I have a hunch – a hypothesis waiting to be proven by some taker.
We know that the majority of church-going conservative women are what’s called “received knowers.” Received knowers do not construct their own knowledge—they receive it. They rely on an authoritative source (male leadership) to tell them what is right or wrong. To a received knower, there is only one right interpretation—one right answer—to a problem. Ambiguity or paradox cannot be tolerated. Concepts must be predictable, easily consumed, and clearly laid out.
(In other words women tend to leave their critical thinking skills at the door of their church. Don’t get me wrong, there are women out there that recognize inconsistencies but have no forum to raise questions without being seen as divisive, angry, or not supportive of leadership. Either way, women’s voices are silenced.)
We also know women in the conservative evangelical world are the least likely to be trained in the areas of leading and preaching. That’s not to say women aren’t leading or teaching bible studies; it just means those who are teaching bible studies are less likely to be trained in those areas of service. (Women are afraid if they pursue the necessary training they will be sinning by stepping over some invisible gender role line, or that people will see them as a feminazi.) I wrote She Can Teach to help women gain the confidence and skill to handle the Scriptures effectively.
We also know that if women are to be trained to lead or teach skillfully, they first must be convinced that they are not only able but also called to do so. By “called,” I’m talking about God’s call on a woman’s life to commit to the work of ministry.
Here’s what I’ve seen:
Women in the conservative faith community wait for the male nod. When the male leadership nods we see a whole half of the church rise up and risk. Women start to see possibilities and they go for them. They write that book. Start that ministry. Go back for more training. More schooling. They become experts in their fields. What I’m saying is where I see women kicking butt on behalf of Jesus – it’s usually done in the presence of the male nod. Men inviting women to not only engage but go for it. And they do everything in their power to make way for her to do so. She rises up – to the opportunity. And we, the Bride of Christ, benefit and the world receives a warrior Ezer working on behalf of her Savior Jesus. She changes things. Her family, community, faith community, work place, social systems, politics ….
I’ve seen it. Not as often as I would like or as often as I should but I’ve seen it. I worked on staff at a megachurch, where the male leadership started inviting women to the leadership table. The more women sensed that the male leadership was not only okay with but wanted the female voice at the table, the more women pursued training at seminary (and in so many other arenas). Women started to dream and launch ministries, work with the marginalized, and write books and risk for Jesus. I noticed more and more young adult, professional women, business owners, CEO’s – were coming to our church and more female seminary students came as well. They had few options of where they could attend church and be fully utilized, here their stories in Scriptures, so they came where they saw other women being ennobled in kingdom work.
I see this same theme play out in churches around the country. I preached at a church in the Chicago area. They’ve had women preaching there for years – no big deal. That’s always a pleasant experience for me. Nice not to have to be on the defense. I preached three services, and both men and women came up afterwards. The men were not threatened by my femaleness; it was simply about what Jesus said through the heralding of God’s Word. Over the course of my being there, I noticed how many women were leading, writing, and getting trained. Once again, I was reminded that is what happens when those in power give up power to empower those without power; Kingdom work explodes. It becomes exponential. If the correlation is correct, women rise, kingdom work expands, then why aren’t we inviting ALL of God’s people to the front line? Men and women – together fighting the good fight.
I’ve got a hunch.
Do I have any takers on proving it?