Women Who Serve in Ministry
You have a call on your life.
If you love Jesus and have decided to follow Him, then He has equipped you with both spiritual gifts and natural talents that are to be used to further the gospel and build the kingdom.
You are called to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), to teach (Matthew 28:20), and to preach the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2).
How you fulfill that calling can look differently for different women and in different seasons of life. For many years, I made little disciples in my home. As a teacher in Christian education, I also made disciples among my students.
I have taught and made disciples in my church, both working with children and youth.
Now, God is calling me to share the gospel, to make disciples, and to encourage others in their spiritual growth through writing and teaching other women.
As women who want to serve Jesus well, we can sometimes struggle with our place, especially when controversy surrounds the issue. My desire is not to tell you what to believe but to give you the bigger picture of how Scripture informs our beliefs.
I have spent this past year studying and writing about women in the Bible because this topic was of interest to me. Let me encourage you to dig into the Word as well and to study these passages for yourself.
I love these 50 words Paul shares in his letter to the Romans, because they shed light on his support for women in ministry.
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.”Romans 16:1, NIV 84
First, Paul calls her “our sister.” Phoebe was a fellow believer and part of the family of God.
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”Galatians 3:26-28
Second, Paul calls her “a servant of the church in Cenchrea.” The word translated servant is diakonos, which means servant or minister. This role probably referred to her ministry to other women, possibly through baptizing, teaching, and caring for the needs of widows and orphans.
“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them, Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”Matthew 20:25-26
Third, Paul calls her a helper, which from the original Greek, can be translated benefactor or patron. More than likely, Phoebe was a woman of financial means who helped support the spread of the gospel, as many women had supported Jesus.
“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”Luke 8:1-3
Just as Jesus had women disciples who followed Him and supported Him–unheard of in His culture–Paul also encouraged women in ministry.
Let’s not forget, Phoebe was chosen to deliver the epistle to the Romans. Paul entrusted her with this important letter that spells out the gospel: how to be saved, the relationship between Jew and Gentile in God’s plan of redemption, and what it means to walk in the righteousness of God.
Travel during those days was dangerous, and it was a good 700 miles by both sea and land to get from Cenchrea to Rome. We know from Paul’s other letters that he sent them in the hands of people he knew and trusted. Phoebe fell into that category.
Dear sister in Christ, I understand the controversy that surrounds our role in ministry, but I believe we each need to get into the Word and pray and seek the Lord to guide us in how we fulfill the Great Commission.
Yes, there are some difficult passages in the New Testament in which Paul seems to be saying that women should be quiet in the church. We must be sure to study these passages and understand them in the proper context.
Paul also commended women for their service as fellow workers (Romans 16, Philippians 4:2-3). He assumed women were praying and prophesying in church (1 Corinthians 11:5).
And in fact, when he says women should learn in quietness and submission (1 Timothy 2:11) and ask their husband at home if they have questions (1 Corinthians 14:33-35), he is actually going beyond the cultural norms of that time to say that women should be learning the Word at all!
Both the Old and New Testaments are full of references to women who served God with the talents and gifts God gave them. You can read about some of them here, here, and here.
Sound interpretation involves considering the whole counsel of Scripture, not just a few passages that speak to an issue.
And we have already covered in many posts this past year how Jesus elevated women to a status that was definitely counter-cultural in His time.
Bottom line, it’s our job to seek the Lord and His Word rather than just be informed by someone else’s idea of what is right and wrong. Let’s not get caught up in the emotionalism of the moment, but rather let’s be committed to prayer and Bible study so that we can serve God well.
There are many ways to fulfill the Great Commission as women. How we do that is secondary to the reason for it, and that is the gospel message, which is desperately needed in our world today.
So, I hope that I have given you a desire to seek the Lord, to study His Word, and to serve Him with your whole heart in a way that brings Him glory. Let’s allow God to use this struggle for His glory as we commit ourselves anew to serve Him well.
Want to learn more about women in the Bible? Get my book Just Like Us: Wisdom from the Women of the Bible.