He [an overseer] must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive… 1 Timothy 3:4
Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 1 Timothy 3:12
Scripture tells us that elders and deacon are to manage their household well. The same word translated manage is used in Romans 12:8 and translated as leadership. So we could also say that an elder and deacon are to lead their households and children well.
Yet, in spite of the fact that all parents are to be leaders, few actually think clearly about what a godly leader does. Having a clear understanding of godly leadership will help an individual in the home and in the church.
Defining Godly Leadership
What exactly is leadership? And what is uniquely Christian leadership –leadership rooted and influenced by the gospel?
Defining leadership is a little like defining the wind. We know it when we see it in action. But trying to grasp it or describe it is difficult.
Ultimately, leadership is influence. It is moving others to do or be something different. It can be used for good or evil. Apart from the gospel, it is using persuasion, power, emotions, fear, ideas so that others are following.
But we don’t want just any leadership. We want godly leadership. Robert Clinton, author of The Making of a Leader, has defined Christian leadership in this way.
Leadership is a dynamic process in which a man or woman with a God-given capacity influences a specific group of God’s people toward his purposes for the group.
This definition emphasizes several things:
- It is a dynamic process – fluid and energized, not static.
- The capacity comes from God. This varies from person to person.
- The people are a a specific group and belong to God not the leader.
- The purposes he or she is to influence them toward are God’s purposes. That roots a leader’s authority in the Word. And it requires a leader to go to the Word and prayer for guidance.
- Finally, the leader’s job is to influence them, not control them. People have varying degrees of openness to influence.
John Piper’s definition of spiritual leadership is similar.
Spiritual leadership is knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to get them there in reliance on God’s power.
To summarize, we could say that a good leader 1. Has an idea of where a group of people should go. 2. Understands where this group currently is. 3. Understands how to move them to where they should go. 4. And takes the initiative to accomplish this.
The implication at this point for Christian parents is obvious. We become better shepherds when we understand God’s call on our children, when we understand where they are truly at, when we understand God’s means of moving them – and when we act on this!
Three Types of Influence
But how does that influence occur? Clinton helps us even further by describing the three types of influence or power a leader can have.
Some leaders influence by their position – the office or position they hold. Think of a military officer who commands. Others influence by their personal power – the example they have. Think of a movie or sports star who we find ourselves imitating. Still others influence by their persuasive power – their words and ideas. Think of a teacher or preacher who knows more than we do. And of course, these overlap. They are not exclusive.
The application for a disciple-making parent is obvious. We are meant to use all three! God has put you in a position of authority. You are the parent. You lead by making decisions for the good of your children. You impose rules and correction. In addition, you are commanded to be an example to your children. They are imitation machines. Finally, you are commanded to teach your children. Position, Persona, Persuasion. When all three come together in a godly way, there is great power.
Dad and Mom, mature godliness is leading your household well. Whether are not God has called you to lead in your church, he has called you to lead in your home. You can lead well or lead poorly. Home is meant to be a small training ground for God to develop all of us as leaders.