educate equip enable
Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in male leadership.
I believe that men are by nature leaders. I believe that they should be the leaders in their homes. And I believe that they should act like leaders. Of course, it isn't always clear what exactly that means, so let's explore a few ideas.
There are two basic models for leadership: worldly leadership, and Christlike leadership.
Worldly leadership doesn't need a lot of explanation because it's almost universal. You've experienced it, I'm sure. You might even be exercising it yourself. It's authoritarian, self-centred, and oppressive. At its extreme, it is brutal. Think of Adolf Hitler as an example of worldly leadership taken to its limit. In contrast to this, and far less common, is Christlike leadership. As a Christian man, this is the model you should choose.
Christlike leadership is authoritative, but not authoritarian. When Jesus had finished preaching what we now know as the Sermon on the Mount, the people were astonished because He taught with authority (Mat 7:28-29).
But you never find Jesus just bossing people around. And you would be hard-pressed to find a single instance where He told His followers to do anything where He would be the sole beneficiary. Jesus exercised authority selflessly.
Christlike leadership is characterised by heroic self-sacrifice. Jesus didn't have to go to the cross for us. But He did it anyway. He pressed on through the pain barrier. If I had been Jesus, I would have wiped the scorn right off the Pharisees' faces with a small show of divine power. Jesus resisted that temptation.
Personally, I believe that it was impossible to kill Jesus because "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23) and Jesus never sinned. That's why Jesus said, "I lay down My life ... No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself." (Jn 10:17-18)
He could have chosen to die after the scourging. He surely would have lost enough blood. But the full price had not yet been paid for our sins, so He pressed on. He could have died while carrying the cross on the road to Golgotha. It was a colossal effort after having been scourged. But He pressed on because He had not yet fully paid for our sins.
He could have died as soon as they nailed Him to the cross. But He held on, in agony, till the right moment came when He could truthfully say, "It is finished" (completed - Jn 19:30). He chose to die only once everything had been accomplished.
That's what it means to be courageous. That's what heroic self-sacrifice is all about. And if you're a man, that's what God has called you to in your leadership right there in your own home.
That's quite a challenge, isn't it? Think you can handle it? Because if you thought that being the leader in your home meant that you could just come home from work at night and demand, "Hey, woman! Get me my dinner. Bring me my coffee! And where are my slippers?", then think again.
That's not leadership, that's despotism. And unfortunately, it's a common mistake even among Christian husbands. And frankly, it's not good enough.
Now don't get the wrong idea here. Jesus was meek, but He wasn't a wimp.
He said, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart..." (Mat 11:29)
But the same Jesus who said that also fearlessly stood up against the powerful religious leaders of the day. This same Jesus also refused to be intimidated by a storm in the lake that was so powerful that all of His disciples, even those who were experienced fishermen, were in fear of losing their lives.
You might remember that at one time, the meek Lord Jesus observed all the buying and selling in the temple, promptly made his own whip, drove out all the moneychangers as well as the animals, poured out their money, and turned over their tables.
Meekness is not weakness.
Real meekness is humility. A big part of that for us men is the understanding that we're not always right. It means being selfless and putting the needs of others first. It means being a servant-leader rather than the boss man. That's what real meekness is all about.
If you're not familiar with this term, take a look at the section on Mature Christian Leadership. Leadership principles apply in your home too, not just in your church or at your job.
Self-leadership is all about taking responsibility. And I don't just mean saying sorry for the things you do wrong. That's a given. I mean taking responsibility for your life and where it's headed. I'm talking about doing the things you're supposed to be doing without having to have someone else tell you to do them.
Is your wife nagging you about stuff? Is she just nagging, or does she have a valid point that you need to take some notice of? Self-leadership means recognising what you need to be doing, and doing it. No ifs, no buts. Just get it done.
As I mentioned before, I believe in male leadership. And leadership is leadership no matter where it's exercised. So let's see if we can apply some of the principles of leadership that are in the Leadership Studies section to home life.
First of all, a reminder of our definitions which highlight the difference between ministry and leadership:
Ministry: Any activity that meets the needs of others.
Leadership: Any activity that facilitates, influences, or directs the ministry of others.
