On Monday, I posted How Culture Shapes Our Perspective. Tonight, I thought I’d briefly share how my own life has been impacted by the culture of my community.
I grew up in a traditional, conservative Baptist home with loving parents and three awesome brothers. My dad was a pastor and my mom homeschooled us and volunteered countless hours in service to the church. If you count my childhood, I was a complimentarian for nearly thirty years. By that, I mean that I believed that it was God’s design for men to be the heads of their households and for wives to submit to their husbands’ leadership. For many complimentarians, there is a distinction between women preaching and teaching (OK) and women in leadership (NOT OK), but for most, women should not teach men, as this would be a position of authority.
I was a naturally easy-going and compliant child and young adult, and was a classic people pleaser. This particular quality made me admirable in my Christian community. But I was also a natural leader among my peers in the church, and at Gordon College, I held many leadership positions in student ministries. Looking back at my college days, I am grateful for three women, two were seminary students and one was a professor, who took my under their wings and discipled me. While I was in seminary, I led a Christian fellowship on a non-Christian campus. I felt like I had fallen into my calling, as I mentored young leaders and taught Bible lessons and grew the ministry. That’s when my complimentarian views first conflicted with my personal life. What if this ministry was a church? Would I be restricted from leadership because of my gender? I still wasn’t brazen enough to make such a bold shift in perspective, although this was the first time I asked the question.
After seminary and a few years of married life and lay-ministry in a Baptist church, there was a period of conflict that tore the church apart. My family was caught in the cross-fire, and I again wondered about women in leadership when I thought about some of the mature believers in the church who had no voice or influence in resolving the conflict, simply because they were women.
About three years ago, I was watching Beth Moore’s Bible study, The Inheritance, when I had a lighting-bolt sensation that God was telling me I was called to co-pastor with my husband. We had been talking about Logan planting a church, and I was excited to partner with him, but not really sure how I would be involved. Deep down, I wanted to be alongside him in ministry, not looking on from courtside. When I felt called to pastoral ministry, I was one part convinced that I had heard from God, and one part confused and embarrassed. When men feel called to ministry, it is cause for great celebration, but for me, it was cause for shame and doubt. I began studying the topic of women in ministry and very soon was convinced that not only are women free to participate in leadership, but also that it was never God’s design for women to be in submission to men’s leadership. The message of the Bible is that hierarchy is not God’s design but came into being after the fall, and that participating in God’s kingdom on earth means women are a part of the royal priesthood, today. God created both man and woman in His image and gave them the order to have dominion, together. There will certainly not be a hierarchy of believers in heaven, and God’s kingdom is already available to us today. I felt confident that God had prepared good works for me to do, and to accept the charge, I would have to challenge my complimentarian roots.
One of the ways God has bolstered my confidence in my calling is by bringing Logan and me into community with other egalitarians (those who believe in equal power in the church for men and women) and several couples that co-pastor together. Community is a powerful influence. The greatest support has come from my husband, who looks forward to co-pastoring with me. To change perspective on women in ministry is to rock the boat, if you come from a complimentarian community like myself. But for me, it has brought freedom to follow the fullness of my giftings and calling.
Let me leave you with a link to an excellent blog post that describes the difference between being a Good Christian Woman and an Ex Good Christian Woman. She draws some great comparisons that I deeply identified with! Ex Good Christian Women by Kathy Escobar.
Until next time,
Peace and Blessings – Ruth
Image credit – pictures snapped by Ruth, coming home from church on Sunday.