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Portrait of a Father
Why are effective fathers so vital to the health of our families and children? Why is it so difficult for men to be effective fathers? In this series, Chip paints the biblical portrait of a father as the leader, priest, teacher and lover of the home.More from this series
Today, four out of ten children will put their head on a pillow in a house without a dad.
In David Blankenhorn’s landmark book, I quote, he says: “The United States is becoming an increasingly fatherless society. A generation ago, an American child could reasonably expect to grow up with his or her father. Today, an American child can reasonably expect not to.”
Now, this isn’t academic to me. And what I know is, for a lot of you men, it’s not.
And so, I wrote my thesis on the role and responsibility of the father in transmitting values in the family.
And I thought, I want to find out what the Bible says. So I looked, anytime the word “father” showed up in Scripture… I divided the Bible into its five major areas.
You’ve got the historical, and then you have the wisdom, and the prophetic literature, and then the gospels, and then all the letters. And anytime the word “father” – when I could smell it, I studied all the passages and had all these papers and all I wanted to ask was two questions.
One: what’s the role of a dad according to God? Who’s he to be? And second: what’s the responsibility? What’s he to do?
And then I thought, because of my background, I did some work in psychology, I thought, I wonder what the world thinks.
And so, as I did that over here, I did the psychological and sociological research and it was early on. They were just beginning to study fathers because most people back then basically said, “Fathers don’t do much. I mean, they provide some genetic material but families do well without them or with them, it’s not a big deal.”
But emerging, they began to see three areas. The father’s role in moral development, the father’s role in developing sexual identity of a child, and the father’s role in a kid’s self-image.
And so, I did the literature review, and I took what I learned here and what the Bible said, and then I said, “Where do these line up?”
Because this wasn’t academic. I got three boys. I got a great dad. He loved me with all of his heart. His dad died when he was thirteen. He was in the Marines by the time he was sixteen.
He loved me but he didn’t have a clue about how to communicate it. And no one was Christians. My wife’s family weren’t Christians. We were first generation Christians. I was just like Scott, the testimony you heard.
And I’m thinking, I want to raise my boys God’s way. I don’t know what it is.
I want to talk about what a Biblical father is. We’re going to paint four quick pictures, snapshots, about what a dad is, what a father is – his role and his responsibility.
Now, I put some teaching notes that I’d like you to pull out with me now and as you pull those out, I want to up the ante just a little.
And what I mean by that is I want to up the ante in that I want to tell you why it’s so vital for the health of a family to have an effective father.
Because see, what the psychological research, the Bible aside, the psychological research was small then. It’s huge now.
Fatherless America became a landmark book. And the last twenty percent of it is all tiny, small print of empirical research.
And here’s what I can tell you, dads, moms, daughters. Is that the father is the primary shaper of a kid’s moral values. Whether a little boy or a girl learns right from wrong, the father has the primary role.
Second, in the sexual identity of a little boy or a little girl growing up in a home, the father is the primary influencer of whether a little girl feels safe and knows what it means to be feminine, or if the little boy knows what it means to be masculine.
The research indicates that, in terms of self-image, it’s about fifty-fifty: mom and dad.
Now, the given is, that mothers have this incredible nurturing bond and I think the most influential person in any child’s life, by and large, will be their mother. But in our day and in our world, people have said, fathers don’t matter. The research actually says just the opposite.
Second question to up the ante is this: why is it so hard for us, as dads, to be effective fathers? I mean, us regular guys. I mean, I’m talking about us chickens in here.
People who say, “I love God, I’ve had an experience with Christ, I’m born again, I’m forgiven, the Spirit of God lives in me, I’ve got the manual.”
Why is it so hard? Let me give you three or four reasons you might want to jot down. Number one: most of us, not all, most of us never had a model. It’s really hard to paint a picture, or to draw a picture, when you have no idea what it ought to look like.
There are not many people, that I say, “Hey, what’s a great father look like?” And they say, “Let me show you, man. Here’s my wallet. This is what it looks like, it’s my dad.” Most men can’t tell me that.
The second thing is, I call, cultural confusion. In the last thirty, forty years especially, we’ve entered a time where the role of a man has been minimized, his importance has been minimized, and his value has been minimized.
I mean, we got a lot of people today saying, “You know what? We don’t need you at all now. We can take your genetic material. We can put it in a test tube. We can pull this whole thing off without you, guys.”
And yet, every major societal issue in America, the greatest, you ready for this? Research of Fatherless America. The greatest predictability of whether a son or a daughter growing up in America lives in poverty is whether they have a father at home engaged and active. If not, the chances are five times greater they’ll end up in poverty.
The greatest predictability factor of the welfare of whether kids get on drugs, whether they end up in prison, whether they get pregnant before they’re married, or impregnate someone before they’re married, or whether they end up in juvenile hall is not race, it’s not economics, and it’s not geography.
The single, clearest indicator is the presence or absence, are you ready for that? Of an engaged, caring, loving father. Now, guys, do I have your attention? Your kids need you.
Because I got news for you. Men, when we have done our thing and we’ve busted it, the people that we’ll want around the table, and the relationship that’ll matter most, will not be from our work world.
And it won’t be your athletic prowess. And by then people won’t care how much money you’ve made. Or what you drive. Or where you live.
But you’ll want to look into the eyes of some grown adult children that say, “Hey Dad, man, you had your struggles just like I have mine. But am I glad you were my dad.” Right?
Open your teaching notes with me and let’s dig in.