You are both a minister and a leader in your home. Did you take that in? As a minister, you are meant to meet the needs of your wife (and your children). But as a leader you are meant to facilitate, influence, or direct their ministries - and not too heavy on the directing!
Let's take a look at how this works by using some of the exact same activities we discussed in the Leadership Studies section, and applying them to your marriage relationship.
Team is at the very heart of leadership. Jesus built a team, Paul had a team, and a good marriage is all about team. The thing about marriage though, is that very often even Christian marriages are a long way from exemplifying the ideals of team.
Paul understood this concept. He said, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers." (2 Cor 6:14) Naturally, the idea of being unequally yoked is easily understood within the context of a Christian marrying a non-Christian. It's not too hard to understand that two people of different belief systems are bound to be pulling in different directions, much the same as two oxen yoked together but facing opposite ways.
As they say, if a child of God marries a child of the devil, he is bound to have trouble with his father-in-law.
However, this isn't the only way that a Christian can be unequally yoked in marriage. Consider, for instance, a man with a calling to live in Africa as a missionary and he marries a woman who has a calling to live in Brazil as a missionary. Don't you think that this combination might cause a few problems in the relationship?
It may not always be as stark as this, but as a pastor, I regularly meet Christian couples who are constantly tugging in different directions. Of course, if you have two separate and irreconcilable callings, then you have a major problem on your hands.
But most unequal yokings that I observe are more a matter of attitude than anything else. A husband who wants to be uninvolved in church and a wife who is totally committed to her fellowship. A woman who wants to pursue her ministry with no thought for her husband's needs. A person who is a workaholic ignoring the needs of their partner.
These sorts of problems are able to be sorted out, but it has to start with you. That's right, I'm talking to you. The man of the house, the leader, the head honcho. Because if you're not willing, with courage and wisdom, to pursue a course that will turn your marriage into a smooth-running team, then you're not a leader at all.
It starts with you. You have the challenge to love your wife to the point where she willingly wants to be part of your team. If you can't do that, then the rest of the principles of leadership will be very difficult for you to apply to your marriage.
Yes, you read it right. As the leader in your home, you have to be able to think. I don't just mean the kind of thinking that everyone does. I mean the kind that you should be able to expect from any leader who's worth his salt.
This kind of thinking is the kind that tackles family problems with faith and a positive outlook. A leader has to be able to handle complex thought, strategic thinking. Many problems in life just happen and you can't see them coming. But there are numerous problems that are foreseeable.
A leader has to be able to think ahead, anticipate the problem, and start working towards a solution. Maybe there isn't a solution outside of an act of God, but you'll never know till you start giving it some serious thought, as well as prayer for God's wisdom. If it turns out that the problem is not able to be solved by you, then take it to the Lord.
Here are some possible scenarios that are foreseeable. You may not be able to solve them, but you should be giving them some thought anyway. That's your responsibility as the leader in your home. And don't get all spiritual and say, "Well, God will sort it all out. I'll just trust Him."
Trusting God doesn't mean sitting back and doing nothing. Every man of faith in the Bible was also a man of action. Now for those examples:
1. You're a middle-aged man with not much money in the bank. Have you given any thought to how you will survive during your retirement?
2. Your teenage son / daughter is rebelling against God big-time. How are you going to handle it? You can't just dump this on your wife. That's just wimping out.
3. Your bills amount to a lot more than you can afford. What are you going to do about it?
4. Your work requires you to work a lot of extra hours for a couple of months. How are you going to help your family through this time when you are far less available? Telling them to get over it isn't an option!
5. Your wife wants to re-enter the workforce after many years of being a housewife (a truly high calling). What support will she need from you?
These are just a few examples when there are numerous possibilities. If you really want to be the leader in your home, then you have to be a thinking man.
You can ask yourself the exact same questions that a church leader can ask when providing leadership for their church. What does God want my life / marriage to look like in five years time?
Simple question, isn't it? But as I pointed out in the For Leaders section, it has a very specific wording. This isn't about what you want. It's about what God wants. I know that there are different definitions of vision. But sometimes people spend more time fretting over whether their statement is a Mission Statement or a Vision Statement than they do on the actual statement itself.
