FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Kevin DeYoung: Men and Women in the Church

with Kevin DeYoung | June 30, 2022
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The roles of men and women in the church are so much more than stereotypes. Professor and author Kevin DeYoung dives into hard questions about gender roles.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

The roles of men and women in the church are so much more than stereotypes. Professor and author Kevin DeYoung dives into hard questions about gender roles.

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Kevin DeYoung: Men and Women in the Church

With Kevin DeYoung
June 30, 2022
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Kevin: I love to preach from Exodus 1: the story of Moses’ birth. You’ve got the Hebrew midwives, who are hiding the kids away from Pharaoh; and then you have Moses’ mom is hiding Moses away in the basket; then Moses’ sister is following along; and then Pharaoh's daughter is going to raise him. You have, in that opening chapter, as far as we can see, all of redemptive history is hanging in the balance: “Is this child Moses going to make it?” and “Who is advancing the plan of redemptive history in that first chapter?”—it's all women, doing what?—looking after kids. And some of them didn't have kids!

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Yes.

Kevin: All of them with that desire to care for, provide for, protect, love children is what, in that moment, move forward God’s plan of redemptive history; and God still does that.


Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: So over 30 years ago, I started a ritual

Ann: Yes?

Dave: that, at the time, I thought I would do for maybe a year; and I'm still doing it.

Ann: Oh, you're talking about fasting.

Dave: Yes; fasting and praying on Fridays for my sons’ lives. They were little babies and toddlers at the time; but now, they're grown men; and they're married. And one of the things I prayed every Friday was for their wives.

Ann: Oh, yes; and hasn’t it been fun?

Dave: At that time, I didn't know who they were/their names; and now, they're married to these three amazing women.

Ann: Oh, and they're strong; aren’t they? [Laughter]

Dave: They are strong; they're amazing women.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I mean, they’re beyond what I even prayed for.

Ann: Me too.

Dave: God answered in such a great way. We're not trying to sit here and say the Wilson family is perfect, and our kids and our grandkids are perfect; but I can't imagine them marrying better women. They're incredible.

Ann: I think, as I look at them, I realize how much influence they have over our sons. They really kind of helped shape our sons.

Dave: Yes; and so today, we get to talk about sort of what a man and a woman/a husband and wife look like in marriage. We’ve got Kevin DeYoung back with us today on FamilyLife. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today, Kevin.

Kevin: Great to be here.

Dave: Kevin DeYoung is a pastor in North Carolina. You're an author of over 20 books. You're a seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary; and most importantly, you're a husband of over 20 years and a dad of 9—did I say 9?—yes, 9 kids.

Ann: So Kevin, yesterday, it was so fun as you talked about your oldest daughter, who's 14. You described her as this stronglike you said—she could take care of an entire household and run it. So just like, if you could fast forward 20 years, and she's 34 and she's married, what do you hope to see her doing in her marriage? Because it would be sad if she'd lost that strength in the name of submission.

Kevin: Well, this sounds maybe old-fashioned or cliché; but I really hope, if the Lord blesses her with marriage and with children, that, first of all, she is a godly mom. We can set that aside, sort of, and: “Yes, yes, yes; but what are you really doing?”

Ann: Yes.

Kevin: And I always want to bebecause we need to push back against our culture on thisalways want to be highlighting what women do as mothers. Sometimes, when we talk about men and women—especially conservative/and I'm a conservative evangelicalwe talk about: “Well, here's some things that men do, that women don't do,”—maybe they’re pastors or they’re leaders in the home.

I had a woman say, “Well, that's true; I believe that. But don't forget to talk about the most important thing that women do, that men don't do; namely, they can give birth to human beings.” [Laughter] That's amazing.

Ann: We have the ability to change the future

Kevin: That's absolutely true.

Ann: based on how we are parenting our kids.

Kevin: Yes.

Ann: That's heavy and weighty.

Kevin: I would want my—any of my daughters/grown daughters someday toI don't want them to think that’s all that defines them for sure, or that they can't do anything else; of course not. And they'll be strong, and they'll have all sorts of other passions, and maybe they'll have places of employment or not; but insofar as they are wife/mom, caring for kids, to see that they are doing what is at the very heart, not the periphery, at the very heart of God's plan.

