When You’re a Woman Pastor and You’re Over It Already

I have learned not to get de-railed on a Sunday morning when someone walks out after they realize I am the pastor of the church.

Once a woman showed up a few minutes before the service and explained she was new to the city, wanted to find a church, etc.  She was very excited because we were “right around the corner” from her.  She told me a bit about her church background, and I had an inkling that she might have an issue with a woman pastor.  I welcomed her warmly and subtly mentioned that I was the Lead Pastor. I saw her face fall, briefly, before she forced herself back into a smile. To her credit, she tried to be discreet. “You know?” she said, “I’m…um…just going to go home. I just remembered something.”  She didn’t come back.

A few months ago it happened again.  A young man showed up, very friendly, “looking for a church.” We had a lovely talk as he found a place to sit.  He stayed most of the service, until I got up to preach. The look of shock on his face was far from discreet this time around.  He looked to his left, and to his right, stood up in the middle of my opening paragraph and quite literally BOLTED to the door.  Like, I mean bolted. His body was sort of bent over in a pointy shape as he took several giant steps out, stopping for nothing.

Sometimes people ask me what I do in those moments. My answer is simple: I preach anyway.  I keep going. I do what I’ve been called to do.

There has been a lot of talk online in my circles in the last couple of weeks about women pastors and the things we face.  This week on Twitter, for example, someone compared women pastors to sex offenders! (That was a new one!) “Wow,” my husband said when I told him, “What did you do?”

“Well,” I said, “I kept working.”  

I have been in my role as a Lead Pastor of a church for 14 years now, and in those 14 years I have lost count of the number of “how-can-you-do-what-you-do-don’t-you-take-the-Bible-seriously?’ comments I have received.  Yes, it is annoying. Yes, it makes wrong assumptions about me. Yes, I want to defend myself.

But, what do I do?

I keep working.

And then every few weeks there seems to be another social media flurry when some leader (or, just as often, some random dude with 32 followers on Twitter) says that women shouldn’t teach in a seminary or that women pastors are an abomination or that our disregard for Scripture is akin to men who dish out abuse.  What do I do in those moments?

I keep working.

I visit someone sick.  I go to the board meeting. I lead the Bible Study. I preach the sermon.

I keep doing what God has called me to do.  

At one time in my life, I couldn’t tell you exactly when, it became so obvious to me that the only life I could lead that would be God’s plan for me was one where I was a pastor. Sometimes I laugh when people talk about women pastors as if we have taken some lucrative, enviable job with sinister motives to increase our own power.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

My people, I would have been delighted if God called me to just about anything else (though I’m sure glad God didn’t).  It isn’t actually fun for us women pastors to have to defend ourselves all the time, online or in person. We don’t enjoy wondering if we are going to get into debate when we arrive at a pastors event, if we will be ignored, looked down on, chastised.  It would be nice not having certain people assume that we just don’t take the Bible as seriously as they do.

But at some point, to even be a woman in ministry, you decide that you have to listen to God’s voice above all the others. And you follow, and you pastor.  And you keep following THAT voice, day after day – even when an inane Twitter debate could easily deter you.

It’s not that I don’t want to hear the feedback of others, or that I don’t consider those with a different understanding of the Bible than me on these matters to not be my brothers and sisters in Christ.  It’s that, and I say this with all the love in the world:

I am OVER IT.

I have stuff to do.  I have a call to live.  I have a church to pastor.  (And children to raise and meals to cook and sleep to get and friends to love).  I know, already, that not everyone agrees with me and what I do. And it’s okay – I know who has called me.

So if you are an woman pastor who feels over it just like me, I feel you.  It sucks. Now, let’s turn off our phones, open our Bibles, and keep working.  God’s got stuff for us to do.

A few pics of me doing what I do – one also does not preach in order to get a flattering picture of one’s self. Clearly.

