Thabiti Anyabwile on Paul Teamed With Women to Start Churches, and So Will We

The apostle Paul ranks as the greatest church-planting apostle and missionary the world has ever known. He determined to build the church wherever Christ was not named. At great risk to himself, he entered city after city to proclaim the gospel and organize converts into churches.

Yet, the great apostle did not achieve these things alone. Paul always worked in teams. To the delight of some and the consternation of others, Paul’s church-planting teams included women. When he wrote the Christians in Philippi, he instructed them to help Euodia and Syntyche. Paul describes Euodia and Syntyche 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).

While Paul does not specify their exact role, these women labored side by side as equals with Paul, and their work was not ancillary or support work but gospel work. Paul regarded them with the same title he often uses of male partners in ministry—“co-workers” (Rom. 16:3; 1 Cor. 3:9; Phm. 1:24).

As Michelle Lee-Barnewall observes in Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian, “The focus on authority, leadership, equality, and rights tends to lead to yes or no answers that do not prompt deeper questioning.”

As Christians continue to debate the role of women in ministry, 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.

I fear contemporary debates obscure a vital truth: Women are essential to fulfilling the Great Commission. Their lives and ministries are not nice to have, but necessary, as Bible teacher Jen Wilkin has often observed. Or as Aimee Byrd argues in No Little Women, our sisters are “necessary allies” in the work God has given the church. Indeed, the Lord’s last words in Matthew 28:19–20 are embraced as a charge for the entire church—women as well as men.

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Source: Christianity Today

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