This is the third article in a series dealing with leadership in the home. As we saw yesterday, a husband is called to lead his wife. Though this is an unpopular statement in this day and in this culture, it is one that Christians must affirm. Male headship is taught so clearly in Scripture that to deny it leaves us prone to fall into any number of other radically false teachings. If we can read the Bible and walk away denying male headship, we can walk away denying any doctrine that offends our sensibilities.
The godly husband is to lead his family. You are to lead your family. Though some may assume that this is a kind of leadership that depends on fear and dominance, the Bible teaches something very different. When speaking of male headship, the Bible gives us the ultimate example of ultimate leadership. “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Ephesians 5:23). The husband is to be head of his wife in the same way that Christ is head of his church. And what kind of headship did Christ offer the church? Was it harsh or loving? Was it domineering or gentle? Was it proud or humble? Christ loved the church so much that he never did anything harsh to her, he never did anything unfitting, he never did anything angry or unjust. He loved the church so much that he counted it as more precious than his own life. He gave up his own life so that she might live. This, Christ himself, is the model for you as a godly husband. If you wish to lead your family in a way that is faithful to Scripture, you will study the way Christ loved the church and you will seek to imitate your Savior.
In this article I want to point out four ways in which you are called to lead: in leadership, in worship, as a father and as a husband. I will focus most attention on the final one of these.
Lead In Leadership
There are different areas or levels of leadership within the family structure. The wife leads areas of the family and older children may assume leadership in some areas. In a household that includes in-laws or non-family members there may be more levels of leadership even than that. But as husband you are the leader of leaders. You are responsible for overall direction, vision, leadership of the family. The buck stops with you. We see this, for example, in 1 Timothy 3:12 where we find among the qualifications for a deacon that he must manage his children and his household well. He manages well by leading well.
This is more a responsibility than it is a privilege (see Matthew 20:26-28). This is an opportunity for you to serve your family through godly, servant leadership and not an opportunity for you to lord it over your family as a ruthless tyrant. As the leader of the leaders you ensure that others are leading as they should, that they are leading only in the areas they should. You will find humble and dignified ways of ensuring that others are leading well and that they are doing what they should as they should.
Lead In Worship
The godly husband leads his family in worship. He ensures that the family members are worshiping and that they are worshiping in a way that is consistent with Scripture.
You need to lead in corporate worship. You need to take the lead in corporate worship, not only in ensuring that your family attends church but also in the choice of church. We experienced this in our own lives where Aileen and I, many years ago now, disagreed quite adamantly in whether to remain at the church we were currently attending or whether to attend a different one. Eventually I had to ask her to just trust me and to allow me to lead. She did so and I think God blessed us not just in my decision and in the fact that I was willing to make it, unpopular though it was, but also in the fact that Aileen was willing to trust me in this and to submit herself to my leadership. As it happens, time has shown the decision to be a wise one and God has blessed us richly. You need to lead your family in choosing a church, in attending that church and in worshiping at that church.
You need to lead in family worship. Corporate worship, while absolutely essential to the Christian faith, is not all the worship that is required for us to have a healthy faith. Christians have long emphasized the importance of regular (usually daily) family worship. This is a good practice to begin as soon as you get married. If you have not yet begun this practice, do so today! Family worship does not need to be long or intricate but should consist at least of the reading of Scripture and prayer. This is an ideal opportunity for a man to spend time reading the Bible to his family and to ensure that they understand and apply that Word. It is a great time to spend in prayer, teaching your children to pray, and praying together for common concerns.
Tip: Do not become overly reliant on children’s Bibles. Read to your family at meal times from the “grown-up Bible” (as my son used to call it). When the children are young, focus on reading narrative and, as they grow older, move into doctrine and wisdom literature. Read to emphasize comprehension, pausing to ask questions and test their understanding. When praying, pray your way through the church directory or through lists of extended family members. If you are a musical family (or perhaps even if you are not) sing together. Consider memorizing Scripture together. Make this meaningful time that is deliberately spent. Begin this while you are newly married and make it a habit you maintain.
You need to lead in personal worship. The godly husband knows the value of personal devotions. You must be committed to spending time one-on-one with God through the reading of the Word and prayer. If you are to be a godly leader in your home, you need to take the lead in this! I have many memories of my father sitting in his favorite chair with a Bible open on his lap, his eyes closed in prayer. I knew from a young age that he prioritized personal worship; I never had any doubts that this was an important part of his life and that I had to imitate him in this way.
A godly husband will do more than ensure he is spending his own time in the Word and in prayer. He will also seek to ensure that his wife is doing the same. This may mean helping her find the time, perhaps by giving her a few minutes in the evening while he bathes the kids or while he reads a story to them.
