What Is a Servant-Leader at Home?

3 Indispensable Characteristics of a Servant-Leader | All Truth is God's TruthAll organizations have a hierarchy. It’s impossible to function well without one. But being a leader isn’t the same as being a dictator. The best role model is Jesus Christ, not Joseph Stalin.

Although it’s a challenge to exercise authority while maintaining a spirit of humility, that is what being a godly leader entails. Jesus washed his disciples feet, then died on their behalf. Husbands are called to love their wives in the same self-sacrificing way:

  • “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.” (Ephesians 5:25-26)
  • “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)
  • “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant….” (Philippians 2:5-7)

The best leaders exhibit several qualities: They are transparent; they expect as much or more of themselves as of those they’re attempting to lead; and they put the good of the organization (or, in the case of a husband-leader, the good of the family) ahead of their own interests or any personal gain.

Let’s look at each of these three qualities in closer detail:

  1. First and foremost, a servant-leader is transparent.
  2. Transparency implies there are no hidden agendas. Everyone is on the same team, working toward the same goals, and those goals are clearly defined and understood. Transparency means honesty, fairness, forthrightness, and above all, accountability.

    Transparency with a spouse can be difficult. Some things are hard to talk about with anybody, let alone with someone we care about, someone of the opposite gender, someone whose admiration and respect we so deeply crave.

    A good rule of thumb is, if you’d be uncomfortable discussing it afterward with your wife, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

    Of course, personality differences can make even innocent discussions more difficult than they should be — I dreaded telling my sentimental wife when I recently traded in an old Ford truck she loved for two small economy cars, even though it made good financial sense to do so — but that isn’t what I’m talking about here.

    When it comes to being transparent with our children, that can be hard, too, but it is important that they know our weaknesses as well as our strengths, our failures as well as our victories. Because our kids share our humanity as well as our genes, their weaknesses will often mirror our own, and they’ll benefit from hearing how we’ve overcome various struggles. There is no need to go into great detail about your failings, but don’t pretend you are without faults.

    A servant-leader is quick to accept blame, apologize, and ask forgiveness whenever the situation warrants it. And he understands the importance of maintaining a clear conscience and therefore strives to behave in a way—both publicly and privately—that is honorable, dependable, and above reproach.

  3. Second, a servant-leader is not above the law.
  4. Nor does he consider himself above the law. The US Congress provides a classic example of the opposite of this principle, routinely passing bad legislation from which the lawmakers themselves are exempt.

    With a true servant-leader there is no such hypocrisy. The rules are applied equally to all. He expects as much or more of himself as of the people he leads, for he knows that as their leader, he will incur a stricter judgment.

    The father who smokes two packs a day, but warns his kids to never take up the habit? He isn’t doing himself, his children, or his health any favors.

    I may not struggle with hypocrisy in such an obvious way as this, yet I sometimes expect things of my wife and children that I am unwilling or unable to do myself:

    • I want them to hear me out, although I often interrupt.
    • I expect them to be patient and thoughtful and self-controlled, even when I haven’t been.
    • I would like for them to look their best, even if I skip shaving or look a little shabby myself.
    • I want them to control their emotions and refrain from pouting, crying, or acting moody in any way, yet sometimes I fail to control the temper that provokes such moodiness, sulkiness, and tears.

    And I do these things, despite the fact that Scripture repeatedly warns against such behavior:

    • “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)
    • “[Love] does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth….” (1 Corinthians 13:5-6)
    • “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

    The take-home message? We need to be and do the things we want our wives and children to be and do. We should expect as much or more of ourselves as we do of them. We must lead by example.

  5. Third, a servant-leader thinks of others first.
  6. He puts the good of the organization ahead of his own needs or personal advantage. He leads selflessly and sacrificially. He considers the interests of others as more important than his own. (Philippians 2:3-4)

    I’ve known both styles of leaders: Those who use the organization to serve themselves, and those who use themselves to serve the organization.

    Although I’ve crossed paths with a few embezzlers over the years, embezzlement is not the only way to steal from a company. It’s just the most obvious way. Many people manipulate vacation schedules, work assignments, and tax credits to their own benefit. They are always watching out for number one, always looking for loopholes. Whatever will garner the best perks or put the most money in their pocket with the least amount of effort is what they will do, every time — whether it’s ethical or not.

