FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Kevin DeYoung: Time to Step Up

with Kevin DeYoung | June 27, 2022
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Professor and author Kevin DeYoung knows men can be dictators or doormats. How can men initiate spiritual growth in ways compelling and compassionate?

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  • 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.

Professor and author Kevin DeYoung knows men can be dictators or doormats. How can men initiate spiritual growth in ways compelling and compassionate?

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Kevin DeYoung: Time to Step Up

With Kevin DeYoung
June 27, 2022
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Dave: Alright, so here’s a question—I think I know your answer—but when I am leading you

Ann: Yes! [Laughter]

Dave: and our family well, spiritually, how does that make you feel?

Ann: Amazing. Well, maybe we should define what—

Dave: I was just going to say a better question is: “What's that look like?”

Ann: Yes.

Dave: “When I'm leading you spiritually, and leading the boysagain, they're grown men nowbut what was I doing that you said, ‘Yes! I love this’?”

Ann: When you're initiating prayer, like I love it if you lead us in prayer as a family.

Dave: —which was every day, every hour; that's what I did. [Laughter]

Ann: But I loved that. I loved when you were reading something in the Scriptures and you're, “Oh! This is so good; look at this”; I felt like, “Oh, yes; we're one spiritually.” When I’d hear you talking to the boys about spiritual matters—and not in an awkward kind of way, but just everyday lifekind of: “Hey, have you thought about this Bible verse?” when you're talking about something they're struggling with. That gives me security, gives me hope; it gives me joy, and it makes me feel like, “Man, we're together in this.”



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: I feel like almost every marriage asks the question I just asked: “What's it look like to have Jesus at the center of your marriage?” “What's it look like for a husband?”—I just talked about leadership. “What's it look like for a wife?”

I think it's a really confusing question. I don't think a lot of men, who are followers of Christ—or women—would know exactly, like I literally wasn't sure exactly how you were going to answer

Ann: Well, I think everyone

Dave: what it looked like for me to lead spiritually.

Ann: —everyone has a different idea and expectation of what leading spiritually should be. My idea of you leading spiritually, at first, may have been a little[Laughter]

Dave: Now, we can talk about that later. You're laughing, because you put a burden on me that I could never, never reach.

Ann: You mean when I wanted you to be like Dennis Rainey in all aspects?

Dave: And you told me I wasn't Dennis Rainey.

Ann: “Dennis Rainey wouldn't do that.”

Dave: And you wanted a family altar in our house every night. [Laughter] Anyway, let's talk about that later.

But we’ve got Kevin DeYoung with us in the studio in Orlando. Welcome to FamilyLife Today, Kevin.

Kevin: It is great to be with you. I'm just looking forward to hearing about all your problems. [Laughter]

Dave: I saw you over there, smiling, like, “Okay.”

Kevin: Yes.

Dave: You’ve been on FamilyLife Today

Kevin: Yes, a couple of times.

Dave: many times.

Kevin: Yes, right.

Dave: And you and your wife Trisha are here, without nine kids,

Kevin: Yes, that's all of them. We don't have any more that we're without; we are without nine kids. [Laughter]

Dave: in Orlando.

Ann: Your oldest is 17.

Kevin: Eighteenoldest is eighteen; youngest is one—about every two years—yes, do the math.

Dave: I can't imagine how busy your life is. I mean, you're a pastor in North Carolina now

Kevin: Right.

Dave: at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews.

Kevin: Yes.

Dave: And also, you do work with RTS

Kevin: Yes.

Dave: in seminary work. You've written a book recently called Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction, which is really comprehensive beyond just marriage. But there's this couple chapters in there, where you talk about men and women in roles in marriage, which is where we're going to go today. So let's talk about that.

Kevin: Great.

Dave: Where would you start?

Kevin: Well, you could start at Genesis. A good place to start is in the beginning. Someone once said: “All good theology starts in Genesis.” You can start there, at the beginning of the Bible, because you see how God made this pair; and from the very beginning, He made them to be a complement—complement with an “E”—you also should compliment; you know, say nice thingsbut they/each for each other, they’re a pair.

