"Dad... Pastor Your Family"

"Dad Pastor your families!"  That was the message at the Simply Youth Conference in 2011 that I heard loudest and most clearly.  I had gone with the hope of understanding college and high school ministry better and while it was a great learning session, the most impactful words of that 3 day conference was when the speaker paused for a moment, looked up and into the faces of the dad's who had come to Chicago and said "Dad, Pastor your family".  I sat back in my seat having just been leveled by that statement because for the previous 10 years I had sort of been running from that idea.  Not until my oldest was about 10 did I start feeling that I was misunderstanding the deeper reality of my role as a Father.

For most of life being dad meant - do house stuff, teach kids things, provide a home, encourage and discipline children, manage problems and finances, make sure mom is happy (because - say it with me - if momma isn't happy ain't NOBODY happy :)  ) and make sure the kids get a Christian education.  Bring them to church so they, like myself, could learn from the Pastor.  But the older I got, the more I felt that I was missing something about my role as a dad.  And then that zinger came into my life and I couldn't duck out of the way.  I couldn't hide from its reality.  The person in my children's life that would most resemble a shepherd was... ME (and yes, my wife too).

If you are a person who believes in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, in his forgiveness of sin so that we have relationship with Jesus, then you know that the ultimate arc of the Gospel is that God would have complete relationship with individual people for all time.  It is what the Cross is ultimately all about.  That God would pave the way for a relationship to be made new with the God who knows us better than we know ourselves and that this relationship would be eternal.  The "Church"... the Body of Christ is God's invention, people with unique giftings and life circumstances that come as individuals to be united as one to God's family by his Grace and then to turn both individually and corporately to proclaim this LIFE to the world that does not know.  

On earth, the local church is served by a visible Pastor and they go to school and seminary and know language and have all the answers... right?  Not entirely, but I suspect many of us think that way.  I think that's why that statement "Dad, Pastor your family" floored me, and perhaps it floors you too, because I don't have all the answers to faith and Jesus!.  As I sat and thought through the implications that I, along with my wife, are ultimately the primary Shepherds for our children, I poured through the scriptures and looked harder at the role of the Pastor.  John 10, is a great place to go if you want more background.  

The reality of it is that I spend more time with my children and wife than my Pastor does.  I have more influence over my children than my Pastor does.  I have more teaching time, more free time, more of me to give to my children than my Pastor can give to them.  My Pastors open up deeper truths, my Pastors help me understand scripture better, my Pastors help the LOCAL church flourish as a larger body - but they cannot replace a Father's influence - the local Pastor supplements and guides it.

When two Christian people get married, a "Family Church" was born.  When children come into that home, their first experience with what it means to be part of the "Body of Christ" is in the family.  And a child's first Pastor... is their father and mother.  A couple years ago, Pastor Jeremy Mattek shared a statistic that indicates that 80% of children will follow the belief pattern lived out by the - FATHER.  That's not to undo the value of moms on our children, but it is a biblical truth that dad's have tremendous influence over the life trajectory of their children... particularly in matters of faith.  Our world continues to show us this truth.  Our world is crying out for Dad's who won't run from being the Pastor to their children.

On this Father's Day weekend, I'm calling on all imperfect dads, young and old and guys who hope to one day be...  to step into the reality that you are the Pastor of your Family Church.  I don't want the perfect ones, just the guys who have messed this "dad" thing up at times.  The first place a Church Pastor goes - is to the cross of Christ with a heart of repentance and hope.  Repentance for the ways I have failed to live out my role as a loving Shepherd for my family.  Hope and confidence that my Jesus hears me, forgives me and restores me and enables me to step into God's calling on my life as a father with joy and an eagerness to learn the craft of Pastoring my family well.  Turn to God's word, just read it, learn to hear your Savior's voice, know it well (John 10, Ephesians 3, Romans 12 and the book of Proverbs are great places to start).  Turn to your local Church Pastor, who has been given special training in understanding God's word, law and Gospel, Sin and Grace, let them help us tune our ears to God's voice even more.  And let's give our Pastors the time they need to pastor THEIR families as well!

If you are old and have failed all your life at this... it is never too late to show our children the love of a shepherd.  It will come when they see you spending time with Jesus and sharing the stories of God's faithfulness with others.  If you are a new dad, it's a lot - but it's not as much as you may fear.  Adding the responsibility of Pastoring your young children and family will only help you see Jesus more clearly as you personally spend time in his word.  If you are single, perhaps your time will come, but if it has not or does not, be the friend who can help support a dad who is struggling to Pastor his Family Church, or be the Christian mentor and shepherd to the kid who doesn't have a Family Church.  For all who are in a Pastor or Shepherd role, it is a serious matter and it is a great joy!

"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."  1 Timothy 4

Happy Father's Day!

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