Men Leading Relationships / Can women lead?

Ha ha, the title of my blog entry today might automatically cause some responses and put people on the defence immediately.

This morning at TGIF we discussed singleness, and I mentioned that I believe men should lead relationships. That came with some response and quizzical looks… so I thought it would make a good blog entry.

I think the first thing people think when they hear someone say “Men should lead relationships” is that I’m saying “Women can’t lead, and shouldn’t lead anything.” But I’m not saying that : I’m saying that, when it comes to relationships, men ought to take up the responsibility of leading that relationship.

I’m not specifically referring to marriages, either. I mean, every relationship involving a man and a woman should be ‘led’ by the man. This doesn’t mean

a) the woman can’t disagree with the man


b) women have to submit to every man in their lives


c) women can’t lead anything.

In fact, what I’m saying is that it is the man’s responsibility to lead a relationship correctly, but if he is not leading that relationship (ie, he is trying to get the woman to sin, go against God’s word, do something ungodly, get into a relationship she doesn’t want to etc.) then of course she ought not to submit to that. It’s the same in a marriage anyway – submission doesn’t mean blindly following someone just because he is a man. He has to earn that kind of respect. LEADERSHIP is not MANAGING, or being the BOSS, or RULING, or DEMANDING or anything like that. The true kind of leadership, as we see in the example of Jesus, is servant leadership — and therefore, I’m saying, men should lead women this way (with servant heartedness) and it is his responsibility to do so.

Now, I am also not saying that women can’t lead or shouldn’t lead. I do, in the context of church eldership, say that a woman should not be on eldership as a single. If she is married, of course she is on eldership. But I think it’s pretty obvious that there are places where women can lead where men absolutely CAN’T, and these are the places where we desperately need women to be. There’s nothing wrong with a woman on an Apostolic team, a Missional team, or the like. They are able to do significantly more on mission / outreach trips that men can’t. I do see men’s responsibility is to govern certain things as well (such as eldership) — which is a servant leader function — but I also see women with a huge ability to run business, organise and run missions / outreaches, and even to preach or teach. So I don’t have an issue with women teaching or preaching – I encourage it. It’s just an issue of governance, which I think is a man’s responsibility.

Anyone, I think, who thinks saying men’s function is to govern and this places women below men has put ‘governance’ on a pedastal where it doesn’t belong. Governance has nothing to do with position, or status. It has everything to do with FUNCTION. We perform different FUNCTIONS, which are equal to each other but wholly different in many ways. Men have a remarkable ability to be practical, sometimes in a way that is frustrating to women because we don’t take feelings into account. This is how, I think, God wired men, so they can lead and take care of the basic practical things. Any woman who takes offense to that, I think, has not properly looked at how amazing SHE is wired and the unbelievable ability she has to see the hidden things, understand the deeper meanings, and help men in their governance to remember that people have feelings too! She has not realised how amazing women actually are, how amazing she is, and how much more she could do by embracing her god-given talents, beauty and womenly nature. Practical does not mean better, it simply means practical. Governance does not mean lording or bossing, it simply means putting practicalities into practise. And when it comes to relationships, specifically, men’s function is to lead. When it comes to many, many, many other things (of which I think both men and women have not bothered to explore the possibilities) women CAN and SHOULD lead. There are trillions of things I can’t do because I’m not a woman – I admit that women are far superior in many different activities and I gladly give them those activities and leadership roles. I’m not into making it a man’s world, i’m simply trying to let women be women (and enjoy it) and men be men, and help us enjoy our functions, talents, passions and help us enjoy and appreciate each other, complement each other, and admire the rich diversity, differences and colour of what God created us to be.

I’m glad I’m not a woman – not because being a man is so much better – but because I get to admire and appreciate women in ways that they probably don’t. I also get to admire one particular, special, most beautiful lady too. That, for me, is something I wouldn’t like to trade. For me, this is one of the bonuses of being a man– this, and also because I don’t have to endure childbirth… hehehe

17 thoughts on “Men Leading Relationships / Can women lead?”