I love to preach from Exodus 1: the story of Moses’ birth. You’ve got the Hebrew midwives, who are hiding the kids away from Pharaoh; and then you have Moses’ mom is hiding Moses away in the basket; then Moses’ sister is following along, and then she gets things hooked up; and then Pharaoh's daughter is going to raise him. You have, in that opening chapter, as far as we can see, all of redemptive history is hanging in the balance: “Is this child Moses going to make it?” and “Who is advancing the plan of redemptive history in that first chapter?—it's all women, doing what?—looking after kids, and some of them didn't have kids!

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Yes.

Kevin: It's Shiphrah and Puah; it's Moses’ mom; it's Moses’ sister; it’s Pharaoh’s family. All of them—with that desire to care for, provide for, protect, love children—is what, in that moment, move forward God’s plan of redemptive history; and God still does that.

Ann: I was going to say: “And then you look at Mary

Kevin: Yes; absolutely.

Ann: ”with Jesus,” “You look at Elizabeth with John.” And so He continues to do that.

Dave: Yes; I thinkand I've heard you say this many timesmany moms, right now, don't see themselves like that: because they're at home; they’ve got kids—it's drudgery.

Ann: It feels like we're doing nothing.

Dave: “We're doing nothing”; you said that so many times,—

Ann: —the cleaning, yes.

Dave: —like: “I used to have a life; now, I'm just at home.”

You pull back and you go: “You are being used by God to raise up the next generation of warriors for Christ,”—I know it's easy to say, sitting here. When you're in the middle of that, you don't see that; but that is really what God’s called you and has gifted you to do, and it’s a unique privilege.

Kevin: And not to feel embarrassed by it/not to feel ashamed that, for this season of your life, is your main ministry.

Ann: Yes.

Kevin: You may have other things; that's wonderful.

But think about it: “Okay, I want to sign up, and I'm going to/I want to get a discipling relationship with some other…” that's great and we can have spiritual children, which is a blessing. You are going to have no bigger impact than on your own children. They are learning, not just what you say, but what you do. And thankfully, by God's grace, they forget a lot of what they see and what we say [Laughter]; but the overall love, and nurture, and support that they get.

Ann: I think every parent would agree that nothing shapes us more than being a mom or dad.

Kevin: That's right.

Ann: It shows us our weaknesses; it shows us our frailties; and it shows us our need for Jesus.

Kevin: Yes.

Dave: Here's another question: “If God was going to choose how the Wilson household should functionrolesHe probably would have put Ann in charge rather than Dave, because she just has a natural leadership gift.”

I mean, it's interesting—I'm a [former] quarterback—those are leaders; right? Yet in many ways, she has a stronger leadership gift than I did. But that's not what He did. We didn't base our home based on our personality or our wiring; we based it more on the Word of God and what He's called us to be and do: “What's right about that?” “What's wrong about that?”

Kevin: Well, certainly, what's absolutely right is we need to base our roles based on what God's Word says. We do have a tendency to fall into what our personalities are, and that's okay.

We have fairly traditional roles in that I do more outside stuff: I’m going to mow the lawn and get my boys to mow the lawn. But then, I'll tell you: my daughter said, “Hey, sitting on that riding lawn mower; I want to do that. [Laughter] That's a lot more fun.”

Ann: Oh, I’m the lawn mower in our family; I love it.

Kevin: I know. So yes, you can do that; we’re not saying you can't do that.

But you're right; because a lot of people listening to this will say what you just said/that: “It doesn't fit our personalities.” Here's where we're not helped by our culture—I’m just thinking of movies and entertainment—our entertainment presents one kind of strength usually. Here's the blurring of male and female—happens in our movies:

  • The old movies: the female heroine was too often just a damsel in distress; and maybe she didn't have her own agency, and just there to be rescued. I get how women say that's kind of lame.
  • But now it's like, if you're going to be a woman/strong woman, you're like

100 pounds and 6 feet tall. You still can kick any guy’s rear end, and crack their neck; and you can kill people. It's only one view of strength.

