Pastor, do you have a Priscilla in your church?

Why biblically literate women are essential to ministry

June 21, 2019

When men are preparing to enter the ministry, we often talk to them about the importance of surrounding themselves with faithful men. We teach them how to identify future leaders. We teach them how to preach. We encourage them to remain faithful to the Word.

But when was the last time you heard a seminary commencement message encourage future pastors to also surround themselves with biblically literate women?

Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. But I hope by the end of this article you will see the importance of it.

The help of women in the Bible

When Paul ends his letters, he often speaks of those who are meaningful to him. He speaks of those who have helped him, sometimes he speaks of those who have left him, and he speaks of those who are partners in ministry. While Paul does provide qualifications for men in pastoral ministry, those verses are few compared to the general commands to all that he provides in his letters. And his general tone as he closes out his letters is one of community effort, rather than a male-only endeavor. Paul’s ministry is upheld by men and women serving faithfully, and as a result, the church is upheld by men and women serving faithfully.

Just consider how he speaks of Priscilla in Romans 16:3. He calls her a “fellow worker.” In Acts 18, he goes to see Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, and then travels with them to Syria. Then at the end of Acts 18, we learn that both of them helped explain the “word more accurately” to Apollos. And she is not the only one. In Romans 16 alone, numerous women are mentioned, alongside men, as being a help to Paul and to the church. Colossians 4 speaks of Nympha and the church in her house. This isn’t even including the many women who were useful to Jesus in his time on earth.

The overarching message of Scripture, Old and New Testaments, is that both men and women are necessary for the ministry of the local church. The message of the gospel goes forward by both genders working together (Matt. 28). Yes, qualified men are called to lead and preach, but the local church is a body, so everyone contains something necessary for the body to flourish.

The value women add

But I want to talk for a moment about the value a woman might bring to a pastor in the local church.

Pastors are tasked with the great responsibility of shepherding the flock of God (1 Pet. 5:2). This involves first and foremost, the preaching of the Word. But on any given week, there are many other things a pastor might do that fall under shepherding. He may meet with a young believer, teaching him how to read his Bible. He may visit an elderly member, encouraging her to persevere to the end. He may disciple a new father or perform pre-martial counseling. The shepherding work of a pastor is vast and often overwhelming.

But what about the woman in the church who recently miscarried? Should she be shepherded by the pastor too? Or the woman in the church who needs encouragement to press on in mothering? Or the woman in the church who is struggling in sin and needs counsel? What about the woman in the church who needs discipleship in her understanding of Scripture or application of Scripture to her work in the marketplace? And even more serious, where does the abused woman go? Does this fall on under pastoral shepherding?

Yes and no.

Pastors will give an account to God for how they handle the Word and how they serve God’s people. So in that sense, this is absolutely their domain. But in another sense, I would argue that pastors best serve the women in their church by having biblically literate women they can turn to for the female shepherding needs in their church. As vast as the needs are in the church for men, the needs for women are equally vast. And we have a biblical basis for encouraging these needs to be met through the care of other women (Titus 2:3-5).

Part of good leadership is delegating responsibilities to those under your care. Part of good pastoral leadership is delegating the shepherding ministry to others as well.

But this is hard isn’t it? Because it assumes that the women in your church are biblically literate enough to handle such responsibility. It assumes the women in your church have a desire to serve in this way (which I bet they do). It assumes that you have a working relationship with women in your church. But it is a work worth taking on.

Priscilla was useful to Paul because she knew her Bible, and out of that knowledge came fruit. Our women can’t shepherd other women if they don’t know their Bibles. But our women also can’t shepherd other women if they don’t have opportunities and encouragement from their leadership.

Pastors have a lot on their plate. And depending on the size of your church, the responsibilities and needs far outweigh what you can feasibly handle. But I think one way to alleviate some of this burden is to partner with the women in your church in this way. Find women who display an aptitude and a desire to teach the Bible. Use them in the ministry of the Word to the women. And then watch the Word do its work in the lives of your people.

Paul was thankful for Priscilla (and many other men and women) because he was one man, albeit an incredibly fruitful one. He might be the one praised for his missionary travels and establishment of churches, but his ministry was upheld by the faithful work of other brothers and sisters. God’s purposes haven’t changed. He still uses the entire body of believers to spread his glory throughout the world—from the preacher on Sunday morning to the woman meeting with a broken sister in her living room. We need everyone in this mission.

Do you have a Priscilla in your church? I bet you do. You just have to look for her.

Courtney Reissig

Courtney is a wife, mother, writer, and speaker. Born in California, raised in Texas, all with a couple stints in Michigan before finally graduating from Northwestern College (MN). After doing some graduate study at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, she met her husband Daniel and fell in love. They now … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24