Women’s Role in the Church

One of the more controversial issues facing the church today is that of women in leadership. It does not matter which church you belong to, they have a view, and they are either for it or against it. The places that are most debated over are that of deacon and elder. The word for deacon in the Greek is diakoneō, roughly meaning “to serve”, and the Greek for elder “presbyteroi” usually referring to an overseer. While the qualifications for both found in 1 Tim 3 are not exhaustive they give us a good understanding of what leaders should be like. Elders should be above reproach, husband to one wife, sober-minded, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own house well, with dignity keep his kids submissive. He should not be a new convert. He should also be well thought of by outsiders.

Deacons likewise should be dignified, not double tongued, not addicted to drinking, not greedy for dishonest gain. They should hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. Their wives should be dignified and not gossips, sober, and faithful in all things. Deacons should also be the husband of one wife and manage their homes well.[1]

When it comes to the leadership of the church, I personally lean more toward a complementarian view, not the more liberal egalitarian or the more rigid hierarchal view. John MacArthur offers a very brief yet succinct opinion on what I believe the complementarian view says, “While both men and women can serve in a variety of ways under the general and broad category of deacon (vv. 8–13), Paul makes it clear that the leadership of the church is limited to men.[2] We do have one solid source of a woman being a deacon in the New Testament and that is in Romans 16:1, where Paul mentions Phoebe. Even though I have no problem with women being deacons because there is some if limited biblical support there is no support for a woman actually being an elder.

Most commentators agree that women are inferior to men by no means, but however due to natural order women are not to be over men. As for 1 Cor.14:34-35, Paul writes to them because the women there were prone to emotional outburst and disrupting worship[3]. In 1 Tim. 2:11-15 Paul does not say that women have no authority; he merely is saying that they are not permitted to teach men (primarily in public). Warren Wiersbe says, “Women are permitted to teach. Older women should teach the younger women (Titus 2:3–4). Timothy was taught at home by his mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). But in their teaching ministry, they must not “lord it over” men. There is nothing wrong with a godly woman instructing a man in private (Acts 18:24–28); but she must not assume authority in the church and try to take the place of a man. She should exercise “quietness” and help keep order in the church.[4]

Some will try and argue in 1 Tim 3:11 the word wives can only mean the word wives while the word that is being used there could also refer to woman. In allowing for the alternative view we do not hold so tightly to the translation of wives. While limitations do exist in the home and church where women have authority, it does not ring true for all areas of her life. Elwell states, “Similarly, the submission required of wives in Ephesians 5 could not be interpreted to include anything that lies outside of the home realm.”[5]

When we view the church as a whole there is no doubt in my mind the valuable role they play. When God created man He created them male and female (Gen 1:27). Mark Driscoll in his book Vintage Church sums up beautifully what I believe about women in ministry,

A complementarian church should encourage women to use the spiritual gifts and natural abilities that God has given them to their fullest extent. This includes anything from teaching a class to leading a Bible study, overseeing a ministry, leading as a deacon, speaking in church in a way that is not preaching, leading worship music, serving Communion, entering into full-time paid ministry as a paid member of the staff, and receiving formal theological education—basically every opportunity in the church except what the Bible and the elders deem elder-only duties.[6]

This is my understanding of the role women should play in ministry. Until the Lord convicts my heart and I am given a different understanding this is what I shall hold to.

Word Count: 856


[1] For further information on the requirements of leadership read 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9

[2] John F. MacArthur, Jr., Different by Design (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1997, c1994.), 113.

[3] Elwell, Water A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. (Grand Rapids,MI: BakerAcademic,2001)1284.

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), 1 Ti 2:9.

[5] Elwell, ed. Evangelical, 1284

[6] Driscoll, Mark, and Gerry Breshears. Vintage Church. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008) 67.

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2 thoughts on “Women’s Role in the Church

  1. You do not believe that women should even be able to receive a theological education, even for their own (or their family's) edification? I am going to have to disagree with that. I would also like to add many women are youth “directors” and children's “directors”…even in my church. Your thoughts?

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  2. Will if you look at the quote I took from Driscoll I said it sums up what I believe and he says that they can do those things. I just do not feel that they should be and elder in a church, especially in a Lead Pastor position. In our church we have a young lady who helps oversee the young women and their issues and the children's ministry is predominantly run by women with the oversight of the Education Pastor.

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