[PODCAST AND VIDEO COMING…maybe…if my kids ever go back to school.]
Hi…What do you do for a job? Well, I am a lot of things to a lot of people, but the one overarching thing I do is…I shepherd. And if you are deciding whether or not that’s ok, (either because I am a woman or because I didn’t go to seminary–or both!), I completely understand. I didn’t know if it was ok either at first.
Nevertheless, however you come down on the issue, please keep reading. I’ll address that issue at the end (how’s that for a teaser). First things first. To all the shepherds, you know who you are deep inside…don’t try to fight it—
I SEE YOU!
We who shepherd have a very difficult task, until we realize our role is actually pretty simple. We shepherd under the Chief Shepherd. Peter should know, he was commissioned into shepherding by Jesus, Himself (John 21:15-17).
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1 Peter 5:2-4
Shepherds are those who really see people and have a desire by the Spirit to watch over them, out of love. That’s why it’s difficult to shepherd an impossibly large group. True shepherds notice if even one sheep goes missing without even feeling it as pressure–it’s just who we are. We track down the missing sheep and we bring them back to community in love. We see the sheep who no one else sees and pay attention to them. We identify the injured sheep and we tend their wounds under the guidance of Jesus and His Spirit. We carry the lame until they are healed and can walk again. We fight off wolves and thieves (in spiritual realms). We stay awake and sober and watchful.
Since we shepherd under the Great Shepherd, there is no pressure here. All we do is take the sheep back to the feet of Jesus. But shepherds see the sheep.
Shepherds go to the injured sheep. They don’t wait for the sheep to come to them. Most common injuries for sheep are fractures, dislocations, bruising, and puncture wounds. Follow the metaphor here. Sheep can be injured when they wander, but they can also be injured by falling against the infrastructure (falling between the cracks of church structures) and by others in the herd (church drama and fallout). Shepherds need to inspect the open wound and apply the right first aid and spray with bug repellent (prayer and scripture as follow up protective spiritual covering against the enemy).
Some sheep who develop a closeness to the shepherd by drawing especially close to the shepherd. The personal connection and this closeness gives comfort to the sheep and the shepherd. Shepherds love the comfort of these easy relationships, but the shepherd also loves to consciously go after the more difficult sheep. They spend considerable time chasing after the ones who run away, those who reject the leadership of the shepherd, or those who are injured. Shepherding is emotional. There is a bond. The shepherd loves the sheep. The sheep love the shepherd. There is a mutual fondness. Shepherds find and help the sheep that hide, the lost sheep, unwise sheep, careless sheep, and stubborn sheep.
Especially difficult are those who don’t like to be led (arrogant and critical), who do not want to be found (ashamed), or who lead others into dangerous places with them (natural leaders, not spiritual leaders). The challenge is to draw the sheep to the shepherd without chasing them away (similar to the analogy of fishing). But there is a gentle persistence that pursues the ones who are difficult. Rough handling and applying excessive pressure when handling sheep can increase the risk of injury for the sheep (true fact from actual shepherds-according to the 4H club. I had to take their word on it since I am not a literal shepherd of actual sheep…yet…hmmm…tempting).
THE SPIRITUAL SHEPHERD
The spiritual shepherd has to be sure to let the Chief Shepherd (Jesus) tend to their own hearts, and follow His way. The shepherd must always call everyone to follow the leadership and desires of the Chief Shepherd, not their own ideas, and not the whims of the sheep. They lead by relying on communication with the Chief Shepherd and where He is going (think Moses here—who led by seeking the presence of God so that His own face shone!).
The shepherds have to stay alert when sheep are sleeping. It is hard for shepherds to rest. So shepherds can get tired and susceptible to the enemy due to exhaustion, weariness, discouragement, and loneliness. While tending sheep is rewarding, this can lead the shepherd to feel that they are only loved for what they can do for others. Shepherds may feel that there are very few that are tending to their hearts. Shepherds can be injured by slips or falls (moral failure), muscle or back strain (from carrying too heavy of a load), bruises, cuts, or scrapes (from being kicked, stepped on, or hit by jumping sheep). Blisters and burns from lead ropes (from restraining sheep).
[yes, these are actual shepherding injuries]
The chief shepherd (Jesus) and other shepherds will be able to come alongside and offer healing and encouragement. You are not alone. Ask for help and check on your co-shepherds often.
