I believe part of the issue in our current debates about women preaching is rooted in part in both the Catholic and the Reformed traditions of “preaching” which see such as a specific form of formal congregational instruction that is believed to be excluded by Paul’s instruction to Timothy for women. Setting aside specific engagement of Paul’s instruction here (as a later post meant to address what I believe Paul was addressing), I wish to emphasize that the words of Paul were not specifically excluding “preaching” as Pentecostals understand such (and I contend, the Scriptures themselves). Pentecostals have not traditionally regarded “preaching” in this same manner. For Pentecostals, preaching is directly connected to the prophetic and thus is a speech act of the Spirit (and sometimes, or perhaps even primarily, also an embodied act). In light of this contention, I offer the following several words to our sisters and brothers.
Pentecostals believe in the prophethood of all believers. For Pentecostals (particularly early Pentecostals) the act of preaching was not reserved for clergy, but belonged to whomever the Spirit gave a word to proclaim. Roger Stronstad has argued persuasively for the “prophethood of all believers” among Pentecostals akin to the “priesthood of all believers” recovered among the churches of the Reformation period. He contends for this by drawing from Luke’s vision of the Church described in Luke-Acts particularly.* When we link the prophethood of all believers to the appreciation of Pentecostal preaching as a prophetic act, we find ourselves under the compelling freedom of the Spirit to call for all whom the Spirit empowers to preach the good news of Jesus to all who might hear.
It must be remembered that the first preachers of the resurrection were women who found the empty tomb and received words reminding them of Jesus’ instructions. If we were to reduce preaching to practiced and prepared speech acts reserved for the properly ordained is to declare the limitations of the Spirit to speak freely in the gathered assembly and to the world that desperately needs this Word.
It must be remembered that the Spirit was promised to be poured out on all flesh causing sons and daughters to prophesy (Joel 2.28; Acts 2.17-18). This prophesying is a proclaimed re-envisioning of the world as the God of Israel has intended it to be and is in the midst of carrying out.** It is a call to repentance. A call to holiness. A call to redemption. A call to freedom, healing, and life. A call that the Spirit sends out…that the Bride takes up and all those with her cry: Come!!! (Rev.22.17) This prophetic word is the voice of the enspirited Bride of the Lamb. The prophetic word goes out to every tongue, tribe, and nation, until Jesus makes the kingdoms of this world, the kingdom of his God and Father. And this prophetic word is the good news of salvation to all who receive it. Such prophetic word is indeed the preaching of that eternal message of God.
Those who would silence women from prophesying would find themselves opposed to the writings of Paul instructing women in the proper manner that they should prophesy in the corporate worship gathering (1 Cor.11.5; ). While the prophetic has been regarded as only spontaneous this ignores the writing prophets who must have carried their messages some time before their enscripturation. Further, this excludes that one could plan to prophesy in a gathering and should expect to be prophetically engaged by the people of God. While the form of “prophesying” which Paul is addressing in his letters would not perhaps be akin to much contemporary “preaching”, perhaps the issue is whether or not we are practicing the “preaching” of the earliest churches that seems to have been propehetic in nature as engaging the Scriptures of Israel in their experience of Jesus and his Spirit. Thus, my contention is that Paul expected all in his congregations to act and speak prophetically…and thus to be preaching Jesus in the power and order of the Spirit.
Any reduction of preaching to that speech act found in a formal setting of church gatherings by ecclesiastically ordained officiants falls far short of this call to full-bodied participation in this last days prophetic preaching (and harvest) of all those ordained by the Spirit to proclaim Jesus. This is why I cannot but proclaim with the Spirit to let our daughters prophesy!
* Roger Stronstad, The Prophethood of All Believers: A Study in Luke’s Charismatic Theology (CPT Press, 2010).
** On this helpful unpacking of the “prophetic”, see Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination (Updated and Revised; Fortress, 2001), and The Practice of Prophetic Imagination: Preaching an Emancipating Word (Fortress, 2012).