Freedom for Frustrated Fathers

Freedom for Frustrated Fathers

Maybe it’s a Saturday. You are busy doing any number of things all at once: entering receipts into Quicken, squeezing in a three and a half minute conversation with your wife, or trying to fix the leaky faucet in the kitchen… and then it happens. Like a bolt of lightning screeching from a cumulonimbus cloud, one of your kids rushes in, “Dad! Will you please do something about (insert sibling’s name)?! I am SO SICK AND TIRED of how he doesn’t listen to me!”

It is in those encounters that as fathers we might close our eyes and ask, “WHY is this happening to me—again?!” At worst, we might think, “Why did I ever think it was a good idea to have children?!”

Those are revealing moments. Thankfully, our righteousness is not in our performance as fathers, but irrevocably in Jesus Christ. We can confess such thoughts and our angry, frustrated, or disinterested responses as sin and be forgiven. But wouldn’t it be better to simply have a good response in the first place? Wouldn’t it be better to quit viewing such events as pesky distractions and instead embrace them with a completely different perspective?

Consider the following quote: These guys who fear becoming fathers don’t understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of childrearing is not the child but the parent.

I do not endorse that statement as a philosophy for parenting. But there is a powerful string of truth in it that is insightful and even biblical. Romans 8:28-29 talks about how God uses “all things” in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. For fathers, this includes those situations where we struggle with our kids’ behavior. We should ask God to show us how he is using these situations to reveal how—we—need to change!

I confess that I am often wrapped up in my own issues to the extent that I sometimes don’t see that there are other people—even my own kids who are standing right in front of me—who need/want my help. In fact, I often see those moments as the burdensome requirements of parenting rather than providentially orchestrated opportunities for greater redemption in my own life.

If God is trying to show us something about ourselves, and we refuse to listen, we are kicking against the goads. Often, he uses our spouses and children as his sanctifying tool. We can conquer these tests by asking God, “Ok. What are you teaching ME here?” When we know we’re struggling with our own attitude, asking this question helps position us not only to minister to our children, but to do so in a way that allows us to see God’s redemptive intention for us as well.

When the lightning strikes and we remember that God intends to refine us, too, it humbles and comforts us and then compels us to minister in a truly redemptive way. This provides an entirely different perspective on the otherwise frustrating situations we often encounter with our kids.


Encouragement for Fathers

Encouragement for Fathers

dadboysMany fathers have concluded that God cannot use them to minister to their wives and children. Ironically, I have actually heard some men use the following as justification, “I’m not like the men God used in the Bible (suggesting that these men were much closer to perfect)!”  Oh, really? Were the men God used in the Bible really better?

Truth is, none of us are good enough. Since Adam ate the apple, we’re far too selfish. The men God used in the Bible, like us, are deeply flawed. But God is gracious and looks for the humble heart that is willing to move forward in faith remembering that his strength and his ability are not in himself but in Christ alone.

Jesus’ victory on the cross is our victory over the comfort idol that is often the real reason we don’t minister. His victory over sin’s power is also our victory over the guilt that Satan loves to use to beat us down.  As men, our union with Christ has given us what we need to lead.

Take a look at the list of some of the fathers (and their sins) God used in the Bible and be encouraged! No matter how dysfunctional your situation may be; no matter how deficient you think you are, no matter what you’ve done to mess it up, nothing is beyond the grace of God working in us.

Four Small Changes to Men’s Ministry that Make a Huge Difference

Four Small Changes to Men’s Ministry that Make a Huge Difference

mens ministryEquipping men to be leaders in the church and home is challenging. Just ask any men’s ministry leader! But by changing four things about men’s ministry, we can better meet the challenge. Here’s how.

First, change the name from “Men’s Ministry” to “Head of Household Ministry”.
The problem with much men’s ministry is that it focuses too much on, well, the men and their individual walk with God. You might think, “AND WHAT is wrong with that?” Let’s step back.

