Men’s Spiritual Leadership And The Bible

One of the most overused, misunderstood, and confusing things in the church is the idea of leadership.  This is especially true when it comes to men in relation to women. It’s my hope today to make that even more confusing.  Just kidding.  Maybe.

Before we get biblical so to speak, let me throw out three simple thoughts on leadership. Being a leader is not super complicated.  It requires really two main things.  First you have to be going somewhere.  Second, someone has to be following you.  Just because you strike out in a direction does not make you a leader.  That just makes you going somewhere, which is great.  But to be a leader means that you actually lead others.

Secondly, it’s also important to note that leadership is not contingent upon being a “good” person.  That would make you a “good” leader in a sense.  But as I’ve mentioned before you can be a bad person and an effective leader.  Hitler had a ton of followers.  As awful as that was it would be ridiculous to say that he was not a leader.

Jesus was of course the greatest leader in history by any definition of the term.  He changed the world order.  As a follower of Jesus our hope is that we can lead people towards Him and His kingdom.  Which brings us to point three – we have to first be a follower of Him in order to lead towards Him.  I want to clarify that before we start looking at leading others because even though we can learn a lot about leadership from looking at Jesus and how He led, if we aren’t actually following Him then really we aren’t going to the right direction to begin with.  And remember, direction matters.

Now all of that seems pretty straight forward.  So why is it that we are all so confused in the context of singleness and marriage?  There are a lot of reasons.

Some of it has to do with the fact that in order to sound more with the times in our culture we have sort of used the word leadership in some places that aren’t necessarily biblical. They sound biblical but they add to the confusion.

One of the places this happens is when we say that the man is the spiritual leader of the household when he is married.

What most people refer to is the scripture in Ephesians 5:22-33.  Paul is giving instruction to the people of Ephesus about life and in this particular part talks about husbands and wives.  He says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ as the head of the church.  He commands the husbands to love and give themselves up for their wives and wives to submit to and respect their husbands.

Now whole books have been written about this and I have only a few hundred words here so we are going to keep it in the context of our conversation here.

The first thing to note is that this is not conditional.  Just as the vows you take on your wedding day are not conditional.  When you make the vows you don’t say, “I promise to love and cherish and not forsake you if you do these certain things”.  No your promise is unconditional.  Until death.  That’s the vow.  It’s a covenant not a contract. This is similar. Paul doesn’t say, “Husbands love your wife if you feel in love” or “Love your wife if your romantically attracted at the time” or “love your wife if she is nice to you”.  Nor does he say, “Wives submit to your husband when you feel like its a good idea” or “submit to your husband if he’s earned it that day”.  It’s a command for each person regardless of the situation.*

The second thing to note here is that the word leadership isn’t used. The word head is used to name the role, and the instructions to the man (instructions for the head) describe what he is to do.  But nowhere is he called the leader.  It’s not that he doesn’t lead.  As the head, Christ leads the church – by loving it no matter what.  But he does have positional authority.  Leading is a part of the job description, but it’s not the job title.

Now here is where everyone freaks out.  We don’t like that.  So what happens is one of the following:

Some say, “It talks about mutually submitting before that . . . ”  That is just a terrible argument.  You can say, “What was true for Ephesus isn’t true now.” That’s an argument.  I disagree with it.  But that makes some sense and I can respect it.  But pretending Paul doesn’t mean what he says is weak and intellectually dishonest.

Some want to abuse it.  This happens when we give men the role (head) without the instructions (love, give your self up etc).  This is where men can abuse their position.  This has for sure happened throughout history and still happens today.

But most in evangelical culture today want to say essentially, “Men, this is your position, if you do everything right and earn it.  Your wife will let you know when that is.”  I know that’s a little sarcastic.  But this is really does seem to be the message.  Do it all right and then it will all go right.  That last sentence is dangerous on a lot of levels.

