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Published Date: June 5, 2007

Published Date: June 5, 2007

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Following the Good Shepherd

Women who are called to teach or preach face opposition to their ministries from people who believe that women’s role is to remain quiet in the church and submissive at home.

This view of women’s role is so pervasive that women themselves may mistake God’s call for the devil’s temptation. They may resist preaching the gospel in order to fulfil expectations based on their gender. They may remain focused on staying within their own four walls instead of going out into the world to spread the good news.

Jesus faced opposition to his ministry too, and many of the accusations used against him parallel the kinds of opposition women in ministry face today. 

When Jesus cast a demon out of a man who couldn’t see or speak, religious leaders claimed, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons” (Matt. 12:24). Jesus pointed out the flaw in their thinking by reminding them that just as tree is recognized by its fruit,  so also “good people bring good things out of the good stored up in them” (Matt. 12:33–35).

If a ministry yields good results, then its source cannot be evil. The same Holy Spirit that empowered Jesus to cast out demons empowers preachers of the gospel whether they are men or women. If a woman’s ministry brings others salvation and healing, it must be the result of responding to God’s call, not giving in to the devil’s temptation. 

When Jesus healed a man with a shriveled hand (Matt. 12:9–14) and a woman who had been crippled for 18 years (Luke 13:10–17), religious leaders confronted him for breaking rules about the Sabbath, a day when Jewish people were not permitted to do any work.  Jesus challenged them and asked them if their sheep fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t they pull it out instead of leaving it there to die (Matt. 12:11–12)?

Some religious leaders in our day have added rules that restrict ministry to men only. But if so many people need to hear the gospel, how can we silence women who are ready and willing to minister to them? Like the rules about keeping the Sabbath that led some people to oppose Jesus’ healing ministry, rules about gender roles that keep women out of ministry leadership “neglect the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42).

Another way religious leaders tried to discredit Jesus’ ministry was by accusing him of associating with sinners. In response, Jesus compared himself to a shepherd who will leave 99 safe sheep behind to go search for one lost sheep (Luke 15:1–7). Women who step out in faith are often viewed with suspicion for neglecting their families. Caring for a family does not need to disqualify women from ministering beyond their own four walls any more than it would disqualify men. 

Jesus assures us that he is a good shepherd and his sheep will know his voice (John 10:14). Spend time in prayer and worship and search the Scriptures so that you can recognize God’s call and follow where the Good Shepherd leads with confidence, even in the midst of opposition.