So that when God said, “It's not good for the man to be alone,” it wasn't just companionship—that's part of it—it wasn't just he was lonely. God could have given him, you know, 100 golden retrievers, or could have given him a literal man cave with buddies to hang out in; but that's not who He made. He made a woman for the man because, uniquely, the man, Adam, and Eve would come together in this covenant of marriage, and they would fulfill the creation mandate: be fruitful, multiply, have dominion on the earth.

And everything starts there in Genesis, with God's design from the very beginning, to create a man and a woman for each other; so that, in marriage, when we come together, it's not just the union of husband and wife. It is, in a profound way, a reunion because she was taken from the side of man. And when you're joined together in marriage, in one-flesh union, that's coming together: God's design for a husband and a wife.

So it starts there; Jesus reinforces that. Then Ephesians 5 is probably where we want to land, at some point, because that's one of the typical marriage sermons. That's where Paul gives the most detailed instruction about marriage, and it's still relevant 2,000 years later.

Ann: And even as we talk about that, Kevin, you talk about, in one of your chapters, of how a husband is to lead—he's to serve, and he's to care—and you got that from Ephesians 5.

Kevin: Yes; I think Ephesians 5 is in this part of Scripture that, sometimes, scholars called the household codes; it's Paul just giving: “I'm going to talk about marriage,” “I'm going to talk about kids,” In that context, it’s slaves and masters—we would say, you know, “employers/employees”; but he's giving instructions. Part of what he's doing is he's trying to address men and women at their unique area of fallen-ness.

So that's why I said it starts in Genesis. Because you see: “What was the man supposed to do?”—the man was supposed to be a loving sacrificial leader. He was the one who got the command in the garden. When Eve sinned, isn't it interesting that, even though Eve was the one who sinned, Paul, in Romans 5, says sin actually came into the world through Adam? God held Adam responsible for Eve’s sin. So you see, from the beginning, that the man was supposed to be this leader—he was supposed to care for and protect his wife—but what do we see in Genesis? He's blaming his wife: “God, You made this woman.”

I would say men have a tendency, because of sin, to either be dictators or doormats in marriage:

  • either cruel, harsh/even abusive, authoritarian;
  • or I think, just as often, the problem—maybe even more often in a lot of Christian homes—the wife is off doing the Bible studies; the wife is really on fire for Jesus; the wife wants to pray. The husband, when it comes spiritually, is a doormat.

What Paul is saying here in Ephesians is: “Okay, men, God knows what your weakness is. You're prone to get this wrong, so let me tell you what you need to do. You need to love your wife as Christ loves the church, and that means leading.” And one of the things that—I'm sure I got this/maybe John Piper first said this—but I say in the book: “Part of leading is the husband is the one who says the word, “Let's…”

Ann: Oh, that's good.

Kevin: Yes; now, of course, the wife can—these are/we're not talking about rigid definitions but general postures—that the husband is the one, who says: “Honey, let's pray,” “Let's go to church,” “Let's read the Bible,”—and not just spiritual—but: “Let's go on a date. I'll get a sitter,” “I'll fly you to Orlando, and we’ll leave all the kids behind,” [Laughter] “Let's go do that,” and “Let's talk about this. We're having a big conflict. Let's sit down; let's work through this. Let's pray together.” That's the husband leading as Adam was meant to lead. Sadly, because of sin, how we often don't know how to lead.

Ann: I'm just thinking that, right there, that could be one of the biggest takeaways, I feel like, for men. I feel bad for you guys; because when you hear, “You need to be the spiritual leader of the home,” I think a lot of men are thinking, “What does that mean?” And you simplified it: it's taking the initiative with the word, “Let's…”

Kevin: Yes; it's really important for men hearing this to realize, “Yes, you're going to be wired different ways.” I think you're right; a lot of men get really intimidated. It is strange—because they might be really successful at work; they might be great athletes—and yet, when it comes to this, they see, you know, “My wife is doing her devotions in the morning, and I'm hit or miss,” and “She goes to umpteen Bible studies, and I'm just honestly thinking about coming home and watching football.” They don't feel like they know how to do it.

