A recent article in the Christian Standard online weekly version was entitled “Women Preachers.” This was brought to my attention by several friends (and thanks for that).
First, let me say that I have written many articles for Christian Standard and do a lot of writing for Standard Publishing, so I respect both organizations very highly. Second, let me also say that I understand this is a touchy issue. It has been for forty years now. This article attempts to be positive and even a little progressive, and I commend it for that intent.
But I think the truth is that there is a group of church folks for whom this is not even open for discussion. There is a determined mindset that says that women are disqualified or prohibited from leadership roles within the church. Any attempt to move away from this position is decried as a betrayal of Scriptural teaching and compromise with the ever-lurking threat of liberalism. Women may be leaders in government, business, entertainment, literature, art, music, military, and serve on the Supreme Court, but not leaders in the church. And frankly, I don’t think the persons who take this position are open to dialog or modification.
The article points to a Christian college that has opened its preaching classes up to women students. How can they do this, the article asks, if such Scriptures as 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 seem to prohibit women from teaching (or even speaking) in public church forums? Here is the carefully nuanced answer:
The key issue . . . is differentiating between the act of preaching and the role of preacher. Preaching has to do with proclamation, edification, and teaching of the gospel. The role of the preacher is more than that. [A preacher is] the teaching elder, the spiritual leader of the church.
So, it is OK for women to preach, but not for women to be “preachers.” I must say that this opens up many possibilities I had not thought of before. I guess it is OK for women to eld but not be elders. They can deak without being deacons. They can teach without being teachers. The can minister without being ministers.
I’m sorry, my sarcastic side got the better of me there for a minute. Back on topic! But here is the problem with this argument. The role of “teaching elder” is convenient, but not biblical. All elders are to be “apt to teach.” And there is no biblical justification for seeing a single “teaching elder” as the “preacher” of a congregation. There are several Greek terms in the New Testament that we could translate as “preacher,” (nominal forms of kerusso, euangelistes, perhaps prophetes), but none of the words for “elder” or its office (presbyteros, episkopos, poimen) imply anything about preaching.
So we are back to the issue of whether or not women can be elders. I believe they can, and if you agree with me, this entire line of thinking become irrelevant. If we continue to limit women and their potential for ministry and leadership in the churches, we will continue to lose the millennial generation, for whom this is not an issue. I’m not OK with that, and I don’t believe I have sacrificed or compromised any biblical principles to arrive at my position. So let women preach and be preachers. We need them.
Nebraska Christian College