He will also help his children understand the need for reading and prayer and will take the lead in helping them begin to read the Word and pray. He may not be involved with this day-to-day but he will still be following-up with his children to ensure they have been learning from the Word and that they have been praying. He will speak with them about what they have been reading, helping them understand and apply it.
Tip: Ask your wife if she has time in her day to read the Bible and pray. If she does not, help her to find the time. Ask her what works well for her and do what you can to free her up from other responsibilities during those times.
Lead as a Father
The husband is the one who is ultimately responsible for his children. Too many men have abdicated this responsibility, assuming that the mother is the one who is primarily responsible for raising the kids. But no, it is you, the father, who must lead your children. It is not without importance that the Bible’s admonitions to raise godly children are directed not at wives but at husbands. Similarly, until recent times the majority of books on parenting were targeted not at mothers but at fathers. In the past people have understood what today we tend to ignore. Dad is primarily responsible for raising the children.
Of course this does not excuse mothers from being involved in raising their children. It does not in any way mean that mothers will be uninvolved in raising the children. Instead it simply shows that it is ultimately you who bear responsibility before God to ensure that children are raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). You must take the lead and bear the responsibility in teaching and training your children. In many cases you will delegate this to others–mothers, teachers, Sunday school teachers, and so on. But you are the one who leads and who is most answerable to God.
Lead as a Husband
The reality of male headship means that a husband is responsible for his wife’s well-being in a way she is not responsible for his. It falls upon you, for example, to take initiative in ensuring that your wife has sufficient opportunity to spend time in Scripture and prayer. It falls upon you to ensure that you live peaceably with your wife so that your prayers (not her prayers) may not be hindered by any discord between you (see 1 Peter 3:7). As leader, you bear the greater responsibility and the greater burden. Here are some specific ways you must lead your wife:
Lead with Love. The leadership of the godly husband is marked by love (Ephesians 5:25). Your wife, aware as she is of your sin, should never have reason to doubt that you love her, that you love your children, that you are committed to serving your bride in this unique role. You must be willing to forsake your own desires, your own comfort, your own rights in order to express love for your wife. Your leadership must be marked with the kind of love that marked Christ’s love for his church. That same love, that same desire for God’s glory, flows from Christ to the husband and into the family.
Lead with Gentleness. The godly husband leads his wife with meekness and gentleness. You need to be aware of your own sin and your own failings. You need to lead your wife gently, aware of her own struggles and weaknesses. Heed the word of God which says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
Lead with Dignity. The godly husband does not mock or belittle his wife. You must not lead her through scorn or sarcasm or anger or punishment. Lead your wife with special delight and dignity, leading her differently than you would lead a child or an employee. Lead her with an awareness that you are a servant first, a leader second. Do nothing to puff yourself up with pride but everything to show your wife that you esteem her higher than yourself.
Lead with Confidence. This is a particular challenge today, of course, at a time when culture has conditioned us to thinking that men have no business being leaders over their wives. But the godly husband listens to Scripture above the world and leads his wife, confident that God calls him to do just this. Lead your wife with a humble confidence, even when you are called upon to make difficult or unpopular decisions. Lead with confidence that God is willing and able to bless you for your obedience.
So a husband is to lead with love, gentleness, dignity and confidence. Here now are some practical ways in which you are to lead and oversee your wife:
Oversee her ministry. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” As a husband concerned both for your wife and for the church, you will see that she is serving according to her gifts and that she is giving of her time to each of her areas of ministry, whether in the home or outside of it. You will see that she does not overextend herself or minister at the expense of her family. And you will encourage her as she discovers and exercises her spiritual gifts.
Oversee her relationships. Titus 2:3-5 has stern admonitions toward what seems to be a particular temptation to women. It teaches women how to use their abilities to encourage rather than discourage. As husband you will ensure that she knows the roles God has called her to primarily. You will help guard her against sinful relationships and help her balance and prioritize her many responsibilities. You will encourage her to develop relationships with women who she can befriend, mentor or be mentored by.
Oversee her decision-making. Colossians 1:9-10 provides a wonderful example of how to pray for wisdom and understanding on behalf of another person. As a godly husband you will pray for your wife, that she will make decisions that honor God. You will encourage her toward big and noble goals and you will help ensure that she is making decisions based on the best priorities.
You have heard it said, I’m sure, that nature abhors a vacuum. This is absolutely true when it comes to leadership. If you do not lead your family, someone else will; someone else will have to. But God has called you to lead, to lead with great joy and delight, to lead though it may be costly, and to lead with love. Lead your wife, lead your family, and do it all for the glory of God.
This series will continue tomorrow as we look at “A Godly Man Protects.”