We like the term “spiritual leader” because it sounds better than head.  But what we end up telling guys is: If you lead well, you’ll be the head.  What we need to instead say is: you’re the head, so lead well.  When we get this wrong, we basically want men to take on the responsibilities that he has without giving him the role that he should have.  Why would anyone want that?

Once you’re married – from a biblical perspective, you’re the head.  You can either be a good one or a bad one and your wife is not necessarily the grade card on that.

Wow! We just covered a lot of ground not very deeply.  You still might be thinking, “what in the heck does this have to do with me the single man?”  In my next post I’ll give you some thoughts on why how you view this is so important.  For now I’d ask you to think about exactly that.  How do you view all of this?

*I understand that there may be extreme conditions that would be exceptions – such as abuse etc. but we have turned everything into an exception and it isn’t working out well.

Do You Consumer Date?

We live in a crazy consumer culture.  I mean we always have to have the latest thing that will somehow fulfill our latest need.  Have the Iphone 4? Don’t worry the 5 will be better, faster, more features.  So you better have it – and right now!  I had the same phone for like 6 years.  Now I get a new one every year. (Full disclosure – I’m so totally going to go get the Iphone 5)

We used to save stuff, protect stuff and use it again.  Nothing was disposable.  Now almost everything is.  Now granted with harder economic times this has changed a little. But not much.  We have a desire, there is a product to meet it.

This attitude of consumerism has leaked into every area of our culture – including the church and for sure dating and marriage.

It starts with the idea that dating and marriage is about meeting my needs.  This is part of the problem with the idea of THE ONE.  The idea that there will be one perfect person that will satisfy me or meet my needs.  This is of course false – Jesus is the only ONE.  But that isn’t what we often think.

This can cause us to go through date after date or even relationship after relationship.

We try them all on and see if it fits just right.  Which it never does.  As soon as we figure out that this person isn’t meeting our needs, it’s over.  There must be a better product (person) out there for me.  Time to trade in the Igirl 4 for the newer model.

The truth is there will always be another person.  There’s always someone hotter, who gets me better, who will meet this or that particular need.  There will always be someone else. Always.

This can also keep us from ever having a date.

It’s like all we do is window shop.  We look at someone and determine before we ever meet them if they could be THE ONE.  We determine they aren’t because of this or that factor.  We might even test drive them.  Let’s all hang out together and get to know each other as friends.  Really?!  We end up ruling people out before we ever even pursue them. Why – well I’m not attracted to her this week etc.

Some of this happens because we are just flat afraid of choosing wrong.  We’ve seen so many relationships go bad.  But some of it is we just need to get over ourselves.  I mean when we consumer date we are basically saying, “Hey I’ve got all my stuff together so I need someone who can meet my desires and needs.  So as long as you do that we are good to go.”  Everyone wants to consumer date, but no one wants to be consumer dated.

Here’s the best part – sometimes in Christianity we accidentally reinforce this idea.

We tell singles (young ones especially) that the person they marry should have all these traits.  We tell them what they are looking for – the Proverbs 31 woman or the Ephesians 5 guy.  Hahaha.  I mean who lives that out perfectly?  I can remember as a young Christian making a list of “requirements” for this person (plus she had to be hot of course – I mean you have to be attracted).  This did keep me from marrying the wrong person I guess, although it also helped keep me from marrying any person.

Now I’m not suggesting that we should have no standards – especially as a follower of Jesus.  But at the same time you don’t marry a list.  You marry a person.

This is why our understanding of marriage is so important.  It’s a covenant not a contract. It’s not a freaking purchase.  It’s a commitment for life.  Think about the vows you take (at least most of the time).  They are all about what you are going to do.  You don’t say, “I promise to be with you as long as you love me the right way.”  No!  “You say I promise to love you no matter what happens.”

This is soooo hard for most of us.  It really is.  But changing this mindset changes everything. All of a sudden I’m not looking for this person who can meet every need the way I want.  Instead I’m looking for this person who I’m going to choose to love no matter what.  Those are two totally different things.

So, are you a consumer dater?  What is it you are really looking for?