  1. Thank you, Ryan, for this post. This IS a very difficult issue. The passage in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians where he says for wives to submit to your husbands, and husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church – is indeed very hard to grasp because we are a society based on ego. If my husband loved me the way Jesus loved, I would have no problem submitting. And not submitting in a groveling, weak, give-up-my-own-identity sort of way, but knowing that this person is only thinking of me first and my greater good.

    Servant Leadership is about putting my own agenda aside and “doing love.” Doing love means acting for the greater good of the other; wanting nothing but their best interest. Period. It’s not about egos or agendas. Those are put aside for the good of the other.

    Carolyn, sfo

  2. I was sent this daily devotional a while back:

    A Woman’s Aching Prayer Request
    by Jon Walker
    “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting.” (Ephesians 5:25 MSG)
    For a long time I carried in my wallet a deep, aching prayer request from a woman in my church. The request was anonymous, but it could have been made by any number of women across the country. In fact, it’s the number one complaint I hear from Christian women wherever and whenever I visit other congregations.
    The request came my way in – and I give away my age by using this phrase – a prayer meeting. The pastor distributed blank pieces of paper and asked everyone present to write down one specific prayer need. Then he collected them all and randomly redistributed them. He asked us to pray for the request we received and for the person who made the request.
    I say he redistributed these prayer requests randomly, but is anything random in God’s universe? When I opened the prayer request I had received, it took my breath away. It was written in pencil with an elegant script. It read, “Pray that my husband will be the spiritual leader in our home.”
    It’s an open secret that Christian men consistently and continually fail to provide godly leadership within the home. But I was particularly shocked by the request because just days before, my wife had made the same request of me. Here I was in ministry, yet my wife felt I was neglecting the spiritual nurturing of my own home. Sort of like the cobbler’s children being the ones with the worst shoes.
    I’d come to the prayer meeting wrestling with this very issue, and when it came time for me to write my prayer request, I wrote out: “Pray that I will become the spiritual leader of my home.” My request also went out anonymously and, like a divine boomerang, this anonymous woman’s request returned to me. There, in the same meeting, another family was struggling with the same problem, and because of my wife I knew how deeply this other woman’s heart ached.
    So what?
    • Pray for godly leadership – If you’re not already doing so, start praying for godly leadership in your home and for the godly leadership in your home (note the distinction). Pray that husbands will trust God and provide humble, godly spiritual leadership.
    • Lead with God’s wisdom – Ask God to give you (or your spouse) his wisdom and his strength to be the kind of Christian leader God requires: gentle, loving, and other-centered.
    • Go “all out” for your wife – “Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting.” (Ephesians 5:25 MSG)
    • Pray for consistency – Pray for me, my friend. I’m still inconsistent and struggling in this area. And I will be praying for you.

  3. Hmmmm… a pause can say a thousand words…. Hmmmm… 🙂

    Again, there is no easy way to respond to such a wide topic! But I’ll add my little two cents worth in.

    I think that the reason why God has placed man and woman in separate functional roles – wiring our genders differently so to speak – is because He reveals different aspects of Himself and the relationship between Himself and the church in this way. A woman who is very practical and has her emotions well under control could (logically speaking) be great on eldership and govern things well. But when we see how God has designed us in His image and what He conveys through that, it goes beyond her talents and abilities to the very essence of who she is created to be and where God has positioned her in His order of things. So matter how practical etc she is, her function is not to be an elder because that is not what God had in mind for the expression of feminity. And that’s the beauty of it all – getting to live your life out as part of the whole great plan, knowing that your life is not one lived out in isolation, and that each role complements the other. I hope that all came out right… making sense?

    I’m really glad you brought up the issue of servant leadership, I think that so many of us forget that’s what leadership is all about :J

    And yay to you for challenging the guys to lead at TGIF on Fri!

  4. Thanks Shan! Wonderful comments there 😉 I think you’ve put it really wonderfully well! I like the thing of ‘expressing your feminity…’ — I think many women struggle to just express themselves as women and feel comfortable with being feminine (and men are also confused as to how they are supposed to express themselves as men.)

