I would dress up in a dishtowel and invite the neighborhood children over. Using Necco candy wafers and grape Kool-Aid, I would serve them, and we would have communion together. While they were sitting there, I had a captive audience, and I began to preach to them.
This was all something new for my mother, who was watching and wondering. I sensed this desire to serve the Lord very early on in my life. I didn’t know exactly how this was going to play out, but I sensed the call early. I may have taken a detour along the way, when I went into Journalism/Broadcasting, but God knew that was exactly the right preparation for the call he had for me. I eventually came back to share the Good News as an ordained elder in the Church.
G&P: What are the challenges of being a woman clergyperson in leadership at the local level?
Metcalf: The greatest struggle would be I don’t have a lot of sisters in lead pastor roles to talk to and share with in community. I miss the fellowship with sisters who experience the same blessings and pressures that come with this responsibility. I’m not sure what some of my other sisters are going through, but here in El Cajon, the southern California area, we are strongly influenced by our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters, who do not sanction women in ecclesial pastoral leadership. There are very few women pastors/senior pastors in this area. Thus, my life and ministry are strongly dependent on an intimate relationship with God. I also depend on a rich and honest partnership with my husband and friendships with other believers, who know me and help me to grow.
I love what I do, and I don’t spend a great deal of time trying to defend the call. I don’t have the energy to do that. I know in my heart, as I have gone back to Scripture and checked, this is scripturally sound, and this is a part of our
I am merely doing what God is calling me to do. If I spend so much time defending this call, I will lose the opportunity to reach out to the people God has called me to love.
Nazarene heritage. I am merely doing what God is calling me to do. If I spend so much time defending this call, I will lose the opportunity to reach out to the people God has called me to love. I don’t spend a lot of time defending, I just go out and do it. God has given the grace and the help to do it every step of the way.
G&P: How has the Wesleyan/Holiness tradition shaped and nurtured your self-understanding as a clergy leader?
Metcalf: Our Wesleyan/Holiness tradition is rich with many foremothers serving alongside forefathers: sharing the gospel, teaching, preaching, planting churches all over the world. I go back to the 1700s, and I see John Wesley allowing women to preach and teach. Perhaps, he didn’t want to do that at first, but he couldn’t deny that God had anointed women alongside of men to share the gospel. He took a look at what they were doing, and the anointing on their lives, and he finally had to say, “Okay, you’re a part of us! God has called you!”, and he allowed women to serve alongside men in teaching and preaching the gospel. Because of that, our own Nazarene heritage is filled with sisters, who served alongside of our brothers, including becoming missionaries. So I have a rich heritage here, and I realize I’m not alone. This isn’t new. This is a part of our Christian heritage. Hallelujah for Mary Magdalene, who is there in the beginning, the first to proclaim Christ had risen from the dead. She’s there. So were Phillip’s daughters and a number of wonderful women who served with Paul
This is a part of who we are as Christians, side-by-side, using our gifts to their greatest capacity, all for Jesus.
in the early church. They were there. Praise God! This is nothing new. This is a part of who we are as Christians, side-by-side, using our gifts to their greatest capacity, all for Jesus.
G&P: How has the Bible shaped and nurtured your understanding of leadership?
Metcalf: All I have to do is look at Jesus. The way he leads is through love, through obedience to the Father, everything was for the Father and he gave himself completely for his call. He followed the Father every step of the way— whatever he spoke, whatever he did, was out of obedience to the Father. What a model for us! He goes all the way to washing the feet of his disciples, to the cross, giving his all for the sake of love and that is how I long to live. I only have to look to Jesus and look to those who followed Jesus to know I’m in the most blessed company, serving the Lord, giving my best for Christ—it is a marvelous adventure! I’m really honored and humbled to do what I do.
G&P: How does your work in spiritual formation speak to your understanding of pastoral leadership?
Metcalf: Spiritual formation is a part of who we are becoming in Christ. I would be nothing, and could do nothing, without developing a relationship with Jesus that is intimate and true. That comes through prayer, through study of the Word, through serving and sacrificing for Christ. All of this is part of obeying a call: a call that is not specific to a position, but to obedience and faithful love. I am thankful for open doors! I am also thankful for brothers and sisters who discipled and came along side me at very important times in my early life in Christ, teaching me how to pray and how to trust the Lord.
G&P: Who are some of the women in Nazarene history who have influenced you?