Ann: Kevin, I have to tell you this, as a side note, before you continue.

Dave: I know what you’re going to say.

Kevin: That's you?

Ann: No [Laughter]; you go to these movies, as a woman; and you think, “I'm going to do that. I could do that if I just work out enough,” or whatever. So we go home, after watching one of these Marvel® movies,

Kevin: Yes, right.

Ann: and I tell Dave, like, “I bet I can take you down.”

Dave: We’re in our little workout room; and she says that, like, “I'm going to tackle you.” I’m like, “No, you're not,” “Yes, I can take you down,”—like—“No chance, girl.”

Ann: So I try. [Laughter]

Dave: She tried.

Ann: I tried with all my heart, like, “I'm going to do this.” I was laughing so hard, laying on the floor; because I couldn’t even come close. [Laughter] I said, “This/

Dave: It isn't like I'm some strong man; it's just like the difference in strength was

Kevin: Right.

Ann: —this is impossible, what they’re portraying.

Kevin: Yes.

Ann: You’re right; it’s impossible.

Kevin: Yes, and it's one view.

That's why, when we think “strong” or “leader,” we think there's just one way to do it. We don't have very many cultural depictions of someone, who's quiet, or introverted, or reserved—or biblical meekness, and they’re immovable in their moral fortitude/in their ethical courage—and that's what we need to show. That's, hopefully, what we're displaying in our churches and in our homes.

It is really important—the question—because I've had women, who say, “Ah, finally; I know I've struggled with this kind of vision of submission; because I'm loud, and I have/I have opinions, and I like to lead things.” Okay, some of that maybe does need to be refined in all of us; but God isn’t saying you can't have opinions, or you can't be strong, or you can't be loud to be a godly woman. There's a way to embrace that role in supporting your husband.

Last thought that comes to mind: you know, it's easy to almostwe don't want to make fun of God's Word—but you know the passage that: “And Sarah called Abraham lord.”

Dave: Yes, yes.

Kevin: Really; okay, there's some cultural ways—but you were saying in an earlier episode that: “If women don't know where to start, pray,”—one of the other things to do is: often, our hearts and our attitudes follow our words. It's not hypocrisy to start with our words—and there's something instructive—“Sarah called Abraham lord.” I'm not saying you call “lord”; that's not even

Ann: That would be weird. [Laughter]

Kevin: the cultural marker. But for some marriages, just by starting again to say: “Honey,” “Dear,” “Babe,”—whateveryou know, those terms of endearment. Maybe your marriage has gotten cold or stale, and you don't say that—or you don't feel like you can respect your husband—start speaking those things. I think that's one of the reasons the verse is there; that Sarah was saying the sort of things she needed to say, as a godly woman. That's what a wife can do, no matter what her personality is; and that builds up the husband.

The husband, of course, can do similar things in the reverse way. God calls us to live out this plan and this design, according to His Word, not according to rigid stereotypes.

Ann: That’s good.

Dave: I would just say we didn't live out our roles in our marriage, based on our wiring; we lived it out based on God's calling, and it was the best way to go. You are still strong, and you still are a strong woman; but it forced me to go, “Okay, step up; and be the loving, sacrificial, leading, serving, caring husband that she deserves.” I became a better man because I said, “I'm going to lean into that role, because God’s called us to do that.”

Ann: I think what it did to me is it made me go before my Father, who loves me and who made me the way I amand I'm broken by all meansbut even to be submissive before the Father, to ask Him: “Lord, should I say anything?” and “Lord, if I should say it, what should I say, and how should I say it?” That has been one of the greatest helps for me, and that has been my strength over the years—not that I have—but Jesus gives that to me: it's wisdom.

Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Kevin DeYoung on FamilyLife Today. We're going to hear Dave and Ann reflect on this week's conversation about men and women in just a minute; but first, at FamilyLife, we believe God's design for marriage and family isn't some old-fashioned, fun-killing rulebook; but that it's a good, true, and beautiful design.

