But Jesus said to him, “No one having put his hand to the plow, and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God…And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 9:62, 14:27, NKJV).
I just got off the phone with an international Christian organization that is considering doing a radio segment on single parenting, primarily single fathers. Overall I would say the conversation went great; they asked me multiple questions about my ministry and my life as a single father. Towards the end however, we switched gears as to what the Church’s true mission should be when it comes to reaching out to single dads. I shared my heart and expressed that although it is apparent there are so few resources for the Christian single fathers, the fact of the matter is that over 80% of single dads are going to be non-custodial and unchurched.
I spoke on topics such as reaching into the inner-city, the jails, and rehab centers. Given the above stats, if we are to fulfill the Great Commission when it comes to single fathers, then as the guy on the other end of the phone stated, it means getting “messy” - and most people don’t want to do that. I wasted no time in explaining to him that Jesus never called us to live clean and convenient lives. If we are to stop the bleeding when it comes to the majority of social and domestic problems in this country and around the world, then we MUST get to the dads. Sure, it can begin with a small group in a local church or an outreach event; but sooner or later true evangelism must take place.
Stop Condemning and Start Addressing
Take a look at the three parables Jesus tells in Luke 15. They all address two very important themes: the lost are found and sinners coming to repentance. Better yet, there is celebration for all of those involved. Let me ask you a question: When did we get to the point where our own personal comfort level or doctrines supersede a turning point in someone’s life where even the angels and hosts of heaven rejoice? Granted, we all make mistakes. But a single dad in a situation that is less than ideal is no more qualified for salvation than anyone else. We have the tools and resources as believers to go get them, which is exactly what we should be doing. Single parenthood and fatherlessness are two issues that are not about to go away any time soon, so I say less preaching about it and more action.
Cast Your Nets
So what does this look like in your own church? Honestly, I cannot say. I realize everywhere is going to be different when it comes to resources, manpower, and demographics. I also understand that we are all empowered by the Holy Spirit and are given supernatural ability when our natural person seems lost (Luke 12:11-12, Acts 1:8. I would encourage all church and lay leaders to really begin to pray whether or not this is God’s call for your church. Forget about what it may look like right now and how convenient it’s going to be and seek after His will, not yours. If the Spirit leads you to begin the process, then seek counsel through Him and other godly individuals. Trust me, there is no shortage of where you can go with this, just be prepared for a net-breaking haul if done the Lord’s way.
Again, just about every social and domestic problem in one way or another can be traced back to the lack of a father or other strong male role model in someone’s life. Crime, addictions, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and so on top the list; but the lesser discussed side is what sort of foundation are we laying out for our families and the Church for the generations to come? Seriously, if these men are not being sought, caught, and discipled soon, there is not going to be much of a Church left and we will have no one to blame but ourselves. I can tell you from personal experience that those who have been through hell and back on this earth are going to be some of the greatest and most amazing conversions and testimonies you will have in growing your congregation. I myself grew up in a dysfunctional home and followed suit with a decade-long run of addiction. Yet, once Christ got a hold of me and cut me loose for His purposes, I can now only see myself running harder and stronger for those same guys to which I relate.
Read those opening verses again. Setting our hand to the plow does not mean going where we want, when we want. Picking up your cross is not just a warm fuzzy Sunday morning sermon. Jesus tells us over and over again in His Word that we are to take care of the least of these, fulfill His calling on our lives, and abide by His commandments. If we fail to do any of the above, conform the Bible to fit our needs, and ignore the reality of sin and pain all around us, then we are way off course and not living the gospel out in full. I read a Harvest USA article once that said, “We will only arrive in heaven sweaty, caked with blood and dust, with the sword still in our hand.”
So many single dads are falling through the cracks these days. Many of them are great guys who just need someone to come alongside and introduce to them a God who sees them as worthy enough to die for. When we rise to that calling, not only do the angels rejoice, but we have a reason to celebrate ourselves as we experience the Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’ (Matthew 25:40).
Matt Haviland is the founder of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry and the author of the book, A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers. He currently lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, is the co-founder of the Grand Rapids Single Parenting Expo, and is a single dad to a beautiful little girl himself. For more information on the ministry and how to form a single dad small group in your own church, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
Publication date: October 17, 2013