Spiritual Leadership - 
What Does it Mean?

 by Chuck Snyder
 co-chaplain for the Seattle Mariners

Dear Chuck,
My wife and I are both Christians. We were just married last July. She has never been real bold in her faith. Now that we're married, I try to be the spiritual leader. I try to pray with her and read the Bible together. I know that only Christ can keep our marriage strong. However, she doesn't ever seem to want to pray with me or read the Bible, and it almost always brings up problems when I get excited about Christianity. It is rarely a subject she is excited about. I fear for our marriage because of it. What do I do?

Chuck's Response
Thanks for the note about your wife who is resisting your spiritual leadership.  I think maybe you have been mis-taught about what the "head" or "leader" of a family means.  Let me give you a big picture and see what you think. The church has been giving out a lot of false information over the past 2,000 years or so concerning what submission and headship means. Most of us have been taught that submission is something a wife does, and leadership or headship is what the husband does. The problem is that Ephesians 5:21 says men submit. It talks about mutual submission under God ... equality ... teamwork. Then, Ephesians 5:22 says, "wives submit," but the context is now a discussion about how a wife feels loved and how a husband feels loved and the role in which they would be the happiest. 

I don't think the church is taking a close enough look at the story in Matthew 20:20-28 when the mother of James and John came up to the Lord and asked Him if her kids could sit up front with Him when He came into His kingdom. I'm sure He was polite to her because that's what moms do -- look out for their children -- but later He took His disciples and followers aside and said in effect, "that's what the kings do, that's what the Gentiles do, that's what the Romans do ... have to be up front ... in charge ... the head. If you want to be the head of a family, head of a church, head of a business, head of a mission, then become a servant. And if you want to become the greatest leader in the world, then become the greatest servant in the world." He then referred to Himself, saying that He was the greatest among them, but He had come to wash feet and die. Then Ephesians 5 takes up the story and says, "as a husband is to do for his wife and family."

The first book Barb and I wrote together outlined how I had gone ahead of her in a number of investments that she did not "feel" good about. I was taught that the man made the final decision if we couldn't agree, so I went ahead with my projects ... but all of them exploded in my face, and we lost a great deal of money. I had gotten off Barb's team. Marriage is a covenant partnership. If Barb has the Holy Spirit, and she does, and if I have the same Holy Spirit, and I do, would the Holy Spirit tell Barb to do something and tell me to do just the opposite and break up our team? I don't think so. It wouldn't make sense for Him to do this.

I like Genesis 2:18 where it says the woman "completes" the man, and together they become one flesh ... a team. If a couple doesn't agree on a decision, I believe that God is saying wait. I don't think He is honored by having either one of the partners do it their own way against the wishes of the other. This doesn't mean that God is asking women to be doormats. It is only because Barb has been in my face, making me talk, pushing me to honor relationships, work on my anger, make God a priority, put the family in its proper place, serve rather than have my own needs met all the time, that I write this letter to you. Barb has been God's key player in changing my life, and I will be eternally grateful.

There is also matter of the "glory" principle. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the glory of God. That means He radiates all of God's characteristics, like mercy, forgiveness, unconditional love, kindness, patience. Then it says that a man is the glory of Christ. Therefore, as husbands, we are to radiate Christ's attributes to our wives, like mercy, forgiveness, unconditional love, kindness, patience and the like. Most churches get this wrong by thinking the Bible says women are the glory of men. If this were true, then my wife, Barb, would have to be submissive to you, and the guy next door, and the men on the street, which, of course, would be impossible. What the Greek says is that a woman (singular) is the glory of her man (singular). In other words, it is talking from a marriage context.

One time, we heard Howard Hendricks say that when we see a witchy wife, we should never say, "what's wrong with her?" We should say, "what's wrong with him?" She is his radiance, his glory. She is reflecting back to him what she is receiving. Therefore, I would like to suggest that you ask your wife's forgiveness for trying to make her into another one of you. I respect your desire to have her on a par with you spiritually, but all you can do is serve her out of her mind. This would release her from all of your pressure, and my guess is that she would want to know Christ more personally, because you are showing her how, by serving her, rather than having so many expectations. These are my thoughts for your consideration. Be sure to let me know if you want to talk further.

Chuck Snyder



View a complete list of books


Contact Chuck: chuck@chucksnyder.org
Updated 05/24/2005