An Essential Talk by Bruce Ware on Manhood

The following was just posted at the blog of The Gospel Coalition:

Theologian Bruce Ware just gave a noteworthy talk on godly manhood at his church, Clifton Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky.  The talk was entitled “Select Principles on Being a Biblically Faithful Man and Husband”.  I heard the talk and commend the audio to you.  The following is the handout given out at the talk.  The handout alone is one of the most helpful documents I’ve seen on what godly manhood looks like.

1. Love.   1) Loving God increasingly w/ all my heart, soul, mind and strength; loving Christ and the cross; loving the gospel — these are the foundation for all else.  Drawing from God all I need to be the man and husband God has called me to be is my strength and hope.  2) Loving my wife as Christ loves the Church — this is the umbrella principle for marriage; everything else flows from this responsibility and privilege (Eph 5:25ff).

2. Leadership.   Biblical manhood involves cultivating, embracing, and exercising leadership initiative, especially spiritual leadership initiative.  This is a principle that applies to young men and adult single men just as well as to married men.  Cultivate, embrace, and exercise spiritual leadership initiative.   In marriage, my love for my wife involves and requires that I exert leadership in our relationship.  My headship of my wife means I’m responsible for her spiritual growth and well-being.  And as a father, I’m responsible in ways that my wife is not for the spiritual development of our children (Eph 6:1-4).  And again, to do this, I must be seeking God and growing personally.  Only out of the storehouse of my own soul’s growth in God can I assist my wife to grow spiritually.

3. Example.  Lead by example as much as by admonition and instruction.  Set the example in:  consistent times in the Word and prayer;  in sacrificial service for your wife, children, church family members, and community needs;  in giving faithfully, generously, and regularly of your finances;  in humble admission of wrong-doing along with confession, asking forgiveness, and repentance.  Fight pride, fight defensiveness, fight carnality before others.

4. Authority.  All three points above imply and invoke the concept of male-headship.  Yes, God has given special authority to husbands and fathers.  Learn, though, the correct expression of healthy, constructive, upbuilding, God-honoring, Christ-following authority.  Resist and reject the sinful extremes of 1) harshness, bossiness, mean-spirited authoritarianism, and of 2) laziness, apathy, lethargy, negligence, and abdication of authority to the women in our lives.  Learn to blend firmness with gentleness, truth with grace, a firm hand with a warm smile.

5. Acceptance.   Each of us is unique as God has made us.  We should accept others’ differences w/o thinking ourselves to be either superior or inferior to others.  In marriage, my wife is unique, and so in many ways, she is not like me.  I need to accept who she is, prayerfully and sensitively seeking to assist her in changing what is sinful and needs to be changed, and accepting what is “just different.”

6. Listening.   One of my wife’s biggest and most real needs is my attentive and respectful listening ear.  She loves to share her experiences, thoughts, ideas, feelings, concerns, hurts, joys, etc.   I can minister to my wife more than one might think by offering her caring, responsive, and respectful listening and interaction.  Learn to listen sympathetically w/o rushing to “fix it” solutions.  Connect first heart to heart, then later heart to head.  Establish regular times of mutual sharing (yes, mutual), keep short accounts, and act on what you hear and learn.

7. Understanding.   I need to live with my wife in an understanding way (1 Pet 3:7), to learn her needs, her sensitivities.  I should seek to know the desires and felt needs of my wife and, when appropriate and possible, fulfill these.  I need to discover her “language of love” and make every effort to love her in ways she feels loved.

8. Work.   A man’s main sense of identity, responsibility, and purpose is found in his work.  Wives want to take pride in their husbands, and taking pride in their work is an important part of this.  Women are not meant to bear the financial weight of a marriage or family, so husbands must work hard and responsibly.  As important as work is to a man’s identity and fulfillment, we must not allow work to overshadow our commitment to and time with our wives first, and also to our children.  Work hard, work well, work to the honor of Christ, and then put work to rest.

9. Sexuality.   My wife is my only legitimate sexual experience, and I am hers.  So, learning to love sexually with increasing skill and pleasure is vitally important to the satisfaction and intimacy of our marriage.  See human sexuality for what it is — the good gift of God to be experienced in marriage, as God has designed.

10. Home.   She cares much about our home.   The “honey-do” list is far more important to her than she is likely to let on.  In love for her, I must pay attention to her requests and treat them as important.  But more important even than this is cultivating the “culture” and “ethos” of our home.  Develop an atmosphere of appreciation, respect, kindness, service, holiness, happiness, gratefulness, contentment, forgiveness — all as expressions of our love for God and one another.

Listen to the talk here.

My only other word on the talk would be that in the case of Dr. Ware, these words are backed up by a faithful life.  It’s one thing to hear people talk about manhood directed to the glory of God; it’s another to live it.  Dr. Ware excels at husbanding, fathering, leading, and teaching.  He has much to teach you and me, and I hope that these resources bless you and contribute to the revival of robust biblical manhood in our day.

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  • A Woman

    “I can minister to my wife more than one might think by offering her caring, responsive, and respectful listening and interaction.”

    I take offense to this. Women want to share in order to feel connected to their husbands, not to “receive ministry.” In fact, if I felt someone was listening to me in order that they may then use it as a ministering tool rather than as time spent with me for the enjoyment of knowing me, I would feel undervalued as a friend/wife and ignored as an individual. Since when is a wife just a project – someone to “lead,” “minister to,” someone whose “to-do list” might get in the way of a man’s “cultivaiton of the culture and ethos of the home.” What a small-minded view of women, and of marriage.

    Oh yes, and don’t forget never to “abdicate your authority to the women in your lives” – heaven forbid a woman would have any Godly authority of her own! I am not against male authority, however I think men need to remember that women have also been given leadership, calling, and authority by God.

    • Andrew Terry

      I personally take ministry to heart and do not consider it a “project”. Ministry is at the heart of any pastor especial a pastor/husband of the home. Service is at the heart of ministry. I love to serve my wife in any way I can. To call it a ministry does not minimize my service. As a matter of fact I call my service to God a ministry. I love God more than life it self, more than my wife. Does the word ministry minimize my service, make it less personal?

      As for abdicating authority many of men as done this for the last 4 decades. Men have left their wives and families for selfish reasons and gave up their authority. Many husbands sit back lazily and allow the wife to do everything for them. The authority of the household belongs on the husband who the head, just as Christ is the head of the church who has all the authority in heaven and under heaven. From where does the woman receive godly authority?

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  • http://sounddoxology.blogspot.com Rich

    I have attempted to tackle the subject of masculinity (or lack thereof) among worship leaders at my blog if anyone is interested:

    http://sounddoxology.blogspot.com/2010/04/effeminate-worship-leader.html

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