A Word About…God’s Women
Forecasting trends of future Christianity is a dangerous enterprise. Who is ever to say what a Spirit as unpredictable and unmanageable as God’s is going to do next?
According to our Leader, this Wind blows where it wants to, which means that it may move in a different direction just to mess with our minds. Carlyle Marney, a maverick himself, likened that Spirit to a bucking bronco kicking the slats out of every corral we try to construct. Sooner or later a sane person might quit trying.
Therefore, please forgive the following hunch. It is based not on statistical data or empirical analysis or exhaustive research or scholarly inquiry, but, rather, on just looking around. Not an exhaustive field of observation, mind you, but just four sessions of two classes in one school of theology where I am teaching as a visiting instructor of preaching this year:
Many of the preachers in our churches will soon be women.
This will happen whether we like it or not, regardless of theology or biblical exegesis.
Over half of the students at the theology school where I teach are women. Over half of the students in the preaching class I teach are women. What this means, in terms of sheer arithmetic, is that churches will soon either have women in their pulpits or they will have no one.
These women are not overly gender-conscious concerning their call. They are not crusaders or pioneers. They are not out to make a point-- unless, that is, it’s one they are developing in a sermon.
Rather, they are submitting themselves to the call of God on their lives. Simple as that.
It would be understandable for these women to bear a chip-on-the-shoulder disposition, given the poor record of the churches in calling women to the preaching ministries. For years now, the churches have not been willing to call as preachers the very women they have sent to the seminaries to learn how to preach.
But, no rancor or self-pity here. These women just want to preach.
Some have directly criticized-- accurately, I suspect-- our more progressive churches for not having yet called a woman as senior pastor. This criticism will be short-lived. These churches will soon have no recourse but to consider women as candidates for the senior pastoral positions. The math will dictate it. There simply will be too many women for the churches to ignore.
The current situation reminds me of the old fellow who, when asked if he believed in a woman preaching in the pulpit, responded, “Believe it? Hell, I’ve seen it!”
Some disclaimers are in order. The argument I am advancing is in no way meant to devalue the considerable gifts and powers women possess for the preaching ministries of our churches. Nor, by the way, do I wish to overlook the capable, talented men God is equipping for the ministry of proclamation.
It is not my intention here to argue for an “unhindered” (as the book of Acts would put it) pastoral vocation for women, something I strongly embrace. Nor is it my intention to promote women preachers, something I firmly endorse. Nor is it my intention to advance biblical grounds for women’s church leadership, something I passionately espouse.
I do wish to say that the Holy Spirit is clearly and joyously calling women to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, that these women are responding in remarkable numbers and devotion to this call, that it is the unmistakable intention of God to fill our pulpits with women as well men, and that the Spirit has a sneaky and persistent way of seeing that God’s will is done.
These women are not going away. God will continue to claim them for the announcement of the Good News in the churches. They will keep answering that call in ever greater numbers. They will count and pay the cost of that discipleship in rigorous training. And they will keep stoking that “fire in the bones,” staying ready, as Spurgeon put it, to “light a fire in the pulpit” anywhere they are given opportunity to do so.
I give testimony and bear witness to that.