Let me make it really simple. A vision is something you see. It's visual. That's why the question is all about what your marriage or your life will look like in five years time. What vision has God given you for the future.
A visionless man is a disappointment to his family. I remember a while back a man visited my church. After the usual introductions, I asked him what he did for a living.
He told me, and so I asked, "Do you enjoy your work?"
"I hate it," he replied
"What would you like to do?" I asked.
"Nothing," he said miserably. Then he added, "And get paid for it."
I could have happily bopped him on the nose right there and then. Unfortunately, I'm a pastor and that kind of thing is frowned upon. But what a pathetic excuse for a husband. His vision for the future is sitting around like a big, fat blob, waiting for someone to dole out money to him so he can indulge his laziness.
Anyway, enough on that. I suspect you have a fair idea of what I think of that kind of leadership.
If you're stuck in a job you hate, don't just sit around waiting for someone to rescue you, or wallowing in self-pity, or whining to everyone you see. Do something about it. Get a vision for your life. Be a man. That's the kind of leadership your wife and family need.
So exactly what does God want your life or marriage to look like in five years time? And while you're thinking about this, here's a simple piece of advice. Don't get stuck in the rut of indecision. It shouldn't take you five years to figure this out. It isn't rocket science. You ask God for wisdom, and you expect Him to give it to you. Don't be afraid of making a mistake. And don't forget to run it by your team - your wife.
Once you've got your vision, here's a little clue: It won't happen by itself. This is important for you to understand. Whatever your vision is, it isn't just going to fall out of the sky. Now you need to start setting goals for the future.
As the leader in your home, your goal-setting isn't just about you. You have to be setting goals that facilitate, influence, and direct the ministries or careers of your family. This isn't an autocratic deal where you make their decisions for them. You have to involve them in setting goals that will accommodate their desires for the future.
Regarding your personal future, set goals that will help you fulfil your God-given vision. Your wife will be greatly relieved to discover that she is married to a man who isn't just wandering aimlessly through life waiting for things to happen to him.
It's probably time for us to look at a practical example before we talk about planning. Let's say there's a lot of conflict in your marriage. Your five-year vision is that your home is going to be a harmonious place to live, a haven of peace. What sort of goals can you set that will bring about the fulfilment of that vision?
This isn't a marriage guidance website, but obviously, the goals you set will depend on what the source/s of conflict is / are, but let's consider a few possible goals that might help deal with your marital conflict. One goal may be to reach the point where you can discuss difficult topics without erupting into an argument. For this, you may need to plan to read up on conflict resolution or managing conflict.
Or if your goal is to spend less time at work and more time at play so that you're not such a grouch, you need to plan how to do this. Maybe you need to consider whether you can live on a smaller income. Or perhaps it's time to consider delegating some of your work to someone else.
If your goal is to understand better the way your wife thinks, forget it. It's not possible. Hey, just kidding. There are plenty of good books around, some of which are recommended in the Recommended Reading section of this site. Check out your local Christian bookstore too.
Making your home a harmonious place is a fairly straightforward goal, and these are simple plans that you might put into action to help you reach your target. You may come up with some completely different ideas, but the important thing to remember is that if you don't do anything, nothing will change.
Many years ago, I decided that I would take my wife out regularly just for coffee. It may not seem like much, and it's a comparatively small investment, but it's an investment that has paid dividends. It's an opportunity for us to spend time together outside of our job or home environments, and we just talk.
We talk about our lives, our goals, our desires. We talk about our children, our families, our church. It's time that's well-spent. It's part of my plan to fulfil the goal of enriching our relationship. I started doing this when our finances were really tight and even a couple of cups of coffee could make a difference. But I believe that God's will is God's bill. If God wants me to do something, then I can trust Him for the money. He's never let us down.
Men need to be decision-makers. It's an important aspect of leadership. But it's just as important that we understand the basis of decision-making. Here's how it works. It is essential that the decision-making process be built on a foundation of selflessness.