    A servant-leader is the opposite. He does what is best for those he serves, even when it requires great personal sacrifice to do so. For the family man, this may mean driving mini-vans instead of sports cars, going on family vacations instead of golfing excursions, living in a modest home in suburbia instead of a high-rise apartment in the city, or getting braces for Junior instead of that new flat-screen TV.

The term “servant-leader” is what Buddhists would call a koan — a seemingly contradictory statement that forces a person to stop and think more deeply about a subject, so as to bring about an even greater enlightenment.

Yet leaders should serve those they lead. The only reason servant-leadership seems like a koan or an oxymoron to our society today is because we have grown so accustomed to leaders who abuse their power and use it to benefit themselves, often to the detriment of the people they are supposed to represent.

Plato felt that those who most desire to rule are least suited to do so, because they invariably have ulterior motives. His solution was that leaders be conscripted into service the way soldiers are drafted into the military.

In a sense, the Biblical command for husbands to be leaders in their homes is exactly that — men being conscripted by God to serve their wives and children.

Unfortunately, most men are not natural leaders, nor do they naturally love their wives in the self-sacrificing, Christ-like way God commands. If these things came naturally, there’d be no need for the associated directives in Scripture. Commands in Scripture almost always run counter to our natural inclinations and underscore our need for the supernatural intervention of a loving Savior!

Do you long for your wife to shower you with respect and admiration? Do you wish she would follow your lead without arguing or questioning your every decision?

You will never get the results you are looking for by being harsh and demanding. Even if you were to gain her cooperation, it would be given begrudgingly. That isn’t what godly servant-leadership looks like.

If you want your wife to follow your lead, then you must walk in a way that is worthy of respect. Lead in a way that inspires your family to follow.

Lead prayerfully. Lead gently. Guide them with humility, understanding, patience, faithfulness, temperance, and love.

As a husband, the responsibility falls to you for taking the lead in improving your marriage. Don’t blame your wife for your own failures in this area. You must work to earn her trust and confidence.

Prove yourself to be a man of integrity, a person who thinks things through — not a man who is shortsighted or rash or vindictive.

It is a sobering proposition to be the spiritual head of one’s home, to be held accountable before God for the spiritual health and welfare of one’s family.

We should shoulder this responsibility with an attitude of meekness. Inwardly, our focus should not be, “Alright!! I get to call the shots!” Rather, we should be thinking, “God has entrusted this responsibility to me, and I don’t want to flub it up.”

Such a heavy responsibility calls for a posture of prayer. Pray that God will enable you to relate to your wife and children as a wise servant-leader should: Love wholeheartedly. Love sacrificially. Love unconditionally. Love extravagantly. Consistently shower your wife with that brand of love, and chances are, it will eventually win her over. She’ll then happily follow you to the ends of the earth.

But what if it doesn’t? What if she won’t?

Then you’ve got to keep loving.

Love her, because God has commanded you to love her — not because of what you stand to gain from doing so. Love her and keep loving her, because you want to be obedient to Him.

He will receive the glory from your doing so. And that is the only success that will matter in the end.


This post first appeared on All Truth is God’s Truth. To read more, check out my novel:
The Prodigy Project by Doug Flanders, MD

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A Christian Father’s Rules for Dating My Daughter

I spotted a photo in my newsfeed yesterday of the T-shirt a feminist father made to explain his expectations to anyone interested in dating his daughter. His “rules” sent a clear message: “What my daughter does is her own business, and you’ll answer to her, not to me.”

As the father of four daughters myself, I found this man’s laissez-faire attitude to be a little unsettling. I believe a dad has a moral obligation to protect his children from harm, to prepare them for life, and to provide wise counsel along the way — all of which calls for a hands-on approach to parenting.

I agree with Feminist Father on his first two points (I don’t make the rules and You don’t make the rules). However, I disagree with his conclusions, so I decided to create a little T-shirt of my own — a Christian Dad’s response to Feminist Father, if you will:

"Rules for Dating My Daughter" | One Christian Dad's response to a "Feminist Father" (alltruthisgodstruth.com)

GOD makes the rules. And His way is better than anything we could dream up.

