Our pastors are very important in our lives as followers of Christ. They are in positions of God-given spiritual authority over their churches to act as shepherds representing the love and leadership of Jesus for His people.
God has given us spiritual leaders in the church to teach, guide, equip, and provide for us as the Body of Christ.
But what is the role of a pastor in a Christian woman’s life and how does his leadership role differ from the role of her husband?
Here are my thoughts. Please compare anything I say to Scripture and seek to honor the Lord in all you do.
God provides a number of leaders in our lives in positions of delegated authority.
These people are supposed to protect, guide, lead, teach, and provide for those in their care. We have people in God-given positions of authority in several areas of our lives:
- Government leaders – presidents, governors, mayors, representatives, police officers, military personnel, etc… (Rom 13).
- Work leaders – bosses, supervisors, company presidents/owners, etc… (Eph. 6).
- Church leaders – pastors, deacons, elders, teachers, older men (for younger men), older women (for younger women), etc… (Heb 13:7, 17)
- Family leaders – husbands and parents (Eph. 5, 6, Col. 3:18, 1 Cor. 11:3, I Pet. 3:1-7).
Each spiritual leader has his/her own realm of God-given authority.
The ultimate authority is God. He is the one who delegates His authority to people to accomplish His purposes in all the different spheres of life at work, home, church, and in the government.
All people who have leadership positions are supposed to know they are responsible to God. They should yield themselves to the Lordship of Christ, seeking to honor Him and serve others for their good, not for themselves.
However, God can even use unbelievers to lead His people in certain ways, as He has done throughout history even through pagan kings and unbelieving husbands. (Of course, a church leader should never be an unbeliever or false teacher.)
No human has authority that is equal to or greater than God’s authority to lead others to rebel or sin against Him. If we must choose to obey God or people, we must always choose to obey God (Acts 5:29).
The role of a husband in marriage
Husbands are also very important in the family structure God has created. They fulfill a God-given role of spiritual authority or leadership in their families.
A pastor has no right to expect me to follow him in the same way I cooperate with and honor my husband about intimate family and personal matters.
And a husband doesn’t lead the local church or make decisions for the congregation, unless he is also the pastor.
A husband’s leadership involves his own marriage, children, and household. He is the spiritual leader, and if he is a believer, he may be involved in discipling and teaching his family to grow as Christians.
He should uphold sound biblical doctrine and not lead his family into false teachings or cults. He is responsible never to harm his wife and children but to love them with the very love of Christ. Love does no harm (Rom. 13:10, 1 Cor. 13:4-8, Eph. 5:22-33).
He is to protect his family from harm and lead them to do what is right.
His leadership centers around personal family decisions and the family’s spiritual/physical/emotional wellbeing, not government, community, or church decisions.
For much more about a husband’s role, please read this. It is important to note, husbands do have limitations in their leadership, just as any human leaders do in God’s kingdom. Here are some healthy ways husbands may lead.
The role of a pastor in a Christian wife’s life
A pastor is to lead the “flock” of people entrusted into his care. He is supposed to provide instructions in the Word and help disciple those in his church, making sure they have what they need to grow in their faith in Christ.
He should oversee the spiritual training of those in his church and address spiritual issues in that church, as Scripture teaches. And he may also help to oversee appropriate spiritual discipline, when necessary.
A pastor is responsible to teach sound doctrine and never to harm (Rom. 13:10, 1 Cor. 13:4-8) those in his care. He is to love them with the very love of Christ in all purity and to see to their welfare.
The people in a church are to honor the pastor’s appropriate, biblical leadership if he is not leading them into false teaching or sin (Heb. 13:17).
A pastor may be involved in marriage counseling
The pastor may be a person a wife turns to if her husband is committing significant sin against her and refuses to repent when she addresses it directly according to Matt. 7:1-5 and Matt. 18:15-17.
He may provide marital counseling to couples. He is supposed to provide biblical, Christ-honoring, marriage covenant honoring counsel. His wife may also be involved.
(I believe it is ideal for another woman or a wife’s husband to be present if she goes to her pastor for counseling of any type.)
A pastor can address a husband’s and/or wife’s sin biblically and call them to repentance. He may provide guidance and resources about how to try to heal a hurting marriage in ways that honor Scripture.
Limitations of a pastor’s authority
In considering the question, “What is the role of a pastor?” — a pastor really wouldn’t be acting appropriately to tell another man’s wife,
- You need to have another child next year.
- You should have supper ready by 5:30pm every night for your husband.
- You must serve in this particular ministry this many hours per week.
- You can’t leave this church. This is the only church you are allowed to attend.
- Here are my rules that your family has to follow at home.
- You have to educate your child this particular way (that is above and beyond what Scripture says).
These marriage and family-related issues are for a husband and wife to decide privately.
Sometimes, wives tend to want to do what their pastors say over what their husbands say about things that are matters of personal conviction or in family matters. I believe we need to use caution and discernment here.
It’s critical for us to understand God’s design for the leaders in our lives and the fact that Jesus is our ultimate Lord, not any human leaders.
A wife shouldn’t say to her husband:
- The pastor said we should tithe 15% so I am going to start giving 15% whether you like it or not.
- The pastor said we should all be open to adopting children or being foster parents so I am going to apply to do that and you have to do it with me.
- The pastor said we are reading through the Bible in one year so you have to do that with me.
- The pastor said this should be our personal conviction about X so that is what I am going with from now on, I don’t care what you think.
A wife can certainly say things like,
- I think tithing 15% would be a wonderful idea. I’d really love to do that!
- I’d love to pray about adopting or fostering children together.
- Would you like to read through the Bible this year with me?
- My personal conviction about this is X. I’d like to do this. What are your thoughts?
A husband leads his wife and family over daily affairs, family relationship, and household issues.
Both the husband and the pastor may teach doctrine, theology, and the Bible, etc… But a wife may not follow into false teaching, cults, idolatry, or anything God clearly calls sin, (keeping in mind that personal convictions are not sin issues).
God, alone, has the ultimate authority
No human can tell another person, “You don’t need to obey God’s word. My authority is equal to or greater than God’s.
Anyone in a position of God-given authority answers to God in the end.
No one in a position of God-given authority has any authority of his/her own. And no one in a position of God-given authority is supposed to abuse that position by using it for his/her own selfish purposes.
We are each to test what those in spiritual leadership positions say and compare their words and doctrines to Scripture for ourselves. We are to handle God’s Word rightly, even if our leaders don’t.
And we are to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Phil. 2:12) taking responsibility for our own spiritual growth and walk with the Lord.
Those in positions of God-given authority will be even more accountable and responsible for their positions and leadership than others (Genesis 3, James 3:1).
Caution Is in Order
As women, we need to be sure we don’t start submitting to our pastors in place of our husbands or to anyone in place of God. We are to honor each type of God-given authority in our lives in appropriate ways.
If someone in a position of spiritual leadership sins against us, abuses us (or others) or misuses their position, we should reach out to other people in positions of leadership who can help us (the police, the government, other church leaders, counselors, etc…).
And we need to remember that, as believers, there are certain kinds of authority that we all share in Christ. And we all have many blessings in Christ as disciples of Jesus. We also all have God-given free will to use to honor the Lord above all else.
We need to give respect where respect is due. But we need to understand God’s design for spiritual authority clearly so we aren’t easily misled, mistreated, or confused.
Have you learned godly wisdom on this issue that you would like to share? Has it ever been confusing to figure out how to properly honor your husband and your pastor?
Or do you need prayer or encouragement about this?
What is the Supremacy of Christ? by Got Questions
Spiritual Authority by Got Questions
What Is Spiritual Abuse? by Got Questions