Dating, Faith, marriage

Portrait of a Spiritual Leader

Life is funny sometimes.

I’ve been waiting for years for God to give me permission to enter the dating scene, and—at what seems the most inopportune and unlikely time of my life—I have found myself tip-toeing into a relationship.

As I enter this new season of life, I am asking many questions: What am I looking for in a man? What are the non-negotiables? How do I incorporate a relationship into my already full life? How do I balance work, ministry, and family?

But perhaps the most important question I am asking is: What does it mean for a man to be the spiritual leader of the home?

I actually brought up this question with a male friend of mine several months ago. He is a committed Christian, has served in ministry all of his adult life. And as we talked, I began to realize that men and women may have very different ideas of what it means to be a spiritual leader. Men seem to think they must be theological giants, exegeting scripture perfectly, presenting deep spiritual truths.

Women, on the other hand, don’t necessarily care about great theological truths. We are looking for more simplistic steps of leadership, basic daily steps to help us grow in Christ.

As I pondered these differences, I decided to dive in a little deeper. I surveyed a group of my female friends, and from their responses I have compiled a list of the most important characteristics of a spiritual leader…to a woman.

A spiritual leader has a growing relationship with Christ. Before a man can lead his wife or family, he must have a solid foundation. He should know for certain that he has given his heart and life to God. He should be fully devoted, seeking to grow daily in his walk with Christ.

What does this look like? A commitment to the word and to prayer. A commitment to church. A commitment to obedience. A man with a growing relationship with Christ will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), will not merely listen to the Word but will do what it says (James 1:22). A growing relationship with Christ will be evident in the way he lives every day.

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

A spiritual leader models the Christian life for his wife and children. Not only does a true spiritual leader grow in his walk with Christ, he lives out God’s commands in front of his wife and children. He lives the Christian life in the privacy of his own home, behind closed doors where no one except his family sees him. He is the same in his private life as he is in his public life.

Modeling the Christian life for your family means you take the initiative to bring God into your everyday life. You make it a point to talk about God in the details of life (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). You pray together, pray for them. You make your life revolve around God and His purposes.

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. Ephesians 5:25-26

A spiritual leader takes initiative to serve his family. Why did Christ come to earth? To serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

True leadership is servant leadership, and a true spiritual leader models Christ’s life by serving his family. I’ve known men who acted as if leadership was about his family serving him, as if he were the king of the house. Everyone walked on eggshells hoping they didn’t offend him…all while he sat in his favorite chair ordering his wife and kids around. I know men who hold the “submit” command over their wives, expecting them to meet their every want and whim.

That is not the portrait of a true leader. A spiritual leader looks for ways to serve his spouse and children. He seeks ways to help his family, to make their lives easier. He leads by becoming a servant of others.

Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:43-45

A spiritual leader is a protector of those he loves. There are areas where we women simply were not created in the same way as men. As a general rule, we are physically smaller and weaker. And sometimes we need men to protect us.

It’s not just physical protection we long for, though. What about that person who spoke an unkind word? Or the family member who took advantage of us? Or the child who disrespected us? Sometimes we need our men to step in, to stand up for us. I, personally, am a very non-confrontational person. I would almost never speak my mind in one of those situations. But to have my husband step in and defend me (kindly and tactfully)? To have my husband help me fight those battles I wasn’t created to fight? Nothing would make me feel more loved than to know my husband has my back.

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7

A spiritual leader is a man of integrity. Integrity is huge to us! My life has been rocked by infidelity, and I could never trust someone who doesn’t live with integrity. I’ve learned that a man who would bend the truth in small areas also has the ability to bend the truth in larger areas.

Integrity is about complete honesty in all areas of life. A spiritual leader shows integrity at home and at work, in his finances and in his relationships. He lives at a level few people will understand. If he says yes, you can rest assured it will be done when he says it will be done. He doesn’t bend the rules to benefit himself. He is honest to a fault.

I will be careful to live a blameless life… I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride. Psalm 101:2-5

A spiritual leader exhibits true humility. Have you known a man who thought he was above accountability? He wanted to be a lone ranger, living his life on his terms without input from anyone else.

A spiritual leader recognizes his own weaknesses and invites others to hold him accountable. He seeks out godly counselors who have the freedom to ask him the tough questions…and he respects them enough to tell the truth. He realizes he is weak and prone to sin, and has systems in place to keep him on track.

