Can Women be Leaders?


“What do you think of women leaders? pastors?”


In our culture it is not popular to speak or even think anything different than the popular ideology of the day.  With the changes incorporated by the feminist movement over the last few decades it is highly detestable to think that women should not fulfill the exact same functions or positions as men.  However, that is exactly what the bible teaches about the roles of men vs. women.

Its important to note that there is not a competition between women and men as to who is better. If you will imagine a sports car and a pickup truck standing side by side, and I came up to you and asked “which one is better?” what would you pick as the “winner”? Neither, because they serve two different objectives.  It is the same with women and men.

They are both equal in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:28,) yet they both have different functions in life. Paul said women shouldn’t be in charge over men or teach over men (1 Timothy 2:12).  That does not imply that they worse or incomplete, it just means women were created for something other than to be the lead pastor/teacher of a church or the leader of the family (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18-19, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Peter 3:1-7).

There are, however,  biblical cases of women doing ministry under male authority, such as Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2).  Some examples of good ministries that women can be involved in includes teaching other women and children, taking care of others, encouraging, church office work, administrative work, writing, helping and praying.  You can add anything else to this list as long as women are not given charge over men.  It is not uncommon for a pastors wife to assist her husband in the ministry, which is completely fine, provided she is submissive to her husband.

In today’s world there are many women pastors in the church.  The reason for this is not always because the women involved are headstrong or rebellious but usually due to the lack of adequate leadership from men.  At times women have to fulfill roles that men have fallen from.  As men rise up to take their proper place in a church we hope to find that godly women will gladly serve under male eldership.  We should pray that God will raise a generation of men who will fulfill His calling and serve as leaders.

For more information on this topic there is a free book Pastor John Piper and Wayne Grudem have put together, you can access it here.


8 responses

  1. You may call me “headstrong or rebellious” for leaving this comment but I could care less…I just felt like responding because I’m tired of men shutting down God-given talents and desires in women.

    First of all, I want to be crystal clear that I agree with you 100% in regards to the wife being in submission to her husband. That is Biblical and I’m all for it – it’s the way God created us and the way it should be. But what I wanted to touch on is women being pastors/preachers/other leadership positions in the church.

    You brought up 1 Timothy 2:12 which is typical; however, the scripture certainly doesn’t command this as a ‘rule’ for all women. If it were so, then women could not speak at all for the same verse that tells them not to teach also tells them to be silent. If all women had to keep silent in church (meaning can’t prophesy, pray, testify, sing, or even get saved), then they would all be in disobedience before God. If you interpret the verse in such a way it contradicts the rest of the Bible and the Holy Spirit would never contradict His own Word.

    Next, you gave an example of a woman doing ministry under male authority. Great! But how about an example of a woman doing ministry without men’s authority:
    DEBORAH was Israel’s judge and leader of its military. The children of Israel came to her for judgment. She was the chief ruler of Israel for 40 years, giving orders to the Generals and all the army. She did the work of an evangelist, prophetess, Judge, and a preacher. God gave her authority over the mighty (Judges 5:13).

    A few other examples of women doing ministry/preaching:
    PRISCILLA in the book of Acts was a leader in business, co-founder of several churches and mentor to a rising international evangelist
    ESTHER saved her Hebrew people from genocide in the halls of power
    MIRIAM was a prophetess and a worship leader in Israel.
    HULDAH was a female who preached to a man’s congregation, and her message was taken to the nation and produced a revival. (2 Kings 22:14)
    And my favorite: The first message of the Resurrection of Christ was spoken by WOMEN to a group of men – Is that not the purest form of preaching? :).

    To conclude, there is not one scripture in the Bible that forbids women to preach. In fact, it’s quite the opposite as there are countless verses that encourage both genders to preach the Gospel. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) and will use whosoever He pleases, regardless of sex. The command to “preach the Gospel” is to both male and female. Moreover, women preachers are a fulfillment of the prophecies heralding Christ’s soon return to earth (Joel 2:28). There is no reason why a woman cannot preach the Gospel as there are many scriptures declaring women will prophesy/preach.

    As far as your statement, “…The reason for this is not always because the women involved are headstrong or rebellious but usually due to the lack of adequate leadership from men. At times women have to fulfill roles that men have fallen from.” – I don’t quite agree. Do you seriously believe that there is so little “roles” out there that there isn’t enough work for women? There is a desperate need in the church for more workers (be it preachers/leaders/whatever). There is more than enough Christian ministry work. Laborers are few, and God will use any and all who will go for Him; regardless of gender.