On the other hand, when held as a gift and not an obligation, all this becomes a sweet and joyful sacrifice. In fact, the self-death that shepherding requires allows for the life of Jesus to more fully take over in us. Don’t expect this to be easy. Your flesh will resist death to self. Resolve to go lower so Christ may become greater.
We find that as we serve in home fellowships, there is literally no glory for our own names or reputation to propagate. And even better, when we shepherd under Jesus, HE gets to be the one who brings healing, not us! So we get to fade into the glory of our God in a delightful, childlike way, where our hearts do matter because we love Him and He loves us and we get to bring others into that love! There is no pressure here or in any other Holy Spirit gifting when held rightly. As long as we yield to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to returning, rest, quietness, and trust.
WHEN DOES A SHEEP BECOME A SHEPHERD?
Shepherds/apostles are the main “leadership” roles in today’s church (although the evidence in early church literature says the prophets were considered to be the priests in Early Christianity). I’ve been thinking, though. If we are all sheep, then what makes some of us shepherds and others sheep?
Indulge a short story from my crazy life as a mother of four–
I got REALLY frustrated the other day because I had told my children to make a sandwich and none of them had done it. The first time, their response had been that they just wanted a snack. I said “no” because they would be grouchy and hungry an hour later. I told them to make a “nourishing lunch with actual food.” So half an hour later still no one had done it. It was not because they didn’t know how to, they just didn’t do it for one reason or another. I came over and very angrily made peanut butter sandwiches. OK now…I do not mind making food for my family, but in this instance, I had asked them to get their own food. The older ones know how to get their own food from the kitchen and should have been ready to obey and then help the youngest (I even put my plates and bowls in a lower cabinet so they could reach them!…Come ON!!). Then it hit me.
Sheep need to be fed and led constantly by people. Shepherds don’t.
The sheep need to be led to pastures, water, and rest. Shepherds don’t. They already know how to find their food, water, security, and rest. It’s in Jesus. Shepherds know where to go. They know how to find their food and food for others. It’s a sign of maturity. Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Manna from Heaven, the Word of God. We feast on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We know we are ready to shepherd others when we know how to be led by and get our own food from the source–Jesus, the Chief Shepherd–through the Holy Spirit leading us in the Word of God.
We shepherd under the leadership and authority of the Chief Shepherd. We just bring people to the feet of Jesus to find HIM, their provision and sustenance—which is just simply WHERE WE ALREADY ARE.
This means we choose to get our hearts tended most immediately by Jesus directly. Through recognition of our own weakness we make a renewed love-driven vow to reject the world and lock eyes on Jesus, because His presence if our treasure. We walk as He walked. We are led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14). Sin is avoided not because we should avoid it, but because it breaks our intimacy with the Holy Spirit. When this happens to a person, Jesus’s word ring true of us–
If/when you love me, you will keep my commandments…Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them. John 14:15, 21
We want to stay with our shepherd. He makes us lay down (…somebody has to! Isaiah 30:15). He leads us on paths of righteousness. He leads us besides still waters and green pastures. He restores our soul. He stays with us (Psalm 23). When we walk this way, under His leadership, He often puts others under our care. His Spirit teaches them through us how to hear the Chief Shepherd and then how to find food and rest until they can learn to go directly to Jesus consistency.
So which sheep tend to become shepherds?
I have noticed a trend. The Spirit gives the gift of shepherding to sheep who choose to hang around the Chief Shepherd. These sheep become shepherds in one way or another, whether it is in teaching/exhortation, or a gift of mercy, or distributing gifts or coming alongside others. They are the ones who have chosen complete love-driven allegiance to Jesus.
Evangelists and prophets and teachers also should be mature (getting their sustenance directly from God through the Holy Spirit enlivening scripture and speaking to them in their quiet times with Him), but I am talking about the difference between those ready to lead versus being led. It is an issue of maturity in knowing how to get to the help you need directly from Jesus.
With maturity in our intimacy with Christ, many sheep become shepherds, and then mature shepherds tend to become apostles as God gives them sheep to disciple and their disciples start making disciples in obedience to Christ, and their disciples start making disciples and so on (Matthew 28). They love the shepherd and THEREFORE NATURALLY grow to love what He loves—sheep. They know the Chief Shepherd is good and trustworthy. They are past the point of being convinced of this. They know what He wants—the safety and care of the whole flock.
