PROFILE: Linda Adkins, Senior Pastor

Pioneering Spirit

by Christina Quick

Linda Adkins is a pioneering woman in ministry. When she and her husband, Howard, planted Words of Light Church in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1982, she was the only female senior pastor in town and the only one in the Assemblies of God Peninsular Florida District. When she was ordained in 1986, she stood alone among the district's male ministers receiving the same distinction.

The 67-year-old has held the church's senior pastor position for 32 years.

“Most people who meet us for the first time assume my husband is the pastor,” Adkins says. “We never try to correct them. They figure it out eventually.”

Over the years, Adkins has gained widespread respect and appreciation in her community. But charting new territory is never without its challenges. Early in her ministry, Adkins encountered bitter criticism from people opposed to the idea of a woman in the pulpit.

“People left letters on the church door,” Adkins says. “They said things like, ‘You're going to cause people to go to hell. You have no right to preach.' I just had to pray through those times. I had to have such a knowing in myself that God had called me to do this. That gave me courage to continue, and God has blessed us.”

Adkins was a homemaker with three small children in 1979 when she began sensing God's call to full-time ministry. Howard had a good job as a supervisor for a store chain, and the family lived in a sparsely populated rural area.

“I said, ‘God, I'm not going to tell this man what to do; you'll have to tell him,' ” Adkins recalls. “God did speak and made it real to both of us. We knew we were called to do this together.”

After Adkins earned credentials through Global University, Howard retired from his job, and the couple launched Words of Light.

“We've had a lot of years filled with sorrow, pain, happiness, and joy unspeakable — and we're still going,” Adkins says. “The Lord has kept His hand on us, and I don't feel like the anointing He called me with has ever waned.”

The church operates a recording studio and has maintained a radio presence for 27 years. It added weekly television broadcasts in 2005.

The pioneer pastor's confidence and tenacity serve as a model for other people of faith who dare to go where God leads.

“I have been able to encourage other women to step out in their calls from God,” Adkins says. “A woman senior pastor is not something you see all the time. But in the face of all the opposition and criticism, I knew I was called and sent. Failing or quitting was never an option.”

— Christina Quick, freelance writer, Springfield, Missouri