To say that our culture is confused about gender and gender roles would be the understatement of the century. Young girls are trained by the feminists to be aggressive in the workplace, while young men are domesticated and told to be gentle lambs who must never mansplain. This has produced a topsy-turvy situation where society’s ideal woman is a dominant leader, and the ideal man is passive, gentle, and always agreeable. While this vision is bad for society at large, it is especially damaging in the home. A home led by a domineering wife and a passive husband is a disordered home. If First Baptist Church is going to reach all of Jacksonville, our marriages and families must look remarkably different than the culture. Our homes must be places where dads lead. Homes led by strong, loving, convictional, and kind Christian men will be homes that shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation (Philippians 2:15). These kinds of homes will show a confused culture the beauty of God’s grand design.
Someone might say, “What about toxic masculinity? Are you saying that men should squash the opinions of their wives and that women should be doormats?” Absolutely not! Jesus doesn’t want that, and neither do I. Husbands are not allowed to be tyrants. Rather, they are called to a standard of love so unattainable that it will take nothing less than the power of God’s Spirit to achieve (Ephesians 5:25). Moreover, wives are not called to unconditional submission to their husbands. Only Jesus receives that kind of obedience. Wives are called to be helpers (Genesis 2:18), and helping includes providing constructive criticism and dialogue to leadership decisions that her husband makes. Helping also includes confronting sin that she sees in her husband (Ephesians 4:15). This is not toxic masculinity. This is simply husbands and wives living together according to God’s design. What I am advocating is that fathers step up to the plate and be what Jesus Christ calls them to be: leaders. I want to provide just two ways they can do this.
Fathers, do you see yourself as a pastor to your family? Because whether you realize it or not, you are. When it comes to shepherding in the home, there are two focuses. First, you must shepherd your kids. While both parents bear this responsibility, Paul singles out dads when he writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Just as you aspire to see your wife love Jesus, you must also aspire to raise your children up to fear the Lord and walk in his ways. Here are two practical ways to do this. First, write out a “discipleship goal” for your children. This can be a simple statement like, “I want my kids to turn from sin, trust in Jesus, and spend their lives advancing his kingdom.” Display this goal where you can see it regularly and every time you see it, turn that statement into a prayer. Second, cultivate the habit of doing family devotions together. This doesn’t need to be a long-drawn-out Bible study or mini-church service. Keep it simple. In our home, we read, pray, and sing. I read a small portion from the Bible (or a storybook Bible for kids), pray, and then sing a song from a hymn book. This simple practice teaches your kids that worshiping God is not something that happens exclusively in the confines of a church service. Rather, worship is something that permeates all of life. An older pastor once told me that the most important ministry in my life is the ministry to my family. My primary focus must be to raise up the warriors sitting around at the dinner table.
Second, you must shepherd your wife. Paul says that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved his bride, the church (Ephesians 5:25). How does Jesus love his bride? By making it his goal to “sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26). What is your great aspiration in life? These verses teach that one of the greatest aspirations of your life must be, “I want my wife to love Jesus.” Leading in the home means taking ownership of your wife’s spiritual growth.
Is she struggling in her walk with Jesus? Maybe she confesses to you that she gets angry at the kids and feels totally stuck. Develop a simple plan to help get her unstuck. Consider memorizing key verses with her that address anger (James 1:19-20; Proverbs 14:29). Is she discouraged? Figure out why this is the case and then brainstorm creative ways to encourage her. For example, perhaps she feels like all her time is spent caring for the kids and so doesn’t have meaningful friendships with other women. Volunteer to watch the kids so she can get coffee with one of her friends from church and receive encouragement. Being a leader means your great aspiration is to see your wife love Jesus and flourish as a Christian. So much so that you make real sacrifices to achieve this goal.
Our culture is raging against God’s good design. And yet, this cultural darkness provides an opportunity for the Christian home to shine like never before. In a culture that equates male leadership in the home with misogyny and abuse, we must show the glory of husbands and fathers who lead with proactive shepherding and sacrificial love. We must show our culture the beauty and joy that radiates from homes where dad shows up to lead.
Trevor Komatsu (M.Div., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is First Baptist’s Next Gen Pastor.