Can a Woman be a Pastor?

by | Updated December 8th, 2019

What does the Bible say about women being in ministry, pastors and church leaders? 1 Timothy 2:12 says, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise (usurp) authority over a man.” The key point here is the usurping of authority over men. Typically, not exclusively, when a woman is the pastor of a church, women tend to be the leaders in the families of that church rather than the men. This is especially true in smaller churches where a woman is the pastor.

While women being the leaders of their family rather than the men is obviously contrary to scripture, the problem isn’t that a woman is in a position of leadership, but that a man isn’t doing it. Henry Ironside was approached by someone after seeing a woman preaching and they said to him, “Isn’t that a shame?” Ironside responded, “It sure is a shame. It’s a shame a man isn’t doing it.”

Daughters Shall Prophesy

Peter prophesied, “It shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). Notice it says your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.

Regardless of your perspective on prophecy, they were definitely ministering publicly. Combining Acts 2:17 with 1 Timothy 2:12 could mean that a woman can minister and/or pastor as long as she is under the authority of her husband and the male leadership of the church. My pastor and overseer in ministry taught that a woman could pastor as long as she had a strong male board of elders over her.

Pastor or preacher?

We must also keep in mind that being a pastor and preaching are two totally different things. There have been many successful women in ministry. Women who have won many to Christ, edified and strengthened the church. Deborah brought victory to Israel in Judges 4 and 5 as one of the great Judges of Israel. We see nothing of God rebuking her for taking charge. Again, the problem in Judges was that a man didn’t step up.

Today, there are no doubt many women who are being used of God. Regardless of what you think about women in ministry, many have been and are being used of God to affect people’s lives for His glory. God is glorified anytime the Word of God is being taught or preached and lives are being changed for the better. There is an important distinction between a woman as a Bible teacher or evangelist, etc. and one being a pastor, where she is in a regular position of authority over the men and families of a particular body of believers.

Make Disciples of all Nations

As long as they are doctrinally sound, the gospel is being preached, and the Word of God taught or proclaimed, who am I to say they shouldn’t be in ministry? We are commanded to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) and “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Again, as long as they are doctrinally sound, the gospel is being preached, the Word of God taught, and people are being saved, I say, go for it! The problem scripturally is, not women being in ministry and preaching or teaching the Word of God but with the usurping of male authority in the church (1 Timothy 2:12).

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