Metcalf: When I look back to our Nazarene history, I see women who have stepped out of the kitchen and out of their homes to heed the call of God in their lives. I am so humbled to follow in the footsteps of Lucy Knott: who opened a pantry for people who were hungry on Skid Row in Los Angeles. I think of Jonnie Jernigan: who opened rest cottages for women stepping out of prostitution and their children. I think of Mary Lee Cagle: who helped plant close to 17 churches in four different states. Our heritage is so rich, and I pray that we never forget that alongside of our men were women, who totally gave their hearts to Christ and gave their very best for Jesus, even when their families and friends did not understand. There may not be many women lead pastors today serving alongside me, but there are many women who have come before me. And I know many gifted and anointed women who will come after me, because God’s Body is edified when men and women use their gifts to their greatest capacity. It is a glorious adventure to serve Christ and give your best for Jesus.
G&P: What have been some of your major leadership challenges in the ministry and what have you learned from them?
Metcalf: I think the greatest ministry challenge for me is I am not called to make converts; I am called to make disciples.
Making disciples takes a level of grace that only Christ can give. That’s the greatest challenge.
And making disciples requires time, love, patience and courage. It takes a holy boldness to speak the truth, to hold people accountable for their professed faith. Part of the great challenge here is as people are coming out of generational poverty, they have a lifetime of habits that take time and grace to undo. It takes love to consistently come alongside to help them through as they take these steps forward in their faith, and yet, at times, fall back. It also takes wisdom to allow them to live in the consequences of poor choices. Some lessons can only be learned in the furnace. I am not personally responsible for their turn toward holiness. I am, however, compelled to pray and continually believe for miracles. To be there, to come alongside, and invest our lives into so many who need to know Christ loves them is a long journey in the same direction. Making disciples takes a level of grace that only Christ can give. That’s the greatest challenge.
G&P: What can the general church do to encourage the development of female pastors in a denominational environment that is male dominated?
Metcalf: The best thing we can do is remember our heritage. This is a part of who we’ve been: men and women serving alongside each other to give their best for Christ. We’ve had it for more than a hundred years, and this is part of who we are today. This is not a radical feminist movement; this is all about giving God our radical obedience. It’s about being a community of faith, where people are free to give their very best to God. To box people in and say they can only use their gifts in a particular setting with only children or women is so detrimental. I believe that causes our sisters great disservice, and ultimately the church suffers. Christ, I believe, must struggle when we try to box people in, and they are only allowed to serve in a limited way. We need to free people to use their gifts in whatever capacity God has called them to give. I am so blessed to be part of a denomination that, at least in policy, allows us to do what we do. The doors sometimes aren’t open, but if women trust the Lord and use our gifts wherever we can, where the doors are open, I believe God will open the other doors as well. It’s a matter of trust. It’s a matter of obedience. It’s a matter of deep love and allowing God to do his work.
G&P: What advice would you give women who are considering pastoral ministry and what skills are needed to ensure longevity and a sense of accomplishment?
When we think about training up women, I think the same calling goes for men as well: faithfulness, deep love for Christ, a compassion for people, and persistence. Keep trusting that God is in this call.
Metcalf: When we think about training up women, I think the same calling goes for men as well: faithfulness, deep love for Christ, a compassion for people, and persistence. Keep trusting that God is in this call. Know you are called, not only by the church, but by a loving God who loves you and wants the very best for you. So we give, and sometimes it is difficult. A man in my congregation didn’t accept me when I first came into this senior pastorate. He wrote a six-page letter to the church just before they were to take the vote to call me. The letter said women should not be in church leadership. I stepped back at that and thought, “Well, this must be of the Lord, because Satan seems to be fighting this every step of the way.” By the grace of God, I was called to this church. It turned out this critic became one of my dearest friends. At first, he stood at the back of the church with his arms folded and a scowl on his face. But when he heard the gospel preached and sensed the presence and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he couldn’t deny it! Eventually, I invited him to the office and told him it was time to talk. We became great friends, and he became one of the greatest supporters I ever had. It takes time. It takes love. I’m still called to love every person who is having a struggle with this. I pray I will continue to model a life totally surrendered to Christ. That’s what holiness is—the audacious freedom to give, to love, and to trust that God is in it all.
JANINE METCALF is senior pastor of El Cajon, CA, Church of the Nazarene