Thursday, January 18, 2007

What Does This “Fathering Stuff” Have To Do With The Preaching Of The Gospel?

Fourteen years ago I felt a strong sense to start what we called The Northwest Fathering Forum in in the Puget Sound area . We began to have monthly gatherings of fathers where we could learn together how to be better dads. We brought in special speakers to talk about various areas of fathering, showed relevant video clips, employed some special music, large group interaction and small group discussion on the topic of the meeting. We kept this format going for about four years.

Though the venue has changed and the name has been changed slightly to “The Fathering Forum,” I am still committed more than ever as we begin 2007, to promote godly fathering that connects men to the heart of the Heavenly Father. As one who has been called to spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have asked myself more than once, “Have I taken a tangent here and gotten off track from what should be my main message, that of the cross of Jesus Christ, and the hope that He holds for the salvation for all people?”

I believe with all my heart that the answer to this question is, “No.” When Jesus speaks to His disciples about His word, His message being planted within various types of people He uses the metaphor of “soils” representing the different kinds of hearts of those who will respond to His message. He says that some have hearts that are hard and impenetrable to His message. Others are like shallow soil, only out for what will benefit them. When things get tough, they are like plants without roots, and only wither and fall away. Then still others are like weedy, cluttered soil. They receive His message among many other truths; but the unique message of Christ just gets choked out by all the other messages crowding the “soil,” and it dies out.

The only “soil” or heart that allows the seed to grow, take root and become fruitful and multi-generational is what He calls “good soil." This good, fertile soil is described by Jesus as a person who has “a noble and good heart, who hear(s) the word, retain(s) it and by preserving, produce(s) a crop.” (Luke 8:15)

So how can this kind of soil be cultivated? Where does this kind of character for both children and adults who can trust, obey and persevere get developed? Does it just come out of thin air? I believe it is primarily developed in the home. It takes place when husbands and wives learn to sacrificially serve one another and persevere through the challenges of loving each other despite their many faults. It happens when children learn to trust, respect and obey their parents even when they don’t agree with them, which is often during the teen years!

Doctor Luke records the prophecy about the work of John the Baptist in preparing spiritual soil in this way: “He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17)

Faithful fathers prepare their children to shift from trusting their seen authority to the Heavenly Father’s unseen authority. And at the same time they lead their children this way they are running right into the Heavenly Father’s arms themselves! Jesus Himself says it like this, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name does not welcome Me but the one who sent Me (the Heavenly Father).” (Mark 9:37)

In 2007, there are many who do not want to have anything to do with Jesus Christ or the Heavenly Father He came to introduce to the world two thousand years ago. They assume this Heavenly Father is absent, distant, abusive or untrustworthy based on their personal experiences with their own fathers. The challenge is for us who claim to know Christ to present a better picture of the Heavenly Father to our culture as we let our "light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise (our) Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

So as a new year dawns I promise that I will, by God’s grace, continue to “stay the course” in lifting up godly fathering in a nation that is becoming increasingly fatherless. And I realize that this is sometimes lonely, hard soil-tilling work we are involved in together. But I want to encourage you as a man who, as a father who is reading this, to continue to turn your heart to your children, knowing that by so doing you are cultivating your children’s hearts to be good soil, receptive to answer the eternally consequential question of what they will do with Jesus Christ. And also I remind you that at the same time, when you make your fathering a priority, you are connecting to the very heart of the Heavenly Father!


Anonymous said...

I am currently teaching a Sunday school class based on Dr. Dobson's book, "Bringing up Boys". In this class Dr. Dobson makes the point that the boy's in our society are in crisis. He gives figures from the 2000 census to show our society is breaking up, and in the process boy's are no longer becoming Men. They don't have models of Men in their lives, especially Godly men. As a result the Church is becoming feminized. This further alienates men from the Church. It is not a place they can go and express their God given Maleness. As this nature of God is reflected less and less in our society how do we preach the Gospel? Paul drew on cultural connections in Athens in Acts 17. We have to have connections to the culture to preach the gospel in a way that people see it as relevant. Fathering forms a foundation in culture that must be there to understand that portion of Scripture. There are references that call us to "Be a man". How do we understand this in a broken world?

All that to say I believe this “fathering stuff” is foundational in our culture where Godly men are becoming rare.

Anonymous said...

The book Why Men Hate Going to Church also strongly makes the point that the church is rapidly becoming a place for "women and children," with few attributes that reflect the masculine needs and traits. So, yes it is important that Christian men raise Christian children, especially boys and present before them a strong model of what it means to love God and serve others.

Anonymous said...

I could not disagree with the comments here more. Men are afraid to follow Jesus and women are not. This is a copout by Dobson and men. The church has become this way because its women that follow Jesus. Don't blame society for men and the men who lead church are afraid to take responsibilty.

Anonymous said...

I don't think are afraid to follow the real Jesus. I think they don't have any reason to follow the Jesus that is being marketed by the Church. This is not the real Jesus. He was a man's man as well as a man loved by women. I wonder how many women who follow "their" Jesus would follow the real one.

It is not a cop-out to say boy's are in crisis, it is a reality. If we don't figure it out and fix the problem, instead of saying there isn't one, another generation will perpetuate the problem.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry but I have to disagree. Boys are in crisis because the church should offer the alternative and it has not. They have always been in crisis. Also, given a choice of my boy growing up today and the knowledge I have versus what my dad and his friends had is no contest. I choose today. Everyone believes yesterday was better. It was not. The bible teaches that sin fully corrupts. Sin is as bad today as it was yesterday. The church was needed for boys and dads yesterday and it was not there. It is now just really happening and that's one of the reasons I visit this site. That for this discusion but more than anything thanks for having a place to ponder the issue I face as a dad with a real thoughtful use of scripture - something I can't get from the right or the left.

My main point is I am tired of people in the church for blaming "society" for how the church looks. I am a basketball coach and I coach my son. Last night the refs we not calling the no double team rule. My son and all the kids were blaming the refs for us loosing. The parents were coming over and telling me that I should be double teaming too. I told my kids that we were in control of our reaction to the situatuion and its not the refs fault. We had to make the adjustment. And I told the parents that I would not break the rules just because the other team was just to "win." Nobody, the refs, my players or their parents will dictate to me to go outside of serving God. My son saw that and so did the kids and parents. I could have chosen otherwise but then I would not be serving my king. The crisis is because the church is failing not because the world is failing. Scripture tells us we are the "light." Why is the church blaming the drakness Jesus already told us that it would be against us - always not just today. This story could have easily been told in the 50's if not more so. We as men need to learn what it means to be a father as taught in scripture and Jamie challenges me on this.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about anyone else but sometimes we think because our children have flown the coop that our responsiblity as fathers is past, but you can never assume that because you never know what they might need. My wife and I learned this the hard way when my daughter and her husband lost their baby and then their jobs and had to move back in with us for almost a year. GOD really had to keep their fath strong and now they have great jobs and are in a they may be able to purchase. GOD has always been there for us. A-men.
Pastor Darren Bryant

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment of American Idol. Personally I have watched the show for maybe a total of 1 minute since it started a few years ago. I hate everything about the show, and frankly can't believe that anybody would ever watch it.