Women Owning Their Leadership in the Church

I have discovered that lots of pastors and church leaders frequent my favorite coffee shop. All of us patrons in the coffee shop are in close quarters. And so, if one speaks at a normal decibel level or even a bit loudly, the next table over and the one on the other side, will hear the whole conversation.

Recently, I heard the phrase ‘penal substitutionary atonement’ and my ears perked up. At that moment, I wanted more than anything to stroll over and insert myself into the conversation. However, I bowed to propriety and kept my thoughts to myself. I have my opinions about atonement theories. Mostly, I think the majority of Evangelical Protestant leaders fail to consider and benefit from the other theories of atonement. As a result, so do our churches. We are tunnel-visioned.

When I am not with my family and new friends, and am not writing articles or slowly chipping away on my next book in my favorite place, my coffee shop, I am teaching seminarians—both pastors and lay people and also working on staff at my church as the Director of Discipleship. My passion, and part of my life’s calling, is to help spiritually form and equip our church leaders. God has opened doors for me to do so and I am not planning to squander my opportunities.

I teach both men and women. Both are under my tutelage and affirm my gifting and calling.

What is my point? My point is to encourage any woman reading this who has a similar gifting and desire to move forward in her calling. If you like to think and talk about God’s word and theology, to live like Jesus, and if you have teaching and leadership gifts, know God gave them to you for a reason. Use them in whatever environment and capacity you can. Do not buy the lie that I’ve heard floated about: women cannot and should not teach men.

If you feel called to women’s ministry, to encourage women in particular, fantastic. Do that. I love women and women’s ministry. I do that. However, I also teach men both at the seminary and at church.

Priscilla (and her husband Aquila) taught Apollos and ministered alongside Paul (Acts 18:26, Romans 16:3-5). In the early church, Macrina the Younger instructed her brothers Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa in the way of Jesus. They ended up fighting heresies and were of great help to the poor. Gregory of Nyssa testifies that everything he learned, he learned from his sister Macrina. Macrina the Younger is a titan in church history – at a critical moment, her influence helped determine the direction Christianity would take. She taught her two brothers who had immense influence in helping to maintain Christian orthodoxy, spreading monasticism, and helping the poor.

I deeply admire her. Like Priscilla, she used her mind and did not shrink back from teaching her brothers and other women simply because some did not think it was a woman’s place. I hope you will not shrink back either. We can talk and teach theology and Bible to our sisters and our brothers. For some of us not to do so means burying our talents. Onward and upward!

Marlena Graves

Marlena Graves

Marlena Graves is the author of A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness (Brazos Press 2014). Hearts and Minds Books awarded it the Best Book on Spiritual Formation by a First Time Writer (2014).Marlena is also a bylined writer for Christianity Today and Our Daily Journey (Our Daily Bread Ministries). Her pieces have also appeared in Relevant and many other venues. She is the Minister of Pastoral Care at her church and an instructor at Winebrenner Seminary. She lives in NW Ohio with her husband and three daughters.
Marlena Graves

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  • Keep inspiring women to use their gifts and men and women to love Christ more deeply! You are an inspiration to me for sure. Can’t wait to read the new words you are writing in that coffee shop.

  • Your encouragement is contagious. Thank you, Marlena.