Can women be missionaries? What does the Bible say about women missionaries?
The Bible presents a variety of missionaries and missionary roles in the New Testament. These also include women who traveled to new locations to share the good news of Jesus. The Bible seems to discourage women serving as teachers or leaders over men, within the context of a local church. However, Scripture also frequently mentions women as active participants in teaching and preaching efforts, even using some of the same terms used to describe men.
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So, the question of whether or not a woman can be a "missionary" depends greatly on how someone defines that term. If the term "missionary" is taken to mean someone who goes out into the world and explains the gospel, who leads others to Christ in settings other than a local church, then there is certainly no reason a woman cannot be a "missionary." There are other concerns over spiritual leadership over men, but those are separate from this basic concept.
An excellent example of this distinction would be Priscilla, mentioned in Acts 18:24–28. There, she is described as "teaching" Apollos, along with her husband, a more accurate view of the gospel after hearing him speak in the synagogue. This same woman is mentioned in Romans 16:3 using the term synergos, meaning a co-worker.
The early women who followed Jesus and believed in Him likely would have shared the good news of Jesus at Pentecost and in the early Jerusalem church (Acts 2). Following Stephen's death (Acts 7), many Christian women fled Jerusalem along with other believers, sharing Christ wherever they traveled. In addition, Saul arrested some women who were known for sharing their faith (Acts 8:3).
An early example of a Christian woman who lived out her faith in a missionary-like role was Tabitha. Acts 9:36 says, "She was full of good works and acts of charity." She died following a sickness, yet was raised from death by Peter (v. 40).
Mary, the mother of John Mark, was also known as a church leader who hosted Christian gatherings. She was not a pastor, yet served in other roles that helped the church (Acts 12:12). Her son also became a missionary and wrote the Gospel of Mark.
Lydia became a believer following the preaching of Paul, Silas, and Timothy (Acts 16:14). She then helped these men share Christ with those in her household and hosted these missionaries until their arrest. Her home was likely the gathering place of the Philippian church (v. 40).
When Paul preached in Athens, a woman named Damaris became a believer (Acts 17:34). Romans 16:1 mentions Phoebe, a "servant of the church at Cenchreae" who likely delivered the letter to the Romans, a work of missionary service. Priscilla (or Prisca) and her husband Aquila also served as missionaries in various places (Romans 16:3) and other women are mentioned in various serving roles in the Roman church (Romans 16).
Many women served as followers of Christ in the early church, including missionary roles. However, an area excluded from female missionary activity was the role of a pastor or elder (and likely deacon as well, see 1 Timothy 3:8–12). Elders were only men in the New Testament (1 Timothy 3:1–7, Titus 1:5–9).
Apart from this area, the Bible notes many missionary opportunities that exist for women to use their abilities to serve Christ. In fact, women missionaries serve as an essential part of God's work worldwide today, changing many lives for Christ.
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