Therefore, as a dear friend told me once, leadership is not a reward for the naturally gifted or consistent or helpful ones of the bunch, it is the natural outcome of our love for God, our acknowledgment of our need for Him, and constant reliance on the Holy Spirit to lead others into His family. Shepherds DO support one another, they just don’t need to be fed consistently by other people. They have access to the source! And from their hearts flow Rivers of Living Water to others (this is the Holy Spirit–John 7:37-40)
They know His voice clearly because they stay close. Their eyes are on Him so they are less likely to be distracted by others or by the world. They stay close to Him so they are less scared and startled by the world. They might make mistakes or get injured but it’s less serious if they are staying safely close to Him and letting Him tend their hearts. They naturally want to give the good nourishment that they and others need from Jesus, the Word of God, the manna from Heaven.
How do you identify the pastors—the shepherds?
NOT BY NATURAL GIFTINGS. Be careful not to assign shepherding roles to those not SPIRITUALLY gifted in shepherding. Shepherding is not the same as corporate leadership. There are natural leaders and there are Spirit-Led leaders. Ironically, it is some of the most impetuous and selfish people that eventually make great shepherds (again, think Peter…lol). This is because true shepherding comes with a guarantee of persecution, either by those who hate truth or by those who are deceived (Matthew 10:16ff, 2 Timothy 4:3).
Remember, shepherding is a Spiritual gifting, not a personality leaning. Oh, all the poor “helpers”—who get pushed into shepherding a lot because they are naturally helpful and willing, but they are actually not joyful in it because they are not sourcing their love from the Chief Shepherd—so they quit because no one appreciates them or they get burned out. Or worse, the “natural leaders” who are actually not led by the Spirit and are using corporate leadership strategies including shame, intimidation, and obligation, leading everyone into greater bondage, not freedom and life, and then get frustrated and condemned by the enemy because they were not fully yielded to the leadership of the Chief Shepherd (Matthew 23:15).
Most often, shepherds will self-identify their shepherding gift because God tells them HE is giving it to them. If you see a Spirit-led shepherding gift in them, ask them in a serious way to pray to confirm it. Don’t assume. This is important, so read carefully: A person will only be able to identify if they have this Holy Spirit sourced gift and passion for sheep when they are completely surrendered to Jesus at the expense of every other thing and asking to being led by the Spirit of God (also helpers and natural leaders may still end up being Spiritually gifted shepherds, but if they do it will be God who makes them sacrifice their own personality, whichever it is, on the altar so HE can come alive in them. It is not a natural gifting anymore and they will know the difference when it shifts for them).
If you are interested in my life and experience read this paragraph–otherwise just skip down. It won’t hurt my feelings…much. So my natural personality is an artist, a romantic, so naturally I love thinking outside the box, exploring creative things and while I always craved being known, I also generally wanted to be so unique that I had a lot of trouble building real friendships and identifying with others. I was friendly but mostly because I thought I had to be friendly in order to be a good Christian. I used to be placed as a leader in “church” because I was deemed mature by others, but in retrospect, I actually was leading out of obligation and as a result I did not usually lead people to Jesus, I led them to my own ideas.
In my heart of hearts, I actually preferred being alone with my music or books or drawing and maybe one friend at a time. Imagine my shock (and initial dismay) when God gave me a genuine interest in PEOPLE, a desire to know them, and a passion and emotional capacity to watch over them! I used to read people so I could get what I needed from them or what I thought they needed, but now that ugly controlling factor is gone and I see people in love and in the Spirit by His power (often in words of wisdom) in order to lead them to freedom. Fun fact, I used to HATE both small talk and hugs equally. Now I hug EVERYONE, because they are cuddly cute sheep and I actually really love them (admittedly, I still am really bad at small talk…it’s fine)
All this to say that this gifting was definitely from God. I knew it because it emerged shortly after my full and total surrender, and that gave me confidence to obey Him in this gifting even though parts of my personality still don’t seem to fit that gifting sometimes. And it’s in those weaknesses that His strength flows in to fill me and then flows out.
