6. The church cannot address social injustice against women without their involvement. There was a time in our nation’s history when women were not allowed to attend medical schools. In the late 1800s doctors perpetrated the idea that women didn’t have the intellectual capabilities needed to perform surgery or treat disease.
When women finally entered the medical field, women’s health immediately began to improve in the nation: the child mortality rate declined, advances were made in gynecology and obstetrics, and a host of other problems were addressed—all because women who understood their own bodies could now contribute to medical progress.
The same holds true in the spiritual realm. Certain things won’t change until women get involved. As long as women are denied opportunities in pastoring, evangelism, missions and theology, we cannot move forward. When women are included, the church can authoritatively address important issues including sexual abuse, abortion, single-parent poverty, child slavery, gender discrimination and domestic violence.
7. We will reach more territory for Christ when both men and women are engaged in ministry. Even before women won the right to vote in the United States, an army of women missionaries was sent from this country to China, India and Africa. Many of these women were single and weren’t allowed to pastor churches while they were on hallowed American soil. But when they got to the jungles and remote villages of the developing world they were transformed into apostolic ambassadors.
One Scottish woman missionary, Mary Slessor, single-handedly pioneered eastern Nigeria for Christ in the late 1800s and laid the foundations of the revival that still burns there today. Yet today, there are still churches in our country that would have told Slessor that she was only qualified to teach children in Sunday school or lead the women’s prayer group.
This is the primary reason I have dedicated my life to raising up women leaders. I know that right now a large segment of the church has their hands tied behind their backs. Women have been bound, squelched, limited, devalued and denied—yet they represent a huge untapped potential. We need them on the mission field, just as we need them starting Christian businesses, defending the family, pastoring churches, evangelizing our cities, running for political office and pioneering social reformation.
It’s time for us guys to drop our fears and our macho attitudes—and anything else we’ve used to stop our mothers, sisters and wives from claiming their spiritual inheritance. I challenge you to open as many doors for them as possible.
No More Macho
Here are eight practical ways you can address gender discrimination in your church:
1. Evaluate your own marriage. How do you treat your wife publicly? Does she feel the freedom to use her spiritual gifts, or is she just a decoration? If you have abuse issues in your own life, be willing to seek counseling.
2. Change your lingo. Many pastors refer to leaders as “my men” or “my guys.” Stop using exclusively male terms when referring to your staff. And when you talk about the need for “fathering,” remember that God’s people need mothers as well.
3. Retool your women’s ministry. Many women’s groups are spiritually shallow and focus only on domesticity. Christian women today don’t want to focus on recipes, fashion shows or bake sales. Offer a diverse range of opportunities for professional women, divorced women and widows as well as stay-at-home moms.
4. Stop ignoring single women. Some of the most effective missionaries in the 1800s were single females. But today the church tells these women they are “ladies in waiting,” as if their only ministry possibilities lie in marriage and family. Help them discover their gifts and give them opportunities to serve in leadership positions.
5. Check your salary policies. Are you paying men and women equal pay for equal work? Also, make sure you aren’t financially exploiting a staff member’s wife by expecting her to lead or serve in ministry even though she’s not on your payroll.
6. Revamp your training programs. Who is being trained for ministry in your congregation? Jesus trained both men and women. Make sure you have skilled female mentors who can raise up women leaders.
7. Open your pulpit to women. Invite anointed women to teach and minister in your church regularly. This will not only inspire your women but also help your entire congregation know that the Holy Spirit’s anointing is not about gender.
8. Confront abuse. Domestic violence is happening more than you realize, and it is rampant in churches. Offer regular teaching on marriage, and don’t avoid the abuse issue when ministering to men. We cannot keep sweeping this issue under the rug.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma and author of 10 Lies the Church Tells Women. Through his ministry, The Mordecai Project, he confronts the abuse of women and helps churches train and release women leaders. Visit themordecaiproject.com for more information.