Stephanie Spencer wrote this guest post about her ministry calling in the midst of a move to Minnesota. I’m grateful that she took the time to share her story and, by way of rabbit trails, envy the two latest additions to the Minnesota Wild. She brings a perspective to women in ministry that is a new, challenging angle:
Words are slung carelessly about the Internet every day.
We climb over each other in effort to sound the most eloquent as we share our opinions. We long to prove why we are right, and why others are wrong. It’s as if life is an extended debate match we are somehow better people when we come out the victor.
Arguments like this rage about the question of whether women should be in ministry.
One person hurls out 1 Cor 14:34-35 as proof that women should stay silent in church, while another shoots back that Paul’s greetings to women in his letters are evidence that they were considered among the leaders. One person launches the grenade of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 instructing women to not have authority over men, while another heaves language and cultural circumstances that point to these verses as not being normative commands.
All the while, someone like me stands in the middle. Sometimes feeling hit by both sides.
I am a female pastor. This debate is not just about theology. This debate is about my life.
God made me a woman. God gave me His Spirit. And His Spirit gave me the gifts of leadership, teaching, and wisdom. In the midst of the biblical debates, I had to decide what to do about that.
Some would point to my pursuit of a seminary degree, certification within a denomination, and subsequent pastor title as evidence that I have strayed from the proper understanding of Scripture and its authority in my life. Others would point to my pastoring within a denomination that does not allow for the full ordination of women as evidence of inappropriate support for a patriarchal hierarchy.
My heart has caught quite a few stray bullets through the years. The hurt of seeing people avoid my station for communion and prayer because I was a woman. The humor of receiving an invitation for my husband and I to attend a conference for “pastors and their wives.” The uneasiness of conversation about my career with people from the church in which I grew up, whose view on women is so restrictive that it does not allow women to vote on church issues.
But every time I was wounded, God seemed to send me a double dose of encouragement. The beauty of helping others see their lives through the lens of faith. The joy of facilitating volunteers to use gifts they didn’t know they had. The privilege of talking to people of all ages about how they are valued and loved by God. The power of others speaking words of affirmation into my life.
Through all the awkward and awesome moments, I have done my best to follow God’s lead. And after a year away from work, I have only felt affirmation that I belong back in church work again.
Yes, the Bible verses about women’s roles are complicated. And yes, it is possible that I may be interpreting them wrong. But at the end of the day, my deepest desire is not to be right. My deepest desire is to love. I long to follow the instructions of Jesus: to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself.
To me, it feels like a bigger risk to let my gifts go unused in the world around me than to risk using them in the wrong setting.
And so even if I get wounded again, that is okay. Because I will keep my heart in God’s hands, with the prayer that my life would be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him.
About Today’s Guest Blogger
Stephanie Spencer is a pastor in transition. She used to work in children’s ministry before a move to a new city brought her to fresh adventures. She is a wife and mom trying to enjoy these long and wonderful days of toddlerhood. Besides her family, her loves include coffee, travel, and good conversation. She blogs at www.everydayawe.com.
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: Tracy Steel