Beth Hall used to be offended by women in ministry. Now she is one!
Scripture says that the Lord “hardened the heart of Pharaoh” five different times throughout Exodus chapters 9 through 14. These verses have been used and tossed around in debates about theology and predestination for centuries. Pharaoh’s story has an unfortunate end, full of God’s wrath and judgment. But for me, these verses speak of grace.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Beth. I am a single woman and I’m currently serving in college ministry at a secular university. For the past eighteen months, I’ve been giving back to the ministry that helped me become a true disciple of Christ during my four years in college. Through this time, the Lord has brought to mind meaningful conversations I had with other believers at different stages in my walk with Jesus…from the early years, the middle years, and even last week. Conversations about interracial marriage, abortion, divorce, tithing, and the role of women in ministry. Most people have staunch opinions concerning right and wrong in each of these very gray subjects, and I was no exception. My heart, like Pharaoh’s, was very hard. I was certain my beliefs were the “right” ones, particularly about women in ministry.
It was offensive to me that women were pastors. Women preaching? Of course. That’s totally fine. Teach on beauty, humility, hospitality, grace…teach on whatever you like. But to pastor a body, or lead a ministry, or plant a church alone? Without a husband or male head? No. Definitely not. That work is better suited to our brothers.
But then, slowly but surely, the Holy Spirit started tugging at me. In that romantic, loving, and thoughtful way of his, the Lord was turning my heart back toward his Word. I started searching scripture, reading Biblical commentary, and seeking wisdom from older Christians I trusted and revered. Eventually, I found Galatians 3:28 “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NLT). I read about Phoebe, a deacon in one of the earliest churches, and Tabitha, a woman filled with compassion for her community and ministering out of the overflow of her heart. And my conversations with the Lord started to go something like this:
So, you’re saying it doesn’t matter? You don’t care if we’re women or men? Yes, Beth. You are all my kids. And I want to use you for my kingdom. Can’t you see? Wait a minute…let me get this straight. I can lead, too? As a woman? Yes. You can lead. You were born to lead. Lord, are you sure? I made the universe right? I’ve got this. Promise.
I discovered that he can call us to lead, and he can equip us to serve.
And service is really what it boils down to for me. The Church I belong to allows and encourages women as ministers for lots of reasons, service being one of the most important. In the very founding days of my Church, many men said no to Jesus, while countless women said yes. Single women were willing and eager to go to the most obscure, most dangerous places in the world to spread the Gospel of Christ while only a few precious men, married or single, volunteered to do as much. And so our Church founders had to make a decision: is it more important for people to hear the Gospel, or more important that men head up the effort? My Church founders decided that among God’s laborers, there is no distinction of gender—men and women are blessed equally as servants. I came to the same conclusion.
The decision to allow women to lead was based on the importance of the Gospel, and this understanding flipped a switch inside me. It gave me greater faith and deeper confidence as a female shepherd who might someday lead her own ministry.
I still have a long way to go though. Thankfully, God is far from done with this hard heart. When faced with the views I held even two years ago, compared to the views I hold today, I am awed at the grace of our Lord. I am astounded that he would care deeply enough to not only bother with a heart like mine but to also shape and renew it through his love.
Exodus 14:4 says, “I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army.” My journey was planned in order to display his glory as well. My heart was hard, but he softened it through grace, all so I could have one more reminder of his love and faithfulness. I praise God that he saved me. But above all, I pray my life displays his glory. And sometimes that starts with a hard heart.
Beth Hall is a joyful college graduate who lives in Tennessee. She loves to quilt, read, write, and sing, and thinks a great cup of chai or coffee on her front porch is the best companion to the Bible. She enjoys hiking and live music. Beth can be reached at bethhall20 [at] gmail.com.
About the Women in Ministry Series
The Women in Ministry Series is a collection of guest posts that aims to provide an alternative to the women in ministry debates by telling the stories of women in ministry and encourage women to explore their God-given callings.
Contributions Welcome: Contact Katherine at katherinepershey[at]gmail.com to pitch your post idea in 2-4 sentences. You can stay updated on the latest post each week by signing up for the weekly e-mail list.
Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome to leave a comment. However, this series takes for granted that women are called by God into every facet of ministry. This is not the place to debate that point and such comments will be removed. Women have been told “no” in far too many places. This is one place that is committed to saying “yes.”
For more about the comment policy, submitting your own story, or to sign up for the weekly e-mail list, go here.
Next Week’s Contributor: Nicole Reilley