Male Spiritual Leadership
The biblical concept of male spiritual leadership has fallen victim to the pressures of contemporary culture. The idea that men, in contrast to women, are to occupy the role of leadership in the church and in the home is very unpopular. It is a concept that even causes many in the church to bristle with distaste.
Modern media, evening sit-coms, worldview of our neighbors, and even the church have drifted en mass far away from the paradigm of male headship. So, is the principle of male spiritual leadership to be pragmatically jettisoned, exhaustively overhauled, or painstakingly recovered? I would submit that in order to be biblical in our polity and practice we should undergo a recovery effort. We should teach, enforce, and practice the scriptural ideal of male spiritual leadership.
What is the principle of “male spiritual leadership”? Put simply, it is the concept that the Bible locates special responsibility upon men to take the initiative in matters of faith. It does not in any way purport that women are not allowed to be “spiritual.” And it does not seek to minimize or denigrate being female. Rather, it asserts that when it comes to various roles in the life of the church men and women have different functions.
Let’s briefly consider some of the biblical grounding for the principle. First, in God’s initial creation the man was made first and then the woman (Genesis 2:18-24). The apostle Paul will later consider the creation of man first to be a crucially important act by God in establishing male headship in the church (1 Timothy 2:12-13). Also, the fact that God created Eve “for him” (for Adam) likewise became an action of God quoted to support the teaching that the husband is the head of the wife (1 Corinthians 11:3,8-9).
That leads to the second point of grounding; that the husband is the head of the wife. This statement actually has strong biblical support (Titus 2:4-5; 1 Peter 3:1,5-6a; Colossians 3:18; Ephesians 5:22-24,33; 1 Corinthians 11:3,8-9). This does not mean that the wife is a doormat to be mistreated or abused by the husband. Rather, it pictures a loving home where the husband is the mature spiritual leader who oversees and directs the home in a godly way. This complementarian relationship in marriage pictures the wife putting her husband’s will before her own and the husband putting his wife’s interests before his own. The Bible consistently claims that the husband’s leadership role in the home and marriage originated in God’s deliberative creative design. Male leadership is by God’s sovereign choice.
Third, men are to lead and be the Preachers and Elders in the church. In 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14 a submission principle is laid out that women are not to teach Christian men and are not to have authority over men in the church – a clear statement that church leadership is entrusted by God to men.
Let me be clear. The biblical principle of male spiritual leadership does not relegate female believers to second-class Christian status. It does not tacitly authorize demeaning behavior toward women. It does not allow for dictator type rule of men over women. It is not that women are less important or lesser people of faith. Women are not inferior to men. Instead, in God’s economy, he designed for men and women to have differing roles in the church and home. Because women have a different role in the church and home than men, does not imply inferiority. Differences of roles are just differences of roles; not a value judgment. And the Bible is very clear that God has assigned the role of governance in the church and home to men.
Unfortunately, modern American culture has attempted to blur the lines of gender differences. Consequently, society has tainted our taste for this topic to the point that it is unbearable to most. But the bible draws some clear distinctions between men’s and women’s roles, especially leadership roles in the home and the church. Hence, we need to recover in the church a biblically correct vision of male spiritual leadership. We should not resent the fact that God, out of his sovereign will, has made the choice to give these differing assignments to men and women. Even when we may be tempted to balk at the principle of male spiritual leadership, we should resist those pressures and hold instead to an honoring of the Lord’s will.