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February 21, 2013

You Can’t Do That at My Church

How I found my voice and answered God’s call to preach



We have embarked into the 21st century. We have witnessed amazing discoveries in science, medicine, and technology. Despite all the advancements, some churches still permeate with prohibition of women in spoken ministry.

Maturing in biblical knowledge, it baffles me how the church ever got blindsided by the “let your women keep silent” philosophy. God has always achieved miracles, deliverances, and healings through women. Who sent the memo that women were to be “muzzled”? From Sarah in the Old Testament to Phoebe in the New Testament, God used these women and many others to change the course of history. Having read the Bible from cover to cover countless times, I have never seen women forbidden to be used by God. Contrary to popular belief, it was and is the tradition of men that have eloquently crafted the muzzle made for women.

Despite what you may feel about a woman’s proper place in the church, I would like to share my story with you.

Where It All Began

Although my parents were both Christians, their worship styles ranged from conservative to charismatic. My parents divorced when I was five, and I lived with my mother. I was privileged to experience God through good old church hymn singing and energetic, exhausting worship. Our church was charismatic, possessed dictatorial leadership theories, and was very legalistic. Needless to say, wearing pants, make-up, and jewelry was unacceptable. Despite the legalism, I served the Lord and the church faithfully.

Then It Happened

At 19, I sensed a call to ministry. Well, that would seem great, right? Wrong. God was calling me to preach. In my church, that was an emphatic no-no. Women were permitted only to pray, sing, testify, and teach Sunday school. If she were undeniably gifted, a woman could have “a little ministry.” Allowing a woman to preach in my church would have been like issuing a passport to doom. We were warned God does not use women to preach. These words bombarded my brain, and the call of God pounded inside like the battle of Armageddon. If I obeyed God, I would be labeled a devil. Anyone who walked contrary to leadership was considered a devil.

How was I going to explain this? I mentioned it to my mother; she was indifferent. My father, a seminary graduate, was skeptical. I was in trouble. God was calling me to preach, and the tomatoes were already splattering on my face. I resisted for fear of rejection, but the Lord provided confirmation. In the face of obstacles, like the prophet Jeremiah, the calling burned like fire. A muzzle had already covered my mouth. I had some tough choices: Would I obey God or chicken out to please men?

Chickened-Out

Who wants to be labeled a devil? Not me. I tucked my feathers and clucked like a chicken. I continued to sing in the choir, participate in youth activities, and testify. Why? Whenever a woman “appeared” to be preaching, a carefully crafted 1 Corinthians 14:34 message was bashed into our brains. This bash-and-smash method kept us submissive. Imagine this: eager and excited about the call of God, only to have your dreams smashed to powder, using the Bible.

I knew about Deborah, Esther, Phoebe, I even knew about Priscilla. I studied them on my own. How did these women get omitted from the Bible? Well, they were not technically omitted from the Bible, just from the one that was used at my church. In my Christian upbringing, some of the most powerful women were never discussed, although they were undeniably catalysts used to usher the plan of God into motion. In traditionally legalistic environments, women are almost always viewed as inferior and could never be selected by God for gospel ministry. How can that be possible if the woman at the well ignited the revival in Samaria and Priscilla, alongside her husband, taught Apollos a more excellent way?

It’s so important that we understand the real context of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Why? This Scripture has been used to keep women in bondage for many years. These Scriptures taught in improper context or without biblical interpretation have thwarted many destinies, thus hindering the real work of God in many lives. The amazing part of this diluted context is that many never read verse 36. The Apostle Paul was addressing a concern at the church in Corinth, which was known for idolatrous worship and continuous confusion. One of the major problems with the Corinthian church was they often tried to bring the customs of the day into the body of Christ.

Historically in Corinth, the women were considered second-class citizens and their places of responsibility were the kitchen and the bedroom. Therefore, according to those in leadership, they should have been regarded the same way in the church. So the Apostle Paul addressed their concern by regurgitating what they said and then rebuked them with a rhetorical question in verses 36-38. How could women be commanded to keep quiet in the service when they were permitted to pray and prophesy in 1 Corinthians 11? The only reason these Scriptures have been successfully used as they have been over the years is because many of us have failed to obey 2 Timothy 2:15 and have the guts to stand firmly on the Word of God in the face of extreme opposition and rejection.