If you're passionate about more people catching that kind of vision for family, would you consider partnering with FamilyLife Today? All this week, with your donation of any amount, we want to send you Kevin DeYoung’s book, Men and Women in the Church. That's our thanks to you when you give this week at or when you call with your donation at 800-358-6329; that's 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Alright; now, back to Dave and Ann and their thoughts on this week's conversation about men and women.


Dave: Okay, so we just finished interviewing Kevin DeYoung

Ann: Yes.

Dave: and talking to him about roles and marriage. I know you were a little concerned, because

Ann: [Laughter] Yes!

Dave: we were going to be talking about husbands leading and wives

Ann: [whispering] submitting.

Dave: here's the word: “submitting.”

Ann: Yes; I was super nervous about it, actually. I think, even at the beginning of the interview, I sounded nervous. I couldn't even get some of my questions out; isn't that crazy?

Dave: You were that nervous?

Ann: A little bit, yes. Because I'm feeling for my sisters, [who] are listening. This is going to make me teary[emotion in voice]—because it's hard, I think as women—we want to follow God; we want to do what He's called us to do, but we're in circumstances that can be really difficult. We can have husbands that are just/maybe they say they love Jesus, but they're not initiating. They're not doing anything spiritually to help us or to help the kids.

So we're thinking, like: “I want to be a godly wife, but what does that look like?” and “Now, I just want to nag him all the time.” And we have other women, [who] their husbands are just not involved at all—zero—spiritually as well. And they feel so lonely and lost. So then to have a message to say [speaking sternly]: “You need to submit!” I get worried about women perceiving that as something that's a burden instead of a gift. Do you know what I mean?

Dave: Yes; I know you've also felt like, if we don't understand submission correctly, you lose your voice.

Ann: Because that was my greatest fear. I feel like I have lost my voice a little bit, because I was so committed to wanting to walk with Jesus. For a long time, I thought to be submissive meant to be silent, and not to voice anything, except shaking my head and agreeing with a man.

Dave: But you don't believe that anymore, but you still feel like you've lost your voice. What's that mean?

Ann: No, no, no. I feel like my voice is coming back, but I'm not as strong as I used to be. And that, I think, can be a good thing, based on what I used to be like. [Laughter]

I think I want women to embrace how God has made them—that He's made them on purpose for a purpose; and to look at their uniqueness, and their gifts, and their strengths—and maybe some of thoseI liked what we talked about, saying that, sometimes, some of the strongest women are those [who] are quiet, or who persevere, or who continually just go before God; because there's an incredible strength in those women.

And then, there's other women, [who] are so loud; and they've heard: “You’re too much. You're really too much.” And I see those women feel like they have no place in the church; and God is saying, “Oh, you have a really important place in My church.

Dave: And part of me thinks you didn't lose your voice because of a misunderstanding of submission; I think I was too strong, and I quieted you.

Ann: No, no; I don't think you did.

Dave: Well, you may not think that; but I

Ann: There was a time when you told me not to initiate prayer, as a woman, at first. [Laughter]

Dave: No, I'm just thinking back: there are many moments I regret and would take back; because the thing I love about you is your strength, and your incredible leadership gifts, and initiating, and being strong—I love that!—and yet,

Ann: I didn't wield it well, a lot, though.

Dave: —I'm just/I'm trying to

Ann: Okay, go ahead—keep trying—I like it.

Dave: I’m trying to give you an apology, and you won't let me.

Ann: Okay, go ahead. Sorry; I’m not good at that.

Dave: No; I mean, I feel like I often squelched that, not in the name of submission or any biblical role, I just felt like

Ann: Do you feel threatened by it?

Dave: I wanted to be the man; I should be the man. I didn't allow you to flourish, as an equal partner; and now, it's on me.

Ann: What do you think that would have looked like though?

Dave: I think we're living it now. I think it was/some of it was growing up. Some of it was immaturity on my part. Some of it was misunderstanding of Scripture, thinking that submission meant: quiet, silent,

Ann: Yes.

Dave: no voice.

