Leadership really IS influence. Spiritual leadership in the home is the ability to get your wife and children to follow you in your love for Jesus. My favorite Leadership proverb is, He who thinks he is leading when no one is following is only taking a walk. Successful spiritual leadership at home is creating a desire in your wife and in your children to WANT to follow you as you follow Christ.
Christian men know that God has appointed them to lead their homes. But what does that look like? We don’t want to fail in this role. But how can I succeed at what I know is one of my most important tasks when I can’t actually define what that task IS? In the next two episodes, our goal is for us to come away with a concrete picture of the three components of spiritual leadership in the home and how they work together to maximize our leadership impact in our families.
As I wrestled this week to consider WHERE our God-given calling as men slams against the strongest headwinds in our culture, I realized that it might be in being the spiritual leaders of our homes that Jesus wants us to be. The gale forces pushing against progress in leading are powerful: 1) the busyness of life, 2) a culture that undermines godly manhood, 3) our own sense of inadequacy (our wives are more spiritual—and don’t get taken down by images on the Internet). Perhaps the strongest headwind of all, though, is the question, Where do I start? What do I actually DO so that one day I hear my Commander in Chief whisper, “Gary I entrusted Sandy, Kim, Karen, Brian, Tim, and Josh to you to lead to me. You have done that well! Yes, only I can make them spiritually alive—but you have led them well.”
The most valuable truth I’ve learned about leadership is that leadership is much bigger than authority. Authority is a vital subset of leadership. It needs to be used consistently, and fairly. Our followers, especially when they are young, cannot learn character apart from painful consequences when they violate God’s moral and creation laws. Scripture is clear, For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons (Heb 12:6-8).
In an egalitarian culture where autonomy is the highest value, the biblical worldview counters, “authority is a good thing.” God punishes sin, the boss has the power to fire, God gives the state power to punish wrong behavior, and parents need to exercise firm discipline to train their children. Our race’s fall into evil has sent a desire for autonomy into the core of our being. Hearing that sin has consequences is not enough. For our character to be shaped by a hatred of evil, we need to experience pain when we disobey the moral law written on our conscience. If we deprive our children of painful punishment for disobedience, we never allow their character to be properly formed. They will never learn the pain of controlling their impulses—and they will continue to be as all children come into the world–self-centered. That is why Proverbs warns tender-hearted parents, Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him (Prov 13:24).
But leadership is BIGGER than authority. You might say, authority is the power to COERCE obedience. When kids are young, in our house, we use AUTHORITY (discipline) to get the behavior we want (which also trains them). But when our kids are older, away from the house, if the child still chooses to do what you would want him to do—that’s LEADERSHIP. Authority uses force to coerce obedience, a good, necessary thing not only for order but to train a child to control his impulses. But leadership goes further. It accepts the responsibility of wielding authority but goes beyond it to INFLUENCE. Influence causes your child to want to obey you. The greater your INFLUENCE the less you need to use authority.
In fact, leadership really IS influence. Spiritual leadership in the home is the ability to get your wife and children to follow you in your love for Jesus. My favorite Leadership proverb is, He who thinks he is leading when no one is following is only taking a walk. Successful spiritual leadership at home is creating a desire in your wife and in your children to WANT to follow you as you follow Christ.
Authority, again, is a God-ordained structure that we must teach children to respect. But effective leadership (especially with adults and teens) must go beyond authority. Harry Selfridge, the owner of a London department store chain, shows his managers the difference between seeing themselves as bosses or leaders.
- The boss drives people, the leader coaches them.
- The boss depends upon authority, the leader depends upon good will.
- The boss says, “I”; the leader says, “We.”
- The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.
- The boss knows how it is done; the leader shows how it is done.
- The boss says, “Go!”; the leader says, “Let’s go!”
Let’s formulate a concrete picture of how leadership works. There are 3 COMPONENTS to leadership: the leader, the followers, the objective to be reached. Leaders are taking people somewhere.
A. The Leader. This can be the one assigned leadership by God in the family, or filling a leadership role at work, in the church, in the classroom or on the athletic field. Being a leader is not synonymous with being an upfront person. A dad who is terrified of speaking upfront can be a great leader to his kids—building that influence through time together looking under a car hood or throwing a ball.
B. The Followers. For dads, it is our wife, kids, and grandkids. But followers can also be those I lead in my Bible study, those I serve in church leadership, a friend who has drifted from Christ that I am seeking to bring back, or a work associate I am trying to lead to Christ.
C. The Objective: Leaders are taking their followers somewhere. There is a goal to achieve, a mountain to climb, a destination to reach. When we talk about spiritual leadership, i.e. influencing those around us towards Christ, we could define the goal as spiritual maturity.
The above three arrows are the 3 fundamental PROCESSES to leading.
1. Orange arrow across the bottom: This is the arrow between the leader and the goal of spiritual growth. The leader must, himself, FOCUS upon and MODEL his own commitment to spiritual maturity. He must lead from his life (MODEL). However, here is a key point for men: What you model is DIRECTION not PERFECTION. The gospel is that we all get knocked down by our own sin. Our kids know we fail. It does NOT help them to see us try to hide our failure; what they need is to see us fail and then get up, get back into the race, and follow after Christ even harder.