The best defense of this erroneous teaching is to study and have the spiritual discernment to rightly divide the Word of God.

But I always heard that a woman is to keep silent. Well, if she is to keep silent, then why can she teach Sunday school and testify? Silence means no talking, right? I asked these questions silently in my head; I was too chicken to ask them aloud.

Once while in college, I bravely declared the gospel at a youth service. Well, I shared this awesome experience with my pastor; I was grossly rebuked and muzzled. I sat there for the next 12 years, forbidden to preach, fearful of rejection, doing the “permitted,” suffering in silence and disobedient to God. I tried repressing the call, but the conviction grew. God constantly asked this soul-gripping question: “When are you going to obey me?”

Painfully, I replied, "Lord, I can’t do that.”

Most Christians well never admit that we have often pledged more allegiance to the authority of man than God. I did. Regrettably, I traded the liberty of God for the chains of man.

A Way of Escape

I married a minister. We discussed the call of God on my life, but we vowed to submit to leadership. The mercy of God was ever present in my life. Despite my disobedience and fear, God prepared a way of escape through my husband.

My husband was appointed youth minister, and I assisted him. Unknown to us, God was preparing us to lead a congregation. After seven years as youth minister, God called my husband to the senior pastorate.

Three years into the pastorate, God began to convict both of us concerning his will for our lives and ministry. After a Jacob’s-wrestling experience, God made it clear that it was time for me to walk in obedience. Sitting on the side of the bed, I replied, “God, I can’t do that!” We were still connected to our home church.

When I came out of the bedroom, my husband, unaware of my conversation with God, spoke these words: “You know you must preach the gospel!”

The words of my husband delivered me. Eventually, we severed the ties to our home church. We were able to experience a freedom in Christ that is amazing. Finally, we could both walk in total obedience to his will.

As a result of fully obeying God, many women have come to find their purpose in God through By His Side Ministries, an outreach God has given me to ministry wives. God has also afforded me an opportunity to raise the foundations of future generations through teaching and mentoring young girls and women. What an awesome honor for God to deliver you from bondage and use it as a catalyst to set others free. I had a real woman-at-the-well experience.

Lessons Learned

Many women who identify with my struggle—and some who have an even greater struggle—are forbidden from speaking by their own husbands. But God always has a plan and purpose in the midst of a painful process. God sometimes allows us to be held captive so we will know he is a strong deliverer. The struggle through fear, rejection, disobedience, and suffering in silence made my calling sure. I learned God does the calling and equipping. Struggle is necessary. Struggle gave me the power and sensitivity to birth ministries for women and girls.

There were five strategies that kept me alive in the struggle. I prayed continuously, fasted regularly, studied the Bible without ceasing, trusted God when I could not trace him, and waited on his timing. I am thankful for the experience. I would not be who I am without this process. And at my church, women can preach the gospel.


Domeniek L. Harris is a freelance writer, speaker, professional educator, women's ministry leader, Bible study teacher, and founder of By His Side Ministries, a multicultural, interdenominational, and international ministry for ministry wives. She is a co-laborer in pastoral ministry, and pastor's wife, at Bibleway World Outreach Ministries in Cordova, Tennessee.

Related Tags: Encouragement; Escape; Inspiration; Preaching; Women’s influence

Comments

Thank you, Domeniek! Praise be to God who always causes us to triumph! Yes, the struggle is so necessary. And so is the waiting. Both have enlarged our capacity for the call of God on our lives (yours and mine). My struggle is that between my husband and I, I am the one called to preach. Sometimes it's difficult balancing my roles as minister and wife, especially when I'm the more visible one. In leadership relationships that are traditional (husband is the lead in ministry), I feel like I'm perceived differently and my husband is even looked upon differently. Still I maintain respect and honor of my husband, but those in ministry don't always make it easy. But just as your husband was your deliverer (so to speak), so was mine. He is extremely supportive and never hinders my ministry life. In fact, at different seasons in our life, we ministered together (he has the gift of helps and administration). We make a great team!