Dave: Right.

Kevin: So some of it is the men, you know, you do need to step up. I always say, “The central message in my book, is not: ‘Women sit down,’—but—‘Men stand up.’”

Dave: Yes.

Kevin: Yes, there are roles—there are certain things that men do and women don't do—but men need to stand up. But they need to realize that God's not expecting that you have a seminary degree and that you have 30-minute sessions. When you come to our house, it is chaos.

Ann: I can’t imagine.

Dave: I can’t imagine with nine kids.

Kevin: I'm not kidding: I wish I were better. I wish I could say we had great family devotions every time, or even that we had family devotions every time. When we sit around the table—that is a big win for us—with everybody, from ages one to eighteen coming and going.

A lot of it is taking the initiative to pray with my kids, to pray with my wife, to move towardmy wife and I are not/we're not yellers—we're frost, ice, cold. [Laughter] And of course, you know, if she were here, she would be kind about it; but yes, they're [arguments] usually my fault. But everything in me, as a sinner, says she's at fault. I'm going to wait—maybe I'll budge once she budges a little bit/once she thaws, I'll thaw—but I'm waiting because I know what she did wrong. Maybe I did something, but I'm waiting for her.

And then the Lord reminds me: “Let's…” Part of being the leader/part of lovingI mean, good thing Christ didn't wait for the church

Ann: Yes.

Kevin: good thing Christ didn't say to his bride, “Clean yourself up and, then, I'll die for you.”

Dave: Yes.

Kevin: And so if Christ did that for us, how much more, husbands, should we take that initiative?

Even on those rare occasions, where “Okay; yes, you're 10 percent and she's 90 percent of the faultif those have ever happened—[Laughter]

Dave: Yes.

Kevin:still, you make the initiative. At least, you know, I have been blessed with a wonderful wife. If I’ll take that first step to say—“I can see how I did some things that I shouldn't and said some things,”—you know, it's amazing how just taking that first half-step can start to thaw what had been a very icy situation; as opposed to the times, when I start by saying, “I want you to know that I forgive you.” [Laughter] That usually doesn't go as well.

Dave: “[Forgive me] for what?!”

Ann: That’s not a good one.

Kevin: Yes.

Dave: Well, I would say this, just to follow up on that: because when I've done, Kevin, what you just saidand it sounds like Trish responds to thatAnn does too. In

41 years of marriage, I can't think of 2 or 3 times that, when I am gentle but strong in leadership, and saying, “Let’s…,” I don't think hardly ever you’ve said “No.” You're just/you melt; you're like “Ah.” In a sense—you don't say it out loud—but you're like: “Thanks for leading. Thanks for being the spiritual leader I need.”

I often found myself leading stronger outside the home. I felt I knew what to do; I was better at it. And it's clear, as you said in your book, and in Ephesians 5, this is my call: I am called the leader. So in some sense, it’s meant for me: “Step up,” just like you said, Kevin. It's like: “I can do this. It isn't like impossible. It's like: ‘Okay; doesn't require a Master of Divinity; it just requires: “Let's open the Word together, honey.”’”

Ann: Okay, let's talk about this. As a listener, women are thinking, “Yes! I'm longing for my husband to say, ‘Let's…’ anytime.” I think, as women, we often feel the burden, like we're teaching our kids some spiritual truths;

Dave: I feel a “but” is coming. [Laughter]

Ann: —we're saying, “Let's go to church,” to our kids; and we're hoping our husband’s coming. I talk to so many women [who] are longing for that.

So help us, as women, to know: “Do we say to our husbands, ‘Hey, I listened to this podcast/radio broadcast, and if you would just start saying, “Let's…”’” Should we even approach this; or do we just pray about it, with our husbands, when we feel like he's not doing anything?

Shelby: You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Kevin DeYoung on FamilyLife Today. We'll hear Kevin’s response 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’s conversation with Kevin DeYoung and how a wife can encourage her husband to be a better leader.

