By Brent Rinehart, Crosswalk.com
There are thousands of books about leadership, written by CEOs, pastors and coaches. These types of people have experience leading others in a common goal, so it makes sense that they'd be the ones to pass on principles on the topic of leadership.
Being a sports fan, I've always appreciated the leadership role of a coach. It's amazing to me how they can get so many individuals parts to work in concert, each playing their particular role in moving the team toward a common goal.
My favorite example is the late Dean Smith, the legendary coach of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels men's basketball team.
I grew up a huge fan of Tar Heels – and remain to this day. Dean Smith was a larger-than-life figure for me. There's a framed replica of his 1997 Sportsman of the Year Sports Illustrated cover hanging in my office at work, near a picture of my late grandfather from the pulpit of his church. I consider both men to have been incredible examples of leadership.
For Coach Smith, it’s not the 879 victories that make him a great leader. He helped his players become better on the court and off.
Former UNC player and pastor David Chadwick--who wrote the book The 12 Leadership Principles of Dean Smith--says it this way: “To him, it was always about the team being first. You always pointed to the person who gave you the pass, because the scorer gets the headlines but the person who sacrifices and gets you the ball for the assist does not.
So you recognize that person--you show the people in the stands and watching on television that person is also important. When someone came out of the game, everyone on the bench had to stand up and applaud, or everyone ran the next day. It was a team game. Everyone was a part of it.”
We can read books--like Chadwick's book about Smith--and learn many valuable things about leadership. And, we should do that. But, when it comes to how we should lead our families, where should we look for help?
The obvious answer-- the “Sunday School answer,” if you will--is easy: the Bible. In it, God gives us His design for the family.
Through the writings of Paul in Ephesians, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we can learn exactly how men can be the leaders God has called us to be. Here are 3 areas to focus on.
1. Let Christ Be the Leader of Your Life
“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2
“Walk in love, as Christ…” Those are pretty clear directives. Paul opens up his passage about family with directives for us as individuals. That’s because to lead others, we have to make sure we as individuals are in the right place.
Everyone who considers themselves a leader has been led by someone. They’ve picked up tactics and techniques of good leadership along the way and put them into practice. Every leader has a leader. And, if we want to be a successful leader of our families, that leader we look to should be Jesus. We should be “imitators” of Him and walk in love, just like He did.
We can’t be effective, Godly leaders in our homes until we’ve surrendered our personal throne to the King of Kings. We have to invite Christ to take His rightful place in our lives and allow Him to work through us.
This is not an easy thing to do. It means laying down our own desires, and trading them in for God’s will instead. It means shifting our focus from our goals to God’s. And, as you begin to do that, an amazing thing happens.
Your desires and God’s desires become one and the same.
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 373-5).
Leading your family at home means first allowing God to lead in your life. When you commit your ways to Him and trust Him, He’ll take care of the rest.
2. Love Your Wife as Christ Loved the Church
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Ephesians 5:25
Jesus is the perfect example of leadership. And, we see in how He stooped down to wash His disciples’ feet, He was a servant leader. He gave of Himself – paying the ultimate sacrifice with His death on the cross – to save us. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” he says in John 15:12-13) “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Jesus demonstrated perfect love for us. In Ephesians, husbands are told to love their wives in the same way. Leading your family well doesn’t mean ruling with an iron fist. Rather, it means being willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of your family.
This passage in Ephesians is so often taken out of context. Let’s face it, “wives, submit to your husbands” doesn’t fit well with the modern vernacular. But, if you digest what the husband’s role is, it sheds light on God’s complete design.
As Christians, we don’t really balk at the idea of submitting to Christ. Because we understand the love He has for us and what He sacrificed, we willingly submit – or at least we should. In our homes, it should be similar. Husbands should love so fiercely that everything else falls into place. Leading like Jesus in your home requires a sacrificial love for your wife that reflects His love for us.
3. Treating Your Family as a Mission Field
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Ephesians 5:1
It’s funny how you can see yourself or your spouse in the actions and mannerisms of your children. My wife and I are big fans of the show Friends. From time to time, we quote the show to each other, and we find it hilarious. Of course, our kids have never seen it, but they want in on the fun. So, they repeat some of the same quotes they’ve heard us saying. They might not even get the joke, but they still think it’s hilarious because we do.
Children are sponges, soaking up everything they see and hear. They are imitators of their parents, learning about life by how they see us living it, and then putting it into practice. We have an incredible responsibility.
Ephesians 5:1 reminds us of this, encouraging us to soak up everything about God (like a sponge) and put it into practice. Our lives (according to verse 2) should be an offering to God. In other words, our actions should reflect our heart. If we are living this way, our children will see it and be drawn to know more about Christ.
God has a purpose for each of us. If He has entrusted you with children, then He has given you that opportunity to fulfill a very special calling.
What has become one of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in Deuteronomy 6: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6: 6-7).
We have a responsibility as parents to teach our children what matters to God. It doesn't mean forcing them into a certain set of beliefs or rituals; rather, it means demonstrating a real faith – one that puts the focus on loving God and loving others.
In my view, there's not a greater purpose we can have in life than reflecting God's image for our children to see.
In his book Raising Kingdom Kids, author and pastor Tony Evans writes, “God created the first family. He told them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. And the idea was not just to fill the earth with people, but fill the earth with His image in which man and woman were made.”
Our chief responsibility as parents is to represent the Gospel. We are to teach our children about Jesus and God’s plan for their lives. That’s what leading your family is all about.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Szilvia Basso