Most Christian men in theologically conservative circles embrace the biblical truth that they are to lead their families in Christ. Though most embrace this reality and are convinced of its necessity, it is equally true that most of us are not quite sure how to do this. Too few of us grew up in Christian homes with strong and godly Christian fathers to model it before us. How does a Christian husband and father lead their family well in Christ? I would suggest the following is a starting place:
Pursue Holiness: This is the key to leading our families in Christ. A Christian husband and father cannot lead where he has not tread. Even as Paul admonished Timothy regarding the pastorate, “Keep a close watch on your life and doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16), so it is true of the “pastor” of the home. If holiness is found lacking in our lives, then it will normally be lacking in our family members as well. The greatest impetus to their growth in Christ is our growth in Christ.
Know What You Can Control and Can’t Control: It is a fool who thinks they can control the hearts of others. We have no such charge and thank God, because we have no such ability. We can encourage, exhort, and teach our wives and children in the faith, but we cannot control their embrace of or growing in that faith. But we are charged with maintaining our own hearts. Don’t neglect what you have responsibility for while pursuing that which you are not responsible for. Husbands and fathers serve their family well when they are seeking to control their own anger, selfishness, pride, and tongue. Let us know what we are empowered to do and what only the Lord can do.
Provide in Every Realm: Most Christian husbands and fathers recognize the need to provide for their families materially. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Even as this is true in the physical realm, so it is true in the spiritual. By all means, bring home the bacon! But don’t stop there. Practice consistent and regular family worship; lead your family in reading the Scriptures, praying, and singing. In joy, take your family to church each week, engage your family in the ministry of the church, pursue hospitality by inviting others to your home, pray with and for your wife and children. Don’t think your job is done by putting a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food in their stomachs. They are body and soul, they need your provision in the spiritual realm as well.
Practice Humility: Leading in Christ is different from than the world’s view of leadership. The world promotes a type of leadership that demands to be served. The Christian view of leadership demands to serve. Dear Christian husband and father, you are the chief servant in your home. Congratulations! In Christ, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). We lead by serving and often that serving is sacrificial (Ephesians 5:25).
Persist in Joy and Thanksgiving: Set the tone in your home. A Christian husband and father establishes the culture of his home more than anyone else. The moody teenager, fussy toddler, or even sullen wife are not the determining factor. You are. Pursue joy in the Lord and persist in thanksgiving to God for all His good gifts (James 1:17). This is a great starting place for shaping your home.
Be Effusive in Love: No wife or child has ever said, “I was loved too much!” Don’t be the husband or father who is reserved in expressing your love. Make your wife feel treasured. Nourish and cherish her (Ephesians 5:29). Grace her life with compliments, flowers, gifts, and constant affection. Hug her from behind while she is washing the dishes, carve out regular time for her to escape from the demands of the home, encourage her to pursue godly female friendships, thank her for the care she provides for you and your children, plan and execute date nights. May there never be a doubt in her mind that you treasure her above all others. And allow your children to see this affection. Your embrace of mom should be a regular vision for their little eyes to behold. As for your children, lavish upon them an undeterred and unfailing love. No matter their failings, foibles, or struggles, may they know your love will be a constant in their lives. It is fixed and nothing can steal it away. You won’t be a perfect father, but bathing your children in love is a step towards being a great father.
Live in Grace: Peter says, “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel…” (1 Peter 3:7). Paul says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Model and practice grace in your home. Be sensitive to sin and even more sensitive to extending the same grace you have received. Your wife and children should find you approachable, kind, gentle, and gracious. When they hear the word grace it shouldn’t be a foreign concept to their minds. They have known and received it from you consistently.
Protect and Be Strong: Your wife and children need your strength. Not only do they need your strength, but they need to know you are willing to use that strength for their good. You serve as their defender. You are to willingly and gladly stand-up for your family, even if that costs you socially, professionally, emotionally, or even physically.
Glory in Weakness: Even as you seek to be strong, you must glory in your own weakness. Your wife and children should know you as a man who happily depends upon the Lord. When they reflect upon your strength, they always count it as from the Lord. And you are happy for them to know the source of your strength. A faithful Christian husband and father will not wallow in his weakness, but he will glory in it. He will continually look to Christ and model this supremely Christian virtue before his family. He will be a man of prayer, knowing that much of his shepherding takes place upon his knees. He will lead the way in asking for forgiveness in the home from both his wife and children, he will keep short accounts and be quick to grant forgiveness when offended, he will refrain from having too high of expectations for his wife and children knowing his own failings and weaknesses, and he will extend to them the same grace he himself needs.
Live with God’s Glory in View: Whether you are at work, rest, or play, seek to glorify the Lord. Paul said, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Model before your family purposeful living. We are always living in the shadow of God’s glory. Demonstrate to them that every moment matters, every person is significant, every task is important. Laugh when you play with your kids, sweat when you work, and sing loud when you worship. Do all things with His glory in view and do them with your whole heart and soul, especially the leading of your family.
Christian husbands and fathers, you have been given the glorious and wonderful task of leading your homes in Christ. Leading takes thought and intentionality. How are you leading your family in the Lord? What principles, practices, and pursuits are you employing for their good and the glory of our Head, Christ Jesus?