Women must begin seeing themselves as God sees them and embrace the freedom they have in Christ to learn, use, and teach God’s Word. In this article, I hope to open the church’s eyes to see women’s full potential in Christ and encourage women to learn, grow, lead, help, support, and strengthen.
Women were created in the image of God and given spiritual gifts and roles as part of the body of Christ. Some evangelical churches are operating at 50% capacity because they are not allowing women to participate in ministry fully. Many church leaders are passively neglecting the church’s full potential.
If you grew up the way I did, you were probably told that a woman’s role is to serve her husband, submit to his authority, and free him from the mundane tasks so he can focus on his ministry. She keeps silent in the church, never getting involved in the teaching ministry. Leading children’s classes and serving in the nursery were the only ministries I ever believed I would be allowed to do.
I have since asked myself why women were so limited in the church. We are taught to solely focus on our homes and families and leave most of the church ministry to the men. Women ought to be godly wives and mothers, and there is great joy in serving our physical families, but we are also members of the family of Christ.
I’ve seen many women struggle with discontentment, discouragement, and bitterness. Could it possibly be because we are not fulfilling our function in the body of Christ?
God created women for a special and unique purpose in His church!
God created woman in Genesis 2:20-23* because Adam needed someone that no other creation God had made so far could satisfy. He needed a helper (EZER – עֵ֫זֶר) fit for him. This Hebrew word for “helper” is challenging to translate into English. When a word’s meaning is hard to decipher, we should see how Biblical authors used the word in other passages. The Hebrew word for “helper” is used in:
- Job 6:13—Job, at his most significant point of struggle, realized that his help did not come from within himself but must come from someone else.
- Psalm 121:1-2—God is our help in times of trouble.
- Hosea 13:9—God destroyed Israel because they went against their helper.
- and many more times in this same way…
BDB (a Hebrew Lexicon) defines this word as “help, succour.” The New Oxford Dictionary defines “succour” as “assistance and support in times of hardship.” This word has the idea of an ally in war. The whole idea of this word is that man cannot do life alone.
Struggle and loneliness demand companionship. Adam did not need a servant, a maid, or someone to simply keep the house and raise the children. John Calvin was mistaken when he said that a woman is a mere “appendage” to the man, only fit to “render obedience to him.” Man needed more than a slave. He needed someone to depend on for strength, comfort, and companionship, and God gave him Eve.
God created humanity—men and women—in His own image (Genesis 1:27). As women, we reflect the character of God! The purpose of a woman, just as a man, is to reflect the image of God in everything she does. God is our help, our strength, our refuge, and God has placed women on this earth to reflect that help and strength. God created men and women differently to reflect the diverse beauty of His character.
Often the role of women is minimized or even completely neglected in our churches. Yes, God has given women a place and a function at home. He also has a fulfilling ministry for women outside of the home. As believers and followers of Christ, we are part of His church. 1 Corinthians 12 or Ephesians 4 explain how God designed the church to work together as a body.
God gave everyone spiritual gifts, talents, abilities, etc. There are no male or female spiritual gifts. A woman cannot hold the office of a bishop (1 Timothy 3), but that does not mean that she cannot have the same spiritual gifts as someone in that position. A woman may have the gift of prophecy—should she not use that gift to further the Body of Christ? Why do we assume women do not have administration or preaching abilities? Why can’t women exhort or teach? And if women have these abilities, why are we as a church not giving them an outlet for these gifts?
If women are not using their gifts in the church, the church is unhealthy.
We are all part of the body of Christ, and as part of that body, we are commanded to practice our spiritual gifts and to do “body” things. These thoughts are heavy on my heart. For years, many churches have been partnering with only half of their membership. Women, you are not a limp arm! Our men need us. Our women need us.
What are a few ways women in the New Testament church used their gifts to further Christ’s body?
