The Top Test to Decide if a Woman’s Call to Be a Preacher Is Legitimate

There are people who insist women can’t be pastors, preachers and church leaders, claiming that the Bible forbids it. They set this up as a rule which cannot be violated.

Another word for a rule that can’t be violated is law.

When it comes to laws, though, life under the New Covenant requires they be measured against God himself. If they don’t measure up, they aren’t God’s laws. And if they aren’t God’s laws, they must belong to someone who isn’t God. You are not required to follow anyone else’s rules.

So how does a woman know that a call to being a pastor or preacher falls within the rules?

Jesus told us the one rule that encompasses all:

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31.)

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12.)

Jesus even called this a new command, and his friends and family reiterated it.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35.)

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. (James 2:8.)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8.)

Yet there are still some today who would say that a woman cannot preach or be a pastor because it’s somehow against God’s law.

Vashti Murphy McKenzie, AME bishop (Wikipedia)*

They’re wrong.

Getting it right is better than getting it wrong

The way to decide whether a woman’s call to preach or be a pastor is from God isn’t by comparing 1 Timothy 2:12 with 1 Corinthians 14:39 and try to decide if one is a universal bar for all time while the other has limited application that must fall outside the preaching ministry. No matter how many other passages you study that support one conclusion or the other, testing it like that leads to a false analysis and unhelpful conclusions.

That’s because the test of your calling is how it lines up with the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23.)

That last sentence is telling. If the Spirit produces fruit in you – that is, if your preaching or pastoral ministry or church leadership is typically filled with love, joy, peace,  and the rest – there is no law against your ministry. That bears repeating.

There is no law against a ministry that exhibits the fruit of the Spirit.

Mailoica Basket of Fruit, Fede Galizia

A set of rules structured on 1 Timothy 2:12 to forbid women access to the role of preacher, pastor, or elder is a law. That law has no place. A set of rules that insist anyone who likes can be a preacher based on 1 Corinthians 14:39 is likewise void.

Your ministry – no matter what it may be – has one test to pass and one only. Does it display the fruit of the Spirit? If so, there is no law that says you can’t pursue it.

Giving you that ministry is one way God shows how much he loves you. Serving him in that ministry is one way you can show how much you love God.

There’s no law against love.


*There are some who might be offended by that picture of Bishop McKenzie in the pulpit and will choose not to read the rest of this post, missing that the point is there is no law against any ministry for women (or men) that bears the fruit of the Spirit. I did not add the photo to offend those people; I added it as an example of what a woman serving God in pulpit ministry looks like.

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31 Responses to The Top Test to Decide if a Woman’s Call to Be a Preacher Is Legitimate

  1. Marg says:

    My two cents: Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:5 that the outcome of his instruction is love, love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a genuine sincerity. I suggest that any interpretation of 1 Timothy, including 1 Timothy 2:11-15, must also result in love and be supported by the three qualities Paul lists.

  2. JYJames says:

    Good point, Tim. The gifts of the Spirit (Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4) – including leadership, teaching, evangelism, pastoring (BTW, different gifts) – will emanate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) as opposed to the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5: 19-21), among either gender, men or women.

    As a TWW commenter once pointed out, there are receivers and refusers of the Holy Spirit. Refusing is rooted in the acts of the flesh, including the Holy Spirit’s gifting of women with certain gifts

    • Tim says:

      Well said. The Spirit produces fruit through his gifts, and if there is fruit in a ministry there is certainly the Spirit producing it all.

  3. JYJames says:

    This post is titled: The Top Test to Decide if a Woman’s Call to be a Preacher is Legitimate.

    I would add, … if Anyone’s Practice of Any of the Spiritual Gifts… (Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4) … is Legitimate.

    In other words, if the ministry does not emanate love, such as what is happening now at some churches under questionable leadership, obviously, neither the fruit nor the gifts of the Holy Spirit are driving those ministries because the fruit is definitely not love.

