Thursday, March 17, 2011

Do You Really Want a Woman in the Pulpit?

Pam Durso, executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, recently shared a very positive report on this year’s Martha Stearns Marshall month of preaching.  This initiative encourages churches to invite a woman to preach on one Sunday in February and share that information with BWIM.  Durso reported that 183 churches hosted female preachers this year, up from 107 last year.

I wonder if churches are really ready for this.  If a church chooses to invite a woman to fill the pulpit, there may be some unexpected consequences (please note that I write this with tongue firmly inserted in cheek and a twinkle in my eye).

For example, congregants might be forced to confront their prejudices that a woman cannot preach.  Of course, since most Baptists in the south have never heard a woman preach (even though women give “devotionals” and “testimonies” very often), they really don’t know whether a woman can preach or not but avoid assuming that is even a possibility!  The experience might be life transforming.  

Another danger is that the woman speaker may provide an insight into scripture that the audience has not heard before.  Because of her background, the preacher may bring life experiences that will illuminate the text in a new way.  Hearers might even be brought closer to God.

Perhaps we should give some consideration that the congregation, usually more than half of whom are usually female, might actually identify with the preacher in a new and unique way.  I know some great men preachers, but I wonder what impact it has on women in a congregation to hear a man preach every Sunday but to never hear a woman preach.  If having a woman take up the offering and serve the Lord’s Supper is encouraging to our female children and young women, what would having a woman preach mean to them?

The big concern is that once we hear a woman preach, we might actually want more.  This would open the door to pulpit committees giving serious consideration to female candidates for pastor.   This would increase the competition for “senior pastor” positions (yes, I know that term is never used in the New Testament) and there are only so many good spots to go around as there is. 

So, if your church considers inviting a woman to preach, be prepared for the consequences.  It could well change your church.

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