The Role Of Women In The Church

I am a 24-year-old female college graduate who spent more pre-adolescent years climbing trees and playing cops and robbers than dressing Barbies and cooking in my Easy-Bake Oven. In fact, I recall putting everything but food in my friend’s Easy-Bake Oven, which is probably why my parents never let me have one of my own.

While I grew up in the church and I long to seek Christ with all that I am, I don’t fit the mold of the typical woman in the church. Far from it. I’m not married, I enjoy developing my career, I like watching football, and I have no desire to go to tea and make quilts. Can I get an amen?

So what is my place, or do I even have one? I know God designed each of us uniquely and in His image, but is there a place for a woman with a strong personality and a love for adventure? Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful that God made me a woman. I love cooking and getting “dolled up” and looking pretty. I appreciate a man opening a door for me, and I even understand and fully agree with God’s design for the submissive wife. But I have struggled for years with finding my place and my role within the church.

As far back as I can remember, and long before that I’m sure, a godly woman in the church has characteristically been defined as the quiet, supportive, behind-the-scenes wife and mother of three. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, my dream is to get married, raise kids and be a support to my family. But what happens when my personality isn’t quiet and behind-the-scenes? Is it biblical to make this woman the poster child of what a godly woman should look like, or is this just a church standard that has grown from tradition and legalism?

The more I explore this, the more I think this stereotype is just that. If this stereotype is the way all women should function in the church, I either need to change a significant part of my personality or I need to leave.

I highly doubt that God desires believers to leave the church. I don’t see Scripture ever calling for someone to apologize for how God made them in order for them to better fit into the body of Christ. In fact, in Scripture I see God utilizing the unique gifting and talents that He has given. And yes, even those of women.

We often visit Proverbs 31 to see a clear description of a godly woman. She does manual labor. She prepares and provides for her family. She is positive, and she fears God. She certainly isn’t weak, and I have an inkling that she gets dirt under her nails on more than one occasion. My kind of woman!

But this isn’t the only place we are presented with a godly woman. In the often overlooked last chapter of Romans, Paul mentions several women that left an impression on him—and me. Paul uses most of Romans 16 to greet his fellow soldiers in Christ. But as he greets these women, he reveals that the Christianity of the Bible is not the proponent for oppressing women that some think it to be. I would almost venture to say that he would have been a proud sponsor of the universal suffrage movement.

The first verse of Chapter 16 introduces us to Phoebe, the courier of his letter to the Romans. We don’t know much about her, but we do know that Paul entrusted her with this letter that some have called the “Theological Constitution of Christianity.” It held the very meat and potatoes of this Christian faith, and Paul trusted a woman to deliver it from the eastern port city of Corinth to Rome.

Now I know that the greetings extended at the end of these letters are usually the last place we go for a Bible study, but this only gets better from here. You see, Phoebe isn’t the only woman he lauds. He greets Priscilla and Aquilla next, a couple who “risked their own necks” for Paul’s life. I have often wondered how these women “risked their necks” canning preservatives. And two verses later he greets Junia, his fellow prisoner, who was of note among the apostles.

In the one chapter alone, Paul tells of nine women who were imitators of Christ, each in her personal gifting and design. Each woman took on a different role in ministering to Paul, and none were condemned for stepping outside of a predetermined mold.

And isn’t the goal that we would be imitators of Christ? Romans 8 says each member of the body of Christ is predestined to be conformed to Christ. It doesn’t say that we were predestined to be conformed to other people. I wonder … should I pour my life into becoming who Christ called me to be, or should I keep my mouth shut and continue trying to shove this square peg into a round hole?

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The answer, I believe, is simple. First, I will commit all of me to becoming who I am in Christ. Second, I will find some square holes.

[Sarah Martel is a freelance writer from Phoenix, Ariz., and a graduate of Arizona State University. She has a passion to see today’s generation experience an authentic relationship with the living Christ.]

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