I have a theory about male spiritual leadership – it’s a little like dancing.
Most guys are inclined to avoid it except in a moment of daring tomfoolery. If you were to tap a typical church-going husband on the shoulder and say, “It’s time for you to step up as a Christian leader of your family.” the reaction would be remarkably similar to when his wife asks to hit the dance floor at a wedding reception.
First comes the “Wait, did I hear that right?” deer-in-headlights expression. Then there’s some hemming and hawing, accompanied by a quick glance at the men who have already agreed to do so, assessing just how foolish he’ll look relative to the competition (“perhaps there’s someone making an idiot of himself out there that I could stand near!”). Finally, there’s a grudging agreement to try it so long as it’s in the most visually obscure arena possible (and if he’s like me, there may be a few “a beer would help” jokes as he prepares for his debut).
Okay, so maybe it’s not quite that bad, but Jill and I have been leading marriage prep courses for a decade and even with otherwise interactive couples, the mention of male spiritual leadership often evokes silence from our students.
For those that are not raised in the church, most don’t have a clue what we mean until we explain the concept. And for those raised in the church, the topic often causes both members in the relationship to become concerned over the future-husband’s lack of spiritual maturity, regardless of his potential as a spiritual leader.
But God designed marriage and he didn’t give husbands an “opt out” clause when it comes to spiritual leadership. Paul explains in Ephesians 5 that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. In other words, he looks to husbands to love their spouses sacrificially and to minister to their needs. There’s no option to sit at the banquet table all night… eventually we need to hit the floor and get our groove on.
The challenge is in taking that first step. What holds us back is that most guys think that becoming a spiritual leader is something unnatural, that it’s about becoming someone else, and this is where you can help.
If your husband is a Christian but has not embraced the role of “spiritual leader”, you can help him to see past the concept that he needs to become some kind of church elder. Instead, spiritual leadership should be understood as a husband demonstrating a sacrificial devotion to his wife and family and to encourage their spiritual growth, and it doesn’t require a seminary degree.
Begin by identifying the “move” that he’s most comfortable with and encourage him to break it out more often. Perhaps it’s getting the family ready to head to church, or reading Bible stories to the kids. Or perhaps it’s just his willingness to clean out your car or help with the dishes. Whatever it is, point out to him that you recognize this as an example of sacrificial leadership and encourage him to build upon it. Then, as with dancing, that basic move will become more comfortable, anxiety will yield to smiles, and before you know it a random kick or spin will creep into the mix.
And I should note that if your husband is not a Christian, then you might consider how to best make the concept of a Christian man relatable to him. Finding a healthy Christian community with people that are relatable can be of enormous value.
The goal here, regardless of where your husband is at in his spiritual growth, is to help him discover that as we grow spiritually, we become more of who God created us to be – not less. Breaking free from our self-doubt can be a very fulfilling, freeing experience… we just need a few moves of our own.
For more on the wife’s role in marriage check out: Submission Is Not a Four Letter Word