Since I was old enough (and confident enough) to get on a stage in front of people, I’ve been singing for them. It’s been almost that long that I’ve been singing in the church. As I got older, I started writing my own songs and sharing them in the church.
The thing about being a songwriter is that people expect that the songs you write come from a place of authenticity. This is especially true when you write songs of a personal nature about your faith, so, naturally, as I began to share the songs that I wrote with (the very supportive and loving) members of my church community, I was expected and encouraged to share the stories of the songs. Sometimes, these stories would be purely testimonial — as in “this is what God has done in my life.” Sometimes, especially as I matured in the faith, these “song stories” started to sound a lot more like mini-sermons.
At the same time that this was going on, I became in demand in my small circles of influence to employ my guitar and singing skills for leading worship music in my youth group, my High School Bible club, and, eventually, in the main church service. When I was in college, I was occasionally entrusted with the task of leading a whole worship service when the music minister was out of town. Obviously, I did not do this alone; a whole band was there to lead alongside me, but I had been given the responsibility of choosing and arranging songs, leading them, greeting the congregation, publicly praying, etc. I enjoyed serving God and using my gifts in this way. It seemed natural, and the church’s lead pastors trusted and encouraged me.
|What I do.
But never once did I consider being a worship pastor as a career. Why? Because I had always heard that women, though equally valuable to God as men, had certain roles that they were not meant to fill, and pastoring was one of them.
But it all started to seem a little strange to me. No one minded that I was taking on certain traditional pastoral roles, such as leading, choosing songs (which is tantamount to choosing which theological content will be emphasized in a service), speaking both about my own faith and about the content of my self-penned songs (the previously-mentioned mini-sermons), and praying publicly. So, I started to wonder: where is the line? If women as pastors is so bad, then how could we tell the difference between what I was doing and what an officially pay-rolled pastor would be doing? I certainly didn’t want to be doing anything “sinful.”
Since my experiences as a teenager and young(er) adult, I have had the opportunity to serve, in an official capacity, as an interim worship leader, and I currently serve in the band of my current church, filling in as a leader when it is needed. As an important disclaimer here, I have never had anyone in the church treat me badly or imply that I should not be leading music; I have been extremely blessed with church leadership that has nurtured and encouraged my gifts. However, all my experiences in this capacity have caused me to question the lines the church tends to draw about what is and isn’t “okay” for a woman to do in church. It seems like as long as I can hide behind the music and the temporariness of my position, anything goes. In my last post, I alluded to my current stance on women’s roles in the church. I haven’t figured out the details of the often quite-confusing Biblical teachings and writings on the subject, but my experience, as a person who has felt, unmistakably, the call of God on her life to minister to people through music, and who has, as a result, found herself in roles that were not so “traditionally” feminine, has pushed me to err on the side of mutuality and inclusion when it comes to frankly unclear Scriptures about women.
I’m Christine. I’m a woman. And I’m a music minister.
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)