To all the ministry wives who function in this context, honor and respect your husband, share your ministry life with him, and as the Lord leads, allow your gifts to function together in the work of the ministry.

Finally, I just want to say, I agree that the best defense is studying to show ourselves approved, rightly dividing the Word of God. I'm convinced now that giving myself to this endeavor is beginning to yield new open doors of opportunity for ministry. Thank you for sharing!

Thank you Domeniek!
A beautiful story of your earnest heart to do God's will. I think so often we find these sorts of "gender based" conversations focused on our own determination and desires but what I read here was your honest seeking after God's heart. And your doing so alongside a thoughtful man who cheered on your heart and call rather than squashing it. I am grateful to know there are women out there doing this good work. Blessings to you! Keep at it!

A right on time post! This is exactly what I have been through
And am happy to see God answering my prayers through your testimony, to go forth! Thank you for sharing. You know not many will share. God continue to bless and open more doors for you!
Your Sister in Christ
Elizabeth

Definitely a good article!

I just wonder how much better the environment at Christianity Today really is. When I look at my email subscriptions and the categories that they are put under the "Gifted for Leadership" subscription is under "Women" rather than "Leadership Journal". Yes, "Gifted for Leadership" is specifically geared toward women leaders but the separation implies that they are to only lead other women. It may seem like splitting hairs but sometimes it's the subtle messages that sink in deepest.

I also wonder about the leadership ability of single women. Some may say that you're husband's approval was enough "headship" to allow you to preach. But when there is no husband *all* men become that "headship" which can make things extremely difficult.

It also seems odd for men to claim this headship as spiritual leader of the family because that would seem to create another intermediary other than Christ. Women, under this, can not come "boldly" to the throne but must ask permission from their husbands or the men of the church first.

Personally, I believe this attempt at dominance rather than mutual submission on the part of men is most often rooted Genesis, specifically in the passage of Genesis that describes the result of sin. I think often both men and women see the description as a directive but that it should more correctly be seen as a description of the curse. The curse should not be seen as instructions for living nor as God's original intent. It should instead be seen as bonds of slavery, and for Christians, something that, as an integral part of our freedom in Christ, should be done away with.

Dear Pastor Domeniek,
The article above speaks much to us African ladies who have been down looked upon by those men with wrong doctrines like what you just wrote above. Personally I have been really been raised in such doctrine and for about 23 years I kept being faithful to the doctrine. Latter on, God began rebuking me and when I began attending conferences in different places, then I begun realizing some hidden potential in me that needed to be used. I began putting in to practice my ministry of preaching and latter on I met Richard who married me and we have since been able to raise a great ministry to the world. I am now a gospel minister to the world. I really concur with what you have written and that all may come to know that it is true women in Africa have been put in a box of not preaching. Please keep writing me on realloveishere2010@yahoo.com my email address

Dear Domeniek and others,
Greetings to you all. Oh what a blessed article this was as I have just read through and understood and received this in a new revelation. Domeniek is such a renowned servant of God that is bringing words of restoration to us. The doctrine on women remaining silent before the church, not plaiting, covering their heads is much pronounced here in Africa and many have gone ahead even shaving their heads simply to make themselves holy and super powerful knowledgeable people before others. Personally as a women I was also raised and tormented under such doctrine until when I latter on came to realize the truth. Pastor Domeniek is speaking the truth mostly I can say this is an African message. We need to really change in such doctrines.
Bless you. I am pastor Selpher and my husband is Richard. We are great friends with the Harris family

Pastor Richard and Selpher Wasike
Richminster Christian Foundation
Founder/President.

