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What Does Spiritual Leadership in Marriage Look Like?

Our God is orderly. He created our world, ordered the hours, days, months, and seasons. God was intentional about His design of everything. He left us His guidebook, so we know how to order our days.

In His design, He ordained the beautiful thing we call a family. (Genesis 2:18-25) He created order within marriage and assigned roles to family members. In this article, we will look at spiritual leadership's role and why it is important.

What Does the Bible Say About Spiritual Leadership?

Let's look at a couple of verses in the Bible to guide us on this topic.

Ephesians 5:22 states, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church."

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:3, "But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and head of the women is man, and the head of the Christ is God."

Lastly, Colossians 3:18-19 says, "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them."

The Bible says the man should lead his wife. That doesn't mean he has more value than his wife. Dale Partridge, Pastor and founder of Relearn church, uses the phrase, "equal value, different role." Men and women have equal value in God's eyes, yet a different role to fulfill.

Marriage is a partnership. A healthy, thriving couple seeking God values each other's strengths and input. A godly biblical leader seeks advice from his trusted council. The purpose of marriage is to glorify God and have an opportunity to exhibit how Christ loves the church. The Bible clearly states the man should be leading the house. If we look to Jesus as our model, a true leader exhibits humility, compassion, love, forgiveness, protection, provision, gentleness, and more. That said, no husband will lead their wife or family perfectly because we are all sinners, and they are not Jesus.

What Does Spiritual Leadership Look Like?

I think some people have a misunderstanding of what spiritual leadership looks like. They envision a power hunger husband bossing around his wife and kids. This is the opposite of true spiritual leadership. A man leading his family biblically is about being in a right relationship with the Lord. It's about the husband reading his Bible, humbly seeking the Lord in all that he does. Most importantly, it's a man fearing the Lord. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 9:10)

A godly man knows he is accountable for his wife and kids when he gets to heaven. He is responsible for teaching them, guiding them, making wise decisions, serving them, and loving them well. He is to protect them at all costs. When you understand this correctly, it's a massive responsibility God has put on the head of the house. It's a huge honor and a task with great importance that men need to take seriously. A man seeking the Lord through reading the Bible and prayer will be convicted and led by the Lord. "I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me." (Proverbs 8:18)

A husband who is leading his marriage strives to be a good communicator. He values his wife's opinion, serves her, and prays for her. He serves her not because she deserves it but rather because that's the role God assigned to him. If you look to the Bible for an example of spiritual leadership, I think of Abraham, who led his wife on a journey trusting in God for every need. God blessed their family because of Abraham's great faith.

Men and Their Role in Spiritual Leadership

As discussed above, husbands have an instrumental role in leading their wives. I realize that stepping up to this role is challenging, exhausting, and doesn't come with many short-term rewards. This job requires steadfastness, persistence, and God's strength and wisdom. Regardless of the difficulty, this world desperately needs men to step into their role as the spiritual leader of their marriage and family. A marriage and a family need leadership. If the husband doesn't step up, the spouse will fill the role and remain out of order until the positions are reoriented.

This happened in our own house. Before my husband and I truly understood our roles, I was constantly vying for leadership in our home. It's a natural fleshly desire to want to take over leadership, especially as a strong-willed, independent woman. Our house has run more smoothly and peacefully as my husband and I continually seek the Lord and better understand our roles. When you stay within God's design for marriage, things don't always work out perfectly, but there is an unexplainable harmony, a beautiful dance that occurs.

Men who are sitting back, letting others lead their wives and families, need to take the reins. Yes, it will mean more work and responsibility, but it's a job that's been assigned to them by our Heavenly Father. This job is of utmost importance, and it's a job they've been created to fulfill. Genesis 2 defines the man's role to work and keep. A godly man provides stability and security that is needed in his home. He nurtures the heart and the mind of his wife and children. If every man and dad knew how impactful their role is, our world might be a different place.


Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Ben White

Why Is Spiritual Leadership Important in Marriage?

A ship sails aimlessly about without a captain, a classroom turns to chaos without a teacher, and a company needs a CEO to make final decisions. A married couple and a family need a leader. They need a guide who is seeking the Lord's guidance in this sinful world. "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go." (Psalm 32:8)

Spiritual leaders guide and direct the ship. They look out for potential danger ahead. They make sure everyone aboard is safe, and their needs are met. If trouble arises (as it always does), they develop a plan to solve the problem. They take advice from their shipmates and constantly provide encouragement. They develop the best route to get to their destination. They ensure the ship stays on course and are responsible for everyone getting safely to their destination.

Sally Clarkson has a quote pertinent to this topic, "In the absence of biblical conviction, people will go the way of culture." Meaning, if a couple is not actively working to have the right relationship with the Lord, their decisions will be heavily influenced by culture. By not deciding to lead your marriage actively, you are deciding to let others lead your house by default.

A solid biblical leader will not take their role for granted or boast about their knowledge. Instead, they will model the ultimate servant leader Jesus and make sure He is aboard the ship. They will acknowledge their shortcomings, repent, and ask for help.

How Can a Wife Support Her Husband in Spiritual Leadership?

How can a wife support her husband as he leads their family? Or, if your husband is not stepping into this role, what can you do?

The Bible says in Proverbs 21:9, "Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife." Based on this verse, a wife cannot nag, coerce, or argue her way to force her husband to spiritually lead them. Only God can change hearts, but there are a few things a wife can do. The first is prayer. The word pray is used 313 times in the King James Bible. Psalms 37:4 tells us, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Pray a specific Scripture for your husband's heart to be turned to Jesus every day. I am talking about consistent, heart-felt prayers you say for years.

I have been praying Isaiah 11:2-5 for my husband for over five years. I take God's words and insert my husband's name to personalize the prayer. "May the Spirit of the Lord rest on Jonathan, give him a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord – that he will delight in the fear of the Lord."


Photo credit: ©Pexels/Luis Quintero

You can encourage your husband to be in groups and build relationships with other solid Christian men, preferably an older man who has experience with marriage and family. Let him speak truth into your husband. Pray your husband's ears and heart are open to this man's advice. You can model healthy habits by reading your Bible and having your prayer time.

Respect goes a long way in a marriage, especially with men. If you are frustrated with his lack of leadership, lovingly communicate your desires, but respect him regardless. Give him time to grow into this role. The culture doesn't teach men how to spiritually lead; if anything, the opposite. Be patient with him, and never stop praying!

A husband seeking God and truly leading his wife and children biblically is a beautiful thing. The house is in order. "He rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6) The role of a spiritual leader is a critical one, and it's being attacked by culture. In today's climate, men are backing down from the job for many good reasons, but the Christian community is paying the price. We need husbands accepting and committed to the role God designed for them. We need them leading their wives and children. We need husbands fearing less in what others think of them and fearing more in the Lord.

Photo credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Carolyn Horlings

Katie Kennedy headshotKatie T. Kennedy lives in Richmond, VA. She is married to a wonderful husband Jonathan and they have three girls. She is a writer, blogger, and employee of the family business. After a mid-life spiritual transformation, she discovered her love of writing. She loves to travel, read, be in nature, cook, and dream.  She would love to connect with you online at www.katietkennedy.com, Instagram or Facebook.

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