My first gifting was not shepherding, it was evangelism. My second and third giftings were not shepherding either (you’ll have to guess on those two). Here’s what happens. God will gift your community with what you need if you ask Him. You may need to function as a shepherd or apostle where you have to feed sheep. God knows your placement and what He needs you to do and HE will give you collectively what you need. Remember, it’s His agenda now, not yours. Maybe good shepherds are hard to come by in that place and there are lots of sheep that don’t get it yet.
Actually, anyone who has become mature in their love-driven obedience to Jesus can “shepherd” people in the sense of making disciples. You can “shepherd” someone as an evangelist or prophet or teacher too, or as someone primarily gifted in other areas like mercy, healing, etc. But a shepherd gifting, like all other truly Spiritual gifts, seems to only emerge naturally once a person is fully surrendered to God. I think this may be because shepherding a group before you are truly surrendered to God is very dangerous.
A love for discipleship and shepherding under the Chief Shepherd only emerged after I fully surrendered to God’s Spirit. I actually remember saying in a Bible study I was leading once how much I hated praying and discipleship. Yep. True story. At least I was honest. Prayer and discipleship was hard because I had never truly recognized my betrayal of Jesus in my self-sufficiency. But when he gently showed me my sin, I saw the utter depth of my betrayal of His love and repented and received the mercy of Jesus and came under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, leaving all my agendas and goals for His. Now that all of my life is wrapped up in Him, oh man! Prayer is as easy as breathing and discipleship is the most fun thing! Those things are so life-giving for me! There’s no obligation in this anymore for me. It’s all joy!
Also, I have seen a person’s spiritual gifts change or morph depending on a person’s placement in community. For example, if you are in a whole group of shepherd-gifted people, maybe the Lord will want to give you a new gift of teaching to complete the parts of the body. Remember, this is not about finding YOUR identity. This is about what God needs in this time at this place. He will supply the people He needs to round out the local body of Christ (your home fellowship). Don’t assume you will always function in the same role in different groups of believers.
But if you are asking God specifically to show you potential shepherds, you will see that some people attract sheep and are just gifted by God to gently shepherd—ask God to show you, to reveal it to them, to give you wisdom, and train them under you as you shepherd others. When He gives you other shepherds to train…
KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Keep it simple for those you are training so they can teach others to shepherd simply. Do what Jesus, our chief shepherd, modeled for us—I do nothing except what I see my Father doing and say nothing but what I hear my father saying (John 12:49, John 5:19). Tell them to shepherd under the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:2-4). Tell them to shepherd by taking people to the feet of Jesus, so they learn hear His voice for themselves, get their nourishment (manna) from Him and their healing/wholeness by His Holy Spirit directly (water of life). Teach them to teach others this simple “method.” One thing necessary—sit at His feet as His disciple and LISTEN to what He has to say, for you personally and for your sheep (Luke 10:38-42) and then they will lead their sheep there too.
It’s ok. Go one step at a time. We can only process so much at once. As any mature believer knows, you know where they are going but they don’t (to the feet of Jesus). God will give you the love you need to shepherd them. Remind them often to listen for the Chief Shepherd and keep them close and they will get it. Every time they ask you a question, ask them if they have asked God about it. This will accomplish some important things: 1) you will stay humble and be less tired, 2) they will learn to go to Jesus first for all their needs, 3) they will realize the simplicity of this method and be confident to disciple others.
The Wrap Up!
Pastoral leadership will be evident in men and women in the community who feel led to check up on your people. It’s a Spiritual gift and calling that wells up in mercy and compassion and involves personal relationship and genuine care and empathy. They notice people. Every pastor’s sheep knows their voice because the pastor is in personal contact and care of each sheep.
How does this shift from a church-building model? When small home fellowships are thought of as “churches” the shepherd can truly and deeply know the sheep and the sheep can truly and deeply know the shepherd.
How many people do you have the capacity to know deeply and be known by? That’s about how many people you should be shepherding. Accept the joy in this. Honestly, how would it feel to only need to shepherd a manageable number of people that you know and love and not hundreds or thousands of nameless faces? We have been putting so much pressure on pastors with big congregations. What if God intends your freedom and releasing of an apostleship gifting in your life, if you only let go of the pressure of shepherding massive number of people. Are you really doing it that well anyway?
But, you may say, that means we’re in desperate need of new shepherds!
Yes! Let’s recognize our poverty and beg God for shepherds!
