Male leadership, as designed by God, has been in the world since Adam. It is seen in the Old Testament in the lives of Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and the prophets. The exception is seen in Deborah, the only woman judge in Israel, but this was when men refused to fulfill their roles. Some women, like Huldah, were called prophetesses, but we know little about their work. In the New Testament, it is significant that Jesus, the Savior of the world, was a man. The apostles were men. Preachers were men. Elders and deacons were men. In defining the roles of men and women in the worship of the church, the apostle Paul said, “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12), and showed that this principle was not cultural but was God’s plan from the beginning (1 Timothy 2:13-14).
Additionally, Paul stated that women were to “keep silent in the churches” (when the “whole church comes together” with the intention to worship–JPL), and further said, “[I]t is shameful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34, 23, 35). The fact that Philip “had four virgin daughters who prophesied” (Acts 21:9) does not negate Paul’s statements since we do not know when, where, or under what circumstances these women exercised their gift of prophecy.
However, in this postmodern world, where many believe the Bible must be read through 21st century-colored glasses, many are asserting that women’s roles have changed. They deny that 1 Timothy 2 pertains to worship even though the context speaks of a public gathering. They cite Galatians 3:28 to say that in Christ “there is neither male nor female,” and overlook the fact that this passage shows that both men and women have the same access to God through Jesus Christ and does not address roles. After becoming Christians, men are still men and women continue to be women, and God has much to say to Christians as men and women (see 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 5:1-3; Titus 2:1-8).
We believe that men are to be spiritual leaders in the church and in their families. However, many men have abandoned this role of leadership. In the church, some men “retire” from the service of the Lord and are content to attend worship and let others lead. They may have leadership traits but choose to bury these talents. In the home, men often defer spiritual leadership to their wives and overlook the fact that God has placed the role of leadership directly upon their shoulders. They have the responsibility of training their children in the ways of God (Ephesians 6:4). Of course, their wives are willing and capable helpers in the training of children, but in the final analysis the task belongs to the men.
On the other hand, there are many men who are providing great leadership in the church by serving as elders, deacons, teachers, preachers, song leaders, prayer leaders, and in countless other ways. There are many men who are taking the lead in the training of their children and take this responsibility seriously. The emphasis of this article is good fathers and strong church leaders are first to be great husbands. How can a husband be a great husband and thus enhance his leadership abilities as a father and as a church leader?
BEING A GREAT HUSBAND
First, we must be aware that our society is discarding the role of the husband-father in the family. Many couples are living together without assuming the permanent and committed roles of husbands-fathers and wives-mothers. In other families, the husband-father is absent. He may not live with his wife and children or he may,while being physically present at times, be absent because he is consumed by his job or is forfeiting his responsibilities as the leader because of neglect. As men, we must accept the responsibility of marriage and parenthood by a lasting commitment to our wives and to our children. Our culture often pictures the husband-father as a buffoon who is unnecessary to the proper functioning of the family. Those who promote same-sex marriages have ignored the fact that the Author of marriage decreed from the beginning that marriage is a permanent relationship between a man and a woman who are committed to each other and to the children who become a part of the relationship. Ideally, a family needs a husband-father who will provide spiritual leadership, a wife-mother who will respect the role of a husband-father, and children who are trained by a loving leader and a loving supporter as parents. In some families this is impossible because of death or abandonment, but this is the ideal. As Christians we must speak out for and practice the ideal.
Second, to be a great husband, a man must prepare himself. He can do this by being a Christian who is into the Word of God and who applies Biblical truth to the moral chaos of our day as he stands opposed to homosexuality, abortion, pornography, divorce, dishonesty in business, and a myriad of other moral issues. Further, he can prepare himself to be a spiritual leader by being a man of integrity––he can be what he claims to be as a Christian. Additionally, he can prepare himself by sharing what he learns from Scripture with his wife and children.
Third, a great husband loves his wife. One of the greatest gifts he can give his children is to love their mother. Love is not just a feeling but a decision to do what is the very best for his wife. He should learn her love language(s) (see The Five Love Languages by Gary Smalley) and seek to fulfill it (them) as he protects her and provides for her needs.
Fourth, a great husband follows God’s blueprint for husbands as revealed in Scripture. He must see himself as a spiritual leader. God says, “The husband is head of the wife” (Ephesians 5:23). This does not mean “boss” but leader. He should take the lead in Bible reading and prayer in the home as he brings his wife into the presence of God. He should take the lead in the decision to attend the worship assemblies of the church. He should take the lead in making decisions for the family that are in harmony with the revealed will of God. Further, God says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). This means he is to love her with a sacrificial love whereby he seeks to fulfill her needs more than his own. He elevates her and promotes her spiritual growth as she becomes more because of his influence than she could have ever become without him (see Ephesians 5:26-28). He does not love her only when she is “good” or “if she does what he wants her to do;” he just loves her. He does not love her because she deserves it, but because of whom she is to him. This is the way Christ loves us. Additionally, God says the husband “nourishes and cherishes” his wife (Ephesians 5:29). “Nourish” means he builds her up by pampering and “cherish” means he deals with her with the warmth of gentleness.
Finally, in Ephesians 5:31, God reminds husbands to be faithful to their wives in all things since they are now “joined” as “one flesh.” In another passage God tells husband to “dwell” with their wives “with understanding” (1 Peter 3:7a). This means the husband is to study his wife; he is to learn the differences between men and women (see “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” by John Gray, and “What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women” by James Dobson), and he is to provide what she needs. God further says that husbands are to “honor” their wives (1 Peter 3:7b). The word for “honor” means literally “heavy or weighty.” What the wife feels or says or needs carries weight with the husband.
So, the husband is to spend time alone with his wife; he is to praise her for what she does and who she is; he is to “stand in awe” of her when she comes into his presence. If husbands will listen to what God says to them and then live these things out in their relationships with their wives, then they can become great husbands and, by becoming great husbands, they can step up to being great fathers and great leaders in the church of our Lord.
By Jay Lockhart
This article appeared in the June 2011 issue of Think magazine.