When pronouncing Judgment against Judah for gross idolatry, their pronouncement of judgment included that “Childish leaders oppress my people, and women rule over them.” (Isaiah 3:12) This was not a thing to be celebrated, but greatly mourned as a sure sign of the Lord’s anger with his people. Never more have I personally seen the fulfillment of this than in the church.
I have thought long and hard about writing this post, and actually have several drafts saved awaiting my big finish on this topic. What took me so long? Well, as I recently shared with my friend April over at Peaceful Wife, I have no idea why it is so difficult for me to answer questions in fewer than 10,000 words… but that is what I decided to do this time…I hope! 😛 April asked me a couple of questions about experiences I had and observations I made while functioning as a pastor alongside my husband, and her questions made it easier to formulate answers (after 3 weeks of working on a response :-P). My response had grown out of control and was beginning to resemble a small book!!! I decided to take a more direct route to answering her questions and I want to share this information with you. Let me say that these are my experiences and observations. You are free to agree or disagree with the conclusions I have drawn from my own personal experiences. I welcome feedback, and would appreciate it if negative feedback or opinions are supported by Scripture when shared 😀
A little background first 😀
I was groomed to expect, pursue, and occupy a senior leadership role in the church since I was 16 years old. I ‘preached’ my first message from the Lord (one of anguish, disappointment and impending judgement) the morning after wholly committing my heart, mind and soul to the Lord. My pastor, and elderly man, saw nothing wrong with the Lord speaking through a 16 year-old young girl. He communicated with me that the Lord will always use willing, available vessels to do His work. So I spent years making myself willing and available. I soon began to believe that Deborah, one of Israels Judges, was not the exception but the rule. As I got older most of the women I knew in the church served faithfully there, but spent little time serving at home. I never saw or attended a class or workshop on Biblical submission, though I heard it talked about or referred to from the pulpit occasionally. In truth, I rarely saw it lived out, and as I grew up, I had no working model to look to. It seemed that women believed they were honoring God and obeying His word by serving in the church, and going through the motions of service at home. Men were not truly respected, and I have learned that we can ‘submit and serve’ on the surface, but still communicate the lack of submission in our hearts. The women I had been raised to look to as examples were strong, like me…good orators, like me…not afraid to speak in front of people, like me…bold for Christ, like me…and they all had a title; minister, evangelist, and as I got older, pastor…unlike me. So the eventual progression for me was an obvious one, right?
When I got married, though I loved my husband, I was not submitted to him at heart. The vows had been genuine, but not entered into with a clear Biblically based understanding. I was a definite product of the feminist culture of the generation that preceded me. I was a woman. I was not only capable, but more capable than most men. I would easily accept the help of men, as long as it was understood that I did not need it. I was headstrong, manipulative, angry at times, petulant, could be over bearing, and fully admired and accepted in church circles as ‘anointed’…without a heart of submission. I was advised by a couple of older women (literally 2) whom I respected, that I needed to go home and submit to my husband (this was said when I attended church without him because he did not agree with me on the church we should attend). Funny, I submitted to their instructions but not his.
Years later, when Ukali began to pastor a small, local church. I served alongside him as I had tried to do for years in life, business and ministry. I wrestled for a while with the ‘normal progression’ of my life. Surely when God took over and began to dismantle my dreams he did not intend to take all of them? So where I was no longer pursuing a career in the judicial system, I was pursuing leadership in the church.
I was ordained as a pastor in 2005…and as confident as I was that this was a part of my destiny (prior to the actual ordination), after it was official I was even more confident that something was wrong….Where I had been instructed for the duration of my life to use my gifts and talents to lead in the church and in the community and in the government and secular market place, I had never been instructed or trained in how to use those same gifts and talents to serve in my home…. I plan to share more later, but for now I will let these questions and answers complete this post.
The following questions were posed by my friend, and I will share them and the answers with you as part of this post :-D.
Can you share some of the problems you experienced with women being in authority over men for men in the congregation?
In my experience, the men definitely seemed to struggle with my being a pastor, but interestingly enough, the women seemed to struggle more. Men in general, but specifically in the black community, historically and culturally have been emasculated on an entirely different level. This can definitely be seen in the home, but is also visible in the church.
Outside of the obvious issues, why is this a problem?
This is a problem of epic proportions because the church is one of the few places where we still see men in respected and holding positions of authority.
Why do you think this was more of an issue for women than it was for men?
I believe wholeheartedly that this was more of a problem for women than it was for the men in the congregation for a couple of reasons.
1.) The heart of a woman, ultimately, genuinely wants to see Adam in authority!!! In our heart of hearts we are still the daughters of Eve, and we carry the full awareness within us of the impact our non-submitted leadership had on the world. Though we resist, we actually take great joy in seeing our man lead the way that God ordained him to!
2.)Displaced Jealousy would be the second reason. We have been taught not only to refuse to submit to male authority, but to despise the authority of other women. Our lack of submission is a double-edged sword! We give the appearance of celebrating another woman’s ‘progress’, but before long, we want her gone. Hidden deep in our hearts, right next to our desire to truly see men elevated to their rightful position of authority, is another unrecognized longing to see women occupy their God-given domain BESIDE their men, serving as the co-laborer in the leading of the family, which includes the training of the children and the management of the first Fortune 500 Company; The Home.
