Some years ago when I was still pastoring, I received a phone call from the principal of a local religious school who wanted me to straighten out one of my members.
The man was head of an independent Christian school, ultra-conservative as you may deduce from what follows.
One of my church members was teaching in their school and her husband often volunteered. The principal said, “Some of us are concerned that he is not the head of their home. The Lord told me to call this to your attention so you can deal with it.”
I said, “Well, I promise to pray about it. If the Lord tells me to, I’ll do it. But not until then. After all, this comes close to interfering in something not my business. My approach would be to pray for them, preach the word and God’s plan from the pulpit, and trust the Holy Spirit to take it from there.”
He said, “That sounds right to me. You pray about it–and I’ll be glad to sit down with you and them if you want me there.”
I said, “Don’t do anything unless I call you.”
You want to know the rest of the story? This account is taken from my daily journal 16 years ago. No names were recorded (rather wisely, may I say!) and other than the written account, I have no memory of any of it.
As I came across the story in that journal, I find myself amazed at the presumption of this principal and his co-workers.
Imagine me accosting someone because “I was told” that he is not giving sufficient leadership to his wife and children.
Now, as a pastor who writes for other pastors and church leaders, this little incident gives me the opportunity to say a few things.
Five questions come to mind:
1) Should the husband be the head of the home? Scripture teaches he should. (See Ephesians 5.)
However, nowhere does it teach that the man should lord it over his family. To the contrary, he should serve his wife and children, showing them the same kind of love as Jesus “who loved us and gave Himself for us.”
The husband who insists that “I am the head of this family and we will do what I say” has lost any authority that he ever had. He is like the pastor who dominates his church leadership with similar words. If you have to play the authority card, you have no authority.
2) Did the Lord tell the principal to call me to handle this problem?
I have no way of knowing. But his saying that the Lord did does not obligate me to do anything. If the Lord told him, then he did the right thing to phone me. But thereafter, it became my responsibility to ask the Lord and listen to Him, and as I said to the principal, to do nothing until He said.
I recall once receiving a resume’ from a minister of music who wanted to be considered for a vacancy on my staff. “The Lord told me I was to become your next minister of music,” he said. Yep, he actually said that.
I thanked him and said, “As soon as the Lord tells me the same thing, we’ll be in touch.”
I hope he’s not sitting there waiting to hear from me. That was many years ago.
We must not let people manipulate us by saying “the Lord told me.”
3) Should I personally accost a husband not being the head of his home and try to straighten him out?
–a) the Lord specifically tells me to do such a thing. So far, He never has!.
–b) I’m ready to start scheduling conferences with everyone else in the church who is not living up to scriptural mandates. Imagine what a task that would be.
–c) I’m willing for my wife to vouch that I’m all I should be at home, and thus have the moral right to rebuke that gentleman. I shudder at this!
I can’t think of a single place in scripture that would serve as a model for my calling in that husband to correct his leadership failure in the home.
4) What kind of church encourages the pastor to do such a thing?
Answer: One that focuses on sin rather than righteousness, is my gut feeling.
This would be the kind of church/pastor that tries to catch people doing wrong rather than applaud them for doing right.
What if, rather than a personal conference with that husband on the failure of his leadership at home, I brought up a husband and wife in church and interviewed them on their healthy relationship, thus showing the right way to do these things?
5) Was there a better way for me to respond to that principal?
Probably. I’m older now and presumably more mature. Today if someone called me about such a matter, I imagine I would thank him and go no further. But, as the reader notices, I explained myself and gave reasons why I was not going to be calling on the principal for assistance in this anytime soon. (“until the Lord tells me.”)
I’m not second-guessing myself, but only saying that it was not necessary to tell him all I did. He probably marked me down as uncaring or unscriptural or unfaithful. And that’s fine. I’m not answerable to him. (Romans 14:4).
I do wish I had asked the principal what specific behavior he and his colleagues noticed that made them conclude the wife was running the show in that household. I know enough about some fundamentalist churches to conclude that we would not necessarily agree on what headship looks like. The scriptural model is all about leadership and sacrifice, not ruling with a heavy hand.
I’d give five dollars to know who that couple was and if the man ever became the leader of his home.
Oh well. God bless ’em. And bless that conservative school and guide them to keep their mind on their business–don’t they have enough to do as it is?–and to stay out of other people’s business.