Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

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.

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