In August of 2008 I became the first female to preach from the pulpit at Irving Bible Church. Our church’s decision to invite a woman to preach was not well received by some of our brother and sister churches. They sounded the alarm of our church “going liberal” to the local newspaper and TV channels. We decided it best to have Bryan stand by as my body-guard for the three services in which I preached.
It took time but things did die down, although I continue to pay a price for my decision. Some folks no longer invite me to speak. Often I’m asked to clarify my position on women or Scripture. Once a senior pastor asked, “What do you think of Scripture?” “Um, I like it. In fact I spend most of my days studying it!” Just this week a young seminarian declined a job with The Marcella Project because she may lose future ministry opportunities by aligning her voice with mine. Truth is – she might. There are consequences. It takes courage. Risk. (I’m resolute that Jesus is worth it.)
I spent the next several years at IBC preaching, teaching and training other women to do the same. When I was introduced to Betsy I knew she had the gift of preaching.In fact I was pretty sure she would be the next women preaching from that stage. I told her so. Made her a bit nervous. She wasn’t sure where she stood on women’s issue. I responded, “Well, you better figure it out because the opportunity is going to come and you’ve got to be sure of what you believe.” She borrowed books and dug in – and over time determined the Scriptures gave her freedom to preach under the leadership of her church.
She’s been preaching at IBC ever since. Until now. Last night was her last sermon on that stage – at least for a while. She’s taking a break to concentrate on her full-time corporate job. She requested the night of preaching end at our table – the place where our friendship flourished.
We ate. Drank wine. Laughed. We talked about why it’s crucial that women preach. That it made the body of Christ more healthy and whole. It was profound listening to our brothers share how they had been impacted by women preaching. It changed them. For better. Women helped them see Scriptures and see Jesus in different ways. And walking along side these female preachers changed how they came to view their sisters. They recognized they needed them at the table. Their presence made them better. The Church better. It was a beautiful to hear one man say, “Betsy, I want to preach as good as you.” We teach our sons to never lose to a girl yet this man confessed he wasn’t “as good at it.” Tears welled up in my eyes. Her skill made him want to be better at his. Not so he could compete with her but because he admired her gifting. He saw the fruit from her labor and wanted God to work through him like that too. It truly was a night where the blessed alliance was seen.
The night ended before I could ask how might this truth be applied to every corner of the Church? Are there places and spaces women aren’t present? How might that place or space be more whole and healthy if both men and women were at that table – too? If it’s true in preaching is it also true in ______ and ______ and _______.
Men are better when women are present. And women are better when men are present. My prayer for the Church is our brothers in leadership would recognize their need for women at the table and invite them there. At all the tables. Because we are better when both pull up a chair.
Way to go, Betsy. Proud of you!