84 comments

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  1. Steve Luper

    My wife Denise is a UMC Pastor. She wore a sleeveless blouse one day & we were told separately by the same person that it was sinful for a woman’s upper arms to be seen in church. Without pause I said , “I noticed your wife’s ankles are showing just above her shoes..” End of discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Clarice Howard

    Thank you so much for this inspirational article. God bless you and keep going for Jesus. I have been Pastoring gor 12 years now and zi love what God is doing. I plan on hosting a women’s pastors luncheon here in St Louis at my Church just to encourage one another. God is Good.

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  3. Timofey D

    I am one of those “odd balls” that believes, according to plain reading of Timothy and other books, that a married woman should not serve as a senior pastor of a congregation. The most common response from women pastors is that they were “called by God to ministry” and they are “simply obeying” that call. I have asked many women to make a biblical case for their call, and in the 15+ years of asking I am yet to get a clear biblical answer. All of the answers have been human centric and not bible centric. Looking forward to hearing anyone’s thoughts on how bible supports women serving as senior pastors (just to be clear I am not asking about women in ministry). Thank you in advance.

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  4. Revd Rene ' De Wet

    Hi Leeann. I am so grateful for this. I am one of those who knows who are called by God especially out of denomination and to start a church but offcourse some men Pastors don’t think so and I get some that are just blatantly negative. I know this is what God wants me to do for the past 5 years i’ve been walking around with it in my heart. So many have prophesied that this is what God wants me to do. Sometimes i am scared yes but I need to just build up strength in the Lord through the Power of the Holy Spirit. So thank you for this.

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  5. Lori Kawulok

    My husband and I are both ordained pastors and we have a church we lead together. I also teach leadership courses in the corporate world. I REALLY appreciate your article. Deciding to be “over it” and moving on from negative words, no matter well meaning or not, is a journey I will run with you! Choosing to say YES to God is my best choice every time. Thank you for sharing and encouraging me today!

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  6. Judy MacCorquodale

    I just wanted you to know that I breathe a sigh of relief when I see a woman pastor. I feel safe.
    Thank you for being a woman pastor.

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  7. Cheryl

    I needed to be reminded of this. Thank you. I am an English Episcopalian (we say ‘Church of England’), ordained 26 years this year. In the Summer we will welcome a young male curate to work with me and be trained by me. Already my congregation are getting giddy. ‘It will be great to have a man again.’ In all my years in ordained ministry I have always been the first woman in any particular position to which God has called me and I am SO over the constant pressure (which I admit partly comes from within as well) to represent my whole gender. I just wish the rest of our churches could get over it too. And now…back to work.

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    • Tammy

      How very unaffirming! I wish people would think before they spoke! I am so sorry you are dealing with that. Their desire “for a man” reminds me of the story in Scripture of Israel’s desire for a king in 1 Samuel 8. God reminded Samuel that their demand was a rejection not of Samuel but of God. And God graciously gave them what they wanted, along with the accompanying circumstances… I’ve seen this played out in my life as well.

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  8. Naphtali Toms

    Life changing book on this subject (TRULY)
    “Why Not Women?” By Lorren Cunningham & David Hamilton (Founder of Youth With a Mission, largest Missions Movement in the World today)

    So few in the Church have cared enough, or taken the time to properly search out the mystery, or paradox this subject presents, as in many verses Paul speaks about women seem to provide a very limited role for women – however, this was NOT the case. Anymore, than he was empowering slave owners and condoning the owning of other human beings when he told slaves to have a good attitude and to serve their masters faithfully as if unto the Lord.
    For women, from what we read in the epistles, they seem relegated to physical labor and support for men, child-bearing and child raising, and not much else. However, this too was not the case. We do not serve a God who gives His daughters gifts, wisdom, intelligence, and capabilities but then tells them to squelch it and pour the coffee for their husbands and brothers. Unlike some of the Jewish rabbis who made into their own man-made laws, written intotheir Talmud, that a man can use his wife like a piece of meat sexually (literally says this), or in law (Talmud again, not Torah/God’s law) that a man’s life MUST be saved before a woman’s, if there was ever a circumstance necessitating such a decision.