Kevin: I think there is a place to say something.

Ann: Yes.

Kevin: You have 1 Peter—you can win over your husband without a word—but it's not an absolute: “You never can bring something to your husband's attention.” If Trisha said something in the heat of the moment: “It’d be nice if you help put the kids to bed,” that's maybe true; [Laughter] but it's hard to receive—versus a calmer time—“Hey, it would be really great if, when you're home, you could set the phone aside”; because she's had to say that to me.

So here's maybe some very practical advice for women listening: “That moment, when you feel most strongly that you want to say something like this, wait/wait for another moment.” Because, probably in that moment, you may be frustrated; and he's not doing what you want him to do right there. Wait until the next morning, when you're out of that particular situation maybe. And certainly, there's a place to say “Honey, I love you; and you know that I respect you,”—it's so important. We don't like to admit this, Dave, but how important it is our wives respect us. And that's why Paul says: “Wives respect your husbands”; because the wife has a certain sin predilection, too; and it's to usurp her husband’s leadership and to not respect him.

I think, if a wife leads that conversation in a way that says, “You know, I love you; I respect you; I want to follow you,” it puts the husband in a mind to: “Okay, I know that something hard is coming; [Laughter] but I'll listen.”

It goes in the other way; because I can imagine some husband’s listening, and saying: “Well, that's great, Dave. It sounds like Ann’s wonderful,” and “Kevin and Trisha, that's really great that they are responsive when you say ‘Let's…’; but I've tried that, and my wife doesn't like it, and she rebuffs that leadership.” I would say to men: “That doesn't mean you stop leading.” There may be all sorts of reasons—maybe her dad, maybe her experiences, maybe all sorts of reasons why that could be hard for her to receive—but I've found, sometimes, guys say, “Well, I tried to do the leadership thing and my wife didn't want me to do it; so I guess I'm off the hook for doing that.”  No, you're not.

And even sometimes, when the wife may say, “I'm not looking for that sort of leadership,” that's where all the more you need to do it gently, humbly, winsomely. But that doesn't mean you abdicate your responsibility. You need to continue to try to initiate that conversation. She may not even realize: “Oh, I don't want him to lead; but he's still leading.”

Dave: Yes.

Kevin: Because that's what you need to do.

Dave: Yes; I think, even in your chapter, we talked about what the husband’s role is—Ann mentioned it; you mentioned leadership—care and serve.

Kevin: Yes; and that's where—to even hear, “lead,”—we can immediately think, “Ah, family devotions, family altar, getting them to church.” That's an important part;

Dave: Right.

Kevin: but I bet my wife would say, “Well, you’re a pastor—you're good; you make sure we go to church—but I need you to care for me and show leadership in helping the kids get the bath at night, and making sure that you're sitting down with the seven-year-old and reading with him.” Those are other ways of exercising care and service.

I mean this—I think this is just about universally true: any of us listening to this; I know Dave would agreewe're likely not going to out-serve our wives.

Dave: Yes.

Kevin: So we need to realize, as they're serving in all of those ways, that we need to see our role, as husbands, not only—“Here I am. I just came home from work; I'm ready to start throwing orders around,”—well, that's not probably going to go well.

Ann: I would say [basketball buzzer sound].

Kevin: Yes; you need to show a warmth and a humor, whatever personality God has given you.

One of the things I love to see is when my wife said, “Alexa®, play”—whatever. The music comes on, and she's singing; and the kids are singing; and they're bopping around. I feel like, not only is that a gift from the Lord, but that's the sort of flourishing I want. You know, it doesn't always show itself in: “Well, they all got dressed up and went to church,”—of course, we want that.

But if I'm exercising the kind of service, care, and leadership, you're going to enter; and there's a happy home, where peopleand they don't even/can't even put their finger on it—but they would feel that this is a place where: “We're protected,” “We're taken care of,” “Where someone's leadership and authority…”—authority’s become such a bad word, because it's abused so often—but God has authority. Jesus, in the Great Commission, said, “All authority has been given to Me.” Authority is a good thing, given by God, to be used for good purposes. And when we exercise that lovingly, sacrificially in the home, it is a real gift to our wife and to our children.

