Becoming an Effective Spiritual Leader of Your Family
- 2006 31 Jul
The great doers of history have always been men of faith. ~ Edwin Hubbel Chapin
I once heard of a man who went into his daughter’s room and prayed over her every night after she fell asleep. She grew up and left for college. The following Christmas she came home for a visit.
Talking to her mother one afternoon, she said, "Daddy still prays for me every night even though I’m away at college, doesn’t he?"
"How in the world did you know that?" her mother replied.
The daughter replied with confidence, "I can still see his knee marks in the carpet next to my old bed."
Were you blessed to have had a father who prayed faithfully for you when you were growing up? Only a small percentage of men I ask answer yes. How do you think your life might have been different if you had had a father who did that?
Try this experiment: go into your kids’ room at night, kneel down, lay hands on their heads or backs, and petition God’s blessings upon them. You’ll find it a powerful moment. Your kids will stay very still under the blankets because, big or small, they recognize the significance of that act.
A pastor also once told me to pray not only for my own children’s purity but for their future spouses’ purity as well. And he said to pray for their future spouses’ parents, that they would have wisdom to raise their children within God’s laws. I’ve never forgotten that advice.
When your children know you are praying for them, for their sexual purity, and for the purity of their future spouse, this knowledge gives them a guidepost to hang on to. It also provides a form of accountability more powerful than bare parental authority.
The purpose of drawing close to God is not only to discern our destiny but also to lead our family and those closest to us to salvation. Part of our role as leaders of our families is to be spiritual mentors for our wives and children. It’s the responsibility I felt least adequate to fulfill when I accepted Christ into my life. But God is more interested in what you can become than in what you are now. Interestingly, I found that my wife and children willingly followed my lead into spiritual growth—no matter how pathetic my efforts as a teacher and guide.
Shortly after becoming a Christian, I was blessed to join Good Shepherd Community Church in Gresham, Oregon. Stu Weber is the senior pastor of this church. Stu wrote such manly books as Tender Warrior and Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart, and he was a big influence in my growth as a man and a father. I used to remark to my wife that listening to one of Stu’s sermons was like eating a big, steaming-hot bowl of stew on a cold and rainy afternoon—it always left me full, contented, invigorated, and satisfied.
Our odyssey to Good Shepherd was probably not unusual. We had visited many churches over the previous ten years. Even though I wasn’t a believer during that time, I thought it was good for my children to be exposed to Christian values. At several churches, we stayed for a year or so. In most of those cases, we suspect that no one knew we were attending, as they never approached us. Certainly no one seemed to notice when we left.
One weekend while my wife and I were away on a business trip, a young woman named Amy baby-sat our children, taking them to attend a Good Shepherd service. When we got back, the kids clamored for us to "check out this awesome church." After a month or so, we decided to visit Good Shepherd.
The pastor preaching that day, Randy Alcorn, gave a blistering sermon on the sanctity of human life, especially regarding the unborn. It was so convicting that my wife got up and walked out in the middle of the service. All in all, a rather inglorious start with our new church family.
As God would have it, the church was having a pastors’ reception that evening for new members. I decided that any church willing to offend potential members in order to strongly promote an ideology they believed to be true was worth another look. (I think the Holy Spirit had a lot to do with my decision too.) At the risk of incurring my wife’s wrath, I took her to the reception. At that reception, the authenticity of the three pastors in attendance was so strong that I was drawn toward it without reservation.
While my wife was not particularly happy at the time about my decision to attend the pastors’ reception—or my subsequent decision for us to become church members—she readily followed my decisions in these spiritual matters.
Now, please understand that I was not a wise, mature Christian. I was a baby Christian in every sense of the word. The fact that she followed me speaks not only to her character but also to the importance women place on men becoming spiritual leaders in their homes. I’ve heard it said that the number one complaint of women in the church is their husbands’ spiritual apathy. Pastor Jan Hettiga once said, "The number one problem in the church is the explosive combination of masculine apathy and feminine discontent." I submit to you that masculine apathy is the cause of feminine discontent. This apathy and lack of involvement is a problem for men not only in church but also in the home. It’s an all-pervasive trend that we must break.
Fathers also play a significant role in passing on a spiritual foundation to their children—especially sons. When only mom takes her sons to church while they’re growing up, approximately 15 percent of boys remain churchgoers after they become adults. However, if dad takes an active role with mom in leading the family to church, the number who continue their spiritual journey increases to somewhere around 75 percent.5 That’s a significant difference that speaks to the power men have to be spiritual influences upon their sons.
Many men are reluctant or even scared to lead their families spiritually. I harbored many doubts early on. What do I know about theology? I’m not worthy of such a huge task that has eternal consequences. What if I mess up? I was so scared that I was searching for ways to evade this responsibility.
In the summer of 1998, at the age of twelve, my son asked me to take him down on the field during a Promise Keepers event so he could accept the Lord. I tried making excuses why we shouldn’t go, but Frank wouldn’t accept my foot-dragging. When we finally approached one of the volunteers, he said to me, "Why don’t you lead your son to the Lord?" Gulp! What do I say? After much stumbling around, I managed to murmur enough of a prayer to help Frank accept Christ into his heart. Since then, I’ve been blessed to watch his spiritual growth as a Christian, and someday I’ll see him as a mighty man of God. I was subsequently blessed to baptize my wife and both our children—a truly humbling and awesome experience. God honored my feeble attempts at spiritual leadership by giving me these blessings.
Watch and see what blessing he has stored up for you. Grab the helm and lead your family spiritually!
Excerpted from Better Dads, Stronger Sons by Rick Johnson. To read Part I of this 4-part series on Christian Fathering: Rising to the Challenge of Christian Fatherhood.
Rick Johnson is the founder of Better Dads, a fathering skills program designed to equip men to be more engaged in the lives of their children. Rick develops and delivers father training workshops for businesses, churches, schools, and other organizations across the Northwest. He previously authored That's My Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of Character. Rick, his wife Suzanne, and their two children live in Gresham, Oregon.
Used with permission of Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.