    However, there is evidence to show that some of these scriptures have been ‘changed’ to inaccurately support such thoughts. The Word says that anyone who changes even one syllable, let alone forms their own personal doctrine out of God’s Holy Word and/or break the laws of God and teaches others to do the same, will be punished most severely. Apparently the men on the bible boards who created the modern translations lacked some obvious fear of the Lord when they ‘interpreted/translated’ them because there is sufficient evidence to show that they had an agenda of their own, one which changed the Word of God to take away the authority of 2/3 of the Body of Christ (the women in it) from being able to have a voice, power and authority, given to them over the Earth by the Lord since the very beginning (Genesis 1:27-28). A curse was given in the garden saying that Satan would hate women and that men would rule over them. This curse was broken by Christ, yet those who give in to the flesh will still work to enforce it, if they do not let Holy Spirit overcome it with his love and by dying to self and a personal lust for power.

    A few examples: the same word in Greek translated as “Pastor’ for men in the New Testament is oddly translated ‘servant’ for women. Yes, Pastors are servants to the people entrusted under their leadership. But they are still given a title in order to show their job/position so that people can know who they are and come to them for assistance. Why does the word empower the men, and do the opposite for the women?

    Likewise, the exact same Greek word translated in the passage as “respect” for men, is translated as “submit” for women. Unbelievable, right? Yet the enemy is always trying to subtly change the Word of God, and present a false-gospel to the children of God. PLEASE RESEARCH: the rebellion of the Jewish priests seen throughout the Old and New Testament (including Jesus time), Constantine’s laws against Christians and the twisting of truth and changing of God’s calendar and feasts, the death of millions of Believers who would not accept the lies presented to them about God’s word given through the Popes and Jesuits, and more… Nothing has changed, it is still going on today. We are believing too many flat out lies.
    We must wake up, speak out, and change the Bride of Christ into the spotless, pure, loving, empowered “Called Out Ones”/Ekklesia, which we were created to be.

    One passage so famously misquoted and understood, 1 Corinthians 11:3, where the Greek word “kephale” which 95% of the time is not translated as anything to with leadership, and where the context of the passage speaks of origins, and how man came from God, woman came out of man, but men also are born out of women, and all come from God, is a scripture to bring the same sort of love and unity which the Trinity experience and live to share in honor toward one another. Yet, that passage has been changed to say that the man is the supreme head leader, and women need to submit to them, regardless of the capability and intelligence of the woman, nor the lack of such for some men.
    These and many other incredible insights and very specific and freeing examples can be found in a book written by Loren Cunningham (founder of YWAM; Youth With A Mission) and David Hamilton.
    The entire Body of Christ needs to be knowledgeable and willing to speak out the truth on this subject so we can end this “battle of the sexes” and truly run together as a Bride of Christ “from every tongue, tribe, people, language and nation” where, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
    Let us throw off every weight and sin that seeks to hold us back, and run together in His Spirit, empowered by the Living Word, for the glory of our FATHER GOD. There is no time to wasted in foolish arguments, pride, jealousy, etc.
    We are all called, empowered, and loved. The greatest WILL BE the servants to all, but they will not give in to fear of man, or their intimidations, over obedience to God and in alignment with His TRUE WORD.

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  9. Deborah Tinsley

    I’ve been in ministry, ordained, 30 years. I was the ‘first’ too many times. I had one gentleman quote Mark Twain to me, that to see a woman preach is like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs… and I laughed and said my dog does that all the time for treats! We ended up being dear friends.
    Laugh, smile, move on. Do the work; best advice.
    My funniest story is coming home so beat that the only thing holding me up was hair spray… I had on, as usual, a clergy collar and cross as I wanted to always let women and young girls know I was there, that it is possible, even if I was in the market after work. Anyway, all I could think of was a tall ice tea and shoes off, when the gardener at our condo saw me crossing the open air bridge to the elevator, and I saw him race for the elevator on the ground floor. He met me there as I stepped off, and began berating me about ‘women keep silent in church’ and all. I calmly tried to explain that the quote he was using was not Pauline, but he said, “I don’t know who she was, but you are not to speak in church.” Too hot, too tired, too over it to try and reason, I just said “Have a great day” and went in my condo.
    Grandma said, “Don’t try to reason with babies, drunks, or fools.”

    Like

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