What is a Spiritual Leader and what do they do?
I grew up in a Christian family. My parents raised us in church. We went to Sunday School and Christian summer camps, and I was saved as a teen. I grew to know who Jesus is and that He is a big part of my life. But through all of that, I thought all I had to do was be responsible for my own faith. It wasn’t until after I got married that I was first introduced to the concept of having to be someone’s spiritual leader. Upon our marriage my wife told me, “you know you are now my spiritual leader.” My thoughts: ‘Okay? What exactly does that entail?’ It was immediately clear that I was somehow responsible for the spiritual health of my wife but I thought, ‘how do I go about doing that?’ Being the spiritual leader of our family was then, and still is, a daunting task, even more so now that we have an almost 9 month-old daughter.
Six years ago I didn’t feel quite ready to take on all the responsibilities that come with spiritual leadership. But I found myself in the role with my wife looking to me with a lot of expectations. She is an incredibly intelligent and independent woman. So before giving her Biblical guidance I figured I needed to get as smart as I possibly could. The first thing I did was start reading the Bible everyday and doing a daily devotional. I started with Max Lucado’s Just Like Jesus devotional and signed up to receive a Bible verse every day from Youversion. (You can also get an App for iOS and Android from them). But I didn’t stop there. After a few years, my wife found the Daily Audio Bible app, and we started listening (you guessed it) daily. (You may have noticed I have mentioned Daily Audio Bible before. That’s because it’s a tremendous resource).
When I started this process six years ago, I acted as more of a conduit of the knowledge and resources I was consuming. I would send my wife relevant Bible verses and daily devotionals as I read them. Over the years and as my relationship with God has deepened, I have expanded beyond my initial conduit-only role as my confidence in my ability to be my family’s spiritual leader has strengthened. It’s a never-ending growth process and that is okay. Once you stop striving to be better and think you know what you are doing, then you aren’t being effective. You’re likely becoming complacent and are in danger of neglecting your spiritual health.
At the heart
The Biblical basis for spiritual leadership can be found in Ephesians 5:22-33.
Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.
The above verses might be misinterpreted to mean that as a spiritual leader, we get to rule over our wives. But taking the entire context of the Bible to heart, I believe this is not the case. The Bible says that husbands are to love our wives “as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (the church).” This means we are to be willing to sacrifice of ourselves (even) up to the point of death. The guidance is to act as a servant, as Jesus exemplified in John 13 (vs. 4-7) prior to his ultimate sacrifice – death on the cross. It is my responsiblity to serve my family; to protect my wife and daughter. And it is my responsibility to provide an example. I am a conduit for Godly advice and instruction. I read, forward and talk about Godly insights that I learn from studying the Bible, reading devotionals, and especially from prayer. Additionally, any decisions I make as well as the decisions we make as a family are grounded in Biblical truths.
It’s your journey
Now I cannot tell you how to be a spiritual leader. That is a question that can only be answered by having a lengthy ongoing conversation with God. But having a good idea of what others think can be a good jumping off point for that conversation. So what does the internet say about being a spiritual leader? Here is some information from Focus on the Family. Here’s another perspective from Rick Johnson on Crosswalk.com. Finally, Mike Ferris talks about Spiritual Goals for your children. These perspectives are far from exhaustive and I encourage you to seek out others.
In addition to physical and mental (read mindful) health I am going to talk about how I am going to maintain and grow my Spiritual health. At least that is the plan. 😉 You can follow @functionaldad on Twitter as well as Instagram for examples of what I do. But the choice is up to you.