|Why don’t you have any female preachers or leaders?
We believe that the church today must follow the example of the early church that we read about in the New Testament. That first-century church is the “gold standard” because it was under the direct leadership of the Holy Spirit-inspired apostles of Jesus. He gave them His authority to preach and teach and build up His kingdom according to His will (Matthew 16:19). The newly-established church that we read about in the Bible continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42), and we must do likewise. Any deviation from what the inspired and appointed apostles of Christ taught and authorized is disobedient and defiant of God’s revealed will. Any departure from the example set by that early church under the apostles’ direct guidance is sinful digression from the Spirit-given truth of Christian worship and practice, and for that, we will be judged (Revelation 22:18-19). Therefore, when the issue of female leadership arises, we need only seek to determine what the apostles said and what the early church did.
The apostle Paul addresses this issue in his letter to the church. In I Corinthians 14, he urges orderliness in the assembly of God’s people. One of the points he makes is that women are required, according to God’s design, to keep silent in the assembly when it comes to the authoritative role of teaching and preaching God’s word. Verses 33 and 34 say, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.”
Paul addressed the issue again in I Timothy 2:11-13. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”
It is clear from these passages that apostolic teaching and the example of the early church dictate that the woman come under the authority of the man in the assembly of the Lord’s body. She is to show submission to his God-given role as leader and teacher in the house of God. This is not to say that she cannot ever teach, just that when the church comes together (I Corinthians 14:26), she is to defer to the leadership of the man in obedience to God.
We in the church of Christ do not prohibit women from preaching because they are not competent and capable of teaching God’s word. We do not refuse to permit women to lead in the church because we as men despise them or wish to see them oppressed. We simply maintain this order because God has ordained it so! His will is supreme in the church. We are His people and we must do what He says in order to be accepted by Him. There is nothing wrong with women teaching in personal settings (Acts 18:26) or even in gatherings of other women (Titus 2:3-5). There are quite a few women whose teaching skill and eloquence in public speaking exceed that of many men! However, in the assembly of the saints, a woman may not assume the role of leadership over the men to whom God has appointed that task. The only reason is that God, through His Spirit-inspired apostle, has said so. This is the order that God has established, and He expects us to maintain it.
Let’s be careful not to accuse God foolishly, as some do when they say that this commandment shows partiality toward men and contempt for women. God is not a misogynist; He loves men and women. In fact, the scripture says that there is no difference in Christ Jesus in terms of their renewed natures. Women are on equal footing with men when it comes to salvation in Christ (Galatians 3:28). God does not restrict entrance to the kingdom of His Son based on race, social status, gender, or any other classification. Every believer is just as saved in Jesus Christ as every other believer.
However, that does not mean that all believers have the same function within the body. Although God gives the same righteousness to every believer, He does not give the same role to every believer. It is to the man that God has given the task of publicly preaching and teaching His word in the church assembly, not because He loves man more than woman, but because He created man first and has appointed that task to him. This appointment is in accordance with His divine purpose and holy will, which cannot be questioned or controverted by you or me. God is sovereign, and what He says goes!
Likewise, a woman may not assume the role of an elder. This title is the same as “bishop” and “pastor.” (See the answer to the question, “Why don’t you call your preacher ‘reverend’…?”) A woman may not serve the church as a shepherd and overseer of the flock. One of the Spirit-given criteria for those who assume this leadership role is that they be the “husband of one wife” (I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6). That clearly excludes women from service in that capacity. God has ordained that men function in the authoritative leadership roles of the church, and that is that. To ordain female “bishops” or “pastors” is to act in outright defiance of plain and simple Biblical teaching and to treat the word of God with utter contempt!
While we believe that every child of God – male or female – is to exercise his or her abilities in service to the Lord, His divine commandments that we can clearly read in the New Testament prohibit women from assuming an authoritative role in the church. We must all submit to the authority of Christ in everything, and the women in His church must submit to the authority of the men because God set it up that way.