by Rayola Kelley
Q: I still have some doubts about the role of women in ministry. Let me first say that I DON’T hold to the view that God doesn't use women. That is a primitive view, to say the least. I am fully aware that God does pour out His Spirit upon ALL flesh, which of course includes men and women, and that He is no respecter of persons, meaning He does not discriminate, as man does, on the basis of gender or race. Where my question lies is concerning God's order. My sisters, I am sincere in my attempt to understand this often hotly contested and debated issue concerning women in ministry, and therefore I write, in an effort to ascertain what is the truth in this matter, and to broaden my understanding if need be. In my twenty years of walking with the Lord, I have often taken one side or the other at one time or the other concerning this issue. However, I would like, if at all possible, to settle the issue in my heart and mind. Again, therefore I write. As concerning God's order, I understand that He made them male and female, and that men and women are on equal footing in Christ. However, in the scope of things, I thought man is the head (or authority) over the woman, Not as some domineering, controlling, abusive, slave-driving authority, but in matters where a decision has to be made, whether in spiritual or natural matters and/or church or husband/wife matters, after all input the final responsibility rested upon the man to make the decision and be held accountable to God for it. Maybe that is more what I am talking about, responsibility and accountability instead of authority. I understand that every believer in Christ has equal authority. The scriptures clearly [state] that and it would be foolish to believe otherwise. I think where I am having a problem is that I believe in God's economy He has given ultimate responsibility to man for what goes on in the earth, both spiritually and naturally. In other words, in the home, when things go haywire, isn't God going to hold the man to a greater accountability than the woman, because he is the head? What about in the church? Is a woman supposed to have greater accountability and responsibility than the man, or no? Mind you, I have heard women in leadership who are very good bible teachers (My sister Rayola is one of those very good teachers) and in some cases better leaders than some men I have seen in leadership. I don't understand where, if at all, the line is drawn, and at what point is a woman overstepping the order God has set for the man to be the head. And is a man wrong if he allows himself to be under the authority of a woman when it comes to spiritual matters? . . . I don't want to hold to a view that is not biblical nor do I want to put restraints that God has not ordained, on what women can or cannot do in ministry. I believe this issue needs to be settled in my heart, for I do believe that God has plans for me in ministry(serving) and I am sure that will include working with women (which I don't have a problem with at all). However, I don't want to be biased or discriminatory in any way towards any of my sisters in Christ, and I do desire for God to use them to the fullest. Well, I know I have said more than a mouthful. I do thank you for your patience and love in Christ toward me and I am very thankful for our continued fellowship.
A: I appreciate your desire to know the truth. As you know, I do oversee the welfare of souls in the harvest field. When I consider souls, I see neither male nor female, but God's sheep. My understanding of the Church is there is only one head over all, and that is the man, our High Priest and mediator, Jesus Christ. Daily, I submit to His Lordship and seek His leadership in the matter of feeding His sheep the milk of pure doctrine and the meat of His truth.
You are right; there is an order in God's kingdom. But, what many fail to recognize is that Jesus is the first of that order. He is over all, and all will come into submission to Him. The Bible is clear that we are to submit to one another out of the fear of God. I do not submit to a person, but to the truth and authority of God that is present in the person's life regardless of whether that person is male or female. When I submit to the truth, I am not submitting to the person. As a minister of Jesus I am to come into subjection to His leadership and into submission to others in order to fulfill the plan of God. I do not see myself as a leader or authority over others. I see myself as a servant in submission to others for the benefit of the whole Body of Christ. I encourage men to lead men through example and instruction according to Spirit and truth. But, I also recognize that Barak recognized the leadership of Deborah. Was he being a wimp or was he being wise because He recognized God was with her? Although many men criticize him for his willingness to recognize and submit to the authority she had in God, he is still accredited with subduing kingdoms in Hebrews 11:32-33. Why? Because he was not submitting to a woman, but to the authority that God had entrusted to her. Therefore, by humble faith he was submitting to God.
There is an order in the home, but in reality Jesus still must be Lord in that home if there is going to be godliness in it. Man is to love his wife. Godly love will come into submission by honoring or exalting the welfare of the wife above the husband’s own welfare. A woman is to come into godly submission in light of the Lordship of Jesus. In other words, she will submit to that which is greater (Jesus) for the benefit of the whole family. The problem is that man has placed himself as the head of the church because he is a man. God called both Adam and Eve "man." It was Adam that made the distinction of calling Eve "woman." Jesus did not die for men and women, He died for lost souls. After all, when we put off these bodies, there will be no gender in the kingdom of heaven. Gender was never meant to define our place or calling in Christ. It was meant to become a form of discipline that would determine in what way we would express our devotion. For men it is sacrificial love, for women it is devoted servitude. Sacrifice gives up all to possess greatness, and servitude gives way to that which is greater to reach greatness.
Let us be honest, the problem with the church is there are too many men trying to take Jesus' place over others. Wherever men put in their two cent’s worth there is perversion and problems. I think it is time for men to step down and let Christ take His rightful place, whether it be in His Church, in homes or in His people's lives. I am sure you will admit that you do not submit to people in the Christian realm based on their gender, but based on whether they are speaking the truth. As believers we do not submit to the vessel, but to the truth. And, why do we submit to truth? Because we love it, we love the essence of truth which is Jesus Christ. In fact, if a donkey spoke the truth we would submit to it.
You need to discern what the real issue is in God's kingdom. It is not the vessels that He may use; rather it will always come down to submitting to His Spirit and truth. I do hope this will help you resolve this in your mind and heart.