Women in Ministry and Leadership



The issue is not about women in ministry (which is generally acknowledged to be accepted, at least with children, young people, adult women, students and on the foreign mission field with both men and women). The issue is about women in leadership, especially as pastoral staff, public preaching and eldership. To clarify this, I note what are the underlying issues:

(1) Scripture. As I will show below Scripture is ambiguous on the issue, and both those who deny women leadership in the local church and those who support it have Scripture on their side. Scripture is not ambiguous on the subject of homosexual practice, premarital sex, the exploitation of the poor and marginalized. But it is also ambiguous, as well, on the subject of wealth, the Old Testament largely arguing that it is a blessing of God, and the New Testament calling (essentially) for voluntary impoverishment and declaring that the wealthy already have their “reward.”

(2) Marriage. This is a marriage issue as it is argued that if the husband is the “head” of the home, this would be essentially undone by having one’s wife in authority over him in the church. Leadership structures in the church should support the home, not undermine it, so it is thought...

Weaving Theology of Work into Church Life


Not long ago, someone asked me, “If you could create it from scratch, what would a church look like that fully embodied a proper theology of work and really empowered its members to be ministers in the workplace? What would it do?”

In reflecting on that challenge, I thought of ten ways a “church-from-scratch” might make what God has revealed about work a regular part of its life together. Incorporating these approaches into the DNA of a church with years or decades of history would be more difficult though not impossible. I do not offer these ten practices as a formula for “success.” Instead, I hope God may use them as thought and prayer prompters in shaping your own church menu.

Spiritual Gifts


Several prevailing misunderstandings make it difficult for us to come to the biblical data on their own terms without forcing on the material a grid of expectation formed by popular Christian teaching. It is popularly understood, for example: (1) that spiritual gifts are given at the time of conversion and do not change during one’s lifetime; (2) that Christian maturation is hampered if we do not know what our gift is; (3) that our gift defines our identity (“I am a teacher”); (4) that gifts are primarily linked to roles and offices in the church; (5) that the more extraordinary gifts are indications of advanced spiritual life; (6) that gifts have little to do with our natural capabilities (sometimes called talents); (7) that gifts concern the spirit of a person (generally people talk of spiritual gifts but not of Spirit gifts); (8) that gifts define the character of the personal ministry of each Christian; (9) that emphasis on spiritual gifts may threaten the unity of the church and (10) that the lists of gifts in the New Testament are definitive and exhaustive.



The word ministry is derived in both Greek and Hebrew from a word that simply means “service.” A Christian servant is someone who puts himself or herself at God’s disposal for the benefit of others and for the stewardship of God’s world. Christian service—commonly called ministry—accords with God’s purposes for people and the world and has the touch of God, often unknown to the servant. Christian service makes no distinction between the sacred and the secular. Washing dishes, designing a computer program, preaching a sermon and healing the sick are all one, as William Tyndale said so long ago, “as touching the deed to please God.” How far this is from contemporary thinking about ministry!



George Bernard Shaw once said that every profession is a conspiracy against the laity. But there is a problem with this cynical remark when it is applied to the church. It is pointless to launch a conspiracy against something that no longer exists. The New Testament does not reveal two peoples: the professional clergy (those who are superior, gifted and powerful) and the laity (those who are inferior, untrained and powerless). Rather there is one people: the laity (in Greek laos), which includes the leaders. Moreover the leaders, like the led, are first and foremost members of the laity and share the exquisite honor of the people of God (1 Peter 2:9-10). Indeed the cultivation of professionalism by leaders of the church is incongruous with the essentially amateur nature of all Christian ministry. It is the work of love (as the root meaning of amateur indicates). To recover a biblical perspective on the people of God, we may need to abolish the words laity and clergy. We may also need to reinvent a way of expressing the dignity and duty of the ordinary Christian. In preparation for this we must first examine the biblical data, then reflect theologically on the identity and vocation of the people of God and finally consider what this all means.



In common speech clergy is a term used to describe a religious official, certain members of a religious order or a pastoral leader of a church or denomination. Its counterpart is laity—the untrained, uneducated, common members of the church. This two-people approach to the church is anachronistic and unbiblical (see Laity). We look in vain in the Bible for laypersons in the sense of untrained, unequipped and not-called. Those words available in the ancient world to describe laypeople (in the common sense)—laikos and idiōtēs—were never used by inspired writers to describe Christians. Instead we are introduced to the whole people of God—designated by the word laos (the people)—who including leaders together are the true ministers. The Greek word for clergy (klēros) is used to describe the dignity and appointment of all the people to ministry. So paradoxically the church has no laypeople in the usual sense of that word and yet is full of clergy in the original meaning of that word.

From the Complete Book of Everyday Christianity



The English word vocation comes from the Latin vocatio, which means “calling”; they are the same thing, though this is not obvious to the people who use these words. Experiencing and living by a calling provides a fundamental orientation to everyday life. But most of the world today has strayed from this and defines calling as a self-chosen career, usually a professional one that involves keeping appropriate standards and norms.

The fact that many people speak of their jobs as their “vocation” while pastors and missionaries speak of “being called” shows how inadequately we have grasped the universal call of God to every Christian. As Os Guinness says, calling means that our lives are so lived as a summons of Christ that the expression of our personalities and the exercise of our spiritual gifts and natural talents are given direction and power precisely because they are not done for themselves, our families, our businesses or even humankind but for the Lord, who will hold us accountable for them. A calling in Scripture is neither limited to nor equated with work. Moreover, a calling is to someone, not to something or somewhere. This last statement is sublimely significant but missed in this postvocational world.

From the Complete Book of Everyday Christianity


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