Masculinity has been in crisis for some time now. What used to be commonplace has become radical and what was radical is aggressively being normalized. Sadly, even some of the language of the Bible is now recognized by our culture as hate language. One Biblical idea that has taken quite a hit is the idea of a husband and father as a patriarch (defined in the dictionary as the male head of a family or a tribe).
But in the face of growing opposition, as our team at the Iron Sharpens Iron Conference Network comes alongside church leaders across the nation, we believe it is vital to start by reinforcing God’s design that men are called to spiritual leadership. This leadership starts in the home and expands outward from there. It starts in the home because the most important relationships in a man’s life are in the home. This is what we mean by a patriarch.
In fact, a primary descriptive qualification for spiritual leadership in the church is spiritual leadership in the family. Look what Paul writes to his church planting protégé, Timothy, as he coaches him in the qualities necessary for those he is recruiting to be part of his church leadership team in Ephesus:
“He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? –1 Timothy 3:4-5
He writes something very similar to Titus as he mentors him in pulling together his new team of leaders at the growing church in Crete. Paul likely considered it impossible for a man to be an effective spiritual leader outside the home if he is not first an effective spiritual leader inside the home. Paul seems to believe that the church and community will greatly benefit from “patriarchs” who are the spiritual leaders of their family.
The authority that God has given to husbands and fathers and that is also necessary for any leaders to do their work has often been abused. But God does not simply call men to be "patriarchs." He calls us to be a particular kind of patriarch. What are some of the most important qualities of a godly patriarch? Below is a short start-up list.
Imagine a local church filled with men who are godly patriarchs! Let us join with Joshua in declaring "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" by recovering what it means to be a Biblical patriarch as we learn how to shepherd our family tribe. As you review the list, I hope you catch the vision for local churches.
He doesn't simply lead; he shows how and who to follow
A godly patriarch is not an independent and isolated leader. He is first a follower. In this case a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he calls the members of his family to this same pursuit.
"Follow me, as I follow Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1
"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15)
Question to consider: "Who would your family say you are following? Where are you leading them?”
He loves sacrificially
A godly patriarch is not dictatorial but rather a loving servant who sacrificially puts the needs of his wife and family first.
"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:7
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Ephesians 5:25
Question to consider: "What can I do to love my wife and children sacrificially today?"
His voice is heard as affirming
A godly patriarch communicates time and again both verbally and nonverbally to each family member their identity, how he cares for them, and what he thinks about them.
"And a voice from heaven, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" Matthew 3:17
Question to consider: "How often do my wife and children hear me tell them, 'I love you'? What can I do to better articulate their strengths and gifts?"
A godly patriarch watches over those entrusted to his direct care. He does not delegate away this responsibility to "professionals" but rather embraces it. This personal ministry prepares him for the opportunity to watch over others.
"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be." I Peter 5:2
Question to consider: "Who is shepherding my flock?"
He teaches and therefore he learns
A godly patriarch teaches the Scriptures to his family. He is as creative as he needs to be so that every member learns under his care what it means to follow the Lord.
"These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Question to consider: "Do I feel equipped to teach my family? If not, am I willing to simply invest time to read the Bible with my family so we can learn together?"
A godly patriarch intercedes and speaks to Almighty God for every family member. He is familiar with their needs and talks to God on their behalf. He walks by faith and trusts in the Lord.
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Question to consider: "When was the last time I prayed for each of my family members? What can I do to be praying more consistently?"
About the Author: Brian Doyle serves as Founder and President of Iron Sharpens Iron, a national conference network serving churches across the nation. His passion is to see the local church become effective in reaching and discipling men of all ages. Brian has served with The Navigators in New England in various capacities, as the New England Area Manager for Promise Keepers and as the Director of Men’s Ministries for Vision New England. He is a recent widower with five children and resides in Winter Springs, FL.