Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Father, Christ’s Servant Leader

Ephesians Chapter 5:23 says that the father is head of the household. This puts serious expectations on the father. Scripture says this role is modeled after Christ as head of the church.

Ephesians 5:23:

For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

What does it mean to be the head of the household? Scripture expects that the father is first and foremost a servant leader. He leads by serving others. In the language of Scripture, that means two things: he is led by the Holy Spirit in his life, and he is submitted to his wife and to his family, as well as to his Christian community.

How can a man lead like Christ if he is not submitted to God and following the leading of the Holy Spirit? In Ephasians, Paul counsels that godly man is filled with the spirit and brings a heart of worship, humility and gratitude to his leadership. Paul introduces the idea of mutual submission in Christ’s community before talking about it in the household.

Ephesians 5:17-21:

So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 being subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

A husband filled with the Spirit leads his family by example. He loves his wife as Christ loved the church, sacrificing his own needs for the sake of his family. He nurtures an environment where each member feels valued, supported, and loved.

What does it mean for a father to be a servant leader? A father is fully engaged with his family. He embraces the difficult moments and sees them through. He gives his time and energy to his wife and his children. He makes time to listen. He cares for them and nurtures their unique personalities. As a loving father, he knows that there will be uncomfortable and difficult conversations. He engages in tough but necessary conversations with love and patience. He addresses issues directly and constructively, fostering a household of open communication and growth. He takes responsibility for his share of household work. He shares the work with his wife and kids. He works to make certain that everyone feels valued and supported by him. While it can be difficult, he invests in making family gatherings cohesive and discussions meaningful. He uses family time to connect, share, and plan together, reinforcing unity and purpose. He serves his wife and children through the support and encouragement of their growth. He celebrates successes and guides during difficult moments. He builds a home where his wife and children feel they belong and feel supported. He is a teacher of values. He continually reinforces what matters most and models the lessons he teaches. As you can see, fatherhood has high expectations, and I am sure the fathers here could name much more that the role requires.

We could talk all day about how to be a good father. But to be an effective father and husband, understanding your leadership motive is crucial. You must lead for the right reasons, driven by love and service rather than authority and control. If your “why” is off, then the “how” won’t matter.

Football Analogy: Servant Leadership on the Field

Imagine a football game. The offensive line stands as the unsung heroes. Their primary job? Protect the quarterback. These linemen don’t receive the glory; their names rarely appear in headlines. Yet, their role proves crucial. They submit their individual aspirations to the quarterback’s success, ensuring he has the time and space to execute plays and lead the team down the field.

In many ways, the role of a father and husband, especially with children, is like an offensive lineman. And yes, the wife is the quarterback. Scripture may appear to give dads the role of quarterback, the one in charge, calling the plays and moving the ball down the field. But upon further examination, I suggest fathers are more like an offensive lineman. Fathers are concerned with the overall well-being and success of the household. Husbands, like offensive lineman, jump at the snap of the ball to serve and protect their families. We are a source of strength and safety, ensuring that everyone in the family can thrive. The wife calls the plays and carries much of the responsibility for rearing children. Wives control most of the family spending. In a healthy household, husbands submit to wives more like an offensive lineman. If the wife is a good quarterback, she appreciates the sacrifices of her offensive lineman and acknowledges his efforts.

On the defensive side, consider the linebacker. The defense works together to keep blockers off the linebacker, allowing him to make critical plays. This collective effort highlights the importance of each team member’s role in achieving a common goal. In family life, this mirrors the mutual support required from all members. Just as the defense clears the way for the linebacker to be effective, a family functions best when each person supports the others, fostering an environment where everyone can succeed.
When you talk to football players, they love playing the game, no matter their position. They love the game even after all the pain, work and injuries. The players like sacrificing themselves for the team and for each other. They like the risk and the hardship. But what most defines the game and what all the best teams have is the sacrifice of each player for the other players and for the team. It is a group of men who submit their will, health, glory and devotion to each other and their team.
Men feel the greatest satisfaction and joy when they give themselves to something greater than themselves. When men focus on their own rewards and their own pleasure and satisfaction, their lives are empty and have no purpose or meaning.

We need look no further than a great football team to understand the value of carrying out our roles in mutual submission. Marriage and family mirror the protective and supportive roles seen in football. The offensive line submits to the quarterback’s success, and the defense supports the linebacker. Likewise, a husband, filled with the Spirit, submits to the welfare of his wife and family, prioritizing their needs over his own.

Let’s read what our Scripture says about the relationship between husbands and wives. 

Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

The passage seems to give the husband unbounded power. But does it? It doesn’t in my reading. In the first century, it would be expected that the wife would obey the husband. Paul doesn’t say obey; he says submit. She is to submit to him as she does to the Lord. As followers of Christ, both wives and husbands submit to the Lordship of Christ, and Paul has already said that as fellow believers, they must submit one to another. Paul is not establishing a hierarchy of dominance but of mutual submission under Christ.

