Often I get calls from women who serve in their churches - as staff or volunteers - asking for clarity on what they just experienced. Most of the time it's that they've run into a gender line that they didn't know existed nor do they have words to describe it. Their experiences are like many of ours so I invited them to share so you can have the terminology to bring clarity to what you to are encountering. And so you can know you're not alone and you're not losing your mind - this is really still happening in 2017. - Jackie, Ennobler of Women
I grew up in a single-parent home as my father spent most of my life incarcerated for various white-collar crimes. My mother found refuge, love, and encouragement in a local Christian church. In many ways, that body of Christ felt more like family than our actual blood.My mother remarried the summer before my sixth-grade year, and we moved to a different city. My step-father did not share her theology; after several weeks of failing to “fit” into church culture, he stopped going. My mother never reconnected to any church. Fortunately, my older brother and I found a small church near our home where we could walk, bike, or easily find a ride to attend Sunday services and mid-week youth group. I loved church. My older brother and I had grown up latchkey kids, but I always felt a sense of community in church. It was a secure family where I was cherished, uplifted, and valued. Homelife, by contrast, was prickly, contentious, and where I felt unwanted.Fast forward 25 years and I find myself in a similar situation, but the roles have reversed. Homelife is where my identity is secure. My family cherishes, uplifts, and values me.
"Church life, by contrast, feels prickly, contentious, and where I now feel unwanted."
My husband and I had been members of a solid Bible-teaching church for over a decade. For over 8 years, I served on leadership in the 100+ member MOPs group the church hosted. For more than 6 years I led Bible studies, including Precept Upon Precept. I served in children's ministry, and my husband and I were high school youth leaders. But for the past 3 or 4 years, I began starving spiritually. Service and study were not sufficient for spiritual growth. I had hit a glass ceiling, and I wondered why.About 4 years ago, I came home discouraged from Bible study. It was a Precept Upon Precept format, which is considered fairly stout in terms of study. But I was hungry for more. I was teaching, leading a small group, and devouring commentaries.
"But I was also growing weary from being overused and underutilized."
My husband encouraged me to apply to seminary. He didn’t simply cheer me on; he obliterated every excuse I had for not going with loving kindness and confidence that it was our path. Furthermore, he recognized something in me that no one ever has. He was determined to push his bride forward even when she dragged her feet.Going to seminary is like asking for a sip of water and then being thrown into a lake. It feels overwhelming at times like I am drowning, but then refreshing and delightful as I gain confidence in the word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. I am learning to own my identity as “Christ in me” (Col. 1:27) and what it means to be a “Jesus woman” (a wonderful phrase of Dr. Jackie Roese).
I would come back and be entrusted to teach more and disciple better. I envisioned starting hermeneutics classes and weaving in Hebrew and Greek word studies. I offered to teach Sunday School classes when pastors were traveling. However, time and time again, the pastor had a male member of the congregation teach. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but none of these congregation members had gone to seminary or even Bible college for that matter.My husband pointed out sloppy exegesis during one lesson and asked how I felt about it. I had noticed too but wasn’t going to say a word. I had to admit to him that I felt heartbroken. The church atmosphere started to feel prickly, contentious, and I was unwanted as a woman gifted in teaching/shepherding (aka female pastor). My husband and I found ourselves at an impasse with our church based on the handling of women there.Pastoring is a spiritual gift of shepherding. It literally means to pasture the flock...watch over, provide nourishment, protect, etc. Spiritually, women and men are gifted pastors. Most often the term pastor defines the man-given office in a church (double entendre is deliberate). (Dr. Sandra Glahn has a very helpful blog on this topic here)After months of prayer and conversations, my husband and I decided to explore other churches. We still love that church and the people in it. Ultimately, we trust God to direct our steps not people who struggle with what to do with women in ministry.People usually don’t know how to exercise spiritual gifts, not even the person endowed with them. It is the work of the Spirit, who enlightens hearts (Eph. 1:17-19) and teaches humans how to use the gifts given. It is not the responsibility of a church to exercise every spiritual gift in every person all the time. Rather, we are exhorted to use our gifts for the “building up of the body of Christ” that is the universal church (1 Cor. 4:12; Eph. 4:12).
"Since leaving our church, we have founded a nonprofit ministry and are being utilized by the Spirit for the building of the global body of Christ."
The concept of church has grown from dedication to one local institution into complete dependence on God as He alone directs our paths into discipling communities. We currently attend a small Christian church where we receive Bible teaching and gather in corporate worship. We host all kinds of groups at our farm, and I speak on the goodness of God. I mentor and am mentored by believers from all denominations. For now, that is enough.