Grappling, struggling, wrestling, and tackling. These are key terms Olson uses to describe his long journey from believing that women in ministry should not be in leadership because they do not have the authority, to believing women should be free to use their God-given gifts. The endorsers of this book describe it as short (101 pages), simple, direct, powerful, and to the point. A female endorser thanks Olson for fighting for women who are called of God to lead.
Olson has served as a pastor, school director, and teacher. He describes his journey as a new believer in a college fellowship where members believed women should not be pastors, and should submit to men in general. In seminary, teachers he held in high regard also believed that women should serve only as Christian education directors or leaders of women’s ministries. This was based on several New Testament passages, which he wrestled with at the time of his ordination, but fifteen years later he revisited these passages. He also read Lee Grady’s book 10 Lies the Church Tells Women. His pursuit of the truth led him to write The Other Half of the Army.
Olson emphasizes the need to understand God created men and women with equal status. Olson follows the topic of women in leadership throughout Scripture. He identifies the female leaders in the Old Testament and discusses the role of women in the intertestamental period. He describes Jesus’ heart for women, such as the Samaritan woman at the well, the woman who poured a jar of perfume on Jesus’ head, and the women followers of Jesus and his disciples. Jesus’ influence impacted the apostles’ understanding of women, and their role in the church, as well as culture and society. He believes that the constraints and limitations on women are based on a very small number of verses, which do not match the overall emphasis of Scripture. Olson identifies scriptural manipulation that has been used to defend the psychological, emotional, and even physical abuse of women. Hundreds of years of church tradition have been a significant barrier to women fulfilling their calling.
The fifth chapter, his longest chapter, deals with challenging passages. His exegesis includes I Corinthians 11:2-19, I Corinthians 14:34-35, Ephesians 5:15-29, I Timothy 2:9-15, and I Timothy 3:1-12. He points out part of the challenge in exegetical work is determining the intent of the author of the passage. He notes some of Paul’s writings have been misinterpreted in limiting the influence of women.
Olson offers advice in how men and woman can partner together working effectively in the home, church, workplace, or society. He demonstrates great respect for biblical integrity. The use of numerous Bible translations is noted throughout the book. A positive note is the inclusion of all the passages printed in the text versus just the verse references. This saves time in not having to stop and look up the passages in the Bible. He includes a partial bibliography of nine entries.
Olson concludes his book with interviews of four women who describe the various obstacles they face in responding to their call to ministry.
Interviewee 1: She had very few role models of women in positions of leadership in the church. As a pastor she found that most of her opposition has come from women, which has been hard for her. Fighting through years of resistance to women in ministry has been difficult, even painful at times. She is praying that her daughters don’t have to go through the same struggle.
Interviewee 2: She felt a definite calling to full-time ministry. Growing up, women were not ministers. Women taught children and brought food to potluck dinners. She grew in leadership positions and was told by her seminary professor, “You are going to have to take a stand theologically on your own because you’re the one called to your ministry.” With a semester of study she has become “very egalitarian.” Looking back, she was mad at those responsible for the wrong messages she had received and believed.
Interviewee 3: She had a successful music ministry recording live worship albums and leading worship conferences. She was involved in a church plant leadership team. She later learned that the team didn’t actually believe in women in ministry. In a meeting with the pastor she asked, “You’re telling me that I can stand up in front of your congregation and can sing the Word, but I can’t preach the Word?” This was her first taste of the ridiculousness of women persecuted in ministry. In future settings she felt called to serve in various ministries as a creative arts director, youth pastor, worship leader, and pastoral executive assistant. She moved to New York City and founded a church that empowers both men and women who have tasted freedom.
Interviewee 4: She is a pastor of a church in New York City and runs a successful marketing company as well as a life-consulting firm. She has a desire to see Christians do business and life differently than the world. She feels that there is not as much pushback in the ministry as she expected. The liberal environment of New York City has broken through some of that. Because women have made progress in the business world it only makes sense that would be reflected in ministry as well. She is disappointed to see conference lineups where the only woman on the lineup is a workshop leader. She is concerned about the lack of men championing women, and wonders if some men don’t realize women need their advocacy.
I strongly recommend this book as a primer for those who question the role of women in ministry. It is refreshing to share the long journey he has been on in coming to grips with the difficult passages in Scripture.