'He's Just Not a Spiritual Leader,' and Other Christian Dating Myths
A 2008 Pew Research Center survey found that, when it comes to the character traits deemed most important for political and corporate leadership, most people rate women superior to men, surpassing the latter in the areas of intelligence, honesty, creativity, compassion, and friendliness. Out of the eight traits given, respondents ranked men as superior only in the trait of decision-making.
Of course, the Pew survey is less scientific than one might hope. But still, assuming that leadership gifts aren't doled out along gender lines, and that many women possess the key traits needed for top-notch leadership, what might this mean for Christian dating and marriage—in which many Christians believe the man should lead?
Students often ask me and my husband, Shawn, to walk them through premarital counseling or mentoring as part of a program offered at our university. Most of the time, we're happy to oblige. Not all of the couples are engaged; some are merely contemplating marriage. And after completing the program, some students decide to break off their engagements.
Some time ago in the school cafeteria, we ran into a young woman we knew well. Shawn and I had counseled her and her boyfriend the year prior. I asked her about their relationship. "I broke up with him a month or so ago," she said sheepishly. Shawn and I tried to veil our shock.
A few minutes later, I asked her why. "He's just not a spiritual leader," she answered. After we parted ways, Shawn turned to me and said, "I can't help wondering how many otherwise beautiful relationships have ended due to misconceptions about spiritual leadership."
As we processed the news and recalled some of our conversations with the couple, we remembered her saying that he had a patient nature, was intelligent, a hard worker, and of peaceful demeanor, complementing her quite well. But she also mentioned that he rarely initiated prayer or Bible study. For her, in the end, not initiating in those areas was a deal-breaker, even though we found them a highly compatible couple that simply needed to iron out a few wrinkles. (I realize there could've been more going on, and I certainly don't recommend ignoring red flags.)
It wasn't the first time I'd heard the complaint: "He's not a spiritual leader." It seems that initiating prayer, Bible study, and other similar devotional activities is a litmus test for male spiritual leadership in some branches of the American church. And the common complaint by women on our campus is that men are failing in spiritual leadership; they aren't passing the litmus test. They aren't initiating.