The Plain Meaning of Scripture – How a Woman Pastor Honors God’s Call

[Crystal Lutton’s guest post relates her journey to become a pastor and preacher and how she overcame opposition from those who said she must reject God’s call in her life.]

When God first called me to ministry and told me I would be a pastor my immediate response was, “No thank you.”

I’d grown up in the church and was very aware of the traditional Complementarian teachings that say women will never be called by God to preach – that even if we’re suited, gifted, and willing God will never use us that way.  I had even walked away from the church because it was clear I did not fit into the paradigm being taught. I held onto God but wanted nothing to do with those who claimed to know him.

God had brought me back to the church, and to seminary, but I certainly didn’t want to pastor – at least not if it had to look like the only ways I had seen it look.  God reassured me that the men I encountered would be his problem and reminded me that he is my defender and yet I was still hesitant.  Obviously I came around because here I am.

That doesn’t mean there haven’t been many men to present themselves as the very accusers I knew would come.  It doesn’t mean that there haven’t been obstacles. It does mean I have learned a balance of response.

I have learned the value of waiting and letting the Lord, and other men I’ve been blessed to have surround me, call them out. I have learned how to speak boldly to the real issues behind what they are doing. I admit speaking boldly came easier than the waiting but I imagine that trait would be necessary in a woman that God called into ministry when I started this journey.

When I am confronted directly about this issue I normally respond in one of two ways when I’m confronted on this issue.

The first is intended to effectively shut down the conflict when I sense that there is not an opportunity for iron to sharpen iron and this is simply someone coming in opposition to what God has me doing.  In these encounters I tell them flat out God called me to this – whether they think that makes me an exception or another example is no matter to me. “If you are trying to bully me into stopping because you don’t think I should be doing it then it sounds like you’re telling me to fear you (man) and not God. Is that what you’re telling me?  Disobey God and obey you?  That seems unbiblical.”

At that point they usually back off. Or call me a Jezebel and slink away. Either way I’m back to what I was supposed to be doing.

Jezebel, John Liston Byam Shaw 1896 (Wikimedia)

The second response is for those times I sense the opportunity for open honest dialogue.  In these situations I start by asking them to help clarify the conversation we’re having.

I ask if they are thinking that we both agree that the “plain reading of Scripture” is that God will never call women to ministry? They inevitably confirm this and I tell them they must think that I am disregarding God’s clear teaching. When they believe we have finally come to common ground I introduce the fact that I am having a very different conversation with them.

I explain that I believe the “plain reading of Scripture” is that God has always called women to ministry and the Bible is full of examples of this. I assure them I also take the Bible very seriously and if I thought the Bible said that women can’t be pastors then I wouldn’t be one. I validate their need to obey their understanding of Scripture and suggest that I also have to obey what the Lord has taught me.

You can probably already see that this is an expanded version of my more effective response to shut down obstacles.  That is because the issue is the same – we either fear God or fear men.

Which brings us back to my original response to God’s calling.

Because I feared men I initially declined. Because I feared God more – and because fear of God is not rooted in bullying and power/control dynamics like fear of men is – I chose to obey God and get on the right side of Theology and history.  My respect and deep reverence for God has had me calling out abuses of power in and outside the church and allowed me to be one of the forerunners challenging doctrines about parenting with the first Christian book to denounce punitive paradigms completely and introduce Grace-Based Discipline.

I’m sitting at a place in ministry now where I see that the trenches I dug and the foundations I helped lay have been built upon. The landscape is growing and beautiful.  There is so much encouragement for gentle parenting and infusing every area of our lives with grace.  The recent #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements have been a long time in the coming.  Because I chose to fear God and not men I have been in a unique position for some time now to work with those who have been abused by and are leaving the church in the growing movement of “Dones” (those who are declaring themselves Done with Christianity).

My goal when talking with anyone is always to point them to God.  I challenge doctrines when they are obstacles to the person getting closer to God. I challenge people when they are obstacles to others getting closer to God.  I truly believe that one can walk away from everything they’ve ever been taught and still hold fast to God.  I have seen that when that happens God is perfectly capable of holding fast to them and growing them into a healthy person with strong faith.  It grows my faith every time I see it and I am convinced I made the right choice to fear God and not men.

***

Crystal Lutton holds a Master’s in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is the President and founder of Arms of Love Family Fellowshipand has worked for over two decades on healing and reconciliation within family relationships as well as being on the forefront of the movement to advocate for and educate about gentle parenting within Christian families. She is the author of two books – Biblical Parenting and Grace-Based Living where she puts forth the idea of Grace-Based Discipline and addresses how grace can change all relationships in your life for the better. Through Arms of Love Family Fellowship she more recently launched ThomasTalks.net and is focused on the ministry of reconciliation in response to the growing numbers of people who are leaving the church. You can keep up with her on CrystalLutton.com.

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5 Responses to The Plain Meaning of Scripture – How a Woman Pastor Honors God’s Call

  1. Who decided that women must be gifted and called to the ministry? Do you ever hear that men must be gifted and called? I’ve met pastors who I am sure were not gifted to be a pastor. Nobody can tell if a person is called, but we can sure tell if they are gifted. Women are ready to pastors, they are suited up and on the sidelines. Churches won’t call them. We must reach the heart of the people sitting in the pews of those churches that select their pastors. I am grateful Crystal found a church. Most women can’t.

  2. Tim says:

    Crystal, thanks for writing of your own experiences. God has brought you into a great ministry.

  3. Tree says:

    That’s an astute point you made, Crystal, about men and women and the different means by which their suitability for ministry is judged. I’ve seen it applied time and again in my own small non-denom church.

    The Men In Charge make a concerted effort to “find people with potential” to invite to do such things as give the pre-service welcome or offer communion remarks and the prayer. They only mean “men people with potential”, of course. Did a teenage boy do a good job with a short testimony about a youth mission trip? Accolades are forthcoming from both men and women hearers and enthusiastic remarks are made by the Men In Charge about his potential for future ministry opportunities and they start making plans to mentor him. Did a teenage girl do an equally good job with her testimony about the youth mission trip? Women hearers will be enthusiastic and some men will be. Nobody will talk about her ministry leadership potential or mention mentoring. Did a young man ramble for 15 minutes in his communion remarks when he was only supposed to take 5 minutes? We’ll have to work with him on how to trim and tighten and stay focused. Did a woman ramble and take 6 minutes on a missions update when she was only allotted 3? Bless her heart, she’s not really cut out for this so we will find someone else next time. All four of these events happened just that way in the last month.

    “Called and gifted”–not so much as “male and willing”. It’s a wonder that women serve so faithfully behind the scenes in the church when they are so often taken for granted. And it’s a wonder why more men don’t volunteer to serve when they practically get a parade just for passing communion plates!

  4. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    I really appreciate your post, Crystal. The last part is especially encouraging: to know that God still holds on to us, even when we walk away from the things we’ve been taught because they’ve become obstacles to truly knowing him. Thank you for this.

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