    Acts 5:39
    “But if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
    Women have a God-given destiny in their lives…and if that assignment from God is for them to preach or have a leadership role in the church – who are you to silence that? To say women can’t be pastors/preachers is an offense because God has stamped His approval on them by His Spirit over and over again, and who is man to fight against the Spirit of God?

    I am not trying to start a fight nor do I care for an argument…I simply wanted to be an encouragement for women who might read this. Ladies: If God has given you a passion and desire for the Kingdom of God, don’t let anyone stop you! Do not let your voice be silenced and preach the good news to all as commanded by Jesus Christ! :j (…and please, DO submit to your husbands!!!)


  2. Ilona, I started out being very hostile to a complementarian approach to gender and the bible. I had been around many men who were disrespectful of women and used the scriptures to degrade and manipulate women. In response to that I became very rebellious to the whole idea and spent a few years debating egalitarianism as the way. Then God began to change my prideful ways and conforming my mind to scripture. Truth is I think many women feel so strongly because in many ways men have misused what they dont understand.

    There is no doubt that God does not lack roles for people to fill, and that women are to serve Jesus including by speaking or preaching the gospel to their friends and neighbors. 1 Timothy 2:12 means women should be silent in the context of teaching/having authority over men. It is one thing to “preach” by telling her coworker about Jesus, it is another to lead Gods people by having authority over them and teaching them.

    While there are a few examples of women leading they are few and not the norm. Priscilla is always noted as being with her husband, so she is not leading but serving alongside her husband. Huldah gave a prophecy to a few men, one time. Esther was married to the king and asked him who was over her to help her people. Miriam is recorded as leading women in worship, but was not a leader of men. Debrah is the only real example in the Old testament. However, to contrast that we have over 700 priests in the bible, none of whom were women. To be honest, I didnt like any of this when I found out, my contemporary upbringing clashed with Gods standard of leadership for a long time before I gave in.

    The bible is very clear about Gods order for leadership. The new testament sets up many guidelines for churches but never once sets women as elders or pastors. There is no record of a female elder. While Jesus had many women as friends who helped him in ministry, he did not make even one an apostle.

    Furthermore the guidelines for bishops, elders, overseers, and even deacons are all written for men including that the pastor would be the husband of one wife.(1 Tim. 3:2,4-5,12; Titus 1:5-7) This is clearly an expectation that it would be a man.

    The bible sets a standard of men having authority over women (1 Cor. 11:3) This of course is as long as the man loves and provides for her. And while women are permitted to use words to share with their friends about Jesus, one of the ways a woman can preach the gospel even without words is by being submissive to her husband and letting people and him see that in her.

  3. Ilona, I agree with you on that both women and men need to proclaim the Gospel and both genders are led by the Holy Spirit to testify of Jesus.

    And I’m sure you’ll agree with me that both your feet and hands need to serve your body, and both parts are led by your mind to testify of your being.

    Unfortunately, by encouraging women to be preachers, leaders and teachers over men which might appear even admirable to some, you are at the same time robbing women of the power they have been given through Jesus Christ.

    And instead of building the Kingdom of God, you are harming it.
    If you don’t believe me, try painting with your feet or walking on your hands.
    Just because both members of your body are equally important, and serve the same body, doesn’t mean both parties can or will perform the same function equally.

    The Bible tells women to be submissive to their husbands. And it’s not so bad if your husband is a Christian and loves Jesus. But even if your husband is not Christian, it still demands that a woman submits to her husband, and not just submits, but it also instructs the woman to not teach him.

    So it’s one thing that a woman can’t rule or preach over Christian man, but the Bible forbids a Christian woman to teach and preach to an unchristian man.

    “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives” 1 Peter 3:1

    Why? Why can’t women preach to unchristian men?

    Because that would rob a woman of her power and strength in Christ.
    In truth a woman teaches a man as much as a man teaches a woman, but she speaks loudest in silence. Her sermons are most effective in her submission and obedience. Her quiet and gentle spirit testifies of Jesus as loud as a man’s authoritative voice and leadership.

    By encouraging woman to go and proclaim the Gospel in the same way as a man you are in actuality robbing women of the power and strength God has given them.

    As for 1 Timothy 2:12, most translations use the word “quiet” not silent. And it does not say “in church”, it says “over the man”, so your argument is rather invalid.

    I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority OVER A MAN; rather, she is to remain quiet. 1 Timothy 2:12

    Why should a woman remain silent when a man exercises authority?

    I think 1 Peter 3:1 answers it perfectly.
    “they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.”

    Because it’s the strength and power of a woman.
    God isn’t just trying to shut women up because they have nothing important to say or teach, but rather He is displaying the testimony of His Son through the quietness, submission and obedience of a woman.

    Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
    1 Samuel 15:22

    Perhaps, rather than teaching and encouraging women to be preachers and leaders, we should teach women how precious obedience and submission are. How powerful and valuable are the traits that God has given to a woman.

    When using Deborah as an example, so many people fail to notice a character trait Deborah herself associates herself with:

    The villagers ceased in Israel; they ceased to be until I arose; I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel. Judges 5:7

    Deborah never ruled over men, and men led the army. Above all, Deborah was a mother. And her service for the Lord, she served with the spirit of a mother rather than a ruler.

    As for Priscilla, you’re forgetting a very important detail; she was the wife of Aquila. Her name is never mentioned without his. She was his helper, as Eve was Adams.

    Esther saved her people in exactly that. Submission and obedience. She didn’t teach or preach to the King, but rather served him.

    As for Miriam, bad example. Do you not remember when Miriam took leadership when Moses was on the Mountain? Numbers 12
    She led women in worship.

    Again, yes women should testify and share the Gospel, but their testimony is most effective in service, quietness, submission and obedience.

  4. I appreciate both of your responses but unfortunately neither one of you could provide me with a scripture that forbids women to preach to men…and as I result I am wholly unconvinced.

    Yuriy – not sure why you brought up 1 Cor. 11:3 and Inna – not sure why you brought up 1 Peter 3:1 – like I said in the very beginning, I completely agree women should submit to their husbands and be obedient to them – there’s no argument about that. And yes, in married life women should serve in quietness, submission and obedience. But married life and church life are two different things and those scriptures don’t forbid women to preach to men.

    Why people interpret 1 Timothy 2:12 and the like to mean that women can’t preach to men is still a mystery to me. All scripture needs to be interpreted in its historical context, in light of the verses surrounding it as well as the overall message of Scripture. If 1 Timothy 2:12 was intended to totally forbid women from teaching men, then Apollos was sinning by accepting spiritual guidance from Priscilla (which, married or not, she did NOT provide guidance to Apollos by “quietness, submission and obedience.” She actually spoke words…and he listened.)

    As for Titus 1:5-7 (and 2 Timothy 3:2 – both of which teach that elders, deacons and other church leaders are to be “the husband of one wife”), it also needs to be interpreted in light of Scripture as a whole. If these verses were intended to be a command that only married men are permitted to be church leaders, then Paul himself would be disqualified, as he was unmarried. If the title of “deacon” was solely reserved for men, how do you explain a lady named Phoebe who was a deaconess?

    Yuriy – no woman apostles? Paul doesn’t seem to think so. In Romans 16:7, he refers to a woman named Junia, who was clearly recognized by the church of the time as being a female Apostle.

    Inna – “By encouraging woman to go and proclaim the Gospel in the same way as a man you are in actuality robbing women of the power and strength God has given them. And instead of building the Kingdom of God, you are harming it.” – if this were true, then are you accusing women such as Joyce Meyer of ‘harming the Kingdom of God’? I don’t believe so. I think she has God-given grace and anointing to lead her ministry and she’s certainly not harming God’s Kingdom; but rather, building it. Her TV and radio programs air in 39 languages in 200 countries and she has written over 90 books to help people in their walk with God – it’s illogical to say she’s harming God’s Kingdom. I also don’t believe that by preaching, Joyce is robbing herself of the power and strength God has given her.

    Lastly, I’ll quote Acts 2:17-18 “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and DAUGHTERS will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and WOMEN, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” Here, going back to the Greek roots, the word “prophesy” can be translated as ‘Proclaim’, ‘Declare’, ‘Write’ and Yes, Oh surely: ‘PREACH’.

    I am almost certain there are more Christian women than men…but let’s not use my judgment and say the Christian population consists of 50% men and 50% women. If Satan can twist Scripture in such a way to make people believe women should shut up and never preach in a congregation before men (not even to men who are unbelievers!), he has won quite the battle! Half the Body of Christ – shoot! That’s quite a percentage.

  5. Ilona I feel you do what I at one point did, and blatantly ignore the scriptures on this.
    You say: “Why people interpret 1 Timothy 2:12 and the like to mean that women can’t preach to men is still a mystery to me” But how else can you interpret the passage? In fact how do you understand it?

    Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:7 that he is an Apostle, thus he defines his authority to speak on the behalf of God.
    Next he starts some teaching on gender roles and admonitions to the sexes; men are to pray, not be angry, avoid quarreling, women are to not focus on appearance and etc. Then Paul says: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”
    He makes a very clear defined statement, two things are not permitted, for a woman to (1) teach and (2) exercise authority over a man. Instead a woman is to be quiet. If we treat this grammatically both of those actions (teach/exercise authority) are not allowed “over a man” while the appropriate alternative instead of teaching in authority is being quiet, or submissive. (Quiet not as in “never talk” quiet as in “never stand in authority and teach men doctrine” which would be the opposite of teaching with authority). Again, Paul very clearly says teaching with authority is not permitted by a woman over a man.

    The greek word for ‘teach’ used here is: ‘Didaskō’
    1) to teach
    a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses
    b) to be a teacher
    c) to discharge the office of a teacher, conduct one’s self as a teacher
    2) to teach one
    a) to impart instruction
    b) instill doctrine into one

    The greek word for ‘exercise authority’ used here is ‘authenteō’
    1) one who acts on his own authority, autocratic
    2) an absolute master
    3) to govern, exercise dominion over one

    If you put together Didaskō + authenteō’ this is definitely not part of the biblical role for a woman. There is no grammatical or linguistic loopholes to the passage in Timothy. What it teaches is very clear. The only two options that remain is either this passage is true, or this is just a cultural “thing” that we don’t have to obey anymore.

    1. Priscilla and Aquila are always listed together as a unit. There is not one reference where Priscilla takes charge and/or is mentioned as being the teacher or anything of that sort. They were a missionary couple who were listed always together. It would be pure speculation for us to say that Priscilla took authority over Apollos. I would say the biblical standard everywhere else negates that speculative argument.

    2. The bible sets the rules and standards for deacons to be men. The reason it mandates having one wife is not that one must have a wife but that one mustn’t have many. The issue is polygamy. Either way a woman could not have a wife, so every passage in the bible about formal church leadership is still addressed to men.

    Furthermore, when we have two principles in the scriptures on one topic the best approach is reconciliation. Paul says single to serve Jesus is good. Paul says those who serve Jesus shouldn’t have multiple wives. Both are true, one does not cancel each other out, the complement. We cannot say one seems to go against the other so we will ignore both as it seems you are saying.

    3. Pheobe is called diakonos in the greek. Yet there are a few things to note. The word diakonos is translated in some portions of the New Testament as servant, while in others as deacon. (Clearly the idea is that deacons are servants). Nonetheless, most rigorous and literal translations will consider her ‘servant’ because the use of diakonos as a formal title is only used in scripture for men. Furthermore Phoebe is never recorded as having authority over men or teaching.

    4. Junia as being one of the apostles is an issue that has had lots of research and debate, there is little mention of her (or him as the church fathers were not in agreement that this was even a womans name). For more info see:

    5. If Joyce is teaching and encouraging women than she is fulfilling the only biblical passage on women teachers (Titus 2:3-4) and may the Lord bless her. If she takes authority over men, she is erring.

    6. As far as Joel’s prophecy in Acts 2:17-18, sure women can authoritatively prophecy, declare, and preach… to other women. This passage does not contradict anything that I have said here. The bible does not contradict it complements. This says women will be able to declare, elsewhere it says they cannot declare/have authority over men. Both passages must be true.

    7. You forget that the 50% of women can reach the 50% of women in their daily life. Are you saying that for the gospel to be adequately preached women need to take authority and teach men doctrine? Gods natural order sets men as providers, a husband leads the wife in family life. Then that wife stands up and teaches her husband about all of earthly life, and something even more important, eternal life? That contradicts itself, one would be included to ask, who really is submissive to whom? Another note is, the bible tends to say we should have much less teachers rather than more (James 3:1). The solution to life’s problems is not always that everyone should teach. Rather we are to know that more important and visible than our speech is our life before people (2 Cor 3:2)

    8. And finally, while there are hundreds of occasions where the bible lists men who write, teach, and preach the word of God in public settings, there is not one recorded instance in the bible of a female pastor or elder or teacher. This speaks again of the biblical roles within a church.

  6. Well then, let’s agree to disagree. :) I really do appreciate your time and loved reading what your thoughts were on the subject; so thank you for your replies! And only God knows; maybe you’re right and I’m merely “feeling like you did at one point, and blatantly ignoring the scriptures on this”. But God hasn’t found it fit to change my point of view on it at this point; I’ll keep asking Him ;) Maybe one day He’ll give me the light of understanding regarding this topic…or maybe He already has. Blessings to you!! :j

  7. Do you two have any suggestions on any ways that women can inspire men to take up leadership? Because it is honestly very frustrating to see men of such great potential and talent, wasting years away playing video games and gawking over expensive cars. I know most women aren’t much better, playing with relationships and gawking at hot celebrities so I’m aware that women do have a large role in the whole scheme of things.

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