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Too Girly To Lead? US Embassy New Zealand / Flickr

Too Girly To Lead?

May 30 2013
God cares more about our gifts than our gender.

"Her duties undoubtedly begin with the home, and if home duties be generally neglected, all attempts at performing wider ones will be more or less disastrous failure."

Were it not for the slightly outdated syntax, this statement could very well have been taken from some Christian organizations, instead of a description of wifely duties from the 1896 book Woman's Work in the Home.

As we examine women in leadership in different realms of life, we must also look at their roles in the church, and the connection between giftedness and gender.

Women make up only 10 percent of senior pastors and are paid less than their male counterparts, according to a 2009 Barna study. The figures are even lower among evangelical churches. At a time when women are making great strides in other areas—advancing in higher education, heading up a record number of Fortune 500 companies, and gaining influence in government—why is the church lagging so far behind? And what are the obstacles that restrict women from understanding and using their gifts on behalf of the Body of Christ?

Anecdotally, we can probably all list the reasons. Women find themselves reluctant to stand up in lead in an environment where we're not encouraged (or even discouraged) to do so. We are taught that church leadership roles are reserved for men; we grow up hearing that it isn't polite for us to express our opinions; we are still told, at least implicitly, that our place is in the home, with the kids, the cooking, and the Pinterest crafts.

But is there a place for women at the table? If a woman possesses the spiritual gifts of teaching or leadership, would it be best for her to ignore them so that men can take their place? Paul's writings in Romans 16 and 1 Corinthians 12 have a great deal to say—which might be surprising, considering the bad rap Paul gets when it comes to women's roles in the church.

Paul concludes his letter to the Romans by commending a number of people to the church at Rome, including Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, Junia, and "Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord." Paul wasn't thanking them for their delicious potato salad at the church potluck—important though that is. He wrote to publicly recognize these women whose contributions had done nothing less than help to establish the Christian church.

As Christians, men and women, we are responsible for recognizing the spiritual gifts that God has given us, as we read in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:

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