Lady Ministers And Ministerial Licensing

By Lori Wagner

I don’t know where you’ve come from, or where you are right now, but I want to encourage you today that God desires to use you in ministry! There is no doubt each one of us has been called to ministry; but a key question is this: does a call on a person’s life to minister mean they should pursue a ministerial license? That’s a question for both male and female, but today, I would like to address the subject of “Licensing Ladies.”

WHAT IS A LICENSE FOR?

Something to ponder: You can’t get your driver’s license until you already know how to drive. You can’t get a real estate license unless you’ve already been trained and know the procedures. You can get a fishing license, but that’s just between you and the fish. You can get a marriage license, but that’s just between you and one other person. When it comes to dealing with the public, individuals have to get licensed. It’s a matter of public safety!

Most of us have probably met someone who calls himself or herself a minister and seriously wondered how that happened. Did they hit a link on a computer screen that said, “Click here and become ordained for free”?

Licensing ministers is more than a person getting credentials or titles. One of the main reasons ministers get licensed is to ensure public safety!

LICENSED TO SERVE

People do not get licensed to lead. They get licensed to serve.

Ministers serve. That's what ministers do — serve others on behalf of the Lord.

I’m going to hop down a bunny trail here, but I just have to add a little sidenote. It's something the Lord has been speaking to my heart and showing me in my life. 

So here’s your bonus message: Serve, smile, and God will make room for you.

It’s easy — especially when we’re younger — to get lost in the looking. We look for our place, our position. We look for where we can invest ourselves as Christians.

God has given each of us natural gifts and spiritual gifts, and it’s not wrong to want to use them. But don’t get "lost in the looking" for your future, because it can stifle your ministry right now. You are building your ministry right now, and the greater the foundation, the greater the building that can be erected upon it.

I don’t know about you, but in the past there have been times in my dealings with unchurched people, that I have had my "radar" on. I was just looking for a moment to throw a zinger for Jesus into some lost soul's life.

My friend, the greatest gift you and I can give our world is not a zinger for Jesus that we just know is going to launch revelation fireworks. It’s not our phenomenal teaching and speaking skills, our message mastery, our fabulous anointed singing and playing, or our amazing organizational and administrative talents. The greatest gift we can give is ourselves. 

You see, you are more than your gifts. You are a person. You are a multi-faceted wonderful package! You are a composite of your natural gifts, your spiritual gifts, your personality — and, yes, even God Himself. He’s living in you! You are a complete package.

When we give ourselves, we give Jesus — because He’s “in there.” I’m not talking new age “God in me” stuff. I’m talking about tongue-talking, Holy Ghost filled saints of God being their real selves in our real world to real people with real needs.

Serve others — and with a smile. When you do, God will make a way for you. He will open doors you could never open for yourself. 

TO BE OR NOT TO BE . . . LICENSED?

To be honest, I struggled with the issue of getting licensed, but an Apostolic lady minister from Maine, Sis. Sharon Walston, helped me with this through a book she had written. It really gave me a revelation.

The premise is that there are three types of government:

1. Civil. Examples are governors, mayors, police, or judges who have authority over you regardless of gender.

2. Home. God ordained the husband as the head of the home.

3. Church. The church is governed by God, and He uses those to whom He imparts spiritual gifts and callings.

In Galatians 3:28 we read that in the church, "there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

For a minister to be effective, he or she must be "in order" with all three types of government.

I can’t be out of order with my husband and expect God’s blessing on my ministry. I don’t think it’s possible to be an anointed preacher and teacher if I am an overbearing, unyielding wife in my home. Personally, I never speak without first having my husband pray for me. It's usually over the phone when I'm traveling, and he prays the sweetest prayer: “Lord, anoint her like I would want to be anointed if I was speaking.”

Also on the subject of being in order, a minister can't be whispering complaints about their pastor or other spiritual leaders. It will cause a blockage of the flow of God. Ministry just doesn't work that way.

MINISTRY IS ABOUT CALLING

We have established that ministry is service, and it is not based on gender or lineage. It’s about calling.

I’m not going to take time here to re-hash the entire discussion on should women be licensed, but I will give some biblical examples of women in ministry:

  • Deborah was a judge over Israel (Judges 4-5).

  • Phoebe was a deaconness (Romans 16:1).

  • Priscilla was called by Paul a “fellow laborer” (Romans 16:3), and Lydia held church meetings in her home (Acts 16).

  • Women were prophetesses (in both the Old and New Testament: Exodus 15:20 Isaiah 8:3, 2 Kings 22:14, Nehemiah 6:14, Luke 2:36, Acts 2:17-19; Acts 21:7-9; 1 Corinthians 11:5).

Scripture clearly indicates it is appropriate for a woman to prophesy in church if she is in order. 

Here’s an interesting point:

In 1 Corinthians 11:5, the word used for prophesying, in reference to women, not only means “telling things in advance,” but it also, according to Strong's, means, under the “inspiration of God . . . to teach, refute, reprove, admonish, comfort others.”

Some people don’t support the idea of women in ministry, but consider this: There have always been more women missionaries than men. That leads to a logical question: Why is it ok for women to minister on foreign soil, but not in their native country? It is ok for the heathen to hear a woman preach and teach, but not here?

I realize we may have readers from different Apostolic organizations. On this matter, I speak as a member of the UPCI, and I am thankful my spiritual leaders have affirmed their support of licensing ladies.

MORE PROS TO LICENSING

Beyond the purpose of “protecting the public” from charlatans, false prophets and out-and-out fruit loops, there are other reasons I am an advocate of licensing.

When we are licensed it brings us to a new level of unity as our ministry connects to others (see Psalm 133).

Licensing brings validation and credibility to a person’s ministry –- inside and outside the church.

