Recently, a well-known pastor in California announced that his church was ordaining three women as pastors. They are not being ordained as senior pastors, but the concept of ordination was clearly present, so this is more than semantics. There is not an example in the Bible of women being ordained as pastors, but is this really a big deal?
In our day, many people are focused on women’s rights and opportunities. Rightly, women now can run companies, serve as firefighters, and hold high political offices. In the Bible we see women like Esther, Deborah, and others who had great spiritual influence over the people of God. These are not, however, the same as ordained pastors. Many denominations have been ordaining women as pastors for several decades now. We sincerely believe the Bible is the foundation for our faith and practice, so that is where we should start on this difficult issue. On women as pastors, there are two things in the Bible that need to be worked through. The "husband of one wife" statements in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 clearly assume a man is a pastor or “teaching elder.”
Also, the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:12, speaks of women not being permitted to teach men or usurp authority in a public church setting. The context lets us see that the teaching Paul is referring to is Bible teaching to a mixed congregation, not teaching music, missions, Sunday School administration, or holding a women’s Bible study. Since a pastoral position carries with it a certain ecclesiastical authority, that again would keep a woman from serving as a pastor under normal circumstances. There is, however, not a restriction on women proclaiming God’s message if it is to other women or if it is done outside the local church setting in a non-pastoral role.
We find in Acts 2:17 that sons and daughters shall prophesy, that is, proclaim the Word of the Lord in these last days. Also in Acts 21:9 we find that Phillip had “four daughters who also prophesied.” These women proclaimed God’s message somehow, even though they did not serve as pastors in a local church. I think I should add—there may be situations where there is not a pastor available and in that case a woman may need to step up to do pastoral-type ministry. I am thinking especially on the mission field.
Sharing Jesus and discipling believers is a priority, and that must be done even if a pastor is not available. Paul is giving Timothy and Titus teaching on local church conduct where there are men called and qualified to pastor. But if there is no such man, a spiritually mature woman may need to serve in that capacity until a qualified pastor can be found and called. Some try to explain away the teaching on women as pastors as part of an ancient culture that no longer applies, but I think God has a reason for this. First, He knows the carnal tendency of men to "leave the religion to the women and children." Second, I think the Lord is providing an example in the church to help men be spiritual leaders in their homes.
We have too many men who think spiritual leadership is honking the car horn while their wives get the kids ready for church. There are women authors and Bible commentators that I greatly enjoy reading and I listen to their teaching as well. I would not, however, recommend them to be pastors or have them in the church pulpit on a Sunday morning with a mixed audience for the reasons above. My concern is not with church tradition, but rather in violating the passages God has inspired and recorded in His Word. It has nothing to do with their obvious intelligence and spiritual maturity. The real issue is not what culture says, but what the Bible teaches us about our faith and practice.
--David Frasure is senior pastor, First Baptist Church, South Lebanon