Now That I’m Called
A Guide for Women Discerning a Call to Ministry
WHO: Kristen Padilla, marketing and communications coordinator for Beeson Divinity School of Samford University.
SHE SAYS: “Believing in Jesus for my own salvation, and stopping there, is a profoundly ungrateful way to live, given what it cost God, and it’s hardly a life of faith at all.”
THE BIG IDEA: For women who feel called to gospel ministry, this book provides a biblical, theological and practical framework to process their calling and prepares them for full-time ministry.
THE PROGRESSION: The first chapter focuses on individuals in the Old Testament whose calling stories and roles in the history of salvation refine our understanding of calling and ministry, while the second chapter looks at people in the New Testament.
Chapters 3 and 4 survey the roles of women in Scripture in order to address the main question: If God calls individuals for the gospel, what does that mean for women?
Chapter 5 looks at 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and its implications for women in ministry; Chapter 6 discusses spiritual gifts both in the Old Testament and today.
Chapter 7 looks at the importance of theological education for ministry; Chapter 8 offers suggestions on getting practical training through mentorships and internships. The book also includes reflection questions, discussion questions and exercises.
“There’s work to be done, and if God is tenderizing your heart, calling you to be his ambassador, serving on his behalf for his people, then go.”
A CONVERSATION WITH KRISTEN PADILLA
In writing this book, how were you personally inspired by researching women in ministry?
I wanted to include stories of women in ministry representing various traditions and ministries as a way to show what vocational ministry can look like for women and to encourage them by allowing them to see they are not alone. What I found was that many of the women’s stories were similar to mine: sure of God’s call but a little lost and alone in the discernment process. But what was most inspiring to me—and what I hope will be most inspiring to readers—is that in every story we see the faithfulness of God to accomplish the work to which he has called them. Their stories, like the stories of women in Scripture, remind me that God’s plan has always included women and he delights in using women (like men) in the advancement of his kingdom.
What is the first step one should take when seeking guidance to answer a call to ministry?
A call to ministry doesn’t originate within us but outside of us with God, who then reorients our heart and desires to the call. Therefore, discernment should always begin and be carried out with prayer to the One who calls. But we should not think of prayer or our calls individualistically but rather as acts that happen within the local body of believers. If your church does not form discernment committees, then ask a minister or leader in the church to help you form one. I think Timothy’s story (Acts 16:1–3; 1 Tim. 1:18) is the best example of what still happens today. We best discern our calls within the context of the local church, through prayer and worship, as we are serving the body of Christ. It is important to keep in mind that we are all called to ministry as disciples of Jesus Christ; the question for those discerning the kind of call I address in my book is, Am I called to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11–13).
How do you propose women address the issue of whether the Bible restricts women in ministry?
It is rare to find a church today that restricts women from all ministry. However, what is more common is a belief that women are restricted from formal ministry or “the” ministry and resigned to a lesser ministry. Most women who feel called to ministry simply want to know if there is vocational space for them to serve the Lord and if they can serve without disobeying Scripture. When approaching Scripture regarding this issue here are a few postures that I recommend.
First, approach Scripture with humility and submission to its authority. This should be our attitude whether we come to Scripture expecting it to restrict us from formal ministry or to not restrict us at all. We should seek to be humble learners (1 Tim. 2:11), which requires putting our presuppositions aside, reading from scholars of differing interpretations, and seeking to understand the culture, background and other factors affecting the biblical text.
Second, read Scripture didactically or within conversation with itself. It is tempting to raise one passage of Scripture above the rest, making our interpretation of it more authoritative than the rest of Scripture. Instead, read passages of Scripture side by side. Do the interpretive conclusions you draw from one passage fit with what the rest of Scripture says on the subject? Do your conclusions fit with the theology of Scripture?
Third, make the advancement of the gospel priority. Ask, what does the advancement of the gospel look like where I am? For example, if you do not believe Scripture restricts you as a woman from any ministry but are serving in a Muslim country, then for the sake of the advancement of the gospel you should relinquish your rights from serving as the head of the church. If you believe Scripture restricts you from areas of ministry, but you find yourself in a place where there is a large population that hasn’t heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and there aren’t enough gospel workers—preach! Our interpretive lens should always be the advancement of the gospel.
Whether you believe that the Bible restricts women from some ministry or no ministry, it is important to remember that there are Bible-believing, faithful Christians on the other side. This issue is not an issue of orthodoxy—a test of faith or fellowship as a Christian. Like baptism, the Lord’s Supper, end times, etc., this issue is a secondary issue. For those who hold to a more restrictive view of women in ministry, the following are a few important and encouraging truths to remember.
God’s plan has always included women as active participants. Scripture gives us examples of women in leadership roles, with several mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. God spoke through the mouths of women during their time and for us today, and their speech is part of the inspired Word of God. In the greatest act of human history of God becoming man, he accomplished his plan by enjoining himself to a woman, Mary, who not only carried the God-man in her womb but also responded in faith (contra Zechariah) and gave the first interpretation of the incarnation (the Magnificat). The ministries of both Jesus and Paul both included women as active participants. Therefore, if a restriction from some ministerial roles results in a restriction of all, formal, or active ministry, then the church is not following in the way of Jesus and Paul and all of Scripture.
Second, women are not more easily deceived than men and therefore this should never be given as a reason from restricting women from ministry. Scientific evidence has shown that women are not more easily deceived due to their feminine nature. If one were to hold this belief, then it would indicate a flaw in God’s act of creating women. This belief, therefore, would have serious theological implications. If it were to be held that women shouldn’t teach men because they are more easily deceived, then they shouldn’t teach women or children, too, less we imply it’s ok to deceive some of God’s sheep and not others.
God gives spiritual gifts to both men and women for the building up of his church and the advancement of his kingdom. Spiritual gifts are not divided along gender-lines nor must you have an office or a title to use a spiritual gift such as preaching, shepherding or teaching. If God has called and gifted you, he will provide a place for you to serve him.