Throughout the history of the church that I attend, the Nazarene Church, women have been upheld and encouraged to be in leadership and become ordained clergy. Many of the first pastors who built the church’s holiness foundation, were women. A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine who is also going to school to become an ordained minister, asked me this question: If our church started out with all these women, fourteen percent were women clergy in the early 1900’s, why is there less than 2% in the church today?
As I was talking with yet another female future minister, she kept saying things like, oh, I can’t talk to men about this or that or referring to the various women’s ministries that she is a part of in leading.
Through both of these experiences, it dawned on me that although we believe that we have been called by God to fulfill His purpose for our pastoral leadership, we are afraid to step into the realm of leading men. We back away from heated conversations, hold our tongues around men who assume they know the best way to do something but in reality are not seeing the whole picture, and keep our thoughts to ourselves to allow them to lead first. Are we doing these things because this is the godly way to do them? Or are we just afraid to differ and perhaps argue our points to men?
I have been guilty of this same thing myself. As a woman, physically I am vulnerable to men. I fear for my own safety when leaving a building at night, or even my own home. I avoid confrontation with men outside my husband, because I am vulnerable. Just by being female, I am vulnerable to the physical impact that their strength could have. Regardless of whether or not I believe those men will actually hurt me, I still hold myself back because I have been taught that one never knows when a person could snap.
I have also had this kind of reaction inbred in my life because of how I grew up. I lived in a home where my father was incredibly verbally abusive, and would use his size and strength to intimidate me. He never hit me, but there were times I was very afraid of him. Since I grew up with a man who used his strength and size to intimidate me, I still expect this to be the case years later, when my husband has never done the same. I hate this reaction, but it is still there all the same.
Through the journey that God has set me upon, I have come to realize that if a person, male or female, is called to pastor people, they can be called to pastor both sexes. All races. There is not an issue under the sun that God cannot and does not equip people to pastor in, regardless of what gender they are. I was highly cared for when in labor with my first two children by our pastor who was not afraid of the laboring woman, and came to pray for me and our children. Male pastors have mentored and disciple me in many ways, why is that different when the pastor is female ministering to men?
All women in ministry need to stop holding themselves back specifically for women’s or children’s ministry, and begin seeing that God calls us to minister to all people. Yes, there are times that we are specifically called to minister to certain groups, but do not pigeon hold yourself. God can and will open many doors that we are meant to walk through. The main idea here would be that we must stop being afraid to step on a man’s toes in ministry. We must learn to be confident in God’s call for our lives, regardless of what gender we are.
On a side note, we must be careful to not put ourselves in dangerous positions to be hurt by someone physically or emotionally. If a female pastor or female community member is being discipled by a male pastor or community member, it is always smart to have other people around the building. We need to know that God calls us to minister to men and women, but that we must protect ourselves from gossip or slander as much as possible as well.