Can Women be Religious Leaders?

Can Women be Religious Leaders? August 22, 2023

Every once in a while, a topic pops up that I immediately shy away from. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion because I do. Instead, I would call it wisdom by attempting to choose my battles. Some topics have easy answers, while others tend to be circular.

We can argue, debate, and discuss our stances but inevitably circle all the way around to the beginning without ever finding a place of peaceful agreement.
Then why have I chosen to accept this divisive topic as the focal point of this, my newest, article? What possible insight does a man have into the world of female Christians? And why should you, the reader, care about what I have to say?
Take a risk. Give a few minutes of your time to allow me to shed light on the topic from the scriptures and my personal experience of being raised by women, married to a woman, and having daughters (little women).
To those returning to read my newest “Christian Sanity” post and the brave souls trying me for the first time, get ready.
You know the drill. Buckle up, sit back, relax, and ensure the spiritual airbags are turned on. Because here we go.

How am I Qualified to Answer This Question?

a lone woman studies the scriptures in a pew at church
woman reads the scripture in church
Photo by Arina Krasnikova/

I’m not a woman. Let’s put that particular morsel of information out there first. Nor do I identify as a woman. I was born, raised, and always a male. Then how am I qualified to give an opinion on women holding positions of authority in the church?
Because I am a man.
You might say, “That makes no sense.” The readers muttering this right now are not familiar with my writing. To find the sanity you seek, sometimes you need to follow the insane, foolish ramblings of a madman. Today (and most days), I am the madman.
Time to get back on track.
So, how does a former construction worker, father of five, football-playing, tattooed, bearded bladesmith figure he is qualified for a subject this diversified and delicately controversial?
Story time.

In the Family

From my earliest memories, I remember my grandmother, a larger-than-life figure. She raised five children with my grandad and then raised another child on her own. If you were to ask me to say two words that directly correlate with her, my answers would be piano and church.
She was a steadfast figure who attended church faithfully, often collecting nearby grandchildren to bring on Sundays. I own her little black Bible with highlights, notes scribbled into sidebars and underlined verses.
If I could only say one thing about her character, she was a woman of faith.
The picturesque image of a grandma with white permed curls and spectacles was how she appeared from the outside. But this elderly matriarch often spoke her mind and opinion whether you wanted to hear it or not. You never wondered where you stood with her because she told you.
On the same token, my mother shared many of the same traits, though she would vehemently deny the fact. As I grew up, my mother moved into the position of Christian authority and was often the only parental figure in the home. She slipped into the role of parent and friend her children needed.
Not to say my father didn’t live in the house. The generation who raised him taught him three keys to being a man. A roof over the family’s head, food on the table, and things the family wanted. As such, my father was a great financial provider.
But at the cost of personal relationships.
Watching these strong, caring, and independent women (as well as others) altered my perspective of Christian authority. If someone got sick, they broke out the oil and prayed. When we went on a trip, they broke out the oil and prayed. Was there a big test on the horizon?
They broke out the oil and prayed.
Through observation, I learned God answers the prayers of men and women alike. And God worked miracles through both genders. Sometimes it was difficult for these women, especially considering their eras. But perseverance, prayer, and faith saw them through.
It always amused me that some of the most terrifying creatures in the animal kingdom were the females with their young. From personal experience, the same is true with humanity. I learned women could have superhuman feats when their children were at stake.
Who among us has a woman in the family that stood in the gap for us when we were lost? Which matriarchs were faithful prayer warriors over the next generation? How many of these older, veteran women would we want with us in a spiritual battle? My answer is all of them.
I can’t think of anything more terrifying for the Enemy than when these women warriors band together for spiritual warfare. Because the Enemy knows he lost in the face of these righteous women.