I know that none of the men who date (or eventually marry) my daughters will be perfect.

I don’t expect them to be.

But I do expect them to have hearts on fire for Jesus. I pray that they’ll follow His example. I want them to love my daughters with an enduring, committed, self-sacrificing love.

All others need not apply.


What sort of rules or guidelines have you set for your sons and daughters when it comes to dating? Tell us about them in the comment section below.

Want a “Dating Rules” T-Shirt for yourself or someone you love? They’re available here in a variety of colors. (Please note that the graphic is on the front of the shirt, not the back).

A Christian Father’s Rules for Dating My Daughter first appeared on All Truth is God’s Truth.


The Seven “P”s of Parenting

Do you want to be a more effective parent? Then don't neglect these seven principles! | alltruthisgodstruth.com
Children may not be born with an instruction manual, but there’s still lots of good guidance available, beginning with the Bible.

Here are seven simple but scriptural principles my wife and I have found useful in raising our twelve children, five of whom are now adults.

  1. Prayer
  2. Never underestimate the power of prayer in the life of your children. Pray for and with them. Prayer is a great way to let your kids know Who is in charge. (Colossians 4:2)

    We actually begin praying for our children before they are even conceived. Our foremost prayer is that each one comes to know Christ. It would be better never to be conceived than to spend eternity separated from God.

  3. Presence
  4. Children spell quality time: Q-U-A-N-T-I-T-Y. Be intentional about establishing everyday routines with your kids, as well as creating special memories with them. If we’ll tend to the hours and days, the years will take care of themselves. (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 90:12)

    We are always surprised by what our children consider the most significant moments in their lives. Often our best talks are ones on the way to the grocery store to grab some milk, and our best “vacations” are the unplanned ones arranged for us courtesy of the US Army Reserves.

  5. Patience
  6. Many of life’s oldest lessons are brand new to your children. Treat them the way you’d treat a technologically illiterate employer how to use the latest computer software update — treat them with humility, respect, and genuine gratitude for the opportunity to invest in their life. (Ephesians 4:2; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Proverbs 14:29)

    Patience has two varieties: The first is in dealing with the day-to-day stuff that can really get on your nerves. The second type is more in the category of perseverance and involves hanging in there for years at a time while your child slowly finds their place in the world.

  7. Praise
  8. All children long for their parents’ approval. They want to please you — so be sure to let them know when they do! While it’s important that we deal swiftly and consistently with our children’s wrongful behavior, it’s equally important to acknowledge and encourage their good behavior with sincere and appropriate praise. (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Proverbs 31:30-31; Romans 14:18-19; Philippians 4:8)

    My wife and I were both blessed with parents who always told us we could do anything we set our minds to. Because we believed them, neither of us have ever been afraid to try anything new or challenging. We’ve been determined to pass that same blessing on to our own children.

  9. Protection
  10. Life is full of dangers — both physical and spiritual. Ask the LORD to help you recognize and stand guard against anything that would pose a threat to your children’s wellbeing. Develop a culture of safety and common sense with your kids, and pray that God would grant wisdom and discernment, both to you and to them. (John 17:15; Psalm 127:1; James 1:5)

    The Internet didn’t even exist when my wife and I started our family. Now we have a four-year-old who knows how to access learning videos on her mother’s smartphone. Likewise, a hundred years ago, you were more likely to be thrown from a horse than run over by a car. New dangers are constantly appearing on the horizon, and your child’s best tool for dealing with them will be the one resting between her two ears, assuming you train her to use it well.

  11. Provision
  12. Providing for your children’s material needs is important, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “More money” does not automatically mean “more happiness.” Provide for your children in all aspects of life, through your example and encouragement, as well as their education. Use areas of personal strength to compensate for areas of financial need. (1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 20:7; Psalm 37:25)

    Money is of limited usefulness when it comes to having a happy and fulfilling life. Too little, and life is a struggle. Too much, and life quickly becomes materialistic and vain. The optimal window is actually quite small. Learning to be content with what we have, so we can focus on weightier things, is a challenge for us all.

