In Galatians 3:28, the apostle Paul wrote these words to the church in Galatia: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Much ink has been spilled and many pixels used to discuss the issue of leadership in the church with regard to gender roles. Not everyone agrees with me that the reading of Galatians means that every role in the church is open to anyone gifted and called to it. But based on my study of God’s Word, I believe that strongly.
At Southview, the church where I serve, the decision was made long before I arrived that every role is open to any believer who is GIFTED and CALLED to that role. Those two words are important.
By gifted, I’m referring to spiritual gifts. According to Scripture, every believer receives at least one spiritual gift. That gift may change over time – it’s not static. And we don’t receive it fully mature – what I mean by that is that our gifts have to be developed and grown, just like muscles. If someone has the gift of teaching, or giving, or serving, they should strive to learn all they can about it, learn from others with that gift how they can utilize it better, and seek to use it regularly. By doing those three things, the gift begins to be developed, and it’s utilization is more effective and stronger.
By called, I’m referring to that prompting by the Holy Spirit to step out into a role. If you’re not called – if you just fill a slot – then you’ll find that as your excitement and enthusiasm wanes (as it does for every one of us at times), your obedience to serve others with that gift will wane as well.
This month, the Jewish people celebrate Purim, a festival set aside to annually remember one of the greatest leaders Israel ever had – a woman named Esther. Because of her devotion to God and her courage, God used her to save the nation from annihilation. She’s not alone – in the pages of the Bible we find leaders like the judge Deborah, the prophet Huldah, the deacon Phoebe, and the apostle Junia. That’s just a sampling – and I believe that the Bible is clear that those God gifts and calls to a role, be they male or female, they should serve.
I think by freeing up people to serve as they are gifted and called, regardless of their race (Jew or Gentile), socio-economic status (slave or free), or gender (male or female), is the clear teaching of Scripture in this passage and many others. Tradition has led the church at times down a different road, and while I can understand those who feel its tug, my question is always “what does the Bible say?” I want to follow Scripture where it leads. And I want to lead in a way that is consistent with that, even and especially when it’s difficult.
It is God who chooses what gifts are given to each follower of Jesus. It is God who determines who is called to what role of service. It is God who made them leaders, male and female – in the pages of the Bible and today.
When God gifts and calls someone to lead, may we never get in the way of that.
Where have you seen this issue dealt with in a positive way in the local church? How can we as leaders help to empower and equip every believer to know their gifts and use their gifts to serve others?