At the end of my last post I wondered why we humans turn God’s model of servant-leadership into dictatorship when we lead. This idea of “but a leader should be humble, at the bottom of the ladder” reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend one summer.
This was the summer that I began to question my denomination of origin — not with the goal of leaving (though I eventually did), but simply to answer my questions. My friend had plans to be a pastor someday, so I thought he would be a good person to help me understand my denomination. Regarding my questions about women being excluded from pastoral ministry, he said:
Well, being a pastor isn’t about being “in charge” — it’s about service, and pastors are supposed to be at the bottom of the ladder, leading out of humility. So all the women and feminists should stop feeling like they’re being denied some spotlight or authority — being a pastor isn’t about power, it’s about service. What’s the big deal about being excluded from that?”
There are two main problems with this statement.
1. Pretending pastors do not have authority in the church is unrealistic.
Although my friend is correct in stating that the Jesus model for pastoring is one of servant-leadership and humility, that is rarely the reality today. Most pastors I know (with the exception of my dad and a few others) lead much more like presidents or CEOs than servants.
Even pastors who do lead with humility still wield a tremendous amount of influence. For children growing up in traditional churches, their shiny, white-robed pastors often mix with their image of Jesus and set the tone for those kids’ early faith. And most pastors generally get 20-60 minutes of uninterrupted speaking time from the pulpit each Sunday. So saying there is no authority or power to be had as a pastor is just plain unrealistic.
2. A lack of power or prestige does not make exclusion okay.
Even if pastoring was a low-influence sort of job in real life, does that make it any more just to exclude 50% of the population from it because of their anatomy? Yes, there are many other ways to serve God — but who are we to say that it’s impossible for God to call any woman to any of those ways, whether that be to preaching, legislating, or trash-collecting? I would much rather have a woman preacher who has a true and humble call to serve than a man preacher who seeks the influence that leading a church can give him. Which leads me to my next thought…
Doesn’t humility make a better pastoral baseline virtue than maleness?
I mean, really — if pastoring without a desire for power or control is *so important*, then isn’t it better to have humble servant-leaders for pastors no matter their sex than to be forced by gender exclusion to accept less-than-servanty pastors? Doesn’t excessive pride and desire for power corrupt the pastorate (and the church) more than having a vagina does?
I know I’m thinking practically here, with little biblical evidence. But I’m no Bible scholar, so I’ll let the real ones do that. My point here is simply to say that if it’s so easy for us humans to get God’s example wrong, then maybe we should be a little more careful before we start making rules about who’s allowed to do what.
What do you think? Should pastors focus more on humility? Do you think women can be called to pastoral ministry even if their church doesn’t allow it? Let me know in the comments!