By Andrea Johnson
My mom was an amazing musician. She had a beautiful singing voice and played several instruments. However, because she had been divorced, Mom did not get to play for her beloved church. Even though since her divorce she had been married to my dad for several years, church leaders felt letting her be “up front” would set a bad example for the congregation. Nonetheless, they did ask her to play the piano for children’s church and for the church’s monthly visits to nursing homes, which she did cheerfully. Apparently they weren’t worried about whether she was setting a bad example for the children or the elderly.
My mom’s fellow church members were not being intentionally mean. They actually were the ones who reached out to my parents when they were at a very low place in their lives and were a huge reason our family attended church at all. They simply didn’t feel like Mom should be up front.
After a time my uncle, who was a pastor, needed a pianist at his church, so we began attending there. A few years later after I had left home, some of the leaders from Mom’s first church came to visit her and humbly asked her to forgive them. (My siblings and I hadn’t even known they had excluded her; she had never told us.) They invited her to come back to the church and be their organist. By then my uncle had other options for an accompanist, so she prayed about it and returned to the little country church. She eventually became their much-loved and respected choir director!
I often think of Mom when I think of women in leadership because we often handle that issue in a similar manner. We tend to relegate women to leading children’s ministries, prayer ministries, or maybe the music ministry. We may even let them “pastor” overseas as missionaries. But then we question their authority to lead in other ways.
How many people around the world would not have received the gospel if it were not for the brave, self-sacrificing women who obeyed their leadership calling, unconcerned with specific titles such as pastor?
If a person is averse to receiving a message or instruction because it comes from a woman, then maybe he or she is limiting our God. God used Deborah, a prophetess, to lead all of Israel at one time. (For whatever reason God chose her instead of her husband to speak to the people and to lead them.) God even spoke once through a donkey (Numbers 22:21-33). Maybe we could focus less on the messenger and tune into the message.