Some time ago, on a Nazarene Women's clergy group I am in, someone brought up the overwhelming times she is addressed by the title Ms._________. She wondered if it was prideful wanting her proper title to be used. (Note: This isn't a blog to argue if women can be pastors, in our denomination we affirm women but if your biblical interpretation doesn't you can read our denomination's statement here.) This post got me thinking but it also got me noticing. My ears now sting when I hear Ms.Bobbi. The fact is most women clergy have heard this and it hurts most us. I've been praying about it for a while, talking about it with my mentors, trying to pray my way through it and ignore it. I took one mentor's suggestion to tell them about the change and said, "You know a really cool thing just happened where the Church of the Nazarene recognized my call, what God is doing in and with me, and I've started fully preparing for ordination. Our denomination says my title is now Pastor! How cool is that! That we serve a church that allows us to answer that call!"
Well, it didn't work.
So, I kind of just gave up. Because well, other women in ministry are giving up, too. We give up. I sat here praying tonight and my prayer after going all evening being called Ms.Bobbi was this, "Lord, take away the pride. Lord, take away the sting. Lord, please let it be easier when/if Evy and Kennedy (my daughters) answer the call to Pastor. May the next generation not know this sting."
Because let's be honest for a minute. It hurts when people say we can't answer God's call just because we are women based on a few scripture verses that are taken out of context. And let's be honest, EVERY SINGLE WOMAN clergy has had to face someone who won't recognize that call just because she is female. We all feel this sting at one point or another. I think I hear something at least once a month that comes in the form of discouragement just because I am a woman in pastoral ministry. But tonight, I just wanted to give up on what I am called and hope it's better for the next generation. Because the title isn't the reason I do what I do... my God is the reason and people need to know Him, that's the reason! But giving up on titles sounds good to me. But it still hurts, which I came to realize wasn't pride but it was tied into my love language of words of affirmation. Now, the reason it stings makes sense. But is it a battle worth fighting? That I was unsure of.
And then it hit me.... if I give up, it won't be better for the next generation. Then tonight also, in the parking lot as we were leaving VBS I heard in a little voice, "Pastor Bobbi...". One little girl, out of a sea of adults used the title that God called me to. Because it isn't just a title but it is who we are. When women pastor it isn't just for the office chair but it is essentially who we are (just as men!). When we hear of someone far from God we instantly start praying and searching for them like the Good Shepherd. Pastor means shepherd. In our denomination, when someone is a Pastor that means they are working towards ordination or have been ordained. That means they have put themselves in a place of accountability for spiritual growth for themselves and others. That means they are working through a course of study to prepare and be ready. It means, picking up a pretty heavy cross... not one we asked for but one that God sang into our hearts, "would you be willing to answer this call so that others will know the power of my Cross?"
Tonight, one little girl made me realize that she notices. That she knows women can pastor. She affirmed that in my life, just as my example before her affirmed it in her life. Tonight, one little girl encouraged me to keep running this race even when people aren't cheering. One little girl reminded me that the long nights of studying for my seminary classes are worth it. But she affirmed to me that the next generation has a chance here! That instead of us having to fight to prove our calls, to be called by the right titles... etc.... but she proved that the next generation of Christian leaders may not have to prove that women are just as called as men but she proved that maybe one day... we can just focus on sharing Jesus. Wouldn't that be the day! Every race, every gender, every human has a calling.... He shows no favorites.
So a short list of why you should call "her" pastor:
1. God called her. If you can't call her pastor when she is called you are saying "God you should have chosen someone else." So, is it really us that has the pride issue?
2. Unless you call your male pastors, Mr.__________; show that God and the Church of the Nazarene supports and calls both equally.
3. The next generation needs to hear it. Little girls need to know they can answer this call and little boys need to know that girls can answer the call, too. The ministry of example.
4. The title also allows others to know they can come to us for prayer, spiritual guidance, and needs.
5. It isn't about her worthiness... it is about God's worthiness. He called her and anointed her and He will be glorified through her.
My next thing I wanted to type was, "I am sorry to push a title on you." But then God whispered into my ear, "Stop being apologetic about what I called you to do. Stop apologizing for your call." I am not sorry that God called me. I do wonder why sometimes. I wonder if I am good enough, I have a lot to learn and am learning a lot! I wonder why God called me...I often wonder that. But He is the God who uses the deeply wounded. Praise the God who uses wounded people. There is nothing in me that is worthy to be called except who He has filled me to be and how He guides my steps. Praise the God who calls.