And here’s how we’re going to approach it. I’m going to give you a pretty clear overview and outline and I’ve designed these notes, are you ready ladies? These are for your husband. You can take notes but these are for your husband. These notes are not to be used for elbow nudging later. Not to be left out on the table with highlighted marks like, you could use work here. Or, this is what meant a lot to me. We don’t do that, okay? These notes are for men here whose God says, “I love you and I know it’s hard to be a dad and it’s really tough. I want to empower you.”
These notes are designed so you can say, “Okay, here’s the four roles and here’s the four key responsibilities. And I need to be able to think this through. And I need it clear and I need it logical. So, give me a definition. Give me a classic passage. Tell me, what are the questions I need to ask? Tell me where my focus needs to be. Give me some how-tos and then summarize it and say, I am a steward of my family in this area in one sentence, and I’ll get away, and I’ll talk with God, and I’ll ponder, and I’ll do what He shows me. That’s who they’re designed for.” And so with that,
Men, your number one role in your family, according to the Bible, and the best psychological research, he is a leader. He’s a leader.
Now, I had this really long, really cool definition. People who work with words like me, I spend a lot of time alone. I write out these definitions. And I had this really long, cool definition.
And men, it was going to be like, he assumes the authority and responsibility of the overall protection and welfare before God to help protect, provide, and help them reach their full potential.
And it was really, really, really long. And I hang out in this little coffee shop where I study. And I share it with both believers and unbelievers. We’re kind of buddies now.
And they looked at me and said, “Man, that’s a lousy definition.” I said, “Well, how come?” They said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, number one. I can’t remember it, number two!
So, guys, are you ready? This one’s for you. Here’s what a leader is. He makes things happen. That’s what you do, men. You make things happen.
Classic passage. Listen to 1 Corinthians chapter 4 verses 14 to 16. Paul’s going to pick a metaphor of the father and the role of a father to express his relationship with this church where he led these people to Christ. Notice, men, the role of leadership.
He says, “I don’t write these things to you to shame you but to admonish you as my beloved children.” Notice the heart. “For if you have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers for in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the gospel.”
In other words, they came to Christ and they started to grow and then everyone’s telling this Corinthian church, you ought to do this, you ought to believe this, you ought to do this, you ought to do that.
And Paul writes this letter to straighten out some problems. He says, you’re going to have people forever, being your tutors. He said, I’m your spiritual dad. I care more than other people care.
Now, notice as he picks up the metaphor for a father, what his expectation is. Look at his application. “I exhort you, therefore, be imitators of me.” Speed of the leader is speed of the team.
The apostle Paul says, see, long before Bandura did his research and told us that modeling is the greatest way of socialization and impact or education, Jesus had this down.
Remember what Jesus said in Luke 6:40? A learner, a disciple when he’s fully trained, will be just like his teacher.
Whether you like it or not, men, whether I like it or not, your kids are going to turn out a scary, ridiculous amount just like you.
And so, the greatest impact you can have on them is, do what? Be the kind of person you want them to become. And so, Paul could say, “Now, am I perfect? No.” He said, “But as I follow Christ with my ups and downs and I shoot it straight with you, be imitators of me.”
Men, you know what a leader does? They make things happen. The first way you make things happen is you be the kind of person you want your kids to become.
Questions leaders ask to make that happen are very simple. And guys, think about right now your work. Leaders are always asking, consciously or unconsciously, three questions. Where are we now? One. Two, where do we need to go? Three, what must we do to get there?
When’s the last time you said to yourself, Dad, okay, picture in your mind your four-year-old, your seven-year-old, your thirteen-year-old, your nineteen-year-old, your twenty-eight-year-old.
Because, see, what I’ve learned about this parenting stuff, your role completely changes. You never get out of the job. Right?
And now you say: where are they now? Where is my child spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, physically? Where do they need to go? Clear target – vision and values. Then strategy. What do I need to impart? What do I need to do? What do I need to model to help my little boy or not-so-little boy or girl, become all God wants them to be?
And you say to yourself, Wow. Never thought of it quite like that. Oh, yes you have. You think that way every day. Right? When you go to work.
Well, how many of you men go to work? You’re trying to build a company. You’re doing a construction site. You say, “Gosh, let’s have a building here. This is a nice place.” What kind of building? “Oh, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just bring some wood in and we’ll start nailing it together and a building will come up.”
“Let’s build a company.” Well, what’s your, who’s your market audience? What’s your strategy? How are you going to get there? “Oh, I don’t know. Let’s just hire a lot of people, give them a good compensation plan, and I’m sure something will come out of it.” What do you do, guys?
One of my donut shop buddies. He said the lights came on. And as I, as far as I know, he’s not in God’s family yet. Great guy, I mean, a good friend. And he told me, he said, “I work in the landscape industry.” He said, “When you said to bring the same focus and intensity to my family that I do to my job,” he said, “man, the lights came on.”
He said, “Before I landscape, I look at it and I decide, okay, what kind of plants, where am I going to put them? Where am I going to do the irrigation? Where does the sun come up? What kind of plants? What season will I use which plants?” He said, “I plan, and plan, and plan, and plan before I ever do anything.” And he said, “I’ve got to tell you something.”
“I have never in my life thought that way about my family.” Where are we now? Where do we need to go? What do I need to do to get there? See, you know what leaders do? The focus of a leader is objectives. A leader is asking, “Are we hitting the target?” Men, let me ask you, what’s the target you have for your son? What’s the target you have for your daughter? Wherever they’re at. Whatever stage.
What’s the target? See, unconsciously, what we do is we, we don’t make a clear target. We don’t know what it is and so the world shapes your target. Can I give you the target, according to God?
Your goal is for your boy, your girl, your teen, your young adult to become like Jesus.