Opinion—Can a Man Really Be a Pastor?
By Steve Rennick
Editor’s note—Views expressed in the following op-ed do not necessarily reflect those of Church of God Ministries, Inc., or its affiliates. We publish op-ed features to provoke thought, stimulate healthy discussion, and inspire us to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did. We’ve asked to hear from a diverse range of voices across the Church of God movement. This op-ed features one of these voices.
Can a man really be a pastor? I mean, come on, think of all of that testosterone. Don’t you think that could easily become a problem? Besides, you know men are notoriously quiet and we need pastors who can speak up. And everyone knows that some of men’s most common entertainment takes place on Sundays—like Sunday Night Football, and then there’s Monday Night Football, and Thursday Night Football! Are we sure men even have the time to be good pastors?
Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m being at least a little facetious in the opening paragraph. Of course, men can be pastors. In fact, most pastors are men. Yet whenever I think of questions and comments such as the ones too easily associated with women being pastors, I have always wondered why the above questions are not ever asked.
I have been writing, teaching, preaching, discussing, and advocating for the full acceptance of women in Christian ministry and leadership for decades now. I have served with women in leadership in ministry and have been accountable to a number of different women in ministry leadership positions. For me, this is rather matter-of-fact and a way of life. However, for many others, this is not the case.
Let me share a story. This is a true story and both pastors involved in this story have given their permission for me to share it, though I will decline to include their actual names.
Pastor Max (again, not his real name) was nearing retirement and was excited for a new season of life. He had served his latest congregation long and well. Part of preparing the congregation for this transition was to write into the church’s bylaws a system of transition which would include bringing in a new lead pastor for a three-month overlap with Pastor Max.
All seemed to be in place. The congregation was governed by a board of elders which, wisely, included an “outside elder” who was a recognized leader in the Church of God, and could bring a wider set of experiences and perspectives to the board.
The board, in fulfillment of their bylaws, conducted a very thorough search, multiple interviews, and hours of prayer. From the full board’s perspective, they had gone above and beyond the call of duty, even going the biblical “extra mile” in the search process.
Pastor Max and the full board of elders were amazed at how clearly the Holy Spirit was working through their prayerful and careful process. One particular candidate clearly stood out above all others to everyone involved—Pastor Martha (again, not her real name). The fact that the pastor happened to be a woman did not seem to be an issue for anyone involved. Indeed, Pastor Martha and her husband were equally assured in their own hearts, spirits, and prayers of the Lord’s leading.
After much prayer and careful deliberation by the board of elders, Pastor Max, and Pastor Martha, she was announced as their candidate for next lead pastor. There was to be a full candidating weekend and, after an affirmative vote, she would serve along with Pastor Max for three months, then Pastor Max would fully retire, and Pastor Martha would assume the mantle of lead pastor.
Sadly, the vote for her fell short of the bylaw requirement by less than 4 percent. Pastor Martha, her husband, Pastor Max, and the board of elders were heartbroken. How could this happen? She was the obvious and number-one choice of the full board of elders and had the full support and affirmation of their long-serving spiritual shepherd, Pastor Max. Again, how could this happen?
The results for the congregation were nearly catastrophic. Pastor Max felt that to follow the same process as the one which had just failed to secure their new pastor could feel contrived and would be compromised. Thus, he went ahead with his retirement a month later. The board of elders felt that the congregation did not have faith in their leadership and resigned en masse. Pastor Max says, “Of all the heartbreaking disappointments I’ve experienced as a pastor, this was the most devastating.”
Pastor Martha and her husband entered into an extended time of prayer and seeking for the Lord’s will. Thankfully, God restored their hope and confidence, and Pastor Martha is now serving as a lead pastor in another congregation of the Church of God.
Perhaps the greatest irony in all of this is that the congregation which had rejected Pastor Martha was originally planted and founded by a female pastor eighty years before all of this transpired!
Pastor Max continues to carry a great concern for his former parishioners, and for the wider Church of God, as well. His concern is that as long as the central issue of women in ministry is not addressed directly, taught biblically, and discussed from a historical, Church of God perspective, then we are likely to have other such stories unfold among other congregations, doing damage both to the church and to pastoral candidates.
Yes, we reach our hands in fellowship to every blood-washed one. And, yes, also, we teach those who come from other church frameworks how we understand God’s Spirit to lead within the Church of God.
A few questions to consider personally and discuss publicly:
- Have we examined carefully and closely the pneumatology of the Church of God from Joel 2:28–29 and Acts 2:17–18?
- Have we considered carefully and closely the long history of women as leaders, pastors, teachers, and missionaries in the Church of God?
- Have we researched carefully and closely the wide role of women in leadership today in the Church of God around the world, as well as here in North America?
- Have we prayerfully and carefully examined our own hearts before the Lord in how we are to think of, treat, and respect our sisters-in-Christ who are called and gifted by God to serve him in his church?
- Have we intentionally and deliberately sought to include both women and men in our searches for pastors and leaders in our churches?
The Church of God has a long and storied experience of women in leadership. It is worth knowing, celebrating, and practicing. If you have questions or if I can be helpful as you carefully and prayerfully answer these questions, please reach out to me.
The above op-ed is a follow-up to Steve Rennick’s first, which can be read at https://www.jesusisthesubject.org/opinion-women-in-ministry-slow-train-coming-but-still-coming/.
Questions or comments? Steve Rennick can be reached by email at email@example.com. Steve serves as the state pastor for the Church of God Colorado Conference. He and his wife Rev. Diane have three grown children and just became grandparents. The couple and family continue to enjoy crossing cultures to meet new people in new places in new ways.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.