  13. Preparation
  14. Three of the most important decisions our children will make are choosing Christ, choosing a career, and choosing their companions. Prepare them to make wise choices in all three areas by setting the example, setting standards, and then setting them free. (Proverbs 3:1-6; Romans 10:9; Psalm 90:17; Proverbs 13:20; John 13:15; John 8:36)

    God has no grandchildren, only children. Your children’s life and relationship to God is ultimately their own. We are privileged to participate in what God is doing in their lives. To think that we own them is like thinking that we own the earth or the sky or the sea. To quote Kahlil Gibran, “[Your children's] souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”

Want a free printable summary of this post? You’ll find it here: 7 Peas of Parenting

World-Proof the Child

World-Proof the ChildProtecting our children is one of the primary jobs of parenthood, and the list of dangers seems to be growing exponentially.

  • There is BPA in your bottled water and hormones in your meat.
  • There are predators on the Internet and cyber-bullies on social media.
  • There are addictive drugs and addictive video games.
  • There are terrorists hijacking our planes and the TSA hijacking our dignity.

It makes you long for the days when seesaws and merry-go-rounds were still allowed on playgrounds.

The fact is that new dangers are popping up every day, and it is impossible for even the most vigilant parents to keep up with them all.

That doesn’t mean you can’t protect your children. It just means that doing so will become increasingly complex and require some added intentionality.

There are three general principles that can help guide the process:

  1. SET THE EXAMPLE.
  2. A culture of safety — whether at work or at home — starts at the top. If you want your kids to wear helmets when they ride bicycles, then you probably should, too. Same rule goes for seatbelts, overeating, cigarettes, alcohol, or anything else. Most values are “caught” not “taught.”

    “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,and sound speech that cannot be condemned…”
    Titus 2:7-8 (ESV)

  3. SET THE STANDARD.
  4. Talk with your kids. Point out the dangers as you become aware of them. Let them know what your expectations are. Set a curfew. Curfews aren’t tyranny; they are parents showing that they care! Then enforce the standards you have established. A rule that isn’t enforced is no rule at all.

    “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)

  5. SET THEM FREE.
  6. The ultimate goal of parenting isn’t to have large children, but to have fully functioning adults. The only way to achieve that goal is to gradually shift responsibility from your shoulders to theirs. This is probably the hardest, but most important, part of the whole process. You will never be able to make enough rules to protect your children. They must internalize safety consciousness themselves. They must make it their own. Making it their own often means making mistakes. It can be hard to watch as our children attend the school of hard-knocks, but sometimes “experience is the best teacher.”

    “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”1 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB)

The temptation is to simply be “helicopter parents” — ones that are always hovering, always micro-managing, always trying to smooth the way and make the decisions and manipulate the circumstances — but that is a fool’s game. No parent can child-proof the world. A parent’s job is to world-proof the child.

Love Your Wife: Revisited

I commissioned my wife to do a little subway art for me this week. Here’s what she came up with:

Love Your Wife | subway art printable from http://alltruthisgodstruth.com

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought it might serve as a good reminder for husbands that showing love to your wife is something you should do every day of the year — not just on special occasions.

Want to print a copy to keep? You can click on the image above to download a free printable PDF of the graphic.

You’ll find a matching “Respect Your Husband” graphic on my wife’s blog this week. Follow this link if you want to print that one.

Two expectations that will kill your ministry

Doug Flanders:

This is a short but powerful blog, the lessons of which apply to parenting as well as ministry.

Brick Laying

Originally posted on ctkblog:

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given in ministry came from a man in Houston, Texas named G.B. Shelbourne.  He is a life-long missionary and has spent decades of his life working with people on the continent of Africa, and is a man I love and respect tremendously. He told me something one day that I’ve never forgotten, and I’d like to share it with you and invite you to be curious about how this might impact you.

G.B. and I were talking about ministry, and as a very young pastor, I was complaining about some of the more tedious tasks of ministry, and all he said was…

“When you build a house, people brag about the windows and the rooflines, not the foundation.”

Hey, nice siding!

Hey, nice siding!