- First, women prayed and proclaimed God’s Word publicly in church. 1 Corinthians 11:5 “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.” This passage doesn’t say women weren’t allowed to pray or prophesy. Paul assumed that women were already doing that! The only stipulation is that we do it correctly. Paul upholds femininity as a gift from God that women should embrace. This fact does not negate the place of women to speak the Bible into other’s lives at church. In the Reading Corinthians commentary, Talbert states, “Paul has no problem with women praying and prophesying in the church; his difficulty is that they are doing these things in a way that denies their created sexuality….Paul’s point is that wearing a veil means acceptance of one’s created sexuality.” The Bible is clear that there is a time for women to remain silent (1 Corinthians 14:34; Timothy 2:12). But our interpretation must be balanced by passages that allow women a voice. Many evangelical churches overemphasize silence to the detriment of the body.
- Secondly, the ministry to women is given explicitly to women. Titus 2:3-5 “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior…they are to teach what is good, and so train the younger women…” Make a point to find a younger woman you can disciple. It is part of your responsibility as a Godly woman. You may not feel like you have much to offer, but you do. If you are learning, studying, and seeking Christ, God will uncover spiritual needs you are able to speak into. You are more capable than your husband of connecting with women. When you see a woman struggling in your church, counsel and disciple her.
- Thirdly, women co-labored with Paul. In Acts 18, we learn of the husband-and-wife discipling team, Priscilla and Aquila. Even though Apollos was a man, Pricilla—along with her husband—was involved in bringing him to a better understanding of Scripture. Philippians 4:2-3 speaks of other women who were fellow laborers with Paul. Many believe Euodia and Syntyche were leaders in the Philippian church. Before their involvement in Philippi, they probably traveled with Paul, sharing the gospel and ministering alongside him.
Women in New Testament churches were praying and prophesying publicly, counseling and discipling others in the church, and working alongside the men in ministry. What makes us think that women are solely relegated to “behind the scenes” ministries today?
A plea to women
Our foundation to minister is our relationship with our Savior. We learn of Him through His Word. Why are we content to read a 15-minute devotional book in the morning and gloss over our Bibles? Why do we get annoyed when our husbands start discussing theology? Why are we always looking to “get something” out of our Bible reading rather than getting to “know Someone”? We have become so selfish in our spiritual lives that our focus is no longer on learning who God is but on what He can do for us. We have no excuse. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that men should be more proficient in theology than women.
Proverbs 31:26 says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” She opens her mouth, and wisdom comes out! She needs to be learning the Bible so she can speak wisdom to others.
We cannot leave theology to the men. We are told to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15 KJV).” A woman will ask you for Biblical counsel at some point. What will you say? You cannot rely on your husband or your pastor to study for you.
We women tend to hide behind our husbands, our responsibilities to our families, or even our personalities. But women have the Holy Spirit as well and must be entwined into the work of the church. If God has given us gifts and expects us to use them in His body, He will provide us with the strength and power to accomplish His will.
You have so much potential! God did not flippantly give you gifts, talents, or abilities. He wants to use you to “help” or “succour” those in the body of Christ. He wants to bless you and your ministry beyond what you could ever imagine.
A Plea to Men
- Teach your wife. You are her spiritual leader. Encourage her to learn profound theology. There may be topics she is interested in learning that she has never pursued or possibly never even thought of. Support her desire to learn. There may be classes, certificates, or degrees that will make her a better minister of the gospel. It is not always necessary for women to learn Greek and Hebrew, but that doesn’t mean she is not capable or that it would not be beneficial to her and those around her.
- Let your wife lead others. If she is learning, she should be teaching. This includes nursery and children’s classes but also other capacities as well. Like you, your wife has the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. The Bible speaks specifically about women teaching other women (Titus 2) and reaching out to the poor and needy (Proverbs 31). If you are the visionary type, I’m sure you can see her potential to lead ministries in your church.
- Let your wife counsel. A study by Howard Hendricks found that 80% of pastoral infidelity occurred due to significant alone time with women, often during unsupervised counseling. Why are we setting ourselves up for failure when we have an almost foolproof solution to the problem? Women teach women! She is commanded to be ready to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15) just as you are. If you take the last two points to heart, she will be prepared for any situation, and you will avoid temptation and the appearance of evil.
Perhaps, you have not created an active destruction of the church, but a passive neglect of its full potential.
If you are a leader in one of the many churches working at half power, there is hope. Things may have to change, and that’s okay. Talk with your ladies. Start involving them in meetings and ministry. And begin implementing their spiritual gifts in the body of Christ.
*All Biblical references are in ESV unless otherwise stated.