Recently, one morning, I asked the Lord, “What do you want to show me today?” I heard words quoted to me that Jesus had spoken to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb. “Stop clinging to Me for I have not yet ascended to My Father.”
Strange! What could that possibly mean?
I began to read John 19 and 20, then commentaries, and then to re-read the story again. I wanted to understand why the Lord said this. The scene came alive to me, like I was there, an eyewitness, watching the drama, feeling the raw emotions. (John’s account has only Mary’s story; Luke’s gospel tells us other women were there.)
Here’s the story, my paraphrase.
Early Sunday morning Mary went to the tomb. Seeing the stone rolled away and the empty tomb, she went to tell the apostles. Peter and John ran to the tomb. They saw it empty, with discarded burial clothes, then they returned home. Mary stood outside the tomb, still, heartbroken, in tears. Had His body been stolen?
Two angels appeared to her. “Woman, why are you weeping?” She turned around… A man behind her? The gardener? He asked her, “Woman why are you weeping?” She replied, “Show me where His body was taken.”
Jesus was so touched by her plea that He revealed Himself, calling her name. “Mary!”
She rushed to hug him! Jesus said, “Stop clinging to Me, for I’ve not yet ascended to My Father.” I can picture her wrapping her arms around Him, holding on for sheer joy, exulting that He was alive! But Jesus had go on a quick trip to glory. He said, “Go tell my brethren that I ascend to My Father and your Father, to my God and your God”
I noticed how the angels and Jesus asked her to describe her situation and tell what she wanted. Doesn’t God already know? Yes, but He wants us to engage Him and have a conversation. Look how personal this was for Jesus! Mary moved His heart!
As for Jesus’ followers, He had previously called them servants, disciples, apostles, even friends… But, now they were His brothers! Redemption was accomplished. A new relationship was possible! God was their Father, their God, and they were now Jesus’ brothers.
His love is what God showed me! For me, this scene became precious, personal, and emotional. Mary, to me, was a symbol, His beloved Bride, the Redeemed Church, sent as an eyewitness of His resurrection!
Let me adjust the ending to illustrate an important truth.
I hope you feel the impact.
And this DID NOT happen!!
Jesus paused. Consternation came across His face. His smile faded… “Mary, I can’t send you. Yes, your sins are forgiven; yes, you’re truly delivered; yes, you’ll be in the Upper Room to receive power; and yes, you faithfully followed Me with My team, but a few years from now, Paul the apostle, will write letters that silence women in the church… So, I can’t use you as My messenger after all.”
This imaginary scenario is absurd isn’t it?
Likewise, it is crazy to silence women in the church!
What caused me to first study the role of women in the ministry? GOD’S CALL!!!
I am a faithful witness, like a reporter, sharing what God has shown me. Because of the way God has dealt with me, I was confronted – tricked actually – into studying the truth I am now laying out for you – that the Holy Spirit delights in anointing women to do His work! That includes prophesying, teaching, preaching, praying, making disciples, or serving as leaders in church. In my book, More Than Equals, I explained why there is no legitimate, Biblical prohibition against women in the ministry! I’ll introduce you to this subject today, and I’ll share more in the blog that follows next month.
The reason I’m addressing this is that it touches my personal assignment in Christ – my portfolio as a prophetic reformer – to help equip emerging apostles and other ministries in the church. If us older pastors, with years of experience, don’t rise up and prepare the next generation of leaders, the church (and our nation) is in BIG trouble! And, if that recruiting and training work doesn’t include women, we will miss the mark. Right now, I think most of the church is failing.
In my book, I carefully examine two problem passages (in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy) that seem to prohibit women from ministering in church. I promise you – my discussion and explanation will open your eyes to what the apostle was really saying about women!
But first, here’s some of my story – of how I was duped by God into taking another look at this topic for myself!
I was dragged, kicking and protesting, into this new paradigm. God set a trap for me. When the light finally dawned, it didn’t make me happy. It left me angry. My pride was wounded because I had been so sincerely wrong for such a very long time. This was embarrassing for me since I considered myself a bright student, a man who loves the Word, and one who loves the church.
Today, I don’t approach this subject like an unbiased teacher trying to reach a cautious conclusion, especially since I’ve thoroughly examined it in the laboratory of church life for five decades. Admittedly, I began my study on an entirely different topic. That was simply the bait God used to lure me. My question was, “Why did apostles in the New Testament always minister in teams?” It was the topic of “teams” that was used as the lure, capturing me and leading me into studying women in the ministry. I was amazed! Next month, I’ll share the details of what I found!
For now, I’ll just say this: One-third of Paul’s apostolic team were women!