And a humble man admits his mistakes, asks forgiveness, and changes his ways so he doesn’t make the same mistakes repeatedly.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

A spiritual leader is a loving, involved father. Scripture is clear about a man’s responsibility to his children. He is to lovingly bring them up, disciplining them properly. He is to lead them to know God, to walk by faith. He is to provide for his family, seeing to it their needs are met.

Show me a man who has a good relationship with his children, and we will see a man who is mostly content with life. A man who loves his children well will live a full life. But show me a man who neglects his children, who is harsh and angry with his children, and we will see a man who lacks peace in his life. His prayers will be hindered, and his relationship with God will be stagnant at best.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Perhaps the most important characteristic of a spiritual leader is that he recognizes that Jesus is the true head of the home. He knows his authority flows from God and he should not move unless God gives permission. He should willingly submit to the Father in every area of life. A true spiritual leader knows if he is following Christ, it will be easy for his wife to follow him.

But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:3

As I venture into the often overwhelming world of giving my heart to a man, I am looking for one who gives his heart fully to God. I am looking for a man who will be the spiritual leader my children and I crave.

19 thoughts on “Portrait of a Spiritual Leader”

  1. Have you considered looking in the mirror?
    All this time, you haven’t had the male headship of your father to directly lead your spiritual path, nor have you need that of a boyfriend to ensure you’re attending the right kind of church or understanding the Bible correctly. So far, your leader has been you – and you have managed to build your own ministry! Are you so certain that you require male oversight?
    I remember reading a letter my grandfather had written to my grandmother. In the midst of the Great Depression, he had no choice but to go where the work was – in another state. My grandmother became solely responsible for the day-to-day affairs of her family – she was always there to provide and protect them from the crazy things that were going on. She was a spiritual leader in her own right – keeping everyone together and going to church even when her husband was out of state for months at a time.

    1. There’s no doubt I’ve been the spiritual leader, and God has given me tremendous grace. But, as I move forward in the relationship God has brought to me, I am looking to relinquish that title, to allow a man to be the spiritual leader as God has ordained. I’m simply examining my heart, trying to figure out what it looks like to have a man in our lives who carries that title of spiritual leader.

      1. Which makes me wonder something: was a man supposed to be a spiritual leader in a patriarchal setting in the first century Rome-controlled Mediterranean because there’s some divine truth – or would he require of men and women in twenty-first century egalitarian countries to mutually submit as Ephesians 5:21 points to? God seems to speak both, Calvinism and Arminianism, works and faith – perhaps in our haste to pick the popular one we often overlook the merit in the other Biblical teaching.

      2. Jamie Carter, hey sis. Here is my personal view on that. I believe that spiritual leadership should often be led by men. It does not mean women cannot lead for example I LOVE Joyce Meyers and Dena Johnson is a spiritual leader in her own right. Two beautiful examples of women leaders. But when it comes to institutions like churches, countries, families, etc. I do believe that God’s intention was always to have the man be the spiritual head, like to have the final decision as they seek Christ. If we look at Jesus He was a king, yet he submitted to his mother when she pleaded he make more wine for the marriage celebration. He washed people’s feet. He was and is our Servant Leader. I believe it is a gift to have a Leader in such an important position to also be Servant. This is the kind of leadership God requires of husbands only and I believe it is the same kind of servant leadership He requires of pastors and elders etc. From my personal view, I will start by saying I am a huge advocate in women supporting other women and women’s rights to choose. I also believe that when reading scripture, in Proverbs, when it states that a nagging wife is like oil dripping through one’s hands and it is better to be on the roof than live in the same home with her (something along those lines), I had asked God why he never referred to husbands in that exact same way. After learning that men really are created different from us, I believe that is because God created different roles for us. I believe women are given a God given ability to be nurturers. It doesn’t mean a man cannot nurture but they cannot nurture in the same way that a women or mother could. Men’s minds are more compartmentalized. It helps them focus on individual tasks separately which is a plus when leading people. Women’s minds are rich, they see to the heart beyond the immediate situation, women have helped hold communities together. Our minds tend to be more like Spaghetti Noodles. One thought goes into the next thought, and the next one. It is much more difficult for us to take one matter at a time in our minds without analyzing deeper into each situation and also seeking for the heart of a matter. Like a women soldier. She views war differently than the man would, especially if she is a mother. Does this mean she can’t kick butt on the battlefield? Heck no! lol But she may be more concerned about the value of life and the heart of a person than the man would be. That is part of her nurturing capabilities. Women can also, like in Proverbs, be manipulative and because we have the pretty bodies we can be seductive as well. Hence the bible’s reference to beware the “adulteress”. Yet Proverbs also refers to wisdom, as “she”. So we are no less important than men, we are equally important. We were just created for different roles, yet in the absence of a male spiritual head, God can use a woman to fill the gap and do well. In the absence of a nurturing and wise woman, God can use a man who can be successful at being nurturer in his own right. I did a project on this and presented in my women’s studies class and told them I was a Christian feminist! That was my discovery! And that the BIble has never truly expressed that men were to ever dominate women the way they have in our culture. It says in scripture, “Man is not independent of woman, nor woman independent of man”. And to be honest, if my husband served me like Jesus I would welcome his leadership with open arms. I don’t want that responsibility to love my husband like Jesus loved the church! That is a GREAT responsibility to fulfill and one which men will be judged at a higher standard (just as teachers, etc.) But yes we all have a responsibility to love like He loved, but only men have been given the direct command to lead as Jesus led as a spiritual head. God can still use women though In the absence of so many true spiritual male leaders. Thank God for His grace!

