“Look, I know you doubt me, I know you always have. And you’re right . . . I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, and my armchair, and my garden. See, that’s where I belong, that’s home. That’s why I came back . . .’cause you don’t have one, a home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can” (Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey).
If, like me, you are a fan of The Hobbit, you remember this quote by Bilbo. He has agreed to go on a quest with the dwarves to help them take back their home, which is occupied by a very large, fire-breathing dragon named Smaug. This is no small feat, nor does it lack tremendous courage and commitment on the part of Bilbo, especially since it is not even his own home that he is helping to save.
So what does Bilbo’s quest have to do with supporting women in ministry? I believe that some dialogue concerning the support of women in ministry falls on deaf ears because we do not share the same understanding of what the word “support” means. Perhaps some believe they support women in ministry because they believe that ordaining women is in line with biblical teaching. Perhaps some believe they support women in ministry simply because they belong to a denomination or movement that asserts the calling of women to all leadership positions in the church. Perhaps some believe they support women in ministry because they do not object the idea of a woman as a senior pastor. While these things are admirable, do they really qualify as “supporting” women in ministry?
I would like to propose that we use Bilbo’s quest as an example of what supporting women in ministry means. Bilbo left his home and all that was familiar to him. Bilbo was willing to risk his life so that others would have the chance to experience what he had—a home of his own. How many men are willing to join women, called of God to vocational ministry, on a quest, a quest to defeat Smaug?
So, who is Smaug? Smaug is comprised of the societal structures and gender-bias that prevents women from opportunities to serve in key leadership positions in the church. Smaug guards these key leadership positions and believes that they solely belong to men. Smaug is the bylaws that state that a senior pastor must be a man. Smaug is the belief that women are required to prove themselves above and beyond that of men in order to even be considered for a leadership position in the church. Smaug is the reason that a woman’s resumé is thrown in the garbage by pulpit committees without having been read. Smaug is the belief that women are not as equipped as men for leadership or preaching. Smaug breathes fire, and singes women who attempt to follow God’s calling to lead and preach in the church. Smaug causes scars. Smaug needs to be defeated!
Who will join women in ministry on this quest? Who will really support women by committing themselves to the quest of defeating Smaug? It will take courage. It will require a sacrifice of time and resources. It will mean that you leave the comfort of your own home and walk with us on this journey. Are you committed to women in ministry? Are you willing to take a risk to actively “support” women in ministry?
Will you remain in your own home, sitting in your comfortable chair with your things around you while others are slaying a dragon? Or will you be part of the quest? Will you support women in ministry?
 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, directed by Peter Jackson (MGM/New Line Cinema, 2012), Blu-ray (Warner Bros., 2013).