Ann: Well, that’s interesting;

Dave: It doesn't mean that at all.

Ann: because I do remember thinking, “Oh, there must not be a place for me at church; because I'm not a quiet and submissive type of personality,” and “Maybe God doesn't have a place for me.” Because I used to feel more comfortable in guy settings; or I used to feel more comfortable talking about the war movie that I just loved; and I just felt like: “I'm so weird.”

So I think that for us, as women, to know, like, “Man, God sees you and is so thrilled with the way He made you.” Now let me add: we all have our brokenness. I think, sometimes, I needed to be strong—because of my own pain of the past; and my dad telling me that: “You have to be a leader,” in every situation—not realizing that, sometimes, the greatest leaders just sat back and listened.

Dave: Yes; at the same timeand I think we talked about it in the interview with Kevinyou want to get away from a stereotype

Ann: Yes.

Dave: of: “All men look like this…” “All women look like this…” I think, a lot of times in the church, we've promoted that stereotype: men are strong; women are soft. And you know what? Men can be soft, and women can be strong;—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: —and that’s who God made them to be. They're still unique femaleness and maleness, but it doesn't look a certain way; it doesn't wear the same outward appearance. It's a beautiful, beautiful, design by God to be who you are; and yet, He calls us to distinct roles in our marriages.

Ann: One of the things that I've loved doing with girlfriends is we’ll sit in a circle, and we’ll just speak life over each other. You know what I mean? Like we just look at each other and say, “This is what I see in you…”—like:

  • “You have this shepherd’s heart; it is incredible.” Like one of my friends, like: “You call me every single day; and you ask me, ‘How are you really doing?’”
  • Or someone else is like the most organized, like, “I'm going to get this stuff done,”—she's administrative. She runs her home, really like that; like her kids are really organized.

So just to speak life to one another, like: “I see this greatness in you”; because I don't think we hear it enough as women.

I bet you feel that men are probably even more like that.

Dave: Men rarely

Ann: That's what I'm saying!

Dave: There's an insecurity in us to not even want to do it to another man, because

Ann: Really?

Dave: it's ridiculous.

Ann: “That’s weird.”

Dave: We should; and we want it; and we long for it.

But I, even as I hear you say that, I thought, “What would it look like for a family to do it?

Ann: Oh, yes.

Dave: “Sit around the dinner table, or sit in the family room, and go around and speak life: kids to their dad; kids to their mom; mom/dads to the kids.”

Ann: Wouldn’t that be fun?

Dave: What a beautiful thing.

Ann: Yes.

Shelby: You've been listening to Dave and Ann on FamilyLife Today. They've been talking this week with Kevin DeYoung. His book is called Men and Women in the Church, and we’ll send you a copy when you give any amount today at

We've got a special treat of having FamilyLife’s president, David Robbins, with us today. David, tell us about what's been on your heart as you've been reflecting about who we are as the ministry of FamilyLife.

David: You know, as we reach this halfway point in the calendar year, it just makes me reflect a little bit/pause. It pulls me up to what we're all about at FamilyLife, and what we want to keep bringing to you every day—and that's our mission—our mission statement, that's been around for decades, is: “Effectively developing godly families who change the world one home at a time.”

We want you to know that we are committed to continuing doing everything we can to effectively, in practical and biblical ways, bring you grace and truth that helps you grow as a godly family. And I pray that you're experiencing that. I'm so grateful for the team that works so hard to do that.

But as you experience the truth of God's Word, and the transformation in your own life, our hope and desire is that God would draw you to actually go impact your corner of the world/to be someone that changes the world one home at a time. You've been called to the place [where] you're living—with the neighbors that you have, in the community that you live in, and the churches that you're connected to—to have an impact for God's kingdom. We love playing a small part in helping you impact the homes around you, so thank you for being a faithful listener and a part of FamilyLife.

Shelby: Yes, that's a good word. Thank you so much for making what we do possible, here, at FamilyLife.

Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson, along with Ron Deal, are going to be talking with me, actually, about how monumental it was for me to gain a stepfather when I was young. That's tomorrow.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife, a Cru® Ministry.

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