Captured by the facts, I had no choice. I switched sides. Either I was crazy, or the Bible made no sense… and it was contradicting itself! What I was seeing – it was incredible, irrefutable. I knew that the Bible, when rightly interpreted – never contradicts itself. God’s Word has integrity.
I had to search and study and inquire until I comprehended what I was reading. I converted to new truth (new to me) – which I clearly saw with new eyes in my old Bible. I decided to faithfully share what I saw and not hold anything back due the fear of man, nor be quiet just to protect precious church traditions.
There were seven things God showed me:
- One-third of Paul’s apostolic team were women in the ministry.
- Women were empowered by the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room.
- We’ve failed to disciple the next generation of leaders.
- Half our members remain benched, idle, not equipped, not sent out.
- Apostles and Prophets are emerging to help Pastors.
- Existing church structures must develop new models.
- Five-fold ministers must re-define what success looks like.
Like I mentioned before, I handle this story like a news reporter who has caught sight of a VERY BIG story. I think it’s important news! Let’s examine ourselves. We can change and do better. The global church has reached a point of slow growth. Stagnation has hit many congregations, especially in America and Europe. Why? Because we are not equipping the next generation of leaders. If we are trying, we are still neglecting half the church, those who are willing, potentially powerful workers – the women!
So, there’s a crisis in the church. And it hinders the harvest. There’s an urgent need for us to cleanse the temple – to drive out anything interfering with workers being recruited, trained, or acknowledged as valued laborers.
What is one such paralyzing force? Gender Bias!
It is time for the men, who lead the Church of Jesus Christ, to repent. Men – who by and large still hold the reins of church authority – need to lift artificial restrictions from the women in Christ’s body. This is personal for me like it was for Jesus when He bypassed the men and chose Mary Magdalene, called her by name, and sent her as His witness.
Let me confess my own sin.
As I look back, I’m appalled at what I did.
It’s the story where I participated in gender discrimination.
In the 1980’s, a group of elders from our church in Texas went to an event that included a woman speaker. The occasion? A YWAM conference. I love Youth with a Mission. They recruit and train young people for missions. One of the speakers on that day was a lady from Scotland who was a passionate preacher. She was anointed of the Spirit and articulate in her message. Her reputation was sterling. She had ministered in many nations. She was given great respect everywhere.
But, not by me…
I sat in the audience listening to her speak. But I was secretly wrapped within my invisible cloak of smug, male superiority. I was quietly despising her. There was nothing wrong with her words. Her purpose was godly, and her delivery was excellent. She had the anointed Word of the Lord for us. But I could not receive it nor learn from her for one reason alone – she was a woman… May God forgive me for trespassing against the Lord and not receiving the person He had sent. I deafened my ears and hardened my heart solely because she was a female preacher.
As I remember this now, I repent again…
We are Christians, are we not? We are not Pharisaical Jews, nor strict Muslims. So why do we carry religious prejudice against women? We are the Church of Jesus, His own chosen people. We are incorporated into His new community (the ecclesia) with Heaven’s values and with New Testament faith. Our thoughts and our ways should come from the Risen Lord, not worldly standards. Previously, there was never anything on earth like – Corpus Christi – until Jesus redeemed us and poured out His Spirit on His followers as 120 men and women prayed in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost.
Notice: men and women!
If the Holy Spirit anoints and empowers women today as He did in Acts 2, who are we, as men, to dare say that He can’t still do it? In the western world, our culture has liberated women in every area of life, except parts of the church! Let’s remove the religious barriers from women so they can be seen and heard for God. Let’s value women the way our Heavenly Father does! If we see how our Heavenly Father treats His daughters in His house with respect and trusts them – we, too, can imitate His ways.
How does God feel about women workers serving in the family business? Let’s liberate women to achieve their full potential. And yes – THE BIBLE ALLOWS IT. Think new! And think Kingdom – with the mind of Christ!
Pastors, please don’t reject women. Don’t feel insecure. There is NO competition. We are equals in Christ. You are on solid theology – good biblical grounds – to include women as leaders.
If Almighty God entrusted a young woman, Mary, to carry the Word made flesh − the logos − in her womb, then why would He not trust women today to carry His spoken word − the rhema − in their mouths? But we are not acting like our Heavenly Father. Why? Because we muzzle women. This is sinful!
By failing to re-examine this issue, exegetically using the latest theological and historical insights, and by not freeing ourselves of any un-biblical bias in our viewpoints, we have limited our effectiveness, frustrated our women, and benched some of the best team players! Thus, we have stifled and weakened our work force. Besides all that, God doesn’t like it for this to happen.
Next month, I’ll drive my point home.
I’ll display the evidence.
And I’ll list the names of the women as I explain from the Bible how ONE-THIRD of Paul’s ministry team were women!
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