Thank you for sharing. My experiences are very similar to your. However,I married a man not in the ministry. I have God for 35 years as a pastor. Traditions of men and the boys club attuned has prevailed every where I go. I am a suport staff member of a church team. I have always found joy in serving in parachurc. b.. h ministries. On church staff limited

Wonderful insight on what God has instruct women to do and to be about. We as women are so afraid of what others may think, we tuck and run,fold and guit. God wants us to be strong and to stand on what he wants us to be about in his MINISTRY. We are his ball and at his time he will bounce the ball, no one but Jesus has a right to dictate his will for our lives. You are truly blessed among women. Stand TALL, Stand on the WORD, Stand in the WORD and let no one make you TUCK and RUN. There is a work for us to do, so lets be about the business of him that sent and created us. His love NEVER FAIL. May God continue to bless you my Sister-In-Christ......

BE Blessed
Lou Shelton

Awesome article Domeniek!
As you know, you and I were raised in the same kind of church from the headcoverings on down. I too can remember the fear of stepping out on my call to preach, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory. Keep preaching and keep reaching for all God has for you! Your sister in Christ.

Hi Domeniek, I really appreciated your article. I'm also a woman who has been called to preach. I have finished seminary and have been able to preach a few times, but my heart aches for the day when I will have the opportunity to do so week in and week out. I feel like the Apostle Paul - "Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" Blessings to you in your writing and preaching. :)

Good for you Domeniek. I'm glad you were obedient to the Lord. The Church needs more women's voices from the pulpit!

What about 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 KJV - [34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

Do you just throw out 1 Corinthians?

And what about other verses like:

(Philippians 4:3 KJV - And I intreat thee also [2532], true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and [with] other my fellowlabourers, whose names [are] in the book of life .

1 Timothy 2:9-10 KJV - In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

Titus 2:4 KJV - That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

The author not only takes passages out of their context through eisegesis, but misses the whole point.It doesn't matter what women are excelling at for opportunities IN THE WORLD. The church is different,sacred. The author takes passages out of their context as well. The office of bishop(pastor), elder, and deacon are open to "the husband of one wife". Obviously, you cannot be a husband and be a woman. Paul's instructions should be good enough for all of us. God calls men into the ministry of preaching and pastoring-women call themselves into it.

Different denominations different rules. Let us not be so bound up in making rules to live by that we cease to show the love, mercy and grace of God to each other.I honestly doubt any of us live according to Gods's holy standards and yet He loves us anyway.Right doctrine is essential but many a theologian would beg to differ on this.

It's amazing to me how we can take scripture and turn it around for our good. Not pay attention to the author but change His meaning, while doing so. 1Tim 3:1-7. It's also apparent that women aren't head of households, so therefore can't be in the position of pastor,or bishop as some even now wants to become, seeking with a thirst. do you not realize that you are operating under the spirits of demons. It's still the same spirit, that Eve operated in. having a desire for her husband, to usurp authority over him. Recognize these spirits and repent before God. Think not that He would contradict His own word or cause confusion, He's not the author. We have been given our place in the order of God's kingdom and have not been given permission to change it. If you rightly divide the word of truth you'd see you are way off the mark, will be praying for women like you that are not satisfied to be in the order that God has given us. May the Lord truly reveal Himself to you in truth.

Did you notice that Sarah, whom you cite, was muzzled by God for laughing at the thought of carrying a child? She didn't trust and obey God, just as Eve did not.

This is an excellent, well written article and it is clear that God used the oppression to prepare you for His greater calling. Praise God for His timing and faithfulness! Stand strong in the Lord.

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Pastor Domeniek,
Thank you for your obedience I will continue to pray for you as I can totally identify and I needed to hear this.

To shed some light on...
What about 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 KJV - [34] Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law. [35] And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
You need to know the Who,What, Where, and Why to get the full meaning of what Paul was saying. For instance how was the church set up? How big was the congregation? See now do you know the answers? Okay at that time churches where large and men sat in front as women sat in the back. (due to there man made traditions) which made it hard for women to hear the message so they would try to get their husbands attention to find out what was being taught which caused a distraction therefor they where told to be quiet till they got home. And just food for thought......
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Thank you for your story. I am dealing with the same struggle. I just pray that in time something will happen and I can go where God is leading me to go.

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