Why Being A Woman in the Army was Better Than Being a Woman in Church


Guest Post by Jamie Tanner

I was in the U.S. Army. I am in a U.S. church.

I DO NOT equate a church to THE CHURCH. THE CHURCH is the Bride of Christ, His body, and the universal church comprised of all people indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Being a woman in the Army will never be better than being a woman in the Body of Christ, daughter of the King, or child of eternal inheritance.

But being a woman in the Army was better than being a woman in church.

1. In the Army, women are assigned occupations based on merit and strengths.

I received an Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp) scholarship for college because I had proven I was smart enough, strong enough, and hard working enough to hack it. I later enlisted under the Simultaneous Membership program. During the enlistment process, I was tested to determine my strengths. These scores were used to determine placement for Military Occupational Specialty. I scored high as officer, high in medical and went into the medical corps. If someone scored high in engineering, they got the promotion to that specialty.

This process is not unlike churches who insist members take a spiritual gifting or strengths finder survey. I agree with this practice to the extent that it helps identify our wiring. However, most churches stop at the screening and rarely follow through with the application, especially with women. I personally score very high in teaching and shepherding.

Unfortunately, the last church we were attending barred women from preaching. It was not that I lacked qualifications; I lacked body parts. Even the senior pastor once commented, “If you were a man, we’d have you in Sunday service preaching rotations...”

The Bible teaches gifts and talents are given to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12), to strengthen the church (1 Corinthians 14:12), and for the building up of the one body (Romans 12).

Regardless of gender, it would behoove the church to exercise the gifts of the Spirits.

1 Thessalonians 5 contains Paul’s final instructions to the church in Thessalonica: “we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them most highly in love because of their work...” (v.12-13). Paul’s instruction is not limited to gender.

As members of the Body of Christ, we ought to acknowledge and esteem anyone who labors among us for the sake of the gospel. As a woman, I was acknowledged and esteemed in the military on countless occasions for my work. Even to this day, I am honored to stand during ceremonies and Veteran’s Day shout outs...when was the last time your church gave a shout-out to a woman on staff? When was the last time a woman was hired or promoted over a man?

I have grown up in church. Women represent over half the congregation, yet men are usually the ones “presiding over” and therefore are the only ones getting acknowledged and esteemed.

2. It was an “Army of One.” I can’t count the divisions in the church.

Like the Army, the true body of Christ (THE CHURCH), is one: “one body and one Spirit...one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Paul concludes his argument of the “one but many parts” comparing the church to a body “joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (v. 16).

Women are a part of the body. Rarely is the female part of the body working properly, because she is restricted in her work (like I was personally restricted despite my strengths). If a church joined and held together its female parts along with its male parts, the body would grow together (like a marriage union) so that it builds itself up in love.

There is fruit of a womb from human oneness, but the fruit of the brother/sister oneness is the fruit of the Spirit. After all, it is the work of the Spirit over all and through all and in all.

By contrast, when a church doesn’t join and hold together its parts, there is dissension, division, and hemorrhaging of its members...

Aside from brother/sister oneness issues within a church, there are oneness issues even within THE CHURCH. Differences in opinions over interpretations, homiletics, liturgy, music etc. are the reason there’s a different church on every corner in America. Rather than compete for numbers in the pews, imagine if THE CHURCH served and prayed for one another. What if a protestant pastor recognized the need of a member to worship in a more liturgical style and helped connect him with an Anglican denomination?

As a woman in the Army, I used to compete in marathon-length ruck marches. My team was always males and me. I knew I was the weaker member physically. But when I struggled under the weight of my ruck, I had one soldier on my right and one soldier on my left lifting the pack to give me relief. Can we strive to do that as churches? When a local church is struggling can we come alongside as the Body of One and lift a load to help it finish the course?

3. Sexuality did not inhibit achieving mission.

On those marathon courses, our mission was to finish. The fact that I was a female never interfered. Some soldiers were lesbians or homosexuals or any other color in the LBGTQ community. Didn’t matter: being a soldier in the U.S. Army meant the only color we were together was camo.

Camo covered our bodies and showed the world who we were. The blood of Christ covers believers, and it is by His blood that we show the world who we are.

In the Army, what mattered was the soldier’s body ability to achieve the mission. It didn’t matter if the body was white, black, brown, male, female or anything else. In that soldier’s body was a mind: was it set on achieving the mission? In that soldier’s body was a heart: was it pumping blood to fuel the parts? In that body was a soul: where was it going to end up?

In the Body of Christ, Paul asserts that we are joined and held together in one body! Our mission is to MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS (Matthew 28:19). We are commanded to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul, and all of our strength (Deuteronomy 6:5) and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:30-31). That’s it. Regardless of our external differences, we are all believers.

It was better being a woman in the Army than in church. It was better to be shot at, dragged through mud, awake before the sun, shoulder my ruck, achieve the mission than to be a woman in church rejected because I don’t have the right body parts.

Nevertheless, I choose to continue to press on toward the goal for which God has called me (Philippians 3:14) ...

That is precisely what THE CHURCH must do: love God and love others (including a church) is our mission. May we all walk in the manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1).