Series: A Sound Church
Article 2: God’s Leaders
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Living by biblical principles
The Bible provides clear guidance on how a husband should treat his wife. Peter advises to live with her with understanding, to be at home with her, and to truly understand her. Now, don’t you tell me that it’s an impossible task. If you knew my wife, Believe me, she sometimes speaks a mix of Turkish and English, but I still understand the type of person she is.
Furthermore, our particular wedding verse – and I’m sure many of you might have chosen this as well – comes from Ephesians 5, which serves as the model for marriage. And husbands, that’s who I’m addressing now, as women have their own roles, are called to love their wives in the same way that Jesus loved the church.
Jesus’ love for the church serves as the ultimate example for husbands in how they should love their wives. Jesus laid everything down for his bride, the church. He did not hold on to his rights, but rather relinquished them in order to serve her. In marriage, holding on to rights can often create messes, as Jesus demonstrated by his selflessness.
Jesus loved his church covenantally, just as he loves his marriage as a covenant. His love for the church is unending, never giving up on her. He forgives his church and loves sacrificially. He even pursues those who stray, leaving the 99 behind. These are all ways in which husbands can understand how they are called to love their wives. Is it easy? No! But that’s not the point. It is what is required of husbands to emulate the selfless love of Jesus towards their wives.
Marriage Above Ministry: Paul’s Reminder for Christian Leaders
If you’ve been to Bible School, you’ve likely heard professors emphasize that even your service for God and ministry itself should never come before your marriage. Marriage is a covenant before God that supersedes any other priorities, including ministry.
I was speaking with a man who told me about a pastor he knew whose wife couldn’t handle the pressures of being a pastor’s wife, even though they had a good marriage. The pastor, for the sake of his wife, made the decision to stop leading and pastoring because it was too much for her. This illustrates that nothing in a man’s life should come before his wife, and that the most important relationship is his marriage. If a man doesn’t prioritize his marriage, he is unfit and unqualified, as Paul teaches. This principle applies to every marriage, and when marriages fail, it often reflects the character of the individuals involved. This should be the standard for all marriages, especially for those who aspire to be elders or leaders within the church. Paul emphasizes that if a man doesn’t meet this standard, he should not be considered for leadership roles and should not be given any platform or sphere of influence within the church.
By allowing leaders who do not prioritize their marriages to hold positions of influence within the church, you are sending a message that such behavior is acceptable. However, it is not okay, as it sets a detrimental example. As the saying goes, “things are more caught than they are taught,” meaning that people tend to follow examples more than rules or teachings. Paul warns that by exposing others to unhealthy examples, you are promoting and perpetuating negative behavior. It is important to prioritize healthy marriages as a positive example for others to follow, as this aligns with Paul’s teachings and promotes a healthy church community.
According to Kent Hughes, a man whose marriage is troubled or whose commitment to his spouse is unhealthy should be encouraged to step aside from being considered for church leadership. Many wise pastors have also advised potential leaders whose marriages need attention to prioritize fixing their marriage before seeking church office.
First and foremost, God’s leaders need to have a healthy home life, a healthy marriage, because a healthy marriage is the backbone of a healthy ministry.
Because the issues in a marriage are going to bleed over into the life of the church, the church will begin to reflect those issues. Similarly, issues in the church will inevitably find their way into the home at some level, and the wife often bears the brunt of the drama she hears about.
If a man, as the leader of the home, hasn’t addressed the drama within his own marriage, it will negatively impact his wife’s ability to deal with the drama from the church that enters her home through his leadership.
Therefore, Paul emphasizes that a healthy marriage is an absolute requirement, without exception. Period. Exclamation point.
Parenting Above Reproach
He emphasizes that a man’s parenting should be above reproach, meaning that he has control over his children despite their inherent sinfulness. This doesn’t imply that his children are perfect, but rather that he deals with them in a righteous manner.
Paul highlights the importance of faithfulness in parenting, whether it’s through raising children who are believers or even if they rebel, they eventually come under the submission to their father’s authority. As a result, they won’t be the ones causing disruptions and making headlines. Even if they stray, a good leader knows how to bring things back in order through proper guidance and correction.
We all know how children can be, right? They’re angels, all of them, never do anything wrong. I remember my grandma used to say I never did anything wrong, but that was definitely not true. My dad would often bring it up when I did something wrong in school, saying, “Your grandma always thought you were going to be a preacher. Why did you do that?”
If you want to be tested, get married. And if you want an even bigger challenge, have children. How you handle those tests reveals a lot about your character, doesn’t it? And then you come into God’s house and realize you’re going to be tested even beyond that by misfits and imperfect people.
And how are you going to deal with that in a spiritual, Godly way? So the home doesn’t replace the church, but the home is the foundation of a strong church. The home life of this man needs to be exemplary. That’s why Paul will say later that he needs to be hospitable, meaning people could come to this guy’s house and see what it’s really like to live under his roof.
Prioritizing Home: The Call for Strong Marriages in Church Leadership
Now, all of this hits home, quite literally, right? It does for me. It’s just a good reminder that my first calling is my home. That my first priority is my wife and my son, and then the church comes. And that growing in my marriage, in deep intimacy under the headship of Christ on every level, is my number one priority.
And because, as we discussed last week, God’s kingdom doesn’t stop with us, it’s important for me to prepare my son to be a worshiper so that he can in turn help others become worshipers, and so on for future generations. I say this with a long-term perspective. Leadership development is also one of our core values in our church, and I am deeply passionate about it.
And let me ask you this: why chase after all the leadership positions in the world if it means neglecting your primary responsibilities? It’s not worth it! The demands on elders in the church are significant, and it’s crucial for the church to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices they make for their families.
Because you can’t have two brides. You can’t have two families. So, as Paul advises, it’s essential to ensure that this man’s home life is in good order. Strong marriages form the foundation of strong homes, and strong homes are the cornerstone of a strong church. And a strong church, in turn, is the backbone of a strong society. It all begins in the home, because as the home goes, so goes the church, and as the church goes, so goes society.
So, by God’s grace, we will all grow in faithfulness, recognizing that we all need His grace.