I once saw an episode of the American sit-com TV series Frasier that illustrates this. Niles was having a discussion with Daphne, his fiancée. He had bought her some tickets to a Billy Joel concert, and she had bought him some tickets to a Mongolian throat singing concert.
Problem? Both concerts were on the same night. And Daphne wanted to see Billy Joel, whereas Niles wanted to see the Mongolian throat singing. There ensued a conversation centred around who had their own way the last time there was a conflict in their personal interests.
It makes great comedy, but guys, this should be one of those no-brainer kinds of decisions. If the husband is the leader in the home, and he makes decisions based on a foundation of selflessness, then the solution is very simple. He lays down his own desires for the sake of his wife.
How often should he do this? As often as possible. That's what it means to be the leader. Leadership is not about getting your own way. It's about sacrifice. It's about the kind of heroism that maybe never gets acknowledged.
Now if your wife one day says, "Hey, wait a minute. You let me do what I wanted to do last time. It's about time we did what you want to do." That's different. Let her put you first. But until then, it's always your turn to sacrifice on her behalf. Again, that's leadership.
If you have this firm foundation of selflessness in your life, then there still may be times when you have to make unpopular decisions. Your family may not understand and agree with your decision - even though you've discussed it with them. But at least they'll never doubt that you have their best interests at heart.
In important issues especially, make sure you include your wife in the decision-making process. Also, do what God's Word says to do: Seek wise counsel. (Pr 11:14) And don't take forever to make a decision. Remember the saying that if you take too long to make a decision a time will come when the decision will have been made for you.
Once you've made a decision, stick with it. Unless, of course, it becomes apparent that it was the wrong decision. For a lot of men, this is a difficult area. Many find it virtually impossible to admit they are wrong. So pride leads to stubbornness, and stubbornness keeps them from making a quality decision.
If you've made a mistake, admit it and move on. Everyone makes mistakes. It's been said that the person who never made a mistake, never made anything at all. If you do admit mistakes when you make them, your life will be better because you'll be able to correct them sooner, and your family will admire you more.
Once you've made your decision, be a doer and not just a talker. My mother used to have a saying: All talk and no action. A lot of men are like that and it frustrates the socks off their wives. Once the decision has been made, the time for mere talk is over. It's now time for action. Follow through on your plans. By all means, talk about them because that will help you stay motivated, but keep the ball rolling.
Let's take a look at some very important verses in the Bible.
Eph 4:11-12 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, (12) for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
This passage and the verses following it give a basic job description of church leaders. Take a look at what's right at the top of the list. It says, "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry". In other words, the leaders are supposed to equip others so that they can do the work of the ministry. Leaders are supposed to release others into their God-given callings.
This applies in the home too, but it is very different from the system which many of us have inherited from leaders who went before us. A very common paradigm is that everything is about the husband. The little wife is there to support her husband in his ministry, his career, and his calling. It's all about him.
I want to say in no uncertain terms that this is totally unbiblical leadership. Check out Proverbs 31 and see what God's pattern is for a godly woman. The woman in this chapter is a real achiever. I realise that not every woman has the capabilities to be an entrepreneur like Mrs Proverbs 31, so don't read this and think that it gives you licence to pressure your wife into things she's not comfortable with.
But as the leader in your home, your function is to release your wife into her calling whatever that may be. Tragedy is that many men function as bosses instead of leaders. Their home is their empire, they're the dictator.
But true leadership starts with encouragement and being supportive. It means helping your wife to recognise her strengths and providing the resources so that she can fulfil the potential that God gave her. If you are currently unable to afford whatever it takes to release her into God's plan for her life, then you need to begin to pray and exercise faith.
Don't ever just say, "I can't." A leader never begins with his resources to try and figure out God's will. He prays and discerns God's will and then believes God for the resources. What is God's will? In this context, it's fulfilling your God-given leadership role and releasing your wife into God's plan for her life.
I can't tell you how exactly that applies to your situation. It may mean she needs to study. You may just have to buy books for her or send her to conferences or seminars. It may mean investing money in a business venture. Whatever it is, it will be a great adventure for both of you, and you will reap the rewards for investing yourself in her life.
Think you've got what it takes to be the leader in your home? God does.