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All Hands to the Harvest
If a woman is called of God to full-time ministry, why stand in her way with teaching that forbids her freedom to minister when so much of the world needs to hear the Gospel message?

I am often asked, "Why are there not more women in ministry?"

First, there are the Biblical / theological issues on which people differ. Some quote Paul's admonition from 1 Timothy 2:12, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." Others insist that this was merely Paul's culturally based preference and choose rather to quote Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Women readers, be encouraged: your anointing will make room for you!

We are committed to following the plain teaching of Scripture, yet some of these passages are not easily reconciled. Should a woman have authority over a man? In today's Western culture, "them's fight'n words!"

What does the situation look like for women in many of today's churches? Often they can teach children in Sunday School, they can teach women's groups, they can even teach and exhort at meetings with men and women present, but they can't teach at the Sunday morning service. These kinds of inconsistencies have only added fuel to the fire.

I remember asking as a new Christian, why these prohibitions? Women were "more prone to false doctrine," I was told. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science movement was cited a case in point. The "fairer sex" was said to be more compassionate to be sure, but was short on the practical and theological end of things. And we left it at that.

But what are the qualifications for being in ministry in the first place? I would say they revolve around issues of anointing or giftedness (not necessarily a teaching gift), and character. Training, education and exposure are all components that come after one has been called of God.

When godly people who are disciplined in character flow in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, they need to become very involved in the kingdom of God, as God directs them. Historian Richard Riss has pointed out that whenever we have a new revival, we have a resurgence of women entering into ministry. It happens spontaneously.

Two of my heroes in the faith are Kathryn Kuhlman and Aimee Semple McPherson. Neither was perfect to be sure, but they left an indelible mark on the lives of thousands of Christians, both men and women, through their powerful healing and preaching ministries.

Women readers, be encouraged: your anointing will make room for you! The desperate need of the hour is not merely for people who are trained and educated, but for people of God who are anointed and can bring God's kingdom to a broken, hurting, desperate world through signs, wonders and the power of the Holy Spirit.

All Christians must come to terms with the fact that about 85 percent of the world's population is lost. And the lost are really lost! Under these desperate conditions, why would anyone stand in the way of another who felt called of God to help bring in the harvest?

Why don't we go and get the harvest in first, and sort out whether or not women should be in ministry after?

In pioneer days on a farm, a woman worked mostly in the home, and that is where you would find her for most of the year. But not during harvest! During harvest so much help was needed that every available man, woman and child was called into the fields. I like that. Why don't we go and get the harvest in first, and sort out whether or not women should be in ministry after?

Some time ago I participated, together with two and a half billion people from 185 nations, in the largest Christian church service ever to be held on planet earth. The service was translated into 44 different languages, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair read about the great love of God, from 1 Corinthians 13, and Archbishop Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, led the vast congregation in the Lord's Prayer. It was the funeral service of Princess Diana, transmitted live via international television link-up.

I hadn't realized her influence was so colossal. Although she was not strongly trumpeting Christian beliefs and values, yet these values were demonstrated through a life of love, service and giving to others. The next week the world celebrated Mother Teresa's life of love and service. Not bad for mere women.

John Arnott itinerates internationally and pastors the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship.

Originally published in Spread the Fire, October 1997.




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