A recent discussion on social media led to a focus on the question of whether or not women should be pastors in our day. As I engaged a particular lady on the question, two words emerged that I needed a dictionary to find out what exactly they meant. They are: misogynist and patriarchal. A misogynist is a person who despises or is strongly prejudiced against women. Patriarchal, on the other hand, is a system of government run only by men. So, quite naturally, I was called a misogynist and the Bible, from which I was taking my authority from, was labelled patriarchal. When a debate is reduced to such fundamental definitions and the other side is unable to see that they just may be wrong, it is better to call an end to the discussion. While I have ended the debate on social media, I thought I could express my thoughts clearly here in my column.
While it is OK for anyone to refer to me as misogynist, I would humbly state that I am not. I do not despise nor am I prejudiced against women. I had a lovely mother and I am married to the most beautiful woman on earth. I have a daughter whom I am hoping to train up to be the most powerful woman on earth. But no matter how powerful my daughter becomes, she would still remain a woman and that is a lesson I hope I would drum into her as I train her up into adult life. The other misconception that must be put aright is that the Bible is not patriarchal. The Bible is the word of God. Indeed the extent to which Christians and the congregations they belong to hold the Bible as inspired and inerrant, is the extent to which they would understand the peculiar place of the woman in the world that God made.
Let me state it up front that I hold that a woman cannot be a Pastor solely because the Bible teaches this. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, 1 Timothy 2:11-12, and 1 Timothy 3:2 are scriptures that speaks expressly to the issue: women cannot exercise authority over men; women cannot teach men in church; women should be silent in church; a woman cannot be “husband of one wife” – only men can be that; etc. These are biblical and authoritative statements and in a world where the inspiration of the Bible had not be attacked, such a statement would be obeyed and not argued with. Besides, it is certainly in the spirit of these words that led Christ to elect men, and not women, as his disciples. The argument that the system of Christ’s day was patriarchal would certainly not hold water because in that case every other command of the scriptures can be wished away in the name of the culture of those days. We do ourselves a lot of good by simply obeying biblical commands and not debating them.
Then there is the fact that even nature dictates this. The family is the smallest unit of a society. Most people are agreed that the man is the head of a family and that a family functions best when a man leads it. On the other hand, the church is a conglomerate of families; gathered together to worship Jesus Christ. If the man leads the family, why would anyone expect that a woman would lead a conglomeration of families? It would clearly be out of place and even nature would abhor it. The matter of women seeking to lead churches in pastoral ministry is a reflection of the decadence in society that is creeping into the church. When men have failed to be men in their homes and have relinquished their responsibilities to their wives, it is no surprise that the women are seeking positions in church too.
In other cases, when churches have become a place of stardom, women would also be also seeking to enter into the limelight – to become celebrity pastors too. If pastoral ministry consisted of the weight of responsibility that it ought to be, women would not dare to be pastors. The fact of the matter is that God who made the man and the woman, designed them for certain roles. The man provides for his home. The woman gives birth to children. Would anyone suggest that a man should come forward and give birth to a child? If this is not practical, then it should equally be impractical to ask women to lead churches as pastors. It is just not the role that the creator has made them to occupy.
Then there is the matter of authority. As the leader of the home, a man comes into society with a sense of responsibility that is equipped with a God given authority. It is a similar authority that a man brings to pastoral ministry. A pastor’s primary duty is to preach the gospel and he should declare this message with authority. He should reel out God’s holy standards to men and demand that they believe the gospel as well as repent of their sins. This is no mean task. In the days of Jesus, it was said that he spoke with authority – an authority that the Pharisees lacked. It is clear that when gospel content begin to diminish on the pulpit and preaching becomes an “appeal” or a “suggestion” and not a declaration, it quickly becomes an all comers affairs.
When matters that are serious are to be discussed in a normal family, members tell themselves that these matter cannot be resolved outside the father’s presence. The same goes with preaching: the father, the Pastor, the man, must be the person declaring the counsel of God to a conglomerate of families in the churches. When the gospel has lost its power, it quickly becomes an all comers affair. This is why women can very easily be suggested as pastors. In the days when gospel preaching came with paying a heavy price; if by preaching a message one risked being incarcerated, the wheat would long have been separated from the chaff. Women would never have found pastoral work attractive.
In my meditation into women in ministry, I find one person that stands out. She is the woman missionary to Calabar, Nigeria, in the late 19th century – Mary Slessor. The biography of this woman records that she had an exceptional ministry in her lifetime. She brought the gospel to communities in present day Cross River State and helped establish social reforms – one which ended the killing of twins in that part of the country. Does Mary Slessor put to nought my argument in this piece? I do not think so.
I think that Mary Slessor was an exception in the work of God, rather than the norm. I think that eternity would show that Ms. Slessor was called into that ministry when men failed to take up the task – and the task must be done; even if God would raise up stones to do it. Another thing that I see in her case is that Ms. Slessor remained a man in a sense since she never did get married. I am convinced that a married woman, that is bearing children, has her ministry already cut out for her: to help her husband in family life and to take care of her children. She is to endeavour to raise those children up to godly seeds. Working to ensure that the boys become responsible men in society and the girls responsible wives to their husbands. A woman who is married has no business in pastoral ministry. The mere fact that Ms. Slessor never married freed her to the evangelistic work that she did in Calabar. Lastly, I think in a sense Mary Slessor was an evangelist and not a pastor. Her biography records that she often set out to break new frontiers for the gospel in those days – while the men she had trained carried out the work of pastoring the congregations gathered.
I am convinced that the quest for women to be pastors today is not unconnected with the vain glory that pastoral ministry comes with in our day. It is just like politicians who do everything to get into political office. This happens because the gains of office far outweighs the responsibilities of office. Very few people realize the enormous responsibility that comes with pastoring the souls of men. They do not realize that pastors would give account, before God, of every soul that passed through their ministry. They do not realize that God would hold many men responsibly for the eternal ruin of many who ought to have been taught the way of salvation but had spent most of their ministry doing frivolous things. If women realize that God has created certain gender for certain roles, they would not be seeking to be pastors. The waterloo of many in the eternal state would be doing things that God never called them to do.
I am thoroughly convinced both by the testimony of the Bible and by the witness of nature that women are not crafted by God to be pastors. Therefore women should not be pastors. Those that are already pastors have the opportunity this day to repent and to find some other useful thing to use their lives for. Those of you going to women-led churches, you would do well to find a truly Bible believing church to go to – for thine eternal soul sake.
Deji Yesufu is the author of the book Victor Banjo. He can be reached on [email protected]