Posted in theology

What can women do on stage during church services?

By Elizabeth Prata

A reader asked about women on stage during church services. During the service different churches allow women to do different things. Some of those things might be-

–preaching the sermon
–leading a confessional or a devotional
–reading of scripture
–leading the choir
–singing solos
–singing in the choir with men
–leading congregational prayer
–giving announcements

It is obvious that scripture forbids a woman from preaching to the congregation, to men, or to teach them. No matter how feminists twist the pertinent scriptures, they always say the same thing. Preaching is a NO. (1 Timothy 2:12)

Ten years ago Tim Challies, book reviewer and at that time a pastor/elder in his church, wrote two essays on women reading scripture on stage during services. The first article was strong on the complementarian nature of the functions of men and women in the Sunday Church service. It generated lots of push back (even ten years ago, imagine if it was published these days!). So he wrote a second article explaining more of his thinking.

He believes that the reading of scripture is a teaching function and therefore reserved for men only. Oddly, he/his church allows a woman to lead prayer from time to time. So here we view the see-saw nature of what a woman can or cannot do on stage during a Sunday Service according to scripture and according to various peoples’ interpretation of it.

It’s really up to the conscience of the elders/pastor and his interpretation of the pertinent verses to make decisions in the gray areas where scripture doesn’t speak specifically. I tend to fall into the narrow interpretation category of interpreting that it’s best not having a woman speak anything on stage during the service. I like seeing only men on stage during Sunday services praying, speaking, leading, or teaching because it’s consistent with 1 Timothy and the headship issue.

the women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they wish to inquire about something, they are to ask their own husbands at home; for it is dishonorable for a woman to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

Here are Challies’ two articles. I liked his explanation of why he interprets the reading of scripture is a teaching function. That’s why I’m linking to it.

Here are Challies’ two articles

Article #1-

The Public Reading of Scripture

Article #2 responding to push back,

Men, Women & the Public Reading of Scripture

I agree with his articles that the reading of scripture is related to a teaching function (article #2 explains why very well, it’s why I posted it). I agree that preaching is reserved for men according to 1 Timothy 2 and other verses. In that same vein of interpretation, I personally believe that women leading prayer on stage during church service is the also a teaching function because we often pray scripture or pray about scripture, and therefore reserved for men.

I think especially in these days that a woman on stage during the church service speaking to the congregation in any form except to be baptized or share her testimony is a violation of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and/or is a dangerous precedent presenting a poor ‘visual’ that will inspire others to follow and enlarge. A picture of a woman standing on stage with a Bible in her hand and a microphone in the other speaking to the congregation thru reading scripture or thru prayer puts the camel’s nose under the tent flap. We know that once you give an inch, satan will take a mile. Soon, I believe, that same church will allow women to preach. It’s incremental.

Here is an example of that incremental creep: …in a church I went to long ago a woman led the choir from on stage during service and sang with them. OK. But then she gravitated to standing behind the pulpit and explaining to the congregation the origin of the song they were about to sing. Hmmm. Then, she gravitated to standing behind the pulpit and explaining the theology and scriptures behind the song, and her explanations got even longer. Uh-oh. You see how it gets incrementally more of a violation of scripture to have a woman on stage explaining anything. Her “explanations” turned into mini-sermons over time. Give satan an inch … he takes a mile.

As for women singing in the choir with men or singing solos, I believe that is different. I believe that is an expression of service to God by using her God-given talent for the glory of God. When a woman leads congregational prayer or reads scripture she is being used as a vehicle to deliver God’s words to the people, that is why I believe it to be a violation of 1 Timothy 2. When she sings, she is using man’s words. She is not in authority over men because the highest authority, the Bible, is not being used as a conduit to express that authority. In that way, I believe singing is a service, not an authoritative leading.

Here is a blog post from Grace To You 2013 on the topic

It’s about headship and submission (And Adam was formed first, then Eve…as the rest of the 1 Timothy 2 verse goes).

In my beliefs in matters of gray area, I tend to fall on the more conservative side. I know how grabby sin can be, and standing on the line with my toes right up to it would make for an easier fall into sin, in my view. Better to stay on more solid ground. But in matters of gray area it’s up to the pastor or elders’ interpretation and conscience, and then our own as our churches live out their ecclesiology.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

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