Women as Pastors

Question from a Site Viewer
Can a woman be a pastor and can preach the Bible among people?

Tim’s Answer
Thank you for your question as to whether a woman can be a pastor and preach the Bible among people. The answer to your question depends on how one defines a “pastor.” The word “pastor” in Scripture means “shepherd.” The word is only used in Ephesians 4:11 in reference to men, although it is used often in reference to Christ. However, the verb form of the word meaning “to shepherd” is found in Acts 20:28 in reference to the elders at Ephesus and in 1 Peter 5:2 in Peter’s instruction to the elders. Though the word is never used in reference to women, one cannot conclude based solely on these three passages that only men can pastor.

Certainly there is a role in Scripture for women to prophesy and proclaim the word of God. The daughters of Philip proclaimed the word of God (prophesied) (Acts 21:9). In 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul accepts that women can pray and prophesy. Both Priscilla and Aquila, a husband and wife team, were instrumental in explaining the way of God (Acts 18:26). And, of course, God entrusted the great news of the resurrection of Christ to women to tell the men. I think one would not be Biblical to reject teaching from women. Nor do I find any prohibition against women preaching generally. The word “to preach” is a word meaning “to publicly proclaim.” It is the word found in Romans 10:14-15 speaking of the need for proclamation in order for people to be saved. I do not believe that only men can lead others to Jesus. Everyone can proclaim or preach the word.

So, if we define “pastor” to be a “shepherd” and “preaching” to be “proclamation,” I believe that both men and women should be engaged in the task of shepherding people and proclaiming Jesus. The empowerment of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the word is not restricted to men, as noted above.

However, if the question is whether women should pastor or shepherd churches, or should preach in the assembly, that question is one that has torn many churches apart. My views are set forth in some detail in our article, Women in Ministry. If you do not want to read the entire article, you may jump to the conclusion at the end. In brief, my conclusion is that women should not pastor churches or preach in the assembly. However, I would not break fellowship with those who believe otherwise. I believe in charity towards those who differ on this viewpoint. I recognize that God has used women preachers. Yet, the fact that God has used someone does not give me confidence that the person is in God’s best will for their life. Scripture is the authority and I find Scripture supporting male leadership in the church.

I see a distinction between standing and roles. Both men and women are equal before God in standing (Galatians 3:28) in much the same way as the Son is equal to the Father. However, the Son and the Father serve different roles in the salvation story. I see Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 11, 14 and 1 Timothy 2 as arguing the same for men and women; that is, they serve different roles in the church. Though we are equal, God has given us different roles to fulfill.

I hope this helps your thinking. In this area, as in all areas, I encourage charity. Jesus taught that people will know that we are His disciples because we love one another. There is maturity when we can hold our views with conviction for ourselves, and yet mimic Christ in extending charity to those who differ in opinion on these issues where Christians who love Jesus disagree. We all may have some error somewhere in our theology. May the God of grace continue to guide us all into His truth.

a fellow sojourner,


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