In the words of Thabiti Anyabwile, "Women are essential to fulfilling the Great Commission."
Anyabwile is an associate pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and a council member of The Gospel Coalition. He outlined his reasons for believing that women church planters are scriptural in an op-ed published by the Christian Post.
"We have not figured everything out, but the pastors and the congregation have been attempting to make the flourishing of our sisters a theological and practical priority," he wrote.
He then remarked that "fear-based hesitations" had to be removed, which are more about restricting women's chances than supporting them.
Their endeavor, he continued, needed an awareness of the cultural links between "complementarian teaching" and a grasp of the reality of women in Black and Brown churches.
"Truth be told, our sisters are most often on the frontlines of gospel advance wherever the work is most difficult," observed Anyabwile.
Apostle Paul's Example
"To the delight of some and the consternation of others, Paul's church-planting teams included women," Anyabwile pointed out.
He alluded to Paul's writings, in which he offered apostolic instructions to women such as Euodia and Syntyche, even identifying them as women who "contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life" (Phil. 4:3)
Anyabwile went on to say that Paul referred to them as "co-workers," which is a term he often uses to refer to male ministry partners (Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 3:9; Phm. 1:24).
Although Paul did not explain their specific function, Anyabwile argued that these women worked side by side with the apostle as equals, and that their job was not just incidental or support to Paul's, but a legitimate "gospel work."
Based on that premise, he posed the following questions:
"We need to ask why today's church doesn't have more teams comprised of men and women as Paul's were. We need to ask why typical debates about women and their roles end up with women being restricted from areas of service that the Bible nowhere prohibits. We need to ask deeper questions about how we regard women who do serve on ministry teams."
Women are not just "nice" but are "necessary" in ministry
Anyabwile expressed his concerns that modern discussions on the role of women were obscuring a "viral truth." He argued that Christian women are "necessary allies" in the work of God, noting that the Grand Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) had been taken up by both men and women as a duty for the whole Church.
"Their lives and ministries are not nice to have, but necessary, as Bible teacher Jen Wilkin has often observed," he stressed.
Empowering more women leaders
The pastor feels that since many of the churches have neglected "half the body of Christ (pertaining to Christian women)," they are ineffectual in accomplishing the Great Commission.
In his appreciation of the crucial role of women, he said that in 2015, they planted the Anacostia River Church and met and discipled elderly ladies in the spirit of Titus 2:1-3. He complimented their "presence, faith, courage, and perseverance of (their) sisters."
The Crete Collective was also selected for the leadership of godly women, a church planting network that started last year to reach neglected black and brown areas. He noted that they feel that this focus is a "necessary correction to the years of extrabiblical restriction in conservative Christian spaces."
"Many church planting efforts assume a middle-class, white cultural norm, but the deeper we take the gospel into poor, neglected, Black and brown communities, the less that model transfers or serves the needs of those communities," he said.
"In an era of sharply divisive social and political issues, we desperately need more leadership from the diverse parts of Christ's body-especially Black and brown women, immigrant communities, and the poor among us," he added.
After discussing how Black and Brown women provide a "hidden subsidy to church plants in ethnic and sometimes neglected contexts" both at the personal and the domestic level, he affirmed that women's leadership is more important than whether or not Christians believe women ought to be or can be a pastor.
"Apollos learned from Priscilla and Aquila, Paul's ministry companions and co-workers. The Roman church learned from Phoebe, who is commended by Paul as a deacon and benefactor (Rom. 16:1-2). Which women are we learning from today?" he concluded.