I was captain of our debate team in high school. Several times a year we would compete in debate tournaments with schools all around California in debating different topics such as gun control, drug laws, and euthanasia. I learned a lot from those tournaments—not from the debates, but from the unique way we were taught to prepare!
We were told to study all the different viewpoints of an issue and be prepared to represent every side, but here’s the catch: we’d be told on the day of the tournament which viewpoint we’d be representing! This took a lot of work because I’d have to be fully prepared to argue a viewpoint in which I did not personally believe. This taught me two things: how to understand the views of others, and how to respect viewpoints with which I differ. I take this same approach when exploring important biblical and theological issues on which Christians have differing views.
Throughout the history of the Christian church and culture there have been different views of the role of men and women in public ministry. Some believe the Bible teaches that certain leadership and ministry roles should be gender specific. Others believe the Bible teaches that leadership and ministry is only based on spiritual gifting. And there are various viewpoints in between these two ends of the continuum. Here at Journey we have pastors, elders, ministry leaders, and congregation members with various viewpoints on this topic.
In 2017 I invited our elders at Journey into a season of study, prayer, discussion, and discernment about the role of women in leadership and ministry at Journey of Faith to explore how we understand what the Bible says about women preaching on Sundays. Currently, women are involved in almost all areas of ministry at Journey, including on our pastoral team, executive leadership, finance team, sermon preparation, curriculum writing, worship team, and Bible teaching.
Some of you might be thinking, “Don’t women already preach at Journey?” Well, our Sunday messages take different forms including one person preaching, panels, and team teaching, but we have never had women preaching Sunday morning sermons without being part of team that included men. So, let me share with you the process we have gone through as a church and how we see God directing us in the Fall.
Believing that Scripture is our final authority of issues of faith and practice, we first sought to study the key passages of Scripture related to this topic. You can see them here. To support and enhance our study of Scripture, we enlisted the help of noted theologians, scholars, and ministry leaders well-versed in differing positions on the topic. You can see some of them here. Finally, to encourage respectful dialogue, we listened to a couple of helpful podcasts that model healthy interaction on this topic. You can find them here.
During and after our study and conversation, we came to the following conclusions: We believe women are gifted and called to biblical leadership and communication, including preaching in church services. We believe the fullest expression of our church and mission in the South Bay is expressed with women and men communicating God’s Word. We believe it is our biblical responsibility to encourage, equip, and empower women in leadership, preaching, and all areas of church ministry. The only exception to this remain the positions of Lead Pastor and what we call “elder” which will continue to be an area of further study, prayer, discernment, and discussion.
So, this Fall, we’re excited to hear from Pastor Jill Lewolt as part of our series on 1 Thessalonians.
Topics like this give rise to important conversation and, sometimes, impassioned debate. Here are some guidelines I suggest when discussing any issue for which you and other Christians have strong opinions:
- Explore the issue for yourself. Many of us have beliefs and convictions that we’ve picked up from culture, tradition, or what we have been taught by other people. As Christians, we should be known for our eager desire to know and apply Scripture correctly (2 Timothy 2:15, Acts 17:11). Read, study, and listen thoroughly. Look into the views of respected, godly, biblical thinkers whose views differ than your own. Be honest about your own assumptions, biases, and fears. And stay away from “either/or thinking” if there are a variety of ways to interpret non-essential Christian topics.
- Seek to understand, more than be understood. There are a lot of topics about which Christians have different views (when Jesus will return, how to understand Genesis 1–2, spiritual gifts). When there are different ways to understand Scripture, listening becomes so much more important (James 1:19, Proverbs 18:13). Ask good questions. Be patient when you discover differing views and be careful to not allow your strong emotions to close off good conversation.
- Lead with love. We live in an “argument culture” where the need to be right often overshadows the need to be kind. Jesus said the sign that people will know that we are Christians is by our love for one another (John 13:35). New Testament authors often cite “gentleness” as one of the great virtues of Christian leadership (Galatians 5:22–23, 1 Peter 3:15, 2 Timothy 2:25). Especially on topics and issues that are not core beliefs of the faith, our love for one another takes priority over everything.
If you have questions, concerns, or want to explore more, please let us know; we have more resources that we can share with you. We want to continue the culture we have at Journey by having respectful and biblically-guided discussions about all our beliefs and convictions, especially those (like this one) that aren’t at “the center of the bullseye” of our Core Beliefs.
Doesn’t Journey of Faith already have women in leadership and teaching? Yes. For over a decade, gifted and called women have been serving in leadership and teaching roles at Journey of Faith, including being involved in sermon development and preaching. Women are serving on our Executive Leadership Team, which works alongside our Elder Board in overseeing church ministry.
What are the different views people have on the role of women in ministry? There are commonly two categories for discussing this topic: Complementarians believe that women and men are equal, but there are certain roles reserved only for men. Egalitarians believe that men and women are equal and there are no roles reserved only for men. While these are two specific categories of thought, it is better to see the overall issue as a continuum, with people having many variations on these views, based on their interpretation of the Bible, upbringing, culture, and personal preferences.
How often do women preach at Journey? Can any women preach? Our preaching schedule and speakers are set by our teaching team on a series-by-series basis throughout the year, so there is not a set frequency of who preaches and how often, although the majority of the preaching is done by our Lead Pastor. Currently, our speakers are pastors at our church who have teaching gifts and are trained in our preaching philosophy.
How does Journey of Faith understand the Bible verse that says women be “silent in church?” There are at least five biblically sound interpretations of 1 Corinthians 14:34. We believe that this command is most likely addressing disruptive communication in church services. Because there are references to women praying and prophesying earlier in this letter (1 Corinthians 11:3-16), we do not believe this command prohibits women verbally participating in services.
How does Journey of Faith understand the Bible verse that forbids women to “teach and have authority over men?” There are at least five biblically sound interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, and we have congregation members, staff, pastors, and elders that hold each of these different views. To proceed in unity, we all support women preaching and have committed to continued study, prayer, discernment, and discussion regarding the different interpretations of this influential section of Scripture.
Does Journey of Faith ordain women? We do not have any ordination process for women or men. We refer pastors seeking ordination to our ministry partners who provide this. Scripturally, the Bible does not address the topic of ordination.
How does Pastor Jason feel about this personally? Pastor Jason’s own spiritual life has been heavily influenced by godly, biblical female leaders. He has a personal conviction that we must not base our decision in this issue on passages of Scripture that are not clear or agreed upon as essential Christian teaching. He wants to keep us unified in sharing the Gospel and empower women to serve, lead, and preach to the full extent that Scripture allows.