The truth is, I actually think the institutional churches have more pastors than than they know in their small group leaders. I think we need to recognize that most pastors in America are not functioning as pastors but as apostles (if you will allow a biblical understanding of apostle, which is those who are “sent ones”).
It’s the Sunday School and Bible Study and Small Group leaders that are the actual pastors, the ones who know every sheep and notice when they are not there. And if you are a small group leader or teacher, you need to accept that God may given you sheep to shepherd, care for and disciple. You need to let go of your own methods and purpose only to be led by the Holy Spirit in this. Otherwise, you will not be shepherding responsibly.
WILL THE TRUE APOSTLES COME FORWARD?
So really, church organizations could be maintained as a overseen collection of smaller fully-functional, Spirit-led church gatherings (home fellowships) in which there are complete bodies of activated believers, Spirit-filled and Spirit-led and Spiritually gifted for the building up of the local church body. You would be decentralized in structure, but united in function and purpose, and enlivened as the priesthood of all believers! In this model, which was what Jesus started, each one has a uniquely beautiful Spiritually gifted role in the body, each one is joyfully responsible to fulfill the calling and serve in the spiritual gifts they’ve received according to the grace given them. And we all eagerly desire prophecy and greater gifts, but above all, we desire love, which binds it all together in the Spirit. You would NOT export teaching from one central pastoral figure or teacher. Each group would be led by the Spirit according to the intention of God for that specific community.
From what I have seen, apostles often start off as shepherds or prophets, but have an itch to also connect or encourage church communities. As we move out of buildings in faith and obedience, He equips us to build the body until they understand the leadership of God and come into maturity with the gifts in that body.
In this model that Jesus started (a spiritual temple model), apostles would shepherd multiple communities and start new church communities in people’s homes. They would go as a team (Paul and Barnabus, for example) and between them, they would have to be at least functional in all the five major gifts even though they might have a initially been gifted in only shepherding, evangelism, prophecy, or teaching. Because they would need that to spark new churches until the new believers reach maturity in their love for Jesus by the Spirit. I have noticed at trend that if God is raising you up for apostleship, He will likely keep adding gifts to you until you are broadly gifted in all five areas. You should request the ones you need as you realize you need them. God tends to give us more gifts as we need Him to (Luke 11:12).
But fair warning, you need people. Don’t just be a maverick and go it alone. Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs. It is not good to be alone. You need human and spiritual support. You need other shepherds and apostles so you don’t get isolated or fall into some false doctrine that seems right to only you. As you visit, teach, and then make an exit plan to leave each group, you leave people in charge. These will be your elders- shepherds, teachers, evangelists and prophets who know how to hear the voice of God for the community and who know how to worship in Spirit and Truth.
TO THE HESITANT SHEPHERD (you know who I am talking about!)
You might say that you don’t have enough training to consider yourself a pastor. What training school or university does an actual shepherd attend? Ridiculous. You can’t learn to take care of sheep by only reading books. All animal husbandry requires on the job training. You learn as you go. This is dangerous and you might fail, but you cannot learn to actually pastor unless you start pastoring. And everything you need to learn about shepherding (sheep and people) can actually be learned in the field. Just ask Moses and David.
A parable for you—
Imagine a seasoned shepherd leaves for a trip and gives his two sons responsibility over His sheep. Both know nothing about shepherding. The first son stays in his cottage and spends his time reading books about sheep. He goes to shepherding conferences and he comes back and tells all the sheep what He has learned about how best to manage and grow the flock-no response. The sheep under his care have starved to death or been scattered while he was busy listening to the experts and making a plan. His brother, also new to the idea and position of shepherding, goes to the field and gets to know his sheep. He plays with them. He spends time with them. He watches their patterns. He speaks words of kindness to them. He fixes their broken legs and scrapes. He calls His Father on the phone for advice throughout the day (because he’s gone, but not unreachable). And in doing so He becomes a shepherd who loves the sheep so much he would lay his own life down for them. Many of you have sheep already in your life, but you are too nervous to start shepherding them. It’s time to accept your identity as a shepherd and start doing the work of tending your people God has placed under your care.
BUT I DIDN’T GO TO SEMINARY!
Did Moses go to seminary? Did David? Did Peter?
