4 Fundamental Components of Spiritual Leadership
I hear many Christian men talk about their struggle as spiritual leader in the family. It’s true; men do strive to become godly spiritual leaders in the family. But, what does that mean? Does it simply mean reading the Bible with our spouse and children? Perhaps even expounding on the Scripture? Does it mean assuring that each family member spends time in pray and making time to pray together as a couple or family? Is it the spiritual leader’s responsibility to make sure the family goes to worship services and Bible studies? We like to use these activities as markers of our spiritual leadership because we can more easily measure our productivity. Statements like, “I prayed with my wife…” or “When I led my children in Bible study…” become indicators of our effectiveness as a spiritual leader. However, the mark of a great spiritual leader is much less visible than any of these behaviors imply. In fact, these visible markers tell us very little about the more subtle, and perhaps more important, actions of a spiritual leader. Consider these 4 foundational behaviors of strong spiritual leadership.
Strong spiritual leaders model a Christian lifestyle. Our families need to witness our daily lives reflecting our Christian calling. They need to see us model humility when our spouse points out our mistakes, patience while we sit in traffic, and joy in the midst of work-related stress. Our family needs to hear us encourage rather than criticize, compliment rather than complain. They will benefit from watching us live a life that models the priorities we proclaim. Each family member needs to see that our time management reflects and confirms our heartfelt priorities. Do we spend more time with family or TV, our children or our personal hobbies? Do we talk about the importance of church but choose to sleep in and skip church more often than we attend? Spiritual leaders model a lifestyle that bears witness to the Christian call.
Spiritual leaders develop loving relationships with each family member. After all, relationships are a priority to the spiritual leader. Relationships take time to develop; so, spiritual leaders spend time with each family member. Spending time with family allows the spiritual leader to informally teach values and beliefs throughout the day. Deuteronomy 6:7 gives four specific times we might teach spiritual values to our family: when we rise up in the morning, before we go to bed at night, when we sit around the house, and when we go about various tasks outside the house. Spiritual leaders infuse the normal conversation that occurs between the time we get up and the time we go to bed with statements that reflect love, honor, and integrity. Throughout the day, they look for opportunities to teach about values and beliefs. Remember, you don’t have to “beat them over the head with it.” Offer subtle and common place statements that may lead into deeper discussions. Make it part of your everyday conversation.
Spiritual leader take the initiative in practicing the “hard choices.” They lead the way in areas like forgiveness, personal sacrifice, loving the unlovable, and persevering commitment, to name a few. Spiritual leaders are the first in the family to forgive offenses. They lead by example in personal sacrifice. They may offer the final piece of pie or the better seat to a family member. Or, they may let another family member’s choice for dinner take precedent over their own. Spiritual leaders lead through service, volunteering to put aside their book, the movie, or “the game” long enough to wash the dishes, shovel the driveway, or clean the bathroom. Family members see the spiritual leader’s commitment to family when, even in the midst of disagreement, they persevere in showing love, honor, and respect.
Finally, spiritual leaders make their family a priority in prayer. They pray for their wife and children. They become prayer warriors for each family member’s physical health, emotional security, and spiritual maturity.
Overall, the role of spiritual leader is more about personal choices and lifestyle than it is about demanding my family pray with me and have family devotions. Those things may be important. More important, however, is the lifestyle of the spiritual leader and the relationships he forms with each family member.