Jump directly to the Content Jump directly to the Content

Troublesome Women Preachers

We join a long legacy of prophetic witness to the gospel.

Editor’s Note: This year for Thanksgiving, we want you to know that we’re thankful for you! For all the work you put in, for all the awkward situations you navigate, for all the hard messages you preach. Being a woman in ministry is not always an easy path. But you are doing it. So today we offer this sermon from Rev. Tiffany Thomas to let you know just how thankful we are for all the troublesome women preachers out there.

Rev. Thomas originally preached this sermon at the North Carolina Women’s Preaching Festival. It is the second part of a duo preaching presentation with Rev. Kara Slade. They followed the lectionary text for the day and purposely chose the Pauline Epistle to make the statement that female preachers can and do find liberating and affirming messages in Paul’s writings. First Corinthians 15:1–11 was read from The Message before she began. —Amy Jackson

A woman preacher is a woman in trouble.

There is that troublesome God who plucks us from the simple linear life that we created for ourselves and calls us into ministry.

There are those troublesome insecurities, that voice that rings in our heads: Who am I to stand in front of people and speak. I am nobody.

There is that troublesome glass ceiling that women have been hurling stones at for generations. But that pesky glass is strong and hard to crack.

There are those troublesome stereotypes. The covert and overt messages that say, “If you are going to be a woman preacher you have to look a certain way. Talk a certain way. Stand a certain way. Be a certain way.”

And then. And then. And then.

There are those troublesome voices who say again and again to women preachers: You do not belong in the pulpit, you do not belong in the episcopacy, you do not belong in leadership in the church. And if you think otherwise then you are just being troublesome.

That’s why I love this text in I Corinthians 15. Because Paul here is the exemplary model for every preacher but I would argue his words here are an exemplary model for women preachers especially.

Why?

For a simple truth, a simple fact, we all know to be true about Paul: Paul was troublesome.

He preached the gospel all over the Roman Empire. Without license, without approval, without permission. And he was constantly facing resistance from his fellow preachers.

“You little upstart, who do you think you are,” they would declare. “You don’t belong to our good ol’ boy preaching club. You are not an apostle. Were you there to see Jesus walk on water? Did you see him feed the masses? Where you there when he died on the cross and revealed himself to us in the upper room?”

“Aha!” Paul replies here in this text. “It is just as you say. Jesus presented himself alive to Peter. To his disciples. To James and to many more.

And then. And then. And then.

"He presented himself alive to me! To me! To me!"

"It was fitting that I bring up the rear" (1 Cor. 15:3–9, MSG).

"It was fitting that I, too, join this long legacy of prophetic witness to the holy gospel."

He goes on to say that it was fitting not because he was so holy. Not because he was so worthy. Not because he had never made any mistakes. But because God is so gracious. He says in the text, "I am not about to let his grace go to waste" (1 Cor. 15:10–11, MSG).

And so he responds: I’m sorry if proclaiming the message is troublesome to you. I’m sorry if I cause you trouble. But you see, it’s not me. It is the troublesome God who is in me. It is the troublesome God who has sent me. It is the troublesome God who presented himself alive to me.

And don’t you see that similar to Paul, a woman preacher is a woman in trouble.

Every time she lifts her voice to preach the message, she is troubling the still waters of the church.

She is troubling how things used to be.

She is troubling our understanding of 1 Timothy and Ephesians.

So it is incumbent upon all female preachers to, like Paul, stand boldly and declare: I know I am a lot of trouble. But you have to understand that it is not me.

It is the God in me.

It is the God who sent me.

It is the God who presented himself alive to me.

It is exactly as Scripture says, Jesus died for our sins.

It is exactly as Scripture says, he was buried in the grave.

It is exactly as Scripture says, he was raised from the dead.

And it is exactly as Scripture says, Jesus revealed himself to Peter, and James, and Paul.

And me! And me! And me!

Because it is exactly as Scripture says in Joel 2, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people and your sons and your daughters will prophesy(Joel 2:28).

And so it is fitting that I bring up the rear.

Not because I am so holy. Not because I am so special. Not because I have never made any mistakes. But because God is so gracious. And I am not about to let that grace go to waste.

And so I admonish you today, you women preachers, to own your space in the long legacy of prophetic witness to the holy gospel. Do not be afraid to bring up the rear.

What does that mean? Ultimately, that means do not be afraid to be troublesome.

For a woman preacher is a woman in power.

A woman preacher is a woman in strength.

A woman preacher is a woman in audacity.

A woman preacher is a woman in trouble.

Tiffany Thomas is a native of Columbus, Ohio. She earned her BA from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She pursued her MDiv from Duke University. She is currently serving as senior pastor of South Tryon Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. This article is excerpted from her blog and used with permission.

November23, 2015 at 8:00 AM

Recent Posts

When Your Calling Is Challenged
As hardships come, you have 1 of 3 options.
What Is Calling?
Defining this “super-spiritual” word
Cultivate Your Calling in Each Stage of Life
Angie Ward discusses cultivating leadership amid ever-changing responsibilities.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
How to know whether to leave or stay in your ministry context.

Follow us

FacebookTwitterRSS

free newsletters:

Most Popular Posts

Does the Bible Really Say I Can’t Teach Men?How Should the Church Handle Adultery? Meet Sexual Sin with Truth and GraceThe Strong Power in Every Woman