Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
If you ask most dads what they would like to do on Father’s Day, they would suggest something else besides going to church. Who wants to listen to a sermon that lays on a heaping helping of guilt for not measuring up to the biblical standard of fatherhood. Speaking as a pastor, it’s difficult to find a balance between exhorting while not overwhelming the male psyche. Nevertheless, dads need to know that they carry the greatest influence on the parent team in shaping their children’s faith (or lack thereof). Michael Craven of the Christian Post writes:
… if a father does not go to church—no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions—only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). One of the reasons suggested for this distinction is that children tend to take their cues about domestic life from Mom while their conceptions of the world outside come from Dad. If Dad takes faith in God seriously then the message to their children is that God should be taken seriously.
Okay, that probably places a lot of pressure on most dads. Let’s take a step back and remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit and the Word are the sources of our regeneration. Nevertheless, dads seem to be the best vessel for accomplishing the salvific work of God in the family. But where do we see examples of this in the Bible? In many cases, we see dads who get it wrong (Adam, Jacob, Eli, David, and a long list of kings thereafter). However, there are some good examples, like Abraham who actively revealed his faith to Isaac—even to the point of nearly scaring his son to death! In the New Testament, we can infer that John the Baptist’s dad, Zechariah (a priest), was engaged in the life of his son. But perhaps the best example (outside of Jesus’ heavenly Father) is Paul. Even though he had no biological kids, he was heavily invested in the spiritual formation of Timothy and Titus—and they turned out well!
In sum, father figures—whether biological or by circumstance—can have a large positive influence over their children’s faith journeys. So, moms and pastors, we need to encourage and instruct our dads to take advantage of their influence as the spiritual leaders of their family. For when a father’s heart is turned toward his kids, they will almost always find their way home. This is why we celebrate our dads on Father’s Day!