      3. Sounds like you’ve read: “men are like waffles, women are like spaghetti” which is just a Christian version of “men are from mars, women are from venus”. History’s repeatedly shown us that having just one kind of leader creates all sorts of problems, one kind of leader has all the same blind spots and weaknesses that can compromise their work. Two kinds of leaders, one who sees things one way and another who has another perspective have a much better chance at putting all the pieces together. But you have stop usurping the God-given agency that He gave women and siphoning it off to the men who know that power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and spiritual power corrupts spiritually. I like the idea of checks and balances – but Christianity lacks such a system. Have you seen the movie “Spotlight”? It shows a religion where only men lead, and the same flaw creates the same problem in protestant churches – where churches fail to protect it’s children and choose to silence it’s women, it’s where abuses of power and authority thrive.

      4. Hi Jaimie! I have not read that book about waffles and spaghetti. I am not sure if the man I watched wrote it, it was a small video clip on a presentation done at church one time. Made complete sense on how the minds and men and women work differently (not that, that is a bad thing). When you mention a “checks and balances” system, are you referring to accountability? It is accountability that any human leadership needs (whether man or woman) in order to walk upright before the Lord (in the Lord’s eyes) and be an effective leader. The Holy Spirit of God (accessible to all men and women who believe in Christ) is also a checks and balances person of God who convicts us in regards to sin and leads us in righteousness. I have never seen Spotlight, but in reference to only men leading well that is not biblical at all! Why would an Almighty God come to the earth fully flesh and fully God in the form of man but do so underneath the rule and leadership of His mother? It is man’s inaccurate perception and lack of understanding of God’s Holy Word that leads some men to misuse the Word to abuse and silence women. Remember when the religious leaders in Jesus time tried to throw stones at a woman caught in adultery? Jesus defended her and reminded the so called “leaders” of that time the error in their ways and in their thinking. They were all men. The error in thinking however is not just a “male thing”. Any man or woman who leans on their own understanding without the help and guide of God’s Word and His Holy Spirit will indefinitely end up leading in error. Because we all have a sin problem (man, woman boy and girl) we still all fall short of the glory of God, pastors, preachers, teachers, worship leaders, everyone. One last thing I wanted to point out, just because someone doesn’t have their name on billboards or on tv, or is famous in the world’s eyes doesn’t fail to make a person a leader. There are so many unrecognized leaders in our world, not just women but men, even children. A true leader knows they don’t have to stand on moutaintops and boast on their title or position. A true Servant leader like Jesus doesn’t seek for fame and accolade. A true leader seeks to make a change in the hearts of man for the better, and thinks of the interests of the people they are leading before they always consider a Shepard and sheep. Do you realize how many women are mothers? They are leaders! How many women help other women? They are leaders too! Might some churches or religions see different on these matters, possibly but here is one thing I know. If I seek HIS truth and not some religion, I will always find it, sooner or later. But in the meantime, I try to show grace to all who I feel or think or believe are in error, because I know there is only one true Judge. I know that like the religious leaders trying to stone the woman caught in adultery, I have not only have been that woman caught in adultery (or in another words in need of God’s grace because of my sin problem) but I have been on the other hand throwing stones. I think if everyone was honest with themselves they would admit they too have been on both sides of the spectrum (man or woman). We also have to remember not everyone in churches are Christians no matter how influential they may seem. As the saying goes, being in a church building doesn’t make you any more of a Christian than being in a garage makes you a car!

