Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Women in Ministry Part 3: Myth: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

I used to think that the best way to respond to arguments about women in ministry was to simply preach really, really well (sermons on Ruth and Esther don’t count). Win them over through example. “I don’t need to argue or make excuses. All I need to do it bring it from the pulpit.”

I no longer think this.

This all changed when I spoke at a family camp one summer. I was five months pregnant and had brought my two-year-old with me. John was working and I went without a babysitter. Not a good idea. Tiring beyond belief. I should add that in my current state I am more than willing to give up 50-75% of my honorarium to a good babysitter…and I do, but more on that later. (Psssst! Did you catch that? If you want to go into event speaking for the money, I recommend simply being the babysitter…it’s a much easier way to earn money).

Anyway, despite the busyness, it was one of those times where I was feeling good about my content and my connection with the people in the auditorium.

And then came the anxiety-producing spoilers. Two different “helpful” people approached me and said something along the lines of, “We are really taking a lot of heat for having you here. They are making note of this on the evaluations about not wanting a woman in the future. But I just wanted you to know you’re doing great. I’m so glad you’re here.” Gee. Thanks.

(Side note: In my experience there is always someone who enjoys telling you the negative things other people are saying of which they take no part. It’s a way of attempting intimacy. False intimacy, but a form of intimacy nonetheless).

It was then that I realized I could preach my heart out and even perform a miracle or two and I still would not be able to sway the hearts of nay-sayers. Unless someone is actively seeking answers, the idea of women in ministry tends to be one that lies recalcitrant in one’s heart. To operate with the understanding that a single sermon I preached could change the hearts and minds of others was unfair to my ministry. It placed an enormous amount of pressure on a sermon. It took away the joy of ministering.

It meant if I left that camp with a single person still doubting the role of women in ministry than my sermons simply weren’t good enough.

The truth of the matter is, denying the role of women in ministry is akin of stifling the Spirit. And it is a sin. And sometimes I forget the binding, blinding power of sin. Obviously, we serve a God whose blood is more powerful than the most hideous of sins. While I can testify to the work God is doing in my own life and within my own call, I am not responsible for healing sin. That kind of work is above my pay-grade.

So what’s the alternative? I wouldn’t say I’ve got an alternative. I still preach. And I still hope that somewhere along the way God might use my words to soften hearts. But at this point I am more concerned with preaching the Gospel rather than trying to anticipate where and how various seeds will land on hostile listeners. (FYI Friday’s post will deal specifically with the hostiles.) So that’s my take away. I just preach.

I also bring a babysitter.


Kelli Ward said...

Thanks for the series! It is amazing how, in completley different geographical locations, serving in different roles, and balancing different "stuff" in our lives, the issues of following God's call as a woman in ministry are consistent... and the frustrations, harsh comments, negative attitudes, and challenges are so similar it is uncanny.

Amanda said...

Thanks, Kelli. I will say, the 8 years I spent in Princeton were very formative for me. Very rarely was women in ministry talked was just done. Yes, conversations came up every now and then, particularly from women in unsupportive denominations, but for the most part it was just assumed. It was nice to train for the ministry at a place where my call wasn't questioned.