When I was a little girl I had a dream in my heart. I wished I could be a boy. I had nothing against my femininity, in fact I enjoyed being a girl very much, but I wished I could be a boy for one reason only. If I was a boy I would be a preacher.
I remember at a very young age, during quiet hour, I would play in my bedroom and pretend to be Jesus preaching to the disciples. I would pretend to be a male pastor serving communion to my stuffed animals and imaginary friends, making up speeches about the Bible. During these times I would always pretend to be a man because all I knew of pastors and preachers were masculine figures.
From a very early age I heard that being a preacher was not a woman’s role. Women could be missionaries and teachers of children and other women but not pastors or preachers or evangelists who spoke to both men and women.
I wanted to obey God’s rules so I put those desire aside and as I grew older looked back on them as silly childhood fantasies on the same level as my aspirations to be a princess or a baby deer.
Even from the time I was in grade school I tried to exercise this burning desire in ways “acceptable” for a woman, by teaching children’s church, having a girl’s bible study for my 9 year old friends, giving a lesson on the fruit of the Spirit to the other kids in my 4th grade Sunday school class, leading a Christmas service for my cousins and siblings and singing in church.
In my late teens and early adulthood I continued to sing in church and dreamed of being a traveling singer because singing was an acceptable way for a woman to preach. Speaking directive words would have been deemed improper but if the same words were sung in a melody it was acceptable.
When I first began to study Egalitarian theology I only focused on equality in marriage. Even though this was a drastic and frightening change from my very patriarchal belief system it was much easier than taking a stance on women in ministry. Equality in marriage seemed personal and individualistic while taking a stance on equality in ministry seemed very public.
I remember having a conversation with a Complementarian guy who wanted to hear my views on Egalitarianism. He was visibly moved by the scriptural arguments I gave for co-leadership in marriage and in the course of an hour he went from believing women were academically and intellectually inferior (his words, not mine) to considering Egalitarianism and co-leadership for himself. When I got to the part about women in ministry I started to waffle and make indecisive statements about whether or not I believed women could have a preaching ministry. After I gave him the arguments for women in church leadership he looked at me and said, “it seems like you have all the evidence for this and the only thing holding you back is your own fear of accepting it, your own fear of what others will think of you.” He was right. The evidence is overwhelming and the only thing holding me back was fear compounded by a lack of exposure to modern examples.
I was still on the fence about whether or not I could support women in ministry when Christine Caine came to town. This was the first time I had ever heard a woman preach and it shook me to the core. I have never in my entire life heard a more powerful, humble and Spirit infused sermon in my life and it came from the lips of a woman. Her preaching has reached thousands for Christ and I could no longer deny that God could use a woman. He was using one right in front of my eyes and no one in the room that night could deny it.
Even with this revelation I still did not seriously consider that I could be called to preach. It was not until I had listened for 5 months to female preaching that I could even readily think of preaching and pastoring coming from a feminine source or envision myself again in a preaching role.
But the more I was exposed to feminine preaching examples, I was exposed to and the more testimonies I heard of people’s lives being changed by the Spirit of God through the conduit of a woman, the more I was convinced.
It is the Christine Caines, the Beth Moores, the Lisa Beveres, the Joyce Meyers that put a feminine face to what I had long since thought was a masculine calling. It was seeing a woman preach that allowed me to realize my own potential.
I believe one of the greatest obstacles to women in ministry is the lack of female representation. It is important for children to have exposure to both feminine and masculine preaching. It is vital that our children see someone who looks like them filling all roles of ministry. For it is when we observe a someone who looks like us living into their calling with abandon that we come to believe in the callings we ourselves have been given.
I realized after gaining exposure to women in preaching ministry that I don’t have to be a boy to preach. God calls all of us, men AND women, just as we are.
And so, that deep burning from inside that I had tried so hard to squelch and reshape and find loopholes for, for all of those years, came back in a steady rush. I gave up public singing for the most part (for me it was but a bridge to my first calling) and I have begun to explore all of the ways the Lord would have me use my voice, this time without arbitrary restrictions and confounded loopholes. Because of the examples of female pastors and preachers I feel free to live out the fullness of God’s calling for me wherever it may lead.
Ashley Easter is an extroverted, quirky-minded, Jesus-enthused, budding world changer, a recovering people pleaser, and a self-proclaimed dyslexic. She is passionate about loving Jesus and about partnering with her husband in bringing the flavor of His kingdom to the world by advocating for gender equality, educating the Church on abuse, and promoting truth-seeking expeditions. She is the founder of The Courage Conference for survivors of abuse. Listen to her signature mini sermons here and here.
Blog: www.ashleyeaster.com Twitter: @ashleymeaster Facebook: /ashleymeaster
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