Paul says the husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church. Again, this is not an authoritarian leadership role. The model of Christ is the perfect model of servant leadership. Jesus washes the feet of those who submit to him. Jesus dies for those who submit to him. Christ saves those who submit to him. Christ calls those who submit to him into a deep relationship and fills them with His Holy Spirit. Christ forgives those who submit to him. Christ never leaves or forsakes those who submit to him. Men, husbands and fathers, the submission of a woman, a wife, or the mother of your children means a high bar for you.

In the next passage the stakes go up even more.

Ephesians 5:25-28

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

When speaking about the wife, Paul tells her to submit to her husband, but he never asks her to obey her husband. Paul’s attitude is respectful toward women, treating them as fellow equals under Christ. When speaking about the husband, Paul tells the man twice that he must love his wife. He uses an imperative, or a command, when speaking to the husband about his disposition towards his wife. He says: “Husbands love your wife as Christ loved the church,” and “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” The husband is commanded to love his wife, and this would have shocked men and women hearing this. The wife would have been considered property and unequal to the husband in the first century. To be commanded to love her was radical, just as Jesus’s servant leadership was radical.

In Ephesians, we see a call for fathers to love their wives and families sacrificially. A father, filled with the Spirit, submits to the welfare of his wife and family, prioritizing their needs over his own. A father models servant leadership. Fathers can build strong, loving families that reflect Christ’s love and sacrifice. Through mutual support, a family flourishes when led with love, sacrifice, and a spirit of service.

As I have lived through the years, I have found that when we apply Scripture to our lives, we live happier lives. Following the Ephesians passages today should bring us all more peace and joy–both men and women. However, we do need to apply the Scripture correctly.

Men, we do not act justly when we ask women to be our subjects. It is not merciful when we expect obedience. It is not wise when we impose our will. What is good is when we submit to God and one to another. Let us be like Christ in all our relationships with our loved ones, especially women, wives, mothers of our children and our children.
There is a path that leads to dissatisfaction called the “hedonic” treadmill. It explains how the pursuit of individual pleasure often leads to temporary satisfaction, followed by a return to a baseline level of happiness. In contrast, activities that involve helping others and building relationships lead to sustained increases in happiness. Here is an illustration of two friends whose lives are very different, but one is full of peace and joy and the other is on an endless treadmill with no lasting joy.

Jack and Sam both love hiking and exploring nature. Jack was an ambitious mountain climber, always seeking the next peak to conquer. Each new ascent felt incredible. However, this high was short-lived, and he found himself yearning for the next, taller mountain. Joy faded quickly and dissatisfaction and restlessness returned. Sam enjoyed hiking just as much, but he spent his time in the valley below. He helped maintain the trails, plants trees, and assisted other hikers who were struggling. He formed friendships and community. Each act of service brought him a sense of purpose and lasting happiness.

Eventually, Jack noticed that his achievements left him with a persistent emptiness. Yet, Sam seemed content and fulfilled. He always smiled and was at peace.  Jack realized that personal glory brought temporary thrills. While connections and acts of kindness brought Sam happiness.

Before ending today’s sermon, I want to address a vital point. Many women have experienced relationships where men did not live up to the calling of servant leadership. To those women who have faced abuse, neglect, a controlling relationship, or a lack of genuine support from the men in their lives, you deserved men who uplifted, protected, and loved you selflessly.

Men, our calling as husbands and fathers is profound. Ephesians 5 challenges us to lead with love and sacrifice. Our relationships with our families are supposed to reflect Christ’s relationship with the Church. This is not a call to dominance but to selfless service. As servant leaders, we prioritize the well-being of our families. Our needs are second to our wives and children. We work to ensure their safety, happiness, and growth. When we lead with love, we find deep, enduring happiness.

Men, I encourage you to embrace this high calling. Lead with a servant’s heart, driven by love and a desire to uplift those around you. You will find true contentment and fulfillment, far surpassing any fleeting pleasure. By submitting ourselves to the welfare of others, we are reflecting the sacrificial love of Christ. Let’s strive to be the men God calls us to be—loving husbands, devoted fathers, and true servant leaders. By doing so, we not only honor our families but also fulfill our purpose, bringing glory to God through our lives.

Closing Prayer and Benediction

Heavenly Father, we thank You for the call to be servant leaders, modeling the love and sacrifice of Christ in our lives. Help us, especially as husbands and fathers, to prioritize the well-being and growth of our families. May we lead with humility, patience, and unwavering love. Fill us with Your Spirit, so we may nurture an environment where every family member feels valued and supported. Guide us to embrace difficult conversations with grace and to share responsibilities with joy. Let our actions reflect Your teachings, building strong, loving families that glorify You. As we go forth, bless us with the strength and wisdom to lead by example, always putting the needs of others above our own. May our lives be a testament to Your love and a beacon of hope to those around us.

In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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