Don’t misunderstand me, the men struggled as well. The black church was one of the few domains they had left. Their authority in the home had already been usurped by the impact of the feminist movement, and the positive spin being put on this horror by the modern church. In the church, the few men there, wanted to feel as if they still maintained a level of respect. So my being installed as a pastor alongside my husband, while celebrated on the surface, caused many a ripple beneath that same surface. The men, who had largely been raised by single mothers, were accustomed to a woman in authority, but it did not mean they liked it. I believe some also feared it would be a bad example for their wives, who many were struggling with at home. On the other hand, some men were genuinely happy, I believe simply because they did not know any better, and had been conditioned by the secular society that this is how things are supposed to be. 😦
And how did you being a pastor affect your faith and marriage?
Out of all of the people most impacted by my ordination, none were as greatly impacted by it as I was. My life had travelled towards this expectation since I was 16 years old, but now that it was realized at the age of 32 it felt hollow. My husband celebrated because he had been conditioned to by the church culture we were a part of, but it just didn’t feel right. My marriage, I don’t believe, suffered because we had always worked in ministry together as a team. Nothing changed where that was concerned. But something in me changed. Upon achieving this accomplishment, I realized I did not want it. During this time, my kids suffered. They will say that they did not, but I know in my heart they did. We were BOTH so busy with the church. We were BOTH so busy fixing the lives of other families and making sure they were ok. We were BOTH so focused on building a strong healthy church. Although we grieved mightily when the church that we pastored closed, we knew it was a blessing undisguised. We were following a faulty church model that pursued success and numbers and acclaim over the genuine conversion of souls. There was a spirit of competition like I had not seen in the world. There was a pride in the circles of church leadership…a lack of humility and transparency. Where the angels rejoiced over 1 if all you had was that one genuine one, you were looked down on. It was a true numbers game and I witnessed the same trends in the church as in the world..the slow but sure emasculation of men and the rise of women.
What pitfalls do you see?
The pitfalls personally witnessed and observed by me were numerous, but the primary one was within the home
The slow death of the family is the most obvious one. The more authority in the church women were given the less stable the homes were and the more unruly the kids became. The advancement of women within the church very closely resembled, in scope and loss of influence, the migration of women into the workplace during the industrial revolution. This was not just observed in the cases of women in leadership, but women who spent LARGE amounts of time ‘serving’ inside of the church building while refusing, neglecting, or failing to serve at home. The position of pastor was a coveted position because it had been denied women for so long, but today many women were and are encouraged to ‘seek’ that ‘office’. Now we are in classes and can’t cook for our husbands and children. Not only were many working outside the home, but now had taken on a full-time position within the church that was on a volunteer basis.
I believe that the question being asked in relation to women being ordained as a pastor in the silent hearts of most men is , “Is there nothing sacred?” Is there no domain where men are provided the space to rule??? To be and to become the men that God created them to be??? Restoring and maintaining authority in Gods house as well as in his own house is a Kingdom mandate that women have wrestled men for since the beginning. We were created equally influential in our specified areas of influence, but in our (the woman) efforts to occupy the sphere of influence delegated by God to our men, we have whittled them down to miniscule twigs, instead of using that same influence to build them up into the mighty Oaks they were created to be…This is not only in the world, but it permeates the church.
Although I have owned and operated a traditional business and currently own and operate a home based business with my sweetie, with the exception of my volunteer service in the church serving as a staff pastor, I have been a SAHM. With my varied experience with business and church let me say clearly that I have NO IDEA how women SUCCESSFULLY balance occupying leadership positions at home (marriage and children), work, and church! I have concluded that it is IMPOSSIBLE!!! Something WILL suffer…and most times it is our family. We look at church and work as things we HAVE to do..obligations we cannot break, while our family ‘knows that we love them’, and ‘understands’ that we have things to do. I have learned that they DO NOT understand the way we think they do, or would like them to! They understand that other things are more important than they are and we reap the fruit of communicating that for a long time.
This is a subject…a part of my past that it has been very easy to avoid now that we have removed ourselves from those circles… I cringe inside whenever we cross paths with those who called me Pastor Selena… My responsibilities included preaching on occasion to the entire congregation, as well as instructing the New Beginnings Class for all who were newly committed to Christ, male and female. I oversaw Children’s Ministry (which I no longer agree with the existence of), as well as Women’s Ministry (where I taught ‘Submission’ but from a skewed lens looking from the present day interpretation as opposed to the Biblical model)…
My prayer is that this gives you some insight from this side into this issue. This is difficult to talk about…that time in my life I believe I did more harm than good…and in my celebrated pride wounded many 😦 The church has no idea…we are soo influenced by the cultural trends of the world and don’t even realize that following that influence leads to death… 😦 We look at ourselves as ‘progressive’, but in all actuality, we are losing major ground every day…
A final word to any woman who believes in her heart that God has gifted her to shepherd…YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!! HE HAS…IN YOUR OWN HOME FIRST, THEN IN THE LIVES OF THE MANY YOUNG WOMEN HE WILL BRING YOUR WAY WHO ARE IN NEED OF BIBLICAL EXAMPLES IN A WORLD THAT HAS WORKED TO DESTROY US FROM THE BEGINNING. LIVE THE LIFE GOD CREATED YOU TO LIVE , AND LIVE IT FULLY WITH ALL OF THE INFLUENCE THAT COMES WITH BEING THE DAUGHTER OF THE KING. NEVER FORGET THAT THERE IS AN ADAM WHO NEEDS YOUR HELP ❤