“There’s no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period, paragraph, end of discussion.” John MacArthur
My partner and I were listening to a Joyce Meyer sermon on TV last Sunday, since we’re not attending in-person church during the pandemic. We enjoy her upbeat messages and the way she emphasizes service and living positively.
In case you haven’t heard of her, Joyce Meyer’s father sexually abused her for years, she endured an abusive marriage before getting divorced, and now leads a world-wide ministry that sends doctors and dentists to remote areas of the world.
She talks a lot about forgiveness, trusting God and living your best life, along with encouraging people to use their resources to help end human trafficking, hunger, and poverty.
What could possibly be objectionable about that message?
Evidently a lot if, you are a man and you’re in the ministry. When I did an internet search to find out more about her, I discovered there are a lot of preachers, mostly men, who don’t think she should be teaching and preaching.
Some of them say it’s because she preaches a prosperity gospel, yet those same critics are worth millions. Others criticize her for getting a facelift or living a lavish lifestyle.
If she wants to get a facelift or live in a big house, I say, so what? I do not see men getting lambasted for how they look or how lavishly they live. She is bound to make a lot money, since she’s sold 20 million books. I don’t begrudge an evangelist their income any more than I begrudge the income of a Hollywood star or football player.
But the judgments that bother me most don’t have anything to do with money. They are public criticisms from ministers, mostly men, who do not think women should be teaching and preaching. This seems to be a common theme with conservative, evangelical men.
Joyce Meyer isn’t the only woman to be criticized for daring to preach. Beth Moore, another woman evangelist and founder of Living Proof Ministries, came under fire recently after a highly publicized comment about her went viral.
I have never taken a Beth Moore class or heard her speak, but I appreciate that she’s inspired a lot of women to live better lives. Just because I haven’t been a Beth Moore fan doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the number of people she’s helped.
That woman should “go home.”
But John MacArthur, a pastor with a syndicated Christian teaching radio and television program, goes a lot further than not being a fan. He does not believe Beth Moore has anything to offer, just because she’s a woman.
When he was asked at a conference what he thought of Moore, his reply went viral. Much to the amusement of his audience, he said she should “go home.” Then, in case somebody missed his point, he added, “There’s no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period, paragraph, end of discussion.”
That’s a strong statement from a fellow Christian against somebody who teaches about Jesus, especially in light of the bible’s emphasis on grace.
John Piper, another high-profile preacher, argues that women should not even teach Sunday School to a mixed audience. In one of his podcasts, he said, “The question was: does 1 Timothy 2:12 leave open the possibility that women are permitted to preach in the weekly gathering of the local church, as an extension of, or under the authority of, the male elders of the church? And my answer is no.”
The scripture passage Piper refers to is found in the Apostle Paul’s letter to a young associate named Timothy. Paul said, “ I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man.”
Some men have taken this verse out of its cultural context and run with it, believing women should keep silent in church, no matter what.
I guess you could interpret it that way, but when I look at the entirety of scripture, especially what Jesus teaches, I don’t believe there is a valid case to be made for not allowing women to speak in church.
A strong case for women in ministry
Consider the New Testament women who led the spread of the gospel and had high visiblity in the gospel stories: women like Mary and Martha, Pheobe, Priscilla, Lydia, Junia and others. Women traveled with Jesus and led churches.
And what about this verse in Acts 2:17? “‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.’”
That sounds like both men and women are to be preaching and talking.
Stanley Grenz and Denise Muir Kjesbo emphasize in their book, Women in the Church, that Jesus “radically altered the position of women, elevating them to a partnership with men unparalleled in a first-century society.”
Beth Moore responds to men who say she shouldn’t proclaim the gospel by pointing to the woman at the well. The story, found in John 4, is about a Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus.
In Jesus’ time, Jews wouldn’t be caught dead talking with Samaritans, let alone a Samaritan woman. That’s probably why Jesus’ disciples were so shocked when they arrived at the well to find him carrying on a conversation with one. The woman took their hint and hurried off, so flustered that she left her water bucket behind.
Back in the village, she told everybody about Jesus. Impressed by her testimony, the villagers hurried to see for themselves if what she said was true. The Samaritan woman was one of the earliest evangelists to spread the gospel message, and she was extremely successful at it.
Jesus’ commands were gender neutral
The Rev. Carolyn Moore in her article Biblical Women and the Spread of the Gospel writes that Jesus’ commands at his resurrection were all gender neutral. “Go, make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19). “You will be my witnesses” Acts 1:8) and “Take up your cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).
The Rev. Moore goes on to say, “These commands and commissions were not spoken to only half an audience in the first century; likewise, they are not spoken to half an audience today.”
Jesus never turned anybody away. He was criticized for hanging out with the wrong crowd and talking to women. But he blasted people who placed religious rules and regulations ahead of what was in a person’s heart.
Studying his words and his ministry, it’s hard for me to believe he would repudiate women who love him so much that they use their gifts and talents to proclaim a message of love and faith.
Jesus said you will know people by their fruit. If the fruit of a woman’s ministry is a life-changing encounter with God, this seems like something every Christian should endorse.
Even if men can’t reconcile women preachers with what they read in scripture, they should be happy the gospel is being proclaimed.
“These people do not know that while Barak trembled, Deborah saved Israel, that Esther delivered from supreme peril the children of God … Is it not to women that our Lord appeared after His Resurrection? Yes, and the men could then blush for not having sought what the women had found.” Jerome, (347–420 AD) after criticism for dedicating his books to women