The Gender Divide in Missions

The role of women on the mission field has undergone significant changes in the past few centuries, beginning with an absolute aversion to sending females, to a tentative acceptance of their presence overseas, to a vibrant and growing appreciation for their insight and contributions. The biblical foundation for women in missions is undeniable, from Paul’s co-laborers such as Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2–3) to the women who served alongside Christ himself (Luke 8:1–3).

Nevertheless, churches continue to wrestle with the practical and theological questions of where and how women take part in international missions. In order to join that conversation, Zane Pratt and Lori McDaniel of the IMB sat down with Christy Thornton of SEBTS and Paula Hemphill, who has served the IMB as both a trustee and a women’s mobilization consultant.

One of the most obvious reasons women are essential to the work of international missions is because lost women need the gospel too. The social mores of many cultures around the world severely hinder, if not completely prohibit, men from interacting with women outside their families. As such, if these women are to hear the good news, it must be from Christian women with the cultural, theological, and linguistic training to share it with them. To reach an entire society, Christian men and women alike must be equipped for and active in making disciples.

Moreover, the commands of Scripture were all given to both men and women. From the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:27–28) to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20), the call of God to make his glory known and his name great is the call for both genders, and neither can fulfill that call without the other. Single or married, male or female—all are needed on the mission field.

Jaclyn S. Parrish worked as a writer for IMB in South Asia. She currently serves in the US as a writer, editor, and social media associate for IMB. You can follow her on Twitter at @JaclynSParrish.