The question is not “are you educated?,” but “are you equipped?.” And the answer to that is not how long you have been studying scripture or going to school formally. Why do you think Jesus conscripted Peter of all people to be the first shepherd? Peter had no formal training. He was the one who stepped out of the boat and said Jesus was the Messiah, but He was also one who betrayed Him. What is happening there? Have you actually experienced the mercy of Jesus and seen the shame in your betrayal that drove you to His love (John 21). But even this was not enough to build the temple of living stones (1 Peter 2:4-9). There was an event that equipped this man who was filled with great love for Jesus to also live with great power. It is the Holy Spirit who equips all of us for the work of the kingdom.
Even Paul, a man of many words, met those two requirements: 1) He felt the shame of His betrayal and therefore He knew the grace and mercy of God first hand, 2) He experienced the Holy Spirit. In fact, he counted ALL his wisdom as loss and RESOLVED TO KNOW NOTHING but Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), the foolishness to the wise. It is the Holy Spirit who teaches us. Want proof?
“You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them,
Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth,
And You gave them water for their thirst.” Nehemiah 9:20
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26
...for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. Luke 12:12
And my PERSONAL favorite:
As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. 1 John 2:27
Here’s the really great thing. We shepherd under the authority of the great shepherd. So here’s the method to this. It’s really simple. We take people back to the feet of Jesus by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. That’s it. We lead them back to Him every time. It’s impossible for a sheep to feel loved if they have never heard from their shepherd. Teach them to hear from God. For this you need the Holy Spirit to lead YOU! Otherwise you will be a blind guide. Here is the method:
The Holy Spirit will speak to you to help them listen to the Holy Spirit and understand how to study scripture. Then, the Holy Spirit will lead them through scripture and the scripture will lead them to more experiences of intimacy with the Spirit which will move them to love-driven obedience! You will walk with them until they reach maturity, correcting and mentoring and reminding them of the “one thing necessary”
That’s pastoral leadership—that’s shepherding. That’s it. That means if you do not know the first-hand mercy of God in the face of your betrayal, you are not ready to shepherd (because you are ignorant of your sin and arrogant in your religion). Also, if you do not hear from God by His Spirit, you are not ready to shepherd (because you do not have the presence of the Holy Spirit actively guiding your life).
Trying to shepherd based on scripture alone or philosophical principles may be possible, but you will get very, very tired because God’s Spirit is way more efficient than all the tools and methods of humans. Wait on God until you learn to hear His voice, then go shepherd. If you don’t know how to hear God, ask someone who does. I know. It’s humiliating to admit there is something you need that you do not have, but it’s worth seeking. There is a treasure worth selling everything to buy. It is His presence as mediated by Spirit (Holy Spirit) and Truth (the Word, Jesus, and also scripture, which tells the truth about God).
And while we’re at it…let’s just get this pesky heresy out of the way of women not being able to shepherd/pastor or speak in church.
(clears throat in utter terror then speaks boldly in obedience)
AND now, I would like to step on a few toes (not really, I hate making people mad actually, I’m just pretty good at it these days—Jesus help me.)
So about our women who are called to shepherd—
Are women at your church shepherding and teaching women because they are permitted to teach and shepherd women ONLY? Do the women gifted in teaching and shepherding get relegated to “administrative” positions in the organizational structure of the institutional church even when in reality they are shepherding people? I’m not talking about labels or salary or equality or even justice. I am talking about the BRIDE! The idea that “women speaking in church is a sin” or that they should not lead publicly in the assembly of believers is false reading of scripture and a deception of the enemy and is strangling the life out of many of our institutional churches.
WAKE UP, BRIDE OF CHRIST, and he who has ears let him hear.
One of the reasons women were told to be quiet and not speak in church and ask their husbands at home in the first century church is because the men were the only ones trained in the scriptures! In the Jewish synagogue, protocol demanded a separation of women from men, so you get women yelling to their husbands across the separation to explain the lesson to them more clearly. It seems to me, that what we see in Paul’s writings was a response to advice in how to keep order in assembly. Women were asking questions and disrupting the service because most did not understand the Word of God. (1 Corinthians 14)
But guess what? Our women are not ignorant in the scriptures. Since we come from a society of men working and women staying home, for the last fifty years, many of these stay-at-home moms have been meeting weekly to STUDY SCRIPTURE! How many of our men have been doing this? The women taught through videos made by women like Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, Priscila Shirer, and so many more, who have been studying practical applications of scripture and learning in submission and steadfast endurance from men on Sunday mornings—it is quite possible that these women are MORE EQUIPPED to rightly divide scripture than most Christian men in American culture. This is not arrogance. This is truth.
