“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae. So you should welcome her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints and assist her in whatever matter she may require your help. For indeed she has been a benefactor of many- and of me also.” (Romans 16.1-2, CSB)
There are some who are critical of Paul, thinking the things he writes about women’s roles in the church diminish ladies in some way. I believe this stems from a misunderstanding of what is important. What do I mean? The preacher is lauded because he spends time in the Bible throughout the week, preparing an oration to encourage, exhort, rebuke, etc… The song leader is considered with awe (hopefully) because he drives emotion directly into doctrine in an effort to pile-up a heaping of hearts in worship and praise. We view these out-front roles as important, and so they are, but not more important than the worshipper. The men who stand before the congregation are servants. The servant who leads roles in worship is tasked with not only worshipping, but making sure his points are salient, his songs are proper, his delivery is impactful; all of these additional factors make being a leader more difficult than you may know. If not careful, a leader can easily get lost in leading, having left the assembly not having worshipped at all. My point is that just because men are tasked with leading a portion of worship does not mean does not mean they are the only ones who contribute.
So how can a lady lead? What makes Phoebe a special servant worth commending to other Saints? What about Dorcas? What about Priscilla? These women were all involved in the development of the church and never preached a sermon or lead a song service. But scripture indicates all of these women were involved with their brethren in impactful ways. They may have never picked up a microphone, but people missed their presence when they were not around (Dorcas). Preachers knew to come-correct when speaking because their words would be compared to The Word (Priscilla). While I don’t know what Phoebe did specifically, the label of “servant” (deaconess) is not given- it is earned. We are blessed with varieties of talents to make the Kingdom stronger. May God give us hearts to be servants.