As I asked him to explain to me what he meant, and I learned a lot in a short…

View original 375 more words

Don’t Beat the Other Slaves: 6 Principles of Forgiveness

Don't Beat the Other Slaves: 6 Principles of Forgiveness | http://alltruthisgodstruth.comJesus tells the story of a slave who was forgiven a great debt by his master. The slave went out and almost immediately began beating a fellow slave in an attempt to extract a much smaller debt. Needless to say the master was not pleased to discover the first slave’s merciless behavior.

Yet, how often do we act just like that ungrateful slave when it comes to sin?

Invariably, we want mercy for ourselves, but justice for everyone else. The things that ensnare us always seem SO minor compared to the heinous crimes committed by our fellow-man.

Jesus’s message was clear: Stop beating the other slaves! Learn to forgive, just as you have been forgiven.

Forgiveness is at the heart of the gospel and the heart of every healthy relationship. This is especially true of the marriage relationship. The sheer volume of time a husband and wife spend together — day after day, year after year — translates into ample opportunity both to offend and to take offense. Your marriage will not thrive, and it may not even survive, unless you learn to forgive.

A successful marriage, Ruth Bell Graham reminds us, “is the union of two good forgivers.” I believe that’s true.

What follows are six principles that have been helpful to me in seeking and extending forgiveness to both my wife and others:

  1. When requesting forgiveness of anybody, we should always begin with God.

    Ultimately, all sin is an affront to Him. We must go to Him first. The price has already been paid through Christ’s blood. We must repent of our sin and ask Him to help as we seek forgiveness from others. (Psalm 51:1-4; 1 John 1:9)

  2. When seeking forgiveness from others, we must be prepared to make restitution.

    Sometimes seeking forgiveness requires more than just saying I’m sorry. We should convey sincere remorse for the wrongs we have done, certainly, but we must also seek to make amends to the best of our abilities and to the degree that restitution is possible. (Numbers 5:7)

  3. When extending forgiveness to others, we should work towards restoration.

    Ideally, forgiveness is just the first step in restoring a broken relationship. When grudges are held, the relationship suffers or is non-existent. Forgiveness allows healing to begin. It is like draining an emotional abscess. The only true way to conquer an enemy is to make him a friend. (Luke 17:3-4; Galatians 6:1)

  4. When restoration is impossible, forgiveness is still important.

    Even if the person we need to forgive is dead or in jail, forgiveness still has its place. Learning to forgive others is as much for our own benefit as it is for theirs. Maybe even more. (Mark 11:25; Ephesians 4:31)

  5. When walking in God’s forgiveness, we need to also forgive ourselves.

    Sometimes this is the hardest thing to do. We may have asked God’s forgiveness and even made restitution, but we just can’t let it go. We must stop beating ourselves up! Self-flagellation is not only unhealthy on multiple levels, but it implies that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was insufficient. (Romans 8:1; Psalm 103:12)

  6. To live a life of forgiveness, we must learn to forgive God.

    This may seem like a strange concept, but look around. The world is full of people who are angry with God.

    Perhaps they are angry about the way He made them: Too short or too tall, too skinny or too fat, ears too big or feet too small, no good at math or music or sports.

    Perhaps they’re angry about their life circumstances (often understandably so!): Why did I get laid off from that job I loved? Why did my spouse leave me after twenty years? Why did my sister die so young?

    They reason that if God is ultimately in control, then He is ultimately to blame. We may never have intellectually framed it in those terms, but emotionally we all need to forgive God for something.

    Such forgiveness springs from the knowledge that God has a purpose and plan for our life and that He is able to work even bad things together for our good and His glory. If we are harboring bitterness and resentment against God for perceived wrongs of any kind, the real problem lies not in His actions toward us, but in our attitude toward Him. (Romans 9:20; Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28)

And there we have come full circle. The list begins with God and ends with God, as all things do. (Revelation 1:8) The good news is that once we’ve learned to “forgive God,” we actually begin to trust Him. As our trust in Him grows, we one day find that we are learning to love Him just as He loves us. It is a love rooted in forgiveness, and that love and forgiveness can then spill over onto our fellow-man, so that these principles really start to become second-nature. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

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