    YouKnowWho’s comments are excellent as well – this issue seems to be a real issue. Really interesting, actually! Something to take some real consideration in. Carolyn also gave some great insight here.

    I wonder why I have had no guy comments here yet? Hmmm… interesting…

    At TGIF, actually, it was only the guys who gave me flack for my comment which I find interesting as well! I think us guys really struggle with this issue, and here is something women can do : help encourage us to do it… even if it means a bit of a kick in the butt! Sometimes we’re scared to take leadership in case we become arrogant or imposing, and sometimes just because we’re scared to take a risk or make a mistake. There are a thousand reasons, I think, and many of them I’m probably just beginning to learn… but I pray God will help us men do what we need to do and just LEAD.

    Thanks for the comments, guys, I really appreciate it!

  5. My wife and I have managed for 18 years without defining roles, even with the pressure coming from the church to do so. We work as a team, and both just do what we see to do, free each other in our strengths and weaknesses, or discuss things if problems arise (mostly).

    I like fixing things she likes tidying, I like cricket she likes the news, I like walking she likes driving, we both like music, we support each other in raising the kids, I work a 40 hour week in IT, she does so with the Kids.

    It works, we trust each other, we deal with frustration, we’ve never bought the official line of “wives submit to your husbands husbands love your wives”. We both love, we both submit, we lead together. It’s a non-issue.

  6. Hi Nic,

    Thanks for the comments!

    Your marriage sounds like a brilliant example of how this probably should be a non-issue. I agree with you on that, for sure. In the context of breaking relationships I think the scripture is helpful for couples to know how to get back on track – husbands, love your wives!! As Christ loved the Church! That statement says a lot to a man as to how he should be loving his wife, and that he is first and foremost to do so.

    True, one might say that the Word does not say “husbands, lead your wives” and your comment made me think about that. In the context of HOW God loves me, I am beginning to understand that there is a certain leading of my life that cannot really be boxed in to the ways we understand leadership. So, categorising things like I have may be less helpful than I’d hope. However, I’m still learning 🙂

  7. Yes I think the exhortation in Ephesians was aimed at a specific situation.

    The lesson I have learned is that one should not inauthentically “take on” any authority, one should trust, and live it if in doubt, especially when in doubt, to see where life leads. There seems to be too much law-, theory- or precept- driven living in evangelical circles.

    So if someone who deems themselves to be inauthority pressurises me to conform, I probably will not. I’ll endeavour to keep a conversation going, not simply reject that voice, as that is how I see G-d’s working, this is the “iron sharpening iron”. It is adult-adult.

    But I guess there are others who need a more parent-child approach, and that’s fine. But they must be honest about this, and not generalise to make that the standard model.

  8. I agree. I think one of the reasons why the Bible exhorts us to ‘walk by the Spirit’ is because blanket models don’t work. There are contexts and circumstances that blanket models can’t account for, and then it just gets confusing.

    This is one of the miracles of the Christian life, in my opinion. Historically, we know that Pharisees and Sadducees created the Talmud to try and explain morality and codes of living for every context. Despite its size, it’s still hopelessly unable to account for everything. Walking by the Spirit, means we know and understand what to do in every given context. I don’t think Paul was giving a blanket model, rather a foundation that we can always rely on to be assured that the Spirit is definately talking to us (such as the Bible is.) The foundation doesn’t waver, but the application of that foundation changes depending on context…

    In this context, a marriage in trouble needs this foundation outlined by Paul. Also, not all people are the same, which means the context changes yet again… 🙂

  9. Lol, thanks Wends! I was thinking about you the other day, wondering what you’re up to now that you’re no longer working where you used to work? And… are you coming down for Christmas? I should probably use facebook to chat… (boy, am I over facebook!)

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  12. If you search how testosterone works you understand why women should not lead adult men. Their ability to focus is limited and short term and do not react well in a crysis situation. Their emotions overpower them. Is biology. When women lead misery follows. They can lead children but they can only lead adults for short periods of time. And history proves it.

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