A popular female evangelist arrived at an airport and was escorted to the baggage claim area. After she retrieved her luggage she was taken to the passenger pickup lounge where she met her hosts from a local church, who planned to take her in a comfortable van to a nearby hotel so she could rest before speaking at an evening service.
The members of the welcoming team were not prepared for this woman’s icy response to their greeting. When they opened the door to the van, she told them bluntly: “I will not ride in that.” Then she stormed back into the airport with her entourage. After making inquiries, one of the church staff was informed by the woman’s assistant that Her Highness must be transported in a certain type of vehicle.
The stated choices were a Bentley, a Mercedes-Benz or a Lincoln Town Car! Nevermind that Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. This regal woman of God insisted on arriving in luxury.
When I heard this story I didn’t know whether to start a petition drive or just vomit on the spot. I was outraged, bewildered and nauseated.
For the last seven years I have given my life to help empower and release women leaders in the church. I have dedicated my life to ending gender discrimination-especially when it limits women’s spiritual gifts and callings.
Yet when I hear of poor examples of women pastors and preachers, I must confess I fight discouragement. Yes, we need many more trained women church leaders-but we don’t need any more bad examples!
In my travels I have observed all kinds of women leaders, some who are stellar role models and others who would do us all a favor if they pursued different careers. If you have aspirations to pursue leadership in ministry at any level, I pray you will avoid becoming like the ones I am about to describe.
1. THE DIVA To this woman, ministry is all about her. She is the star. Surely she started out with genuine passion for God, but today her message is not defined by her unseen prayer life but by what people see on stage. Greed and pride have deceptively lured her into compromise.
She knows how to move a crowd. There is obviously a strong anointing on her life, but it has been subtly fused with a carnal agenda. She can inspire people to success and wow them with her own accomplishments, but there is nothing in her sermon that brings true repentance or brokenness. Her message may be loud, and it can elicit shouts at the altar. But the people don’t realize they’ve been drugged with a spiritual form of cocaine that triggers a religious high but can’t bring them closer to Jesus.
The diva is known for her demands. Someone must carry her Bible, her water bottle, her purse and her cell phone. Those who ask her to preach in their church soon learn that she is “high maintenance.” She will require the priciest hotel rooms and the biggest offerings-which she will collect with plenty of manipulative arm-twisting.
Her Christian values were once admirable. But the holy fire that burned in her heart a few years ago has been quenched by greed and an addiction to the crowd’s approval. She stopped studying the Bible and now focuses more on what she plans to wear at her conferences. She stopped spending time in God’s presence and began craving the glow of television lights.
The diva loves grand entrances. She comes into the meeting late and is whisked off the stage as soon as she has delivered her sermon. She doesn’t associate with common folks or spend too much time praying for them. A strange atmosphere surrounds her: A mixture of the Holy Spirit’s irrevocable gifting and a disturbing aura of self-importance. Only those who are discerning can recognize the difference.
2. THE CONTROL FREAK If you saw the movie The Devil Wears Prada you know the type of leader I am talking about. Unfortunately the main character of that film, the fearsome fashion publisher Miranda Priestly, has a few counterparts in the religious world.
Beware of this woman if she is in any church leadership position. She rules with an iron fist and leaves a trail of wounded bodies behind her. Somehow she missed the elementary Leadership 101 class, which teaches that every Christian leader must learn to serve. To her, authority is about dominating people.
This woman does not know how to delegate. She is not a team player. The control freak believes she knows all the answers, and therefore she must sign off on all decisions, no matter how petty. People line up outside her door night and day to get her approval, and anyone who needs an appointment is first advised to obtain a “weather report” on her shifting moods.
Somehow this woman never took care of her anger issues when she was a young Christian. Now that she has a position of power, no one is brave enough to challenge her ungodly behavior. She surrounds herself with yes-men and yes-women who dislike her authoritarianism but are too intimidated to admit that her ruthless temper is a sin.
The control freak has no peers and doesn’t have a relational style. She may claim to have an older mentor (who usually lives in a distant city) but she doesn’t open up her life to those who work with her. They are her subjects, and she demands obedience and long hours of work to prove loyalty. Her employees usually resign on a regular basis because of her harsh criticism and abusive words.
3. THE FLIRT I recently took a pastor friend of mine to a conference to hear a visiting woman preacher from another state. Imagine my horror when this lady walked to the podium wearing a dress that looked like it had been sprayed on.
Every curve and crevice on this woman’s body was visible to the ogling eyes in the audience. Some of the guys, to their credit, began looking at the floor toward the end of her sermon so they would not commit adultery in their thoughts. I wanted to run to the podium, grab one of those “modesty cloths” they use during prayer times and wrap it around Sister Shapely before anyone else stumbled.
This woman obviously missed the memo about adopting a “professional and sensible dress code” for ministry. Or perhaps she simply ignored the memo because of her own unresolved sexual issues. Somebody should have yanked her off the platform and sent her back to the new believer’s class, where godly women teach other women why it’s wrong to use their femininity as a sexual weapon.
The flirt disregards sexual boundaries. She hangs around with men alone in the church office, and might even counsel men alone. She may even use sexually charged language or veiled vulgarity in her sermons. (Note: Just because male leaders engage in this behavior does not make it acceptable.)
Women in ministry do not have to wear their hair in a bun or don ankle-length flannel dresses in order to be modest. There’s nothing wrong with looking your best. My favorite women leaders usually wear smart pantsuits, tasteful jewelry and comfortable shoes when they preach. They dress like respectable businesswomen-and they command respect from their churches because of it.
4. THE FLAKE God knows we need leaders today who understand the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But whenever there are revivals of Pentecostal power, the devil always lures some people to unbalanced and unhealthy extremes. In the modern charismatic movement, leaders who misuse the gifts of prophecy or other supernatural phenomena have deceived or irreparably wounded many people.