Women in Ministry Series: Well-Behaved Women Won’t Change the Church

Today’s guest post is by Kathy Escobar. When I think about a leading female pastor and and writer, Kathy is certainly at the top of my list.

Years ago, if you looked up the definition of "Christian Good Girl", I swear my picture would be right next to it. I was so good at being good! I knew how to keep the peace. I knew how to give people what they want. I know how to put my needs last. I knew how to say all the right things at the right time to sound really spiritual. I knew how to be nice.

Although I was not raised in a Christian home, when I turned my life over to Christ and joined his team, I found that all of the people-pleasing, peace-making, good-girl skills I had learned as a child of an alcoholic raised in chaos worked perfectly in the spiritual realm as well.

I earned all kinds of praise in the churches I was in for my good-girl-ness. Kathy’s so nice. Kathy’s such a team player. Kathy’s so easy to get along with.

None of these things were hard for me to do. They were like reflexes, a natural and immediate instinct to assess the situation, and then adjust to keep the peace and maintain whatever status quo needed to be maintained.

Over the years, though, as I started to do some personal healing work and begin to look at the unhealthy patterns in my life, something profound began to shift. I started to tell the truth about my own story. I started to not worry so much about what people thought. I started to advocate for others who couldn’t use their voices yet. I started to disagree. I started to use my voice and stir the pot about change in the church.

I started to worry more about pleasing God than pleasing man.

And guess what happened? Leaders didn’t like it. They liked me a lot better when I was following the rules, playing the good-girl game. A weird and subversive shift occurred when I started showing up more honestly, more passionately as a leader. The best words I can use to describe it are: "painful silence."

In my situation, the painful silence lead to me losing a pastoral ministry job that I loved. The reality was that I was just not "good" enough, submissive enough, to be part of that system anymore. Honestly, if I could have switched back to the Good-Girl fast enough, I might have been able to save my job. Temporarily.

But I was too far gone. My soul and passion had started to come alive and I couldn’t turn back.

As difficult as that season was for me personally, professionally, and spiritually, I am so grateful for it because I learned the most important lesson of my life as a leader:

Well-behaved women won’t change the church.

We just won’t.

Well-behaved women will keep the wheels spinning on systems that keep working, keep growing, keep moving. We will do good and honorable work that matters and helps people and makes a difference in their communities.

But we won’t change the church.

Some people think the church doesn’t need changing; they’re fine with the way things are because it works for them. But I think there a lot more of us out here than even we ourselves know–passionate women who believe the body of Christ needs much more than a face-lift to become all it’s meant to be.

Yeah, well-behaved women will not change the church.

Instead, change in the church will come from not-so-well-behaved women who are willing to risk their pride, reputations, and "being liked" to stand for what God is stirring up in their hearts.

Change in the church will come when women who are called to lead, lead, even when others don’t think they can or should.

Change in the church will come when women refuse to squelch their gifts and begin to unleash them without asking for permission first.

Change in the church will come when women passionately follow Jesus, not systems-made-in-his-name-that-do-not-reflect-his-image.

Change in the church will come when women bravely use their voices, power, and any influence they have to inspire others to be brave, too.

I admit, it’s still sometimes hard for me to not be the good-girl. I miss the safety. I miss the praise. I miss the security, even if it was false. Some days I wish I could make nice like I used to because it was so much easier then.

But the Kingdom of God was never about easy. It was never about comfort. It was never about maintaining the status-quo. It was never about playing nice.

The Kingdom of God Jesus called us to participate in creating–here, now–isn’t well-behaved.

That’s reason enough for us not to be, either.

About Today’s Blogger

escobarKathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith in North Denver.  A speaker, spiritual director, group facilitator and advocate, Kathy is passionate about healing community, equality, justice, and change in the church.  

She has written several books, including the most recent, Down We Go: Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus, which is centered on cultivating incarnational community in a wide range of contexts.  She has a Masters degree in Management and Organizational Development and a certificate in Evangelical Spiritual Guidance from Denver Seminary and blogs regularly about life and faith at www.kathyescobar.com. Kathy lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband and 5 children.

About the Women in Ministry Series

The Women in Ministry Series is a collection of guest posts that aims to:

  • Provide an alternative to the women in ministry debates by telling the stories of women in ministry.
  • Encourage women to explore their God-given callings.

Contributions Welcome: Contact Ed to pitch your post idea in 2-4 sentences.

You can stay updated on the latest post each week by  signing up for the weekly e-mail list. (You also get a free E-book!)

Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome to leave a comment. However, this series takes for granted that women are called by God into every facet of ministry. This is not the place to debate that point and such comments will be removed.Women have been told “no” in far too many places. This is one place that is committed to saying “yes.” For more about the comment policy or submitting your own story, read here.

Next Week’s Blogger: J. R. Goudeau

56 thoughts on “Women in Ministry Series: Well-Behaved Women Won’t Change the Church

  1. Sarah

    This is fantastic. A few weeks ago, I spoke up when a pastor “friend” at my now-former church said something that was un-Biblical. When I asked him to clarify his point because it didn’t sound right, I got insulted, talked down to, and blown off. I called him on it. (More specifically, I called him an a**. Not my finest moment, but hey…) And what did I get for daring to speak up? I got shunned by every last “friend” I had in that church.

    You’d think this would make me want to go back to being the quiet, good girl who agrees with everyone. (Which was pretty much my role in that church.) Nope. I’m no longer a doormat. I’m going to obey God, not man.

  2. Charity Johnson

    Great article, great series!
    Thank you!
    I had a parallel experience to hers, only I saw the resistance before it hit me, and decided not to accept a job that would have gotten me fired.
    Without a doubt, we are _at least_ crushing the intellects of women, and possibly worse–not treating God’s creation as He’d want us to.

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