Does. Not. Compute.

1 Comment » Written on August 16th, 2016     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Debbie Montzingo teaches Bible at Bellevue Christian School and serves as an itinerant preacher at a variety of Covenant and other churches in western Washington. She awaits permanent call.

I admit I have not always believed that women should be pastors or leaders in the church. In my case, a series of “Wait, what?” moments over the years directed me towards the better way, moments where the practical application of a males-only model just did not quite make sense. Here is one of them.

In my young adult faith, the Bible as a foundation to Christian living and thinking was important to me. I valued “Where is it written?” long before I was a Covenanter. So I agreed with my church on what seemed a plain reading of the Bible: women could serve God, equal in value with men, but not in role. I bought into the glorious vision of the church that women expressed their submission to God by submitting to men: their fathers, their husbands, their elders, their pastors.

The service opportunities for women were primarily confined to women, children, congregational care, and worship. Women could speak from the pulpit to give a missions trip report and the like, but never to preach. It sounds more restrictive than it actually felt; it was not a primary doctrine or issue there, but it did affect many areas of ministry.

I had taken the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement class, which is an excellent resource for understanding worldwide missions from biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic perspectives, taught in church consortiums and Bible colleges all around the world. Eventually I trained to coordinate classes. In the process, I met a young woman who served as a speaker with an agency that gathered and shared information with churches about unreached people groups. She was dynamic and knowledgeable, a true advocate for world mission. She was also pragmatic.

In conversation one day, she talked about the times she had spoken at churches that did not affirm women in preaching or leadership. With a shrug, she said, “Usually they will let me speak as long as I promise not to speak from Scripture.”

Wait, what?

I have never attended a church, whatever their view of women in ministry, that did not want women to study and learn from the Bible, to be informed by biblical preaching, to read books that brought them into deeper understanding of God’s Word, to have their lives shaped by biblical truth, to know the Savior revealed in its pages, to reflect his character in their choices, to aspire to the gospel that Jesus preached. If the church is educating its women well, how do we then not speak from Scripture when talking about world mission? How do we not speak from Scripture when talking about how to raise children or serve the poor or teach Sunday School or live our lives, when Scripture has been so appropriately instrumental in making us who we are?

Are they asking us to compartmentalize our lives so that the Bible box is over there and our experience box is over here? Are they saying that there is a truth that is not God’s truth? Are they saying that it is more biblical to speak non-biblical truth because we are women? Are they saying that less Scripture is better than more Scripture if it is spoken by a woman?

Does. Not. Compute.

I love God, and I know that he loves me. I have lived my life trying to do and to be all that God has created me to do and to be—in other words, to obey. Every time I have tried to live by any other standard, I have been miserable. I realize that sometimes God asks us to do things we do not always understand or that are difficult and painful. I get that his ways are not our ways.

But although God is above human reason, he is not unreasonable or capricious. I am pretty sure he does not ask me to separate myself into pieces so I do not accidentally violate a gender divide when I open my mouth. I do not believe that God is pleased by the hairs we split to maintain an unmaintainable position. So either we need to keep women from speaking at church whenever men are around to prevent us from accidentally communicating Scriptural truth, or we need to re-think the whole idea. Is it possible we have missed the point, even as we have tried to obey?

Years after the conversation with this young woman speaker, its influence remained in my mind. I finally decided to go to seminary after a year-long discernment process because I realized that writing and speaking about biblical truth brought me great joy. Every time I had an opportunity to write or speak, biblical truth naturally enriched the content. My readers and listeners seemed to receive what I offered, often in life-changing ways. Twice after speaking at school events, others said to me, “You have missed your calling. You should be a preacher.” Before I had even entertained the possibility, those around me were pointing me in the direction of God’s call, although it took many years for the circumstances of my life to allow me to hear that call clearly.

The church has done its rightful job in me. And now I believe it is time for the church to let me and my sisters do ours—as God has gifted and called us.

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One Response to “Does. Not. Compute.”

Debbie – Thanks for sharing your journey with us. As we move into wider conversations and deepen biblical literacy I believe that a day is coming where we can fully engage our call and lead as gifted in God’s unfolding story.

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