Devo: What the Bible Says About Women in Church Leadership

Good morning and Happy Tuesday! Today, I am going to be talking about a topic that is quite controversial, especially in today’s society in the church. That topic is women leadership within the church. Although, it is more conservatively known to be wrong for women to lead, it has become a much more common thing with the rise of women rights and equality within the American society. As a young woman who absolutely loves to lead worship for my youth group, there was a part of me that wondered if it would be okay to become a “big church” full time worship leader. So I started asking pastors I trusted and I got different answers. One pastor encouraged me to do my own Bible study and see where it lead me, which is what I did. Today, I am going to take you along my studying journey and how I received my conclusion. So let’s get into it!

As I previously stated, I decided to start with contacting three pastors whom I trusted asking them all the same question, which was, “Would it be biblically ok if I were to become a full time worship leader, or would it be wrong since the Bible mentions women to not preach or have leadership in the church?” One believed it was fine for women to have leadership within the church, because the verse that I was thinking of was taken out of context and it was specific to a church in Corinth (I think). Another pastor said that again, it was taken out of context, but that women are allowed to lead as long as a man ordains it and has the leadership over them. An example of this would be a woman being allowed to lead worship, or a couple songs, because a man had given her the permission to do so. The last pastor said it was not okay to have women be in a place of leadership in a church, because the church and the family are supposed to submit to one another like we are supposed to submit to Christ (women to men as us to Christ, but also in submission to each other).

After taking all of this into account, I jumped into my Bible (+ the internet to help get started). As a starting point, I used this website (click HERE). Using the verses listed, I started going through every position of leadership (Pastors, elders, deacons, ushers, communion leaders, and worship leaders) and this is what I ended up finding (along with the verses in use)….

My Question: Can women, can I, be a worship leader full time (or a worship pastor), but not preach?

Broader Question: Can women hold a place of leadership in the church?

1 Timothy 3:1-13 “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

  • v. 1-7: A man must be in place of an overseer (or pastor), not a women.
  • v. 8-13: Deacons must be male as well.

Titus 1:5-9 “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

  • v. 6: Must be male (same reason as above).

1 Corinthians 11:3-16  “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.”

  • v. 3: Christ -> Man -> Woman (The church is in submission to Christ, as women are to men).
  • v. 11: Men and women are dependent, or need to be in submission, to each other.

Romans 16:1-16 “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord.13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.”

  • v. 1: Phoebe is appointed as a deaconess (or a woman deacon)
  • v. 2-16: Many of the women listed are known as “helpers in Christ.”
    • v. 6: Some were called “apostles”, or messengers.

1 Samuel 25:23-35 “23 When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant.25 Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. 26 Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, because the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. 27 And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. 28 Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. 29 If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.” 32 And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! 34 For as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” 35 Then David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have obeyed your voice, and I have granted your petition.”

  • Abigail directs David to not commit murder with non-directive leadership and authority, but also with submission.
  • About Worship More Specifically….
    • Exodus 15:20-21

      “20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. 21 And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

    • Judges 5 “Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day….”
    • Psalm 68:11 “The Lord gives the word;
      the women who announce the news are a great            host”
    • Luke 2:36-38 “36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin,37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
    • Acts: 21:9 “He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.”
    • 1 Corinthians 14:34 “34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.”
      • Summary of verses above…
        • Miriam lead worship among other women.
        • Deborah lead worship WITH a man.
        • Women are announcing.
        • Women are prophets.
        • Women are told they are supposed to stay quiet within the church.
      • Basically, women have their role in the church, however, speaking, or preaching (roles of leadership) alone are not allowed. Example: Leading worship is fine as long as it is with, or with the ordainment, of a man.

Egalitarian: Men and woman have equal rights in the church, therefore women can hold any place of leadership.

  • Acts 1:14 “14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
    • Women went with men to pray about who would replace Judas Iscariot, the apostle.
  • Acts 18:26 “26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
    • Women corrected teaching of a man.
  • Acts 21: 9 “He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. ”
    • Women are prophetesses.
  • Romans 16:1-7 “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.”
    • Woman as deaconesses, or women deacons.

Complementarian: Focuses on the verses 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 that states that women are supposed to be submitted to men as the church is to Christ, which means women must submit to the leadership of men. Therefore, women cannot be in a place of leadership.

  • 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.”
    • Christ -> Man -> Woman
  • 1 Corinthians 14: 33-36 “33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?”
    • Women are to be silent.
  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 “11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”
    • Women are told not to teach.
  • Colossians 3:18-19 “18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”
    • Wives are to submit to their husbands.

The pastor who believes that women are allowed to be leaders in the church sent me this article (click HERE) that helped him come to this conclusion.

  • My thoughts about this article: This article was focused on the women of the early church and it gave a ton of historical evidence and Biblical evidence on women who were active in their faith and played important roles within the church. These roles included being deacons, elders, missionaries, and prophets. However, the thing that concerned me about this is that there was very little biblical scripture to back this up. Yes, much historical evidence was used, but there included none of the verses I had previously used and explained them in a way that would conclude that women could hold a place of leadership over men. Therefore, this article did not change or challenge what I had previously read in the Bible, which were pretty clear.

Conclusion: Women cannot hold leadership (over men) in a church.

Now… you may be thinking, “Maddie, you’re a woman… how do you feel about this or accept this? Is this not offensive to you?” Well, let me be completely honest…. I was quite disappointed when I came to this conclusion, however, I did not want to put myself in a position where God so clearly states as not okay. I would be doing the exact opposite of His will. You may have noticed that it didn’t seem like my study was very intense or that I spent a lot of time at it, and honestly, I didn’t need to. Going into this with an open mind, I knew that I needed to be okay without whatever answer that was given, because it’s God’s answer. A part of me, after my studying, wanted to dig deeper and try to find the answer I wanted, however, that was me just trying to find a way to bend the Bible or maybe find a grey area so that my answer didn’t have to be wrong. Right then, I knew that was a warning flag and I needed to stop or else I would be looking too hard for an answer that I couldn’t find and I would just be making up the answer I wanted, stretching the truth.

Many would just assume that God is sexist… however, He really isn’t when you think about it. God specifically designed men and women to have specific roles and to compliment each other. However, in no way did God design men to dictate over women. Many assume that submission means, in a sense, becoming a slave to that person. However, what it really means, is yes, submitting yourself (or coming under one’s leadership), but it also means a co-dependent relationship. In a marriage, and in the church, the the man is called to love, take care of, and respect his wife and the wife is supposed to submit to him and love him, just as God loves and takes care of the church and the church submits to Him. The man is in no way supposed to harass his wife, to put her down, or subject her as his slave. Again, he is supposed to love her and care for her. They do live together, not alone. They are dependent of each other. Their relationship and their own selves are bettered, because of the other. A women’s role is just as important as a man’s, but they are different and that’s okay. God is in no way being sexist. He established very important roles that need to be filled by each position according to His design. When done in and through His will, marriages and the church succeed and are glorified.

What are your thoughts? If you have studied this at all, let me know where your studies took you on this topic.

xx Maddie

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