  4. JYJames says:

    In any case, I like the way you point out how the Bible measures legitimacy of the Spirit’s gifts in practice with the fruit of the Spirit as evidence test. This is exactly what Jesus did, i.e., the tree that did not bear fruit or His comments about the religious leaders of His time.

    We can mindfully do the same today. The NT addresses postering versus real. (And, also the OT, such as in Ezekiel). Snake oil salesmen and saleswomen, nothing new.

    It’s interesting how when a “leader” is “teaching” that gifts are gender-specific, it calls into question the legitimacy of their own self-declared gift by the fruit thereof. Red flag, and furthermore, what’s the source and motivation of that teaching?

    The sea change and pushback regarding gender in the evangelical church right now recalls teachings about race in the past. Nice photo on your post, BTW.

  5. Anu Riley says:

    Does anyone know the cultural and/or environmental circumstances from that 1Timothy verse (women must be quiet; women cannot teach?) There are possibly others that are along that thread, but I am unsure of their location in the Word.

  6. uplandweb says:

    When Paul lists qualifications for ministry, why doesn’t he include “call”? Why are most of Paul’s uses of the word “call” in reference to beginning the life with Jesus?

    • Tim says:

      Good question. I used it as a word of convenience but I’ve written other posts concluding that call is not the right focus for choosing what to do in God’s kingdom.

      • kffarley says:

        If, as you say, “call” is not the right term, then I really don’t understand why you would want to use it in your title ? As it is indeed misleading…

        • Tim says:

          I just explained that I used it as a word of convenience. It’s a word others use to exclude women from preaching, and I’m turning it back on that usage.

        • kffarley says:

          Yes, I saw that about convenience. However, isn’t it indeed an inappropriate (unbiblical?) term, even as you say that it’s used by others. This would, or so it seems to me, to just exacerbate the problem…

      • kffarley says:

        In addition, In the vast majority of cases, it is the speaker themselves who highlight that they have been “called”. Hmmmm….

        Furthermore, the vast majority of these “celebrity” speakers tend to just manipulate their listeners through emotion, tone, manner etc. Perhaps it’s my problem, but I just find them irritating..

  7. Jacqueline (Sussex, UK) says:

    John 14:21 (NKJV)
    He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.

  8. Jacqueline (Sussex, UK) says:

    For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (5:18, KJV).

    P.S. I know – that’s why I said it!

    • zechariahzavid says:

      If “not one jot or tittle” is to mean what it says then you have to accept that entire law of Moses is still operative. This includes the law on not eating pork, observing the laws on grain offerings, not wearing clothes of mixed material, observing levirate marriage, keeping the feast of unleavened bread and many others. If you dismiss them as “no longer applicable” (as most Christians do) then you are removing not just “a jot or tittle” but entire sentences and paragraphs. Think about what that verse means.

  9. Jacqueline (Sussex, UK) says:


  10. zechariahzavid says:

    Great article Tim. I always use this illustration: Good parents set rules for the well-being of their children and the rules exist for them. The children do not exist for the rules. The rules have no inherent value except to govern relationships with the parents, with brothers and sisters, with friends, with acquaintances and with strangers. The rules do not exist for their own sake. When I read Al Mohler saying that singleness is a neglect of Christian duty, John Piper saying that abuse is not a reason to leave a marriage and many others complaining how “this sacred institution” is being attacked or certain groups in the UK campaigning to “Keep Sunday Special”, they are making the same mistake as the Pharisees in Jesus’ day: the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

  11. Lindsey says:

    Good word, brother. Keep bringing it.

  12. Connie Clark says:

    As one woman called to preach, whose ministry (by the grace of God) bears fruit, I am grateful for your words and witness.

  13. kffarley says:

    Frankly, Not sure if anyone , male , female, young, old is “called” to be a preacher. Once you start using that sort of terminology then you undermine, to some extent, that the listeners are to discern the ‘legitimacy’ of what is said.

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