The ultimate goal of all ministry is the recreation of God’s glory in the hearts of His people. Said another way, the goal is making Christians true worshippers of God which in practical terms means that we increasingly defeat idolatry in our hearts by finding our ultimate joy and satisfaction in him alone at all times. This is the result of our hearts being continually transformed by the gospel which is sanctification. Helping men do this is of course an excellent and necessary goal. But there’s more.

“Men” have been singled out by God to have a vital leadership role in the home (and the church) in accomplishing this goal. Fulfilling this responsibility requires much more than the typical fare that is dished out in men’s ministry.
Men are heads of household. This is a covenantal role which in part means that God holds men accountable for a specific task: to oversee the transformation work in their wives and children extending out into the church and through the church to the community and world.

The original version of the Westminster Confession of Faith included an introduction that was written not to “men” or “ordained preachers”, but to “Heads of Families” imploring the fathers to teach these things to their wives and children. Why? Because the Westminster Divines knew how vital this covenantal role really was in God’s redemptive plan.

Consider further that single men are heads of their own household even though it may only be a household of one. Perhaps they have a child -not all that unusual anymore? Perhaps they envision marriage? If so, they are heads of household in training and are/should be involved in relationships where this equipping can help them. Even teen boys, as future heads of household need the opportunity to learn and aspire to the examples of godly heads of household.  Single Moms, as spiritual heads of household, need equipping as well, except their equipping and accountability will look a bit different. (That, though, is a topic for another day.)

Changing the name from “Men’s Ministry” to “Head of Household Ministry”, and actually beginning to refer to men as heads of household in normal conversation, are small but profound ways of raising the bar of expectation to where God puts it.

Second, teach them (and then remind them over and over and over and over again) that the gospel makes them adequate to fulfill their role.
Many men run—at increasing speed—away from leadership because their definition of leadership is based largely on a scholastic leadership model, not the shepherding, i.e. relational model which comes out of the gospel and that is clearly assumed and taught in Scripture (Acts 20:17-36; 1 Cor. 4:15-17; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Pet. 5:1-5). No wonder then that many men shy away from leadership because they do not perceive themselves as having enough knowledge or being a good speaker. 

Compare the scholastic model with its emphasis on a higher, “more mature level” of knowledge and rhetorical skill to 1 Cor. 1:17-2:5 where Paul speaks simply, plainly—and thus powerfully—so that people will see only the power of the cross. The message of the gospel itself is powerful whether people swoon when they hear it or not. Do we really believe that? Do we teach that? Or does God’s Word NOT return void (Isa. 55:11) ONLY when it is spoken by a pastor or well-respected teacher?

When one stops and really things about it, it is a great struggle and it tests our sincerity when we proclaim (with gusto of course) that the gospel, the Word of God, is “sufficient”. Do we as leaders and do we as heads of household really believe that the gospel is sufficient? Do we teach heads of households about how the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture has direct bearing on their role? Or is this just something for those with “know” more, like seminary graduates?

The message of the cross is intended for life, to be spoken by all (Eph. 4:15-16), most especially by church shepherds (Eph. 4:11-12) and home shepherds (Eph. 5:22-6:4).

Let’s remember that the people to whom the New Testament was first written were not seminary graduates, or the highest social strata, but slaves; uneducated people…and they were expected to live it. This is because it is a gospel for the people to be applied sufficiently and authoritatively in their relationships. When Galatians 6:1 tells us to restore one caught in sin, does Paul only mean ordained pastors? Certainly heads of household, perhaps more than any other individual, need to know how to restore a brother or sister, as they are surrounded by them every day at home before they ever go to work! They need gospel confidence to do this.

Equipping heads of household is a matter of helping them know this gospel: to live it and to teach it. The gospel, not their skills and/or abilities, makes them adequate. As they grow in their own living of the gospel, they become more effective communicators of it.

Continue to Part 2