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The Gospel & Deliberate Complementarian Pastors

May 1, 2009

C. J. Mahaney is the president of Sovereign Grace Ministries and the author of Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know (Crossway, 2004) among many other titles. This article was originally a blogpost at and at

Our motivation for biblical manhood and womanhood in marriage is the gospel.

I am convinced that the complementarian position will strengthen the church in her God given-role to proclaim and protect the gospel. And the most effective apologetic for the complementarian position (apart from Scripture) is marriages, families, and singles who radiate the beauty and wisdom of God’s plan for men and women.

Biblical manhood and womanhood is the life-transforming effect of the gospel on full display. When a church teaches, practices, and honors gender distinctions determined by our good and wise God, the gospel will advance. But this will only happen where there are humble and courageous pastors who lead every member and ministry of the church by personal example and with strategic pastoring.

Yet here’s my concern: It is all too easy for us as pastors to affirm biblical manhood and womanhood and to contend humbly for the complementarian position, and yet still fail to intentionally and consistently apply this body of teaching to our lives and to our churches. Pastors must not only proclaim truth but practice truth.

Another way to say this would be, complementarianism must be functional in our personal lives and in our churches, not simply professed. Our understanding of biblical manhood and womanhood should mean that the husbands, wives, children, and singles in our churches look different than marriages and families look in the world.

Our responsibilities as pastors fall into two categories: personal application and pastoral strategy.


Our teaching on this topic will only be as effective as our personal example. Modeling precedes teaching. Biblical instruction cannot be divorced from personal example.

We must provide our churches with a genuine (not perfect) model of biblical masculinity. It is possible to skillfully teach Genesis 1-3 or Ephesians 5 and yet neglect to apply these passages to our lives.

So let me ask you: Where and how will you demonstrate biblical manhood to your wife and children this week? What difference is your complementarian position going to make in your life and for those you love, lead, and serve? If I spent the week with you, would your conviction about biblical masculinity be obvious?

Gentlemen, here is a gift you can give to your wife this week. Set aside a few hours of uninterrupted time, and ask her to honestly evaluate your personal example of godliness and your leadership in the home.

I dare you to ask her this question: Where do I need to grow in serving and leading you?

For bonus points, ask this question: Where do I need to grow in serving and leading the children?

This one conversation could initiate dramatic changes in your life.

After you’ve talked to your wife, I encourage you to relate the details to a fellow elder, pastor, or friend. Invite their questions and observations and make yourself accountable to them for application. This step will weaken pride and cultivate humility. Because God gives grace to the humble, this is a very smart thing to do. In fact, it would be stupid not to, since God opposes the proud. So let us avoid being mere advocates of the complementarian position. By the grace of God we must be functional complementarians, which means it will be evident for all to see.

(In fact, I double dare you to ask your wife the question above.)


Do you have a strategy for helping your church demonstrate biblical manhood and womanhood?

If so, what is your strategy? What is your plan to clarify, cultivate and celebrate biblical manhood and womanhood in your church? This must be done intentionally, strategically and consistently-not occasionally. And it won’t get done if you don’t lead humbly, wisely, and boldly.

Here’s why: The members of our churches are being assaulted daily by a feminist worldview and culture. They are breathing feminist air each and every day. So do not assume that your statement of faith or last year’s teaching series are sufficient to protect your church from cultural or evangelical feminism.

Here’s how: Begin by thinking through each ministry in your church. Is biblical manhood and womanhood modeled and explicitly taught in each ministry? What about your children’s ministry? How about the youth ministry? The worship team? The counseling ministry? Thoroughly evaluate every aspect of your church, including the teaching diet on Sundays. Then devise a specific plan to channel this important body of teaching through each ministry of your church to every member of your church for every year you pastor the church.

Preaching on biblical manhood and womanhood is not enough-we must transfer this body of truth to every member of our church. Which begins with us.

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