If women do decide to step into the fullness of their calling, they will experience resistance—and it will be uncomfortable. For many, it will produce feelings of fear.
I told you my story, and I can almost guarantee that it’s not the same as yours. Many women today may not feel they’ve been called to be a preacher behind the pulpit, but if she has the Holy Spirit working within her, and if she has dedicated herself to being used by God, then she is called to be the best minister of God that she can be. She may be called to be a great wife, or mother, or schoolteacher, or business woman, or Starbucks barista, but she is called by God to be a minister.
The word “minister” today typically refers to someone in the clergy of a church. A vocabulary study of the word, however, reveals: “When you minister to someone, you take care of them. All…meanings of minister—both as a noun and as a verb—contain a grain of the original Latin [ministrare] meaning, ‘servant.’”[i] So the idea that a minister is one who preaches or leads a congregation is a Western-religion idea. If you are a Christian, you are called to be a minister, whatever servant position in life that means for you.
Second Timothy 1:8–9 says, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me [Paul] his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel [be ready to be made uncomfortable and face resistance for the sake of the Gospel] according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (emphasis added). God has called us, the collective Body made up of all believers, with all parts intact. Romans 8:29–30, again the words of Paul, says, “For whom he [God the Father] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called” (emphasis added).
Some confuse Matthew 22:14 (“For many are called, but few are chosen”) to mean that some are called into ministry (smaller audience), some are chosen into greatness as God’s elect (larger audience), and then there’s a third group of people who believe in Christ, but aren’t called or chosen into ministry of any kind. (Others interpret the verse to mean a kind of Calvinistic, predestination theology idea, suggesting that only those who are “chosen” by God will make it into Heaven, and the rest of the world is doomed.) However, this verse follows Christ’s Parable of the Wedding Feast, which dealt with the heavy Jews-and-Gentiles issue and salvation, and once properly understood (once the pop culture and Western-religion concepts are removed), it’s clear that only two groups are being referred to: a) the many who hear the Gospel, and b) those who choose to believe in Christ and live their lives accordingly.
From a hindsight view, these two categories can potentially converge into a people who have both heard the Gospel and subsequently decided to live for Christ, assuming both are met positively through such a decision. Some will belong to the first category (those who hear the Gospel message), but not the second (those who choose to believe and live their lives accordingly), because they will reject the message. This interpretation is unanimous amongst the early Church Fathers. The classic Pulpit Commentary says as much: “All the Jews had first been called; then all the Gentiles; many were they who obeyed not the call; and of those who did come in, many were not of the inner election, of those, that is, whose life and character were worthy of the Christian name, showing the graces of faith, holiness, and love.”[ii] Even the historian, Origen, said:
If any one will observe the populous congregations, and inquire how many there are who live a better kind of life, and are being transformed in the renewing of their mind [those who live like Christians]; and how many who are careless in their conversation and conformed to this world [the lost who reject the Gospel openly, or the lost who pretend to be Christians but whose lifestyles oppose true Christianity], he will perceive the use of this voice of our Saviour’s, “Many are called, but few chosen;” and in another place it has been said, “Many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24); and, “Strive earnestly to enter in by the narrow gate; for few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13, 14).[iii]
THEOLOGIAN: JESUS HIMSELF STARTED THE FIRST WOMEN’S LIBERATION MOVEMENT
Therefore, we must regard Matthew 22:14 as an isolated warning following the Parable of the Wedding Feast. Its references to the “called” and “chosen” stand apart from 2 Timothy 1:8–9 and Romans 8:29–30, which speak to the believer who has already heard the Gospel message and decided to live for Christ.
There is no unrecorded “third category” of believers who are not called or chosen, but who live ordinary, non-ministerial lives. Any true follower of Christ who has the Holy Spirit in his or her heart has already been called as a minister (servant) of God, according to these verses in Romans and 2 Timothy. It does not mean that every true follower of Christ has to fulfill the role of a preacher. But whatever your calling is, “whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23).
Embrace your own season of do-it-afraid-ing, so that whatever you’ve been called to do, you can prepare yourself to minister without allowing your potential to be stunted later on by human emotion.
For women who do believe they’ve been called to stand behind a pulpit: expect resistance. I cannot tell you that your path will always be easy. But if you’re willing to be the kind of radical, on-fire leader like the many women leaders of the Bible, if you’re willing to carry out your calling while afraid and uncomfortable, you can see many lives changed for all eternity as a result.
Many women feel defined by the darker moments in their lives. They feel that they will never get beyond how “broken” they are. Never forget that your past, your traumas, the abuse you’ve encountered, and your bouts with emotional extremes (depression, loneliness, anxiety, despair) do not define you. God is the only One who defines you. He will not use you just despite of who you are and what you’ve been through; He will use you because of who you are and what you’ve been through.
Lastly, always remember that resistance, too, has a purpose. Have you ever been to the gym? Have you ever met with a personal trainer? Do you know even the first fundamental concept of lifting weights? Then you will know already that no muscle within the body is capable of building growth and strength without first pressing against an encumbrance or burden.
Sometimes it is only when ministers press against the resistance around them that they, as a part of the Body, become stronger.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO:
WAIT… A WOMAN PREACHING IN A CHRISTIAN CHURCH… WHAT DOES GOD THINK ABOUT THAT?!
I will close this series with a beautiful piece of poetry by my ministry acquaintance, Randy Conway. This masterful work is called “UP”—which is ironically the same word Judge Deborah authoritatively shouted to Barak just before she led Israel into a victory that resulted in forty years of peace for God’s people (Judges 4:14):
It seems we live in a world dedicated to its own dissension,
Ruled by Principalities from a dark dimension.
Every day the news tells of another who snapped under the tension,
And even the Christians rise to face the day with apprehension.
But as he slept, a young man was given a dream of serving God in the courts;
As she drove, a young woman had a vision of feeding the hungry through the sea ports;
A wealthy entrepreneur is on his knees seeking God as to how he can serve,
And a housewife is witnessing to her neighbor because she finally got the nerve.
Precept by precept and line upon line, God’s people are coming around.
A fire that has been ignited in the hearts of believers is taking ground.
A generation finding strength to turn the battle at the gate:
Knowing there is a sure foundation not just an accidental fate.
For too long have we clung to our favorite tenants of religion,
But very soon we will see heaven and earth make a dimensional collision.
Listen for the voice of the Father that says “This is the way, walk in it.”
God is calling out today building up not religion but a remnant.
Do you see the people waking up and getting up?
They are bracing up and praying up in order to stand up:
Standing up and facing up to the darkness that desires God’s place—
God will lift us up and fill us up but we must seek His face.
God’s people are getting fed up, stirred up, and shaken up,
Filled up, geared up, prayed up, and speaking up!
The old man has been put up—
And just when satan thinks he has things sewed up.
Look out and look up because God is going to show up!
It is time to get revved up, stoked up, pumped up, and fired up,
Worked up, freed up, studied up; time for God’s people to reach up.
We’re going to tell the devil to shut up every time he tells us we’re washed up.
People want to know the Truth and we are going to lift the Truth up,
And when He is lifted up all men are drawn to Him close-up.
More than any time in our history, God’s people need to be looking up,
For when time for this age is all used up, He is coming back to take us up!
[ii] “Matthew 22:14,” under the heading “Pulpit Commentary,” last accessed July 10, 2017, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/22-14.htm.