Dave: Yes; I was thinking, Kevin—as you were sharing that—I was thinking of the phrase we've all heard; it's: “Happy wife, happy life.” [Laughter]

Kevin: Yes.

Dave: In some ways, we've often said that the wife determines the atmosphere/the environment of the home; but as you were saying that Kevin, I thought, “It's not always true.” Because if a man/if the husband is leading, serving and caring—lovingly, sacrificially laying down his life for his bride, as Christ did for the church—that creates what you just/I saw in my mind’s eye: nine kids, and you, and Trisha dance around the house. I don't know what it would look like in North Carolina, but I saw this joy.

I thought, “That often, is determined by the wife and mom. But it doesn't always have to be that way.” If I'm loving her; if you feel served by me—if my boys felt that: cared for the way God’s called me, as a husband, to do—that's going to create a joy in the home that I have a big part of being a catalytic part of than just you. It isn't just: “Happy wife, happy life”; it’s like: “Happy wives become happy, because their man lives out his God-given role.”

Kevin: Yes.

Dave: I don't know. I just/what just hit me it's like, man, as we step up to do that, we've said it. I think, clearly, it isn't just some biblical family altar thing—it could be—it could be beautiful.

Kevin: Right; you want to do some of that; right.

Dave: But if you do it in a different way—and you say: “Let's open the Word,” “Let's pray,”—I just want to challenge a man, right now, that’s listening to this, thinking, “I can't do this.” Yes, you can; you really can. Just start small and watch what God does.

Kevin: That's right. And if you say, “Well, you don't know how bad our marriage is,” you're right; we don't. But we're Christians; God brings dead things to life.

Dave: Yes.

Kevin: And so you have to believeand you guys do marriage conferences and written marriage books—and so you know this, and I'm sure you hear amazing testimonies. But as a pastor, in counseling or meeting with people, almost no matter what the issue is—if the husband and wife are both willing to take even a tiny step toward each other: if they're just willing to say “I do want to get better,” “I want God to help us,”—no matter where they are, almost without fail—the Lord is going to lead them to make some steps.

Whereas, if their problems are small, but one or both of them say: “I don't really want this help,” —you can give them all the greatest books; you can/they could live in Dennis Rainey's basement—[Laughter]—and it still won't because God needs to be at work in their hearts.

One of the greatest gifts we can give to our kids—and through our kids, really, to society/into our churches—is for our kids to see a mom and dad that love each other.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Yes.

Kevin: And we don't even realize what we're doing, and all of our kids are growing up with a sense of normal—

Dave: and security.

Kevin: That's right.

Dave: Yes.

Kevin: —and “I am so blessed.”

We talk about—you know, people”privilege” is a big word today. There's lots of different ways to be privileged; but all the sociological research tells us that, at a human level, the biggest privilege you can have in this life is to be born into a home with your mom and dad, who stay together, and love each other and raise you. And we know there's listeners who—that wasn't your story—and God can still redeem that story.

But when husbands love their wives like that, and kids see that, it gives them a senseeven when theyI remember my dad would always, you know, try to steal a kiss from my mom in the kitchen. [Laughter] I still do that and do the things that, you know, Trisha rolls her eyes and “Oh, stop!”; and the kids are: “Eww, gross.” [Laughter] And yet, I look back as a kid, and there was something strangely comforting, like: “These weird old people,”—like I call my parents—they still like each other, and laugh; and dad is trying to, you know, kiss Mom. You know, that makes a big difference in just creating a sense of normal and joy in the home.

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

If you know anyone who needs to hear conversations just like this, we'd love it if you’d tell them about this station. You can share today's specific conversation from wherever you get your podcasts. And while you're there, it would really help us out if you would rate and review us.

Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann will continue their conversation with Kevin DeYoung as they unpack that crazy, controversial word we find in the Bible called submission. You won't want to miss that one 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.

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