More than this, many of them have been at His feet in His presence for years in deep training by the Holy Spirit for this very time and place! These women are devoted to their husbands and children and fully dedicated to serving them in love, but these women also have fire in them. Release the women to wake the Bride!
These women have been learning to study the Bible for themselves with the Holy Spirit as their teacher, and with others on a layperson level. They already KNOW what connects to uneducated believers and what moves them to deeper experiences in scripture exploration. God is raising up women who are COMPELLED to preach (evangelize). They cannot be silent. And Joel 2 and Acts 2 tells us that we should have seen this coming. God is pouring out His Spirit. It is happening now.
It should serve as a warning us that if we make the women be quiet, it will be our own children we are telling to share the gospel and seek God’s will for their life and then it will be us telling them to shut up when they reach the age of womanhood (what age should a girl stop making disciples at her school or job or stop teaching scripture?)
I am a female who is a pastor. I was gifted pretty suddenly by the Holy Spirit with a SURPRISE shepherding gift and a command to leave my wonderful church and start a home fellowship. As mentioned previously, this gifting was not along the lines of my natural personality at all. But when God tells you to co-pastor a home fellowship starting “now” you had better know real quick if that’s the Lord or or the enemy whispering in your ear. Not even joking. I told my close friends I needed to know what the Bible said about women and if I was wrong in hearing this assignment from God to start a home fellowship and what we found was really exciting actually. We found that God chose women as His messengers throughout scripture! Even more than this, God fulfills every promise and assignment in us so that there is NO PRESSURE to explain myself or His choosing of me! There’s not enough time to worry about the stuff so many people get hung up on. There’s not enough time to argue about the smaller points. People are dying.
God’s Spirit is being poured out now. Release the women and girls to preach and shepherd and evangelize and teach!
Commission your women as an ESTHER GENERATION who are born FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS– knowledgeable in scripture and FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT who know how to hear God’s voice to preach and disciple everyone they meet! There is no time to be picky.
Surely God was not wrong to establish Deborah as a spiritual leader and judge over His people? What about the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36–38) who prophesied over Jesus? Or does Jesus misplace His trust in women when the FIRST PERSON He gave permission to tell about Him was a woman (John 4)? Or when the first people to see an empty tomb was a group of women? Or when the woman who worshiped him by pouring out perfume “gets it” more than the men of that time? OR when Jesus says that Mary understands the “one thing necessary” and defends her choice to take a position of a disciple AT HIS FEET?
Jesus intentionally empowered and commanded women to “go tell.” They were the FIRST evangelists—(proclaimers of the good news)! May the Lord convict the men who have taken the apostles’ letters out of their cultural context and kept women from shepherding, teaching, and discipling. Set them loose and you will see an explosion of God’s Spirit in your assembly of believers!
Joel chapter 2 says, “… I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. 29 I will even pour out My Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days.
Prophecy is intended to be spoken and heard publicly. This means that Paul’s instructions for women not to teach, but to learn, was either meant to be temporary or pertinent to that specific community for certain reasons that the contemporary reader can only try to gather from the context of the letter and history.
Surely Paul was not wrong to say generally to all to “eagerly desire the gift of prophecy”-TWICE (1 Corinthians 12:31, 1 Corinthians 14:1)? Should Priscilla not have stood with Aquilla to correct Apollos for His incomplete teaching (Acts 18:26)? Should Timothy’s female family members not have taught him (2 Timothy 1:5)? Should the four daughters of Phillip have kept silent in their prophetic gifts (Acts 21:19)? Should Paul have agreed to allow women apostles or hosts of home fellowships (Romans 16:1–6)?
The idea that women should be quiet in the global church is not in keeping with the full testimony of scripture or the testimony of the Holy Spirit (who moved men and women to speak in tongues and prophecy) and is therefore false teaching. There may be reasons in certain situations to let men or women speak or be silent based on gender, but not as a general rule anymore. Can we let this go if we know that God is the one who established the tradition of women evangelists, prophets, apostles, shepherds and preachers?
