When Women Preach

8 comments Written on October 21st, 2014     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Corrie Gustafson is an ordained Covenant pastor and the Pacific Southwest liaison for Advocates for Covenant Clergy Women. She currently serves as the K-5 chaplain at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. She blogs regularly at http://pastorwithapurse.com

My friend John (not his real name) is the lead pastor of a small church. One day, as we talked ministry over coffee, John said, “Women aren’t gifted preachers.” His manner was as startling to me as his message. He spoke casually and with assurance, like this was an indisputable fact. I asked John how many women he’d heard preach in his life. He said three. One was during summer camp, the other two during chapel services at Bible college.

In 2011, a Covenant church hired me as their interim associate pastor. Preaching and teaching were part of the job description. A married couple in the church believed so strongly that women should not preach, that they left the church shortly after I was hired. They’d never heard my testimony, heard me preach nor seen any of my gifts in action. All they needed to know was that the new pastor was a woman.

Many Christians form negative conclusions about women preaching with a simple reading of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Sincere, devoted followers of Jesus, some of them my family and friends, believe that women who preach are sinning. But for those of us who’ve been called to ministry, and for the men that advocate for us, it’s not that easy. We believe these seemingly prohibitive passages – like all scripture – must be examined, interpreted and applied under the light of the full gospel. We believe these verses must be reconciled with passages like Galatians 3 and Ephesians 2:14 and 4:16.

I think this debate often comes down to a matter of authority. I can’t speak for all women, but I certainly didn’t go to seminary, become a pastor or get ordained to get attention and status. Not a step of my spiritual journey has been motivated by the desire to have spiritual authority over others. I wanted to serve God, the church and the world in love. More than anything, I minister out of obedience to God.

If I’d known how difficult a life’s work it is to lead and serve the church, this would not have been my recurring prayer since childhood: God, my life is yours. Show me how you want me to serve you.

If I’d known that, as a female pastor, pain and persecution would more regularly come from my brothers and sisters in Christ than it would from unbelievers, I might not have had the courage to follow the call to ministry.

It’s this call that will not let me escape or quit or back down from the pulpit. God called me. God’s love compels me to preach. Sometimes I’m so in awe of the privilege and responsibility of preaching, that I feel like nothing I say could be enough. I wonder – who am I to pass on God’s story? (Really, who are any of us?) Then I remember that God gave me the gifts and talents needed to shepherd his people, and it all comes down to this – who am I to squander them?

As the children of God, we’ve been beautifully crafted in God’s image, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, joyfully adopted into one family, and commissioned to spread the gospel. Because of Jesus, I have a testimony that can encourage the broken-hearted. My testimony is just as critical as any of my brothers’. God called me to add my voice to the chorus of preachers around the world spreading the gospel.

When I preach, I’m usually trembling inside. It’s a quaking of both holy fear and abiding joy. My sermons spring from the joy of what Christ has done for me and for us all. As a woman, I don’t preach just because I can, because I’m entitled, or because I think I’m great. I preach because God is great.

I preach because of God and for God.

I preach because the gospel heals and I want to spread that medicine.

I preach to worship God and so that others might worship God.

I preach to proclaim God’s matchless glory.

I preach as surrender to God.

I think if you’re doing it right, preaching requires surrender. Surrender of ego, personal opinion, and your agenda for your congregation. To preach well we must first listen well, to the Spirit that is in us and in the text.

Preaching requires all that we are. In my experience as a congregant, the most powerful sermons always have personal stories. When preachers are vulnerable and share their stories with others, something incarnational happens; God takes a seed from one heart and sews it into another.

My experiences as a girl and as a woman are elemental parts of my testimony. After I preach, women often come up to me and tell me that the sermon connected with them in powerful ways, ways that stories and experiences of a man could not. That is why I believe God has called women and men to preach, so that his gospel might penetrate every human heart.

If you believe that women aren’t gifted preachers, I invite you to listen to the sermons from Triennial XIV, found here. Using a variety of styles, each of the featured speakers powerfully preached the gospel. Through these women, the Spirit brought healing, accountability and forgiveness to me and hundreds of others. I was challenged, inspired and empowered. Their sermons continue to impact my life.

Our sisters have the good news in them, news that can transform our souls.

Will we listen?



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8 comments “When Women Preach”

Corrie–God bless you for this concise and thoughtful statement about our experience as women preachers. I pray that women everywhere will come to understand that God’s call comes to both genders alike! Thank you, too, for the shout out for Triennial. I clicked through and am being blessed by the videos. 

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Thank you, Corrie!
My life has been changed by listening to women preach! Especially the words of Brenda Salter McNeil – one of the most gifted preachers of God’s word I’ve ever heard.

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corrie….I listened to u speak…..u made sense and u understood the things that women go thru…..maybe not at my age but u listened and responded accordingly…..when u were up in front of the ppl…..u spoke of things that were gods world…..I never really viewed u as a preacher …more of a woman who was convicted and strong…..I always appreciated that in a woman……..when I speak I stand convicted as well……am glad u paved the way in my world for many to follow in the footsteps of jesus ……thereby there will be more peace….women are emotional and spiritual problem solvers……we hang in when no one else will…..we bring Christ to all without shame….embarrassment or worrying about protocol……glad I am one and glad I met u and had the time with u…..hugssssssssss blessings….and peace

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Among a million other reasons, the reason I want to hear women preach is because they are women. We are all created in God’s image but women and men are different, there is no denying it. I want to hear sermons from the other half of the population simply because we exist. I ask myself questions like this: How does the meaning of John 4 change when a woman preaches? What is it like for a pregnant woman to preach on Christmas Eve?  Preach it sisters!

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This is awesome, and it resonates – especially the fear and joy of preaching. Thank you for – once again – putting so much of my own unspoken thoughts and feelings into words! Also, one of my favorite preachers (male or female) is Barbara Brown Taylor – love her! (PS: Anna Spray sent me your way; PPS: I went to Aliamanu Military School and Hawaii Baptist Academy way back in the day! 🙂 Blessings on the journey! ~B

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Corrie – I can’t tell you how many times I have personally heard the “women are speakers, not preachers” line. With so many gifted women preachers today, if you haven’t heard one, you really need to take a moment to listen to any of the women preachers that have been mentioned so far in this chain of responses. Add Alise Barrymore, Judy Howard Peterson and an entire list of Covenant Clergy Women who are gifted in the area of preaching to the list of women preachers I must listen to. It is a wonderful time for readers to broaden their experiences and listen to women who are gifted preachers of the Word of God.

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Corrie, your passion and gifting for preaching shine brightly in your post; revealing your deep love for God, your genuine heart for the hurting, and your joyful embrace of God’s Holy Word and Living Spirit!  Preach it Sister!  I love your reflection on the incarnational work that happens in preaching when “God takes a seed from one heart and sews it into another.” Surely God is planting many seeds of faith through you and the many gifted and called women (and men) in the ECC!  Glory to God in the Highest! 

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