Being a leader implies that someone is following. If a person is attempting to lead anything and no one is following they must ask, “Why is no one following?” Too often, the tendency is to blame the follower. One word that describes leadership is influence. That being true, certainly every Christian has some level of leadership for we all seek to influence others for God. However, this article will focus primarily on men and their leadership influence in the home.
The controversy of male leadership
There are primarily two misconceptions that cause this issue to be so controversial. One is the value of women and the other is a proper understanding of what the Bible means by the term submission. In many cultures today, women are looked at as property without their own rights. This allows them to be mistreated, used and abused. We have even seen this in our own history as a nation. However, the Bible tells us that both men and women were created equally in the image of God. One gender is not superior to the other, but they are different in many ways. When Jesus came into the world, he planted the seeds of restoring women to the valuable position and role in redemption they are created for. He did this by how he talked to, interacted with and empowered women. He treated women in a way that was radical for his day. The Apostle Paul adds to this, telling husbands to value and treat their wives as something precious.
The main controversy comes from passages such as Ephesians 5.32 that tell women to “submit” or “be subject to” their husbands. God is dealing here with the position of spiritual authority as modeled by Christ who is the head of the church. Christ submitted to the Father before he was made the head of the church. Men are told to submit to Christ, and in this passage we are all told to submit to one another. Submission is something a person willingly gives to another or else it is not true submission. Space does not allow us to develop in detail this topic of spiritual authority. But it would be good for men to ask the question, “What would make my wife or children want to follow my leadership?”
The model for male leadership
Christ tells men to love their wives as he loved the church and gave himself for it. Christ became the head of the church because he “became the Savior of the body.” In other words, Christ earned his position of headship. He earned it by his sacrificial love – Christ gave himself to not just a physical death, but also a spiritual one. He who knew no sin became sin for us enduring separation from the Father in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). Study the leadership example of Christ and you will see that he forced no one to follow him. Christ simply extended the invitation to follow his leadership. People submitted to him because he won their hearts.
This is the key to influential leadership in the home – win the hearts of your followers. This is done through serving and love. Servant leadership is totally opposite from the world’s leadership philosophy. The servant leader has the trust, respect and followship of his wife and children because they choose to give it. They feel he desires what is in their best interest and wants to meet their needs.
The development of male leadership
Leaders are made not born. Taking a few simple steps can develop servant leadership:
Submit yourself to Christ (Ephesians 5.18). Yield to his leadership in your life. No one is ready to lead until they first learn to follow.
Submit to others (Ephesians 5.21). Ask the question, “How can I serve my wife and children?” This requires humility, which is the mark of a great leader.
Realize that for a man to get his core need of respect met, he must be worthy of respect. Gaining the respect of others is primarily about character and competence. Both of these traits can be learned if a man is serious about wanting to be respected.
Respect is earned through long-term consistency not perfection. God is looking for the same thing your family is – a perfect heart. This is a heart that seeks after God and desires to grow in love for God. This heart takes responsibility for actions, attitudes and reactions. It is willing to own mistakes, seek forgiveness and repair relationships when necessary.
Accept life’s realities. Don’t waste emotional energy fighting against the realities of your wife’s or children’s emotional needs. Accept them as the unique individuals they are and just go ahead and meet their needs.
Why is there so little true male leadership in our homes today? We could blame it on passive men or aggressive men or any number of reasons. However, the biggest problem is the absence of seeing servant leadership modeled. The challenge the church needs to pick up is to develop men who are examples of loving servant leaders. These are men women will gladly follow.