“Isn’t it that time again for the month of women preachers?” asked one of our lay leaders during our early January leadership meeting. We were pleasantly surprised as ministry staff to hear this prompt come from one of our congregants rather than a talking point that we had prepared to bring up later during the meeting. First Baptist had only started participating in the BWIM month of preaching the year before and we were not sure how well our congregants had received it. This was magnified by the reality that I have only been pastoring in Danville since this past October and the pandemic realities have made it more difficult to discern moods and passions within the church. Yet, this simple observation led to a quick consensus and excitement amongst us all about hearing from diverse voices in the pulpit.
When a congregation commits to an entire month of different women preaching it provides several opportunities for us all. First, it normalizes hearing from female voices in the pulpit when a church has a male senior pastor. We all need to hear from these female voices, and not just because it affirms the people getting to preach. It affirms for us all that God uses women to preach good news. Even for those of us who already believe this, it is a fresh reminder to hear again what the Spirit is stirring in the hearts of these guest preachers.
It is my privilege to be married to fellow minister. My spouse is a hospice chaplain, and she is one of the preachers for this month. As we reflected on this opportunity, she explained what it meant to her to be invited. One, it was a recognition that even though she is in a different setting that she is ministry peer. Too many ministers are not treated with the same respect as those who hold the title “pastor” or “senior pastor”, this is a way to affirm those on a different ministry path.
She also explained that this invitation is also a way that the church is honoring her call to ministry and that God did call her to ministry. Too many women have had their calling come into question and have had serious doubts cast on their own discernment process because people have not previously experienced them in all the varied roles of ministry. The church asking her to preach is an affirmation of God’s ministerial call on her life. Likewise, for many women who get to preach in these Sundays it is an affirmation that comes far too infrequently. Indeed, we need to be proactive as a church. As we see Spirit-empowered women in our churches this is an opportunity to plant a seed as they are invited to preach.
First Baptist Danville is a church that has had a history of affirming, ordaining, and listening to the proclamation of women. However, this is not a season to sit back and rest on our history. Our young adults, teens, and children must also be shown the need for the whole church to represented in the pulpit and affirmed in their ministerial journey. We have already been blessed this past Sunday with a timely word from Jenny Simmons and we are excited to hear where the Spirit is leading over these next weeks and years as we continue to hear from all those God has called to preach.
Ryan Busby is the senior pastor of First Baptist Danville in Danville, Virginia.