      5. Let’s put it another way – I’m left-handed. It means that things that are forward to right-handers are backwards to me and vice versa. if we arbitrarily made up the rule that only left-handed people could be leaders, they’d intrinsically design things to be forwards to them and backwards to the rest. A balanced leadership needs both righties and lefties, men and women, young and old, married and single so that every sort of blind spot is filled and everyone is represented by someone who is where they’re at. Having just men be leaders is the same flaw.

      6. I definitely believe that our differences make us stronger! Just like as a team we are stronger! A true leader understands that they are not above or below the people the lead. I was just saying that the inspired Word of God is infallible and God’s Word says man is not independent of man nor woman independent of man. I do think women have strengths, not to say men can’t have some of the same qualities that woman have, but I take pride in being a woman and being different than a man. I am just saying I don’t think having different roles that others can’t fill as effectively as others, isn’t bad. Not if it’s done the way God has always intended. With humility and love.

      7. And I’m sure that were the Bible written in a matriarchal society where women held the rule of law, every business opportunity, and decided how everyone should live the Bible would reflect that – but it can only reflect the culture it was written in; one in which women were subject to men in pretty much every way. I read a book that described their situation this way: Men were the boundaries – like fences. Women were fenced in, protected by the men in their lives. Women whose fathers threw them out or whose husbands had died or divorced them were like cities without walls – vulnerable. All the Bible did was take what was already there and put God’s stamp of approval on it. Men protect women … from other men, the men who don’t protect women. Are we so sure that God’s saying: “Men have the power to rule, women have the duty to submit.” or “mutual submission is the key idea in relationships”.

  2. So I struggle with 1 Peter 3…BIG TIME. I read it and I keep thinking like God’s Word is clear that even if our husband’s don’t obey the Word that we are to take the responsibility of helping lead them back or to Christ. I feel like I have failed miserably! I keep seeing this Priscilla Shirer woman in my mind who goes into her prayer closet and then I look at myself…I love God but I struggle daily with reading the Word and prayer. After so long of being married (11 years) in a marriage where there has been dishonesty even before we got married and up until now concerning pornography my heart feels a little hard. God has always kept me from falling away and I am grateful for His mercy and grace for me! I struggle though with thinking I can measure up to this wife referenced in 1 Peter 3. I feel like if my marriage fails, I am heavily responsible since I didn’t create a prayer closet and since I didn’t pray and read the Word more. It sounds crazy I know that I love God and I know that I need to read the Word more and pray more but I struggle on a daily basis. Also add to the mix I am a busy stay at home mom of a 2 and 3 year old and it gets even harder to have that alone time. At this point things are so toxic in my marriage that I feel like if I don’t leave I might end up hitting him one day out of anger and hurt (as I have thrown things before) and that he will continue to provoke and tear me down and insult me and try to keep holding me accountable while being that lone ranger that does everything on his own terms and refuses to get help for what he needs to get help for even though I seek for help through godly sisters and brothers and through counselors. I feel like I am failing that my marriage didn’t work out like War Room. That I even am at a point that I feel we need to separate. I am at a loss because I am so discouraged. I doubt myself often and especially when reading 1 Peter 3 I almost don’t even want to consider that it’s my struggles that kept my husband from the Lord. Thank you for your amazing articles they bless me tremendously. They are so open and transparent and honest and we need that in a culture full of superficial Christian living – wiping a smile on our faces while pain saturates our hearts. Thank you and God bless you and your family!

    1. 1 Peter was written to various Grecians some 2,000 years ago. It stands to reason that its application to modern day humans would differ given our disparate cultures and values. Give yourself permission to do what you can to take care of yourself so that you can take better care of your kids. Families today look nothing like those the Scriptures were written to, so we can’t take their medicine to solve our problems. Their prescription isn’t ours.

    2. Jessica, I understand your pain. I did spend many, many hours praying for my marriage…and it still failed. We must remember that God gives us free will. We need to pray for our spouses. We need to cover our marriages in prayer. But, even when we do, our spouses have the freedom to choose sin. We cannot hold ourselves responsible for their sin. Hold tight. Seek God’s face. Let Him lead you.

  3. Gary Thomas was on focus on the family recently taking about how to find a godly spouse. Really interesting if you get a chance to listen to it.

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