As someone who travels and speaks — one who was not raised in an Apostolic church, never went to Bible school, and is not a minister's wife — licensing assures those who might invite me that I have a solid foundation. I have a good knowledge of the Bible, my doctrine is sound, and I know the structure of the church. God, in case you didn’t know, is "in" to order. I need to know the order of the organization to work well in its framework.

Licensing brings accountability to spiritual authority.

Licensing reveals that a woman is “in order.” And we know that when we are in order, there is power! There are angels! There is communion with God!

I didn’t get licensed on my own. My husband was at my side! My pastor was involved and supportive. My application was reviewed and I was interviewed by the District Board. With my license, I gained a higher level of covering. And it’s awesome to operate under cover!

So you see, licensing gives me both a solid foundation and a wonderful covering –- head-to-toe.

PERSONAL REASONS

In a practical sense, personally speaking, another reason I wanted to get licensed was to contribute to building up Apostolic ministry. The greater the "Body," the more it can accomplish. We join together to create resources, equip and send out foreign missionaries, run programs like Bible quizzing, support home missions and outreach efforts, and on and on.

It saddens me to think that because of decreased consecrations, people have left Apostolic fellowships, possibly stranding missionaries they had pledged to support. A decline in the amount of licensed ministers can mean fewer resources and lead to drastic cuts in vital ministries.

My license makes me a small part of a big "whole." And together we can do awesome things for the Kingdom of God!

Licensing gives a person the opportunity to participate in decision making. A licensed minister has a voice to be heard and a vote to count.

Licensing provides a higher level of ministerial fellowship.

Of course, another reason to get your license is that you can get one of those cool stickers for your car so you could get great parking at the hospital! But even that sticker means “servant.” A minister doesn’t go to a hospital on visitation because it’s fun, right?

THE BIG QUESTION

The big question is this: is licensing God's will for me? Or is it the right time?

Does the desire dog you? Are you "hounded by heaven?" If it’s God, it won’t go away.

We can run from our calling, but our calling will never leaves us.

You may have felt a calling to ministry. I will tell you that I never had a “lightning bolt” moment. It was something that opened to me, one step at a time as I walked in obedience. You may be able to go back to a certain spot on the carpet, a day and time. Regardless of how it happened, it’s imperative for you that you walk in obedience.

If things haven't unfolded the way you expected, be encouraged! With every purpose of God there is both timing and judgment. I began with a writing ministry. Of course, I was doing other things before that: singing in the choir, leading worship, teaching Sunday School, Girls Club leader, etc., but this launching of public ministry was birthed at my computer with a book called Gates & Fences. I wrote it in 2006, but I was given the assignment in 1997 after my first husband passed away.

I tried to make it happen on my own. There are many “gates” in our world to be explored — from the gates of Jerusalem to the gates of the information superhighway. But although I received my assignment, it wasn’t time yet to do the writing. I had to live through almost ten years first before I was equipped to write the book.

You may have felt a calling: from a gentle drawing to a “shazam” here-I-am-send-me moment. If it hasn’t happened yet, don’t be frustrated. “To every purpose there is time and judgment" (Ecclesiastes 8:6).

Even Jesus said, “My time has not yet come" (John 7:6). But later He said, “The time has come for the Son of Man" (John 12:23). Jesus was not outside the will of God before the time He spoke the words recorded in John 12:23! The purpose of God was in place, but the timing had not been right.

Walk on the path the Lord lights for you, and trust He will bring to pass His will in His time. As you do, you will not only honor God’s call on your life, but you will also be a valuable role model for others.

TIPS FOR THE TRIP

One of the most freeing revelations in my ministry was when I realized God did not expect me to be another "Vesta Mangun" or "fill-in-your-favorite-lady-speaker." He has called me to minister as me and teach and preach with the personality and presentation methods He has given me.

In the same way I shouldn't mimic renowned Christian ladies, I also can't try to minister as a man and expect to be effective. Minister as a lady — not a mannish woman, but as the woman God made you to be. Lady ministers are not called to do the job as men, they are to minister as women –- bringing themselves to the pulpit, not a masculine-emulating fake version of self.

Don’t try to force things. I "knock on doors," but I have never tried to push one open.

I once heard Cindy Miller say something that encouraged me: "Don’t use gender as an excuse to get out of your calling."

As a lady minister, you may find yourself facing high scrutiny. Your conduct must not bring reproach to the Kingdom of God. Set a higher standard for yourself, and do your best to remain blameless in the church and out. 

IN CLOSING

If you have received a call from God to minister, don't be afraid. You can do it. In most situations, I believe your District Board will be for you. While they do take care in their responsibility to license only qualified candidates, the Board's desire is not to deny sincerely motivated, godly people.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul addressed all the saints — male and female. It is in this epistle he wrote that God gave some apostles, pastors, etc. 

There is a place for everyone to serve in the Body of Christ.

I didn’t have a “calling” moment. It has been a walking journey. It's my desire to keep walking and knocking and seeking. I don't have a ministry, but God performs His ministry through willing, consecrated vessels. If He is talking to you, start walking!

Don't be afraid to take a God risk!

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About LoriWagner

Lori Wagner is the best-selling author of 15 books, with over 50,000 copies sold. Her works include The Pure Path Series (discipleship/Christian growth for girls), The Briar Hollow Series (historical fiction), and "Holy Intimacy." Her most recent projects include Orbis, a board game, and "Wisdom is a Lady," a small-group resource that includes video teaching sessions.  Lori is a licensed minister, a Purpose Institute Campus Administrator, and serves as the Michigan District Prayer Coordinator for the World Network of Prayer. She has served as the Michigan State Coordinator for the National Day of Prayer and is an elected representative in her community for five terms.  
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