What if Loving Your Neighbor Means Even Women In Ministry?
It’s challenging being a woman in today’s culture because of social media, the fast pace of life, and the mental load we carry. When you add ministry to the mix, things level up. Women who minister to others often feel lonely, misunderstood, and unsupported. Sometimes, we feel as if we have a huge target on our backs.
The stories are too common; women whose ministry roles brought them face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) with critics whose only thought was belittling or objectifying the female in front of them. Exhibit A: I once had a church member ask me what I wrote about. “Women in the Bible,” I answered.
“Oh, so you’re a femi-Nazi,” he said.
Exhibit B: female worship leader friends who’ve confided that a man said they “looked sexy” after the service.
Exhibit C: Beth Moore. By now, you’ve most likely seen the headlines about her exit from Southern Baptists (my own denomination). It grieves my heart that Beth felt she had no option but to leave. However, I totally understand her doing so. I’ve watched with growing dismay as she’s been vilified, mocked, and hounded on social media. The angry mob grew especially loud after she refused to support Trump or be silent about a) racism and b) the ways our denomination’s leaders and pastors had dealt with sexual abuse revelations. (To be clear, this treatment of her came from believers in many different denominations, not just Southern Baptists.)
It’s okay to have ideological differences and come down on different sides of issues; what’s not okay is bullying those with whom we disagree.
As David French recently wrote, “You can go down entire YouTube rabbit holes featuring video after video of Christian critics attacking her in sneering and condescending terms. The online abuse has been astounding. Critics dissected her public statements syllable by syllable and fired missile after missile...The message was simple--Beth Moore is wrong. The gloves are off.”
“There is a tremendous, yawning difference between humble and kind members of competing Evangelical factions and cruel and self-righteous gladiators in the public square.”
About a decade ago, I worked full-time at a non-profit while writing in my spare time. One day, I posted a story on my blog about how a homeless woman and I struck up a conversation and found we were both doing a Beth Moore Bible study. Someone must have told Beth about it, because she left an encouraging comment for me (that was a stellar day). Later, I met Beth early one morning at a Christian book expo, and I told her how much her teaching and studies had meant to me--a woman called to ministry since the age of eleven--especially since we shared the same denomination. On both occasions, she was gracious and kind, and she gave credit to Jesus, not herself.
Speaking of our ultimate role model: Jesus continually, lifted women up. In a culture which treated women as property or inferior beings, Jesus called women to follow Him and treasured their friendship. Moreover, Jesus didn’t put women down or attempt to put them in their place. He did the opposite. Whether he was kindly debating the woman at the well about theology or compassionately healing the woman with the issue of blood, He respected the image of God inherent within the person in front of Him.
In Luke 10, Jesus admonished Martha to worry about one thing, and that wasn’t housework or the kitchen; it was about being singularly devoted to Him. It seems to me that Beth Moore has been singularly devoted to Jesus, which makes the ways she’s been treated even more frustrating.
With those thoughts in mind, here are a few ways we can better support the women in our circles who have said “yes” to ministry but may now be wounded, weary, or just plain worn-out.
Pray for women in ministry
We need it. And if you’re praying for a woman in ministry, tell her. It may be the healing balm she didn’t know she needed.
If you hear someone making an offensive comment about a woman in ministry, don’t laugh it off or do nothing. Speak up for women; Jesus would.
Equip gifted women
Do you have women in your congregation or circle of acquaintances who have talent and passion for music, writing, speaking, teaching, shepherding, or advocacy? Encourage them to get training at a Christian college or seminary. Better yet, establish a church scholarship fund for women called to ministry.
Teach about biblical women leaders
Women need to hear the stories of women in the Bible who led righteously and valiantly. We’ve heard many sermons about the Proverbs 31 woman, Esther, and Ruth; we’ve rarely if ever heard messages from the pulpit about Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna, Phoebe, or Priscilla. Hearing about biblical women who led others well encourages today’s ministry women to keep the faith and not grow weary.
I’ll leave you with a note my teaching pastor Malcolm Yarnell posted to social media last week:
The Woman before you is not a means to your end. She’s not here to be dominated, used, ignored. She is not a temptation to avoid but a person to respect.
Woman bears God’s Image equally with Man.
If Women aren’t honored fully in your congregation, then reform your Men.
A Fellow Shepherd.”
Dena Dyer is a professional author, speaker, and book coach, as well as the author or co-author of ten books and hundreds of articles. In her day job, she serves as Executive Assistant to Jamie Aten at Wheaton’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute. Ministry roles she’s held include worship leader, youth minister, non-profit director, and teacher. Her book (co-written with Tina Samples), Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts, was named the Golden Scroll Non-Fiction Book of the Year in 2014 and was a finalist in Serious Writer’s 2020 “Book of the Decade” Contest. She lives in Texas with her husband, youngest son, and their rescue pup. Follow her on Instagram or Facebook.