Church Experience

a woman prays for a man in a pew at church
a woman prays for a man
Photo by RDNE Stock project/

Another avenue that helped open my eyes was the different churches I attended in my youth. Some were charismatic. A few were more of the old-school Southern Baptist. And others were Pentecostal, while the remaining were nondenominational. But there was a common theme other than the typical theological dogma.
Women were not secondary church members.
In one, there would be a female music leader. Contrary to popular belief, women were not the defacto choice for song service. The monotone of a manly baritone may have lulled me into a spiritual coma. But these song leaders understood music as a form of praise, worship, and spiritual warfare.
At a different church, we had female greeters and ushers. Sometimes it isn’t too welcoming when you enter and run into a slab of a man who shakes the feeling out of your now numb hand. The gruff exterior could raise more walls from attendees instead of making people feel welcome.
Sunday schools, Children’s churches, and Youth groups worldwide know having female leaders in these programs can make reaching our kids easier. Why? Perhaps we still identify women as nurturers and caregivers.
But I know these same women can easily be fire-walking, sword-wielding warriors of God. I’ve heard women in the pulpit give sermons and exhortations that would make Billy Graham or Smith Wigglesworth proud to be the speaker.
My experiences opened the door to an open mind to God working in whatever way He desires. But this would never have come about without biblical examples of women leaders.

Biblical Examples

Many man-made religious traditions deny the ability of women to fulfill the role of religious leader by women. Just as for many years, a person’s youth hindered their potential ministry. Or a specific lineage requirement to be considered a spiritual leader.
These teachings and traditions have been passed down through generations and millennia. But when will we stop blindly following what man has said is possible and listen to what God has said is possible?
Youth has been a detriment in ministry and leadership for as long as there have been humans. We know wisdom comes through experience, but we also can see examples of youthful figures making a righteous stand.
Josiah, the boy king, led his people back to God. Four youths were taken to Babylon but refused to abandon their faith and God. A teenager who refused to listen to blasphemy from a literal giant. An eight-year-old boy who spoke with God.
If we can see that God does not care about the age of his servants but their hearts, we need to put down our religious-hued spectacles and see that God truly is no respecter of persons.
In Judaism, rabbis name seven women of the Old Testament as prophetesses.
Often overlooked and demonized to a degree, Sara joined her husband in leaving the land of their birth and traversing to Egypt and back to Canaan. Hebrews states that she was strengthened by her faith and called God faithful. Without her willingness to believe, Isacc would not have been born.
One of my favorites, Deborah, was called a Judge of Israel and prophetess. In her steadfast obedience to God, she called Barak to war. And when he wavered in faith, Deborah went to war with Israel at Barak’s side.
In Deborah, we see the many facets of womanhood serving God faithfully. She was the peacemaker between fighting and bickering Israelites. From her words flowed hope and vision of the future for her people. And when it came time to fight for her people, she did not shy away.
Deborah served as a mother of Israel.
The King consulted the prophetess Huldah for Judah. A group of the King’s servants, Levites, and priests sought her for guidance about the book of law discovered in the temple. She was believed to speak for God.
Countless women in the old testament stood on faith, obeyed the Lord, and received His blessings. And because of these mighty women of God, the children of God were blessed.
Miriam was instrumental in saving Moses and was called a prophetess. Through dogged faith and perseverance, Ruth swore to make Naomi’s people and God her own. Because of her faith, she is in King David’s and Jesus Christ’s lineage.
Esther used her position to petition the king to save her people. Jael nailed Sisera … literally. Jehosheba saved and hid the rightful heir of the kingdom of Judah. And this is just the old testament.
Aquila and Priscilla journeyed with Paul as fellow missionaries. Mary and Elizabeth were blessed to carry Jesus and John, respectively. And let’s face it, can you imagine the weight of responsibility to raising either one? Who was the first to see the resurrected Lord? Women.

Final Thoughts

an elder woman kneels at an altar alone and prayer to the Lord
an elder woman prays at church
Photo by RDNE Stock project/

Has God chosen me to divine doctrine? Am I a holy emissary of heavenly knowledge dispensed only to myself? Do I have the right to dictate unbreakable and unshakable truths revealed from heaven?
Heavens no. I’m just a man. According to my mother and my kids, I’m not even right half of the time.
But what I do know is this.
Our heavenly Father is no respecter of persons. God can use a donkey, He can use a man, He can use a woman, He can use a stone, He can use our enemy, He can use the old, and He can use the young.
I do not believe God cares what we look like, where we come from, or who we are. The Lord doesn’t watch what box we check, from gender to ethnicity, to political affiliation. What matters is the condition of our hearts.
The question before us is, “Can women be religious leaders.” We have biblical proof of God’s use of women in leadership under the Old and New Covenants. Joel and Acts both say, “And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.”
Many of us have seen women in positions of authority and blessed and led by God. I know I have. And let’s face it, if God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!