That is not to say that everyone who studies scripture should teach. Paul says he resolved to know nothing except Christ and Christ crucified so that we would not be convinced with man’s wisdom but by the power of God through the Holy Spirit. The power and gifting of the Spirit to teach, shepherd, evangelize, or prophecy should be the deciding factor in how to encourage the body of believers, whether male or female (Galatians 3:28). This comes from spending time with God in quiet abiding trust, learning to hear His voice in quiet places so we can speak in the light what He tells us in the dark (Matthew 10:27).
Isn’t the issue of whether or not women should lead is really a luxury of the institutionalized church? In the church and the kingdom outside the building that is not really an issue at all. You simply disciple the one in front of you–the one God has led you to. It can really be that simple. The truth is, even though it would be nice, we don’t need permission from our pastors to disciple anyone (though we would LOVE as much blessing and commissioning as you can manage!). We just pour out as God puts people in front of us and tells us to evangelize or heal.
We have to be able to disciple without that voice inside saying “should we speak up or not.” Of course you should speak up! If you had a life-saving medicine, would you not give it to a dying person in front of you? We have the words of life! Women of God, whether you are eight or ninety eight…don’t wait for an outlet or a stage or a platform. Disciple your best friends, your parents, your teachers. Teach them to listen to the voice of God and disciple everyone! Rescue the dying.
LADIES!!! Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and Disciple EVERYONE He tells you to! Let’s go warrior princesses of the kingdom! Ride out in the strength of your King and of His Spirit! Not under the banner of feminism or women’s rights but under God’s banner of love over you! He is enthralled with your beauty! Go build His kingdom! If you feel you need permission, ask for a blessing, but if you can’t find anyone to bless you, consider this your commissioning and go disciple the nations! Be fruitful and multiply!
There’s not enough time to worry about changing the system—let the system worry about itself if it can’t see the urgency of the days at hand. Save the ones in front of you–take as many with you to the feet of Jesus as you can.
We need Shepherds! Oh God, give us women and men to be prophets, teachers, evangelists, apostles, and shepherds for your people that are led by and filled with your Spirit, because only those who are LED BY THE SPIRIT are your children! And only those led by the chief shepherd can ever hope to shepherd someone back to You!
WAKE THE BRIDE!!!
***An extra note***
In sharing this with people over the last year, it has come up that several people worried that if they allow women to preach they will have to allow for homosexuality to be ok too, because they view both allowances as a non-literal reading of scripture. There is a difference in a contextual reading and a misreading or false reading of scripture. Here is the truth: It was never sinful to be a woman and speak boldly in the presence of Jesus. Jesus completely fulfilled and obliterated the temple building system that separated people (men and women) from His presence and one another (more on this later). However, it was ALWAYS sinful, in both covenants, to act on same-sex attraction in homosexual acts, whether you were male or female.
I firmly believe that it was never a sin for women to speak in church, rather, it was not allowed or encouraged in those contexts because of specific situational reasons that would have hindered the order of the assembly and the Jewish mindset in the early church. The women stayed quiet then out of love for others, so that the word of God could be spoken without confusion. It was about order. (1 Corinthians 12-14). There is no longer a need for women to be silent in most cultures. Women are allowed to speak and lead in every other context in our society, but not in church? That’s the enemy at work folks—knocking out half your work force for the kingdom right there. Are you men tired? Well, you have an army of women ready to fight with you by your side for the kingdom. As much as they would love your blessing, many will not get it. And you will lose an ally as she builds God’s kingdom elsewhere. This is not a threat, but it is a warning. I beg you, brothers, release the women while there is still time.
When we started our home fellowship, I was blessed to be sent out to shepherd by one pastor, a brother and friend, who continued to pray for me and support me when it got hard, even as many other men told me I was in violation of my place as a woman and mother. I am so thankful for men in my life, including my earthly father and husband, who have set me free to run into this with the Lord, bruises and all. I am also thankful for the honest male and female friends that have questioned the biblical basis for women in church leadership. They are the ones that made me look more closely at the scripture. If you need a more laid out apologetic for this, I like this article, and drew a lot of assistance from here, though I cannot vouch for all the others on this website, or the website itself. May God make this clear to us by His Spirit and bring the Bride into unity on this matter.