By Dr. Jim Berg
The purpose of confronting men in the church who are not fulfilling their obligations to their families is to restore those men to usefulness and to reconcile them to God and to their wives and families.
Pastors today are concerned about the sad spiritual state of many men in the church. Every pastor rejoices when God gives him men who are godly pillars in the congregation, but most pastors would agree that their “tribes” are too small. More must be done to reach those who are struggling, but it means that church leaders must be willing to lovingly confront these men about their condition. If the pastor fails to personally challenge the unruly “ram” in a home, the rest of the “flock”—especially the wife—in that home suffers.
Consider Joel. In church he appears to be serious about his Christian faith, though he does have a reputation for being opinionated. He faithfully serves at church, but his wife Theresa sees another side of him. At home he is controlling and mean-spirited. She has watched the light go out in the eyes of their three teens, who grow increasingly resentful of their father’s heavy-handedness and hypocrisy at home. Theresa herself is taking a serious nosedive spiritually and physically as she watches both her marriage and her family disintegrate under Joel’s forcefulness.
Or consider Phil, who ignores his family entirely while burying himself in his work and his pastime of internet day-trading. Phil’s wife Robin carries the full weight of the family’s needs, including the 24/7 care of a special-needs child. Phil escapes into the Internet-especially its pornography. When Robin discovered it, Phil assured her that he would stop and that he didn’t need help from the pastor. He also made it clear that if she was the wife she ought to be, he wouldn’t have to indulge in pornography to get his “needs” met. Robin is devastated, ready to throw in the towel.
In many cases women like Theresa and Robin have made their plights known to individuals in their churches who eventually brought their situations to the attention of their pastors. My grievance is that so little is done to help them. They are often told: “Check up on your own life and ask yourself: “What am I doing to provoke his wrath?” or “There isn’t anything I as your pastor can do about this until your husband wants to submit to counsel. In the meantime, you will have to look to God for strength while you suffer through this.”
I readily acknowledge that the wife may need to ask herself if she is biblically submitting to her husband. She certainly does need to look to God for strength. But those words aren’t enough! The apostle James warned believers not to send needy people off with mere words of comfort when they also needed active intervention (James 2:15-16). While the wife is attending to her own soul before the Lord, perhaps with the help of a godly woman in the church, the pastor should be attending to her husband!
Here is a woman suffering at home because her husband is either abusing his power (like Joel) or failing to use his power for the good of the family (like Phil). Now she comes to another man, her pastor, who becomes a derelict leader as well. He either uses his power to further oppress her with platitudes about submission (which she may need to hear but, as I said, aren’t enough) or neglects to use his authority as pastor to confront her husband. Now both spiritual leaders in her life have betrayed her! Where is she to turn?
The pastor may reason: “Well, she is always whining anyway. I’d hate to have to live with her myself.” While this may be true, consider how we would handle a parenting problem with similar elements. Let’s say we have in our home a child who is more prone to whining than the others. Though that is a concern to us, we still would not let his older brother beat him up. We would address both problems, his perpetual whining and his brother’s bullying.
This is the time to get both husband and wife into the office and hear both sides of the issue. This is not a time to take sides-excepts God’s side. It is usually effective for the pastor to say: “Well, Theresa, I’ll talk with Joel and see what I can do.” What usually happens in those cases is that Joel, an excellent manipulator, confesses to “not loving his wife like he should,” and the pastor goes away satisfied. But at home nothing changes, and the pastor never checks up with Theresa to see if things are better. Joel has brushed off pastoral accountability by his “good ol’ boy” talk with the pastor, and Theresa is not better off. In fact, she is worse off. Why should she ever attempt to solicit the pastor’s help again?
I have seen these scenes repeated so often that it makes my heart ache. Men like Joel and Phil who are not walking in the fear of God need to be lovingly confronted by men who do fear God! We need some Nathans to rebuke the kings of today’s homes who are covering violence and immorality.
When Teresa and Robin in a spirit of meekness tries to approach her spouse about his offenses toward her and is brushed aside, she has every right and the responsibility to follow Matthew 18 and bring others into the picture. That means that spiritually minded men of the church, and especially the pastor, need to be ready to intervene and, if necessary, put him out of the church if he refuses to be reconciled to his wife.
That confrontation, however, needs to be done by a God-fearing man who can bring humility and hope into the situation for the wayward husband. It will not work for one controlling, fleshly man to confront another controlling, fleshly man (Galatians 6:1). That will only bring more corruption into the process. The men involved must be Spirit-filled men who are bold but humble, who can speak of coming judgment but with a confident hope.
The controlling Joels and the passive Phils need to be restored to usefulness. They need to be reconciled to God and to their wives and families. They need to be discipled and held accountable for change and growth. This would generate enormous hope in their wives and in their children.
This is biblical Christianity in action, but the church-and its hurting families-needs God-fearing men to carry it out. May God in His mercy raise up a generation of godly men who do not fear men because they rightly fear God!
Taken from Today’s Christian Preacher, Spring 2004. Adapted from Created for His Glory, Jim Berg’s sequel to Changed into His Image. Copyright by Bob Jones University Press, Greenville, South Carolina, USA. Used by permission.