Sipping coffee one morning at our church network’s family camp, I caught up with a younger acquaintance to whom I’d given a prophetic word fourteen years previously. She told me about the profound impact of the incident.
When Shyla began leading worship, her church only released women to minister to a degree. She struggled to overcome lies which attacked her mind before and after leading worship, sensing an invisible restriction while young men around her were placed into more prominent positions. She wondered, Is there something wrong with me? Something I should do better?
In quiet resignation, Shyla settled for second-class citizenship. After she got married, she and her husband joined a different church where she started over as a backup singer on the worship team.
Things began to shift the year Shyla was asked to lead worship at camp one evening. As the only female worship leader, she didn’t know which invisible lines she shouldn’t cross. Before worship that night, insecurity drove her to nausea. Once she was in worship, the feeling lifted, but the minute she left the platform, lies attacked her afresh. You did this wrong…you shouldn’t have done this…you were dishonoring here….
Shyla left the chapel, heading for the women’s restroom. At that moment, I pulled her aside to encourage her prophetically concerning God’s call on her life, his purposes for her, and how he wanted her to flow in his will without restriction.
I didn’t know Shyla, but the prophetic message gave her permission to move into all God had for her. It struck at the heart of a lie she’d believed since childhood—that she was “too much,” was showing off, and shouldn’t offer all she had to give.
The word assured Shyla she could stop walking on eggshells and give all of herself—the prophetic part, the worship leading part, and the preaching part instead of only one part for fear of being labeled a “Jezebel”—a thought which terrified her.
God broke something that night. Shyla has never forgotten it.
Not long after that camp, she was invited to become the Worship Pastor at her church. Previously, she would have said no out of fear. But she said yes because she’d received a vital word from the Lord—and it came through a woman, helping her avoid the trap of thinking permission comes from men rather than from God.
Women called to leadership need to hear permission from mothers in Christ—the ones who’ve gone before and have already fought the battles still ahead for younger women. We need other women who help us understand stepping into our calling is not motivated by pride or seeking control.
It’s obedience to God.
Men can have difficulty understanding this struggle. They often have no idea what a call to leadership costs women—what a battle it is to hear God’s call as a woman, and then hear the voice of the enemy as well as church culture deny that call.
Even in some churches which include women in certain leadership roles, a subtle, demeaning message blocks the fulfillment of their ministry callings
The invisible sign which hinders women isn’t God’s doing. It’s created by human beings and reinforced when women believe lies about themselves. Like Shyla, many women called to leadership in the church find themselves diminished by unspoken barriers. They feel weary and discouraged, second-guessing themselves and ready to give up on God’s call.
A timely prophetic word can break the power of lies—but to remove the church’s “off limits to unauthorized personnel” sign for women, we also must cast fresh light on the handful of biblical texts often used to exclude them from ministry.
We’ll tackle those texts in another post—and in my upcoming book.
How have you experienced the “off limits” sign?