gospel, but not all believers have the spiritual gift of giving. All believers are called to share the gospel, not all believers are gifted as evangelists.  Now, concerning the spiritual ability to teach, in Titus 2.3-5 Paul instructed Titus to direct older women to teach and disciple younger women.  Paul was not simply asking older women to teach home economics, but rather that older godly women disciple and teach younger women into godliness as they minister within their families.  And at this point I need to take another brief side bar.  The New Testament knows nothing of cross-gender one-on-one discipleship or counseling.  Those who engage in such are setting themselves up for disaster.  Discipleship and spiritual counseling are incredibly intimate endeavors that naturally draws people closer.  Those who engage in these ministries while crossing gender lines should not be surprised if sexual temptation occurs, or if rumors begin to spread.  Consequently, discipling and counseling in one-on-one contexts should be carried out be those of the same gender, and to be honest this is just a matter of common sense.  For example, no husband or wife really wants their spouse being alone and talking to some else of the opposite sex about their sexual problems—enough said.  Furthermore, Jesus also had female disciples (Luke 8.1-3), and we can be assured that as women came to Jesus for healing (e.g., the woman with an issue of blood, Lk 8.40-48) or in repentance and for forgiveness (e.g., the prostitute in Lk 7.36-38), that Jesus would eventually, and for obvious reasons, direct them to these women for further discipleship and mentoring.  Moreover, there are some ministries that only women should fill, such as chaplains in women prisons; sexual abuse recovery ministries for women; indigent care for women.  The principle here is that there are many specific ministries where women are more gifted and better qualified to carry out, and in such contexts men generally make very poor substitutes.

So, should women be in ministry, absolutely!  However, somewhere along the line in the “business” of Christianity the modern church has been deceived by the impression that “effective” ministry mostly occurs when large audiences gather, sit, and listen—let’s call it the Billy Graham syndrome. As a result Christian Feminists, because of a worldview that promotes the lie there are no such things as God-designed differences between the genders, demand that women have equal access to these “important” ministries.  This is one of the greatest tragedies inflicting today’s church.  Lasting ministry, fruitfulness, and impact for cause of Christ do not occur on Sunday mornings.  The most fruitful and lasting ministries occur through small groups and one-on-one discipleship.  The Billy Graham syndrome has caused untold passivity among millions of believers, both men and women, resulting in spiritual lethargy and biblical illiteracy.  Should women “be allowed” to participate in undergraduate and graduate biblical studies—unquestionably!  All believers should do so, and if not at Evangelical universities and seminaries, then at their local churches.  The church is not served by being filled with biblically illiterate believers and spiritual infants.  We may start out as babes in Christ, but we are certainly not called to remain as such.  And the stark reality is that most of the world’s population is female; consequently, the Lord is not pleased and the church is not served by discouraging or prohibiting women from actively participating in ministry. However, if anyone whether male or female wants to pursue graduate biblical studies with the purpose of finally setting right the church’s “archaic” view of women so that they can finally have equal assess to all the church’s ministries and find self-fulfillment, then they are already standing at the precipice of a very slippery slope.  No one can undermine a few clear biblical principles and think that they are not inflicting great damage to the cause of Christ.  Remember, while the Holy Spirit gives us our spiritual gifts, it is the Lord, who is the head of the church, that is the one determining our specific ministries.  Consequently, if you believe that there nothing wrong with women being lead pastors or elders in local churches, then your problem is with the Lord Jesus Christ and not with me.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeffrey W. Moore
    Apr 01, 2017 @ 20:07:11

    If one agrees that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative word of God, then eliminated are many options of interpretations. The confusion between equality and function is often at the core of confusing the biblical roles that are mandated by God from the beginning. Being a Pastor/Elder (man) does nothing to elevate their standing before God. Not being a Pastor/Elder (women) does nothing to diminish their standing before God. Absolute equality would result in the absence of function, and paralyze us. When considering the biblical role of deacon or deaconess, one could defend the role of a women functioning as a deacon(ess), but would still not result in a change of equality in the eyes of God. Pride and the seepage of secularism into the Church may be the chief cause of anyone wanting to function in a capacity that they deem will result in elevation of perceived equality. Thank you Doc for your brief but helpful introduction to this matter, but that is easy for me to say – as I am a man.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joyce/EM
    Apr 02, 2017 @ 06:04:31

    It was easy for me and I am a woman. Scripture is Scripture and it does not change with the times or society’s misunderstanding of equality. It is about the roles that God has established for the leadership of His Church. This issue has become a powderkeg among evangelicals and feminist theologians. I thought the article was right on and posted Doc’s argument on the issue rather than my response to the prompt posted in the theology class. God does not see women as underlings to men, but this construct is clearly stated in the NT.


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