When we read Paul's letter to young pastors, Timothy and Titus, we find that he placed significant emphasis on the character of the man who leads the body of Christ. The Lord has placed under-shepherds strategically to protect His bride, to love His bride, to guide His bride, and to serve His bride. Among the qualifications we see that an elder should be able to teach, not a brawler, sober-minded. Other qualifications dot the landscape, and one stands out boldly among the others. Pastors are to be men who can manage their households well. At one point, Paul says that his children should be believers and spiritually under control. This role defining trait reminds us all of something that we know to be true but often don't consider. Before the church existed, the family existed. Could it be that Paul is reminding us that men - all men - have been given the stewardship of pastoring their own home. Those who do so well could be candidates for a specific role in the church, but all men are called to be the under-shepherd of Christ over the spiritual condition of their homes.
Ephesians 6:4 tells fathers not to create aggravation in the lives of our children. Of course, my kids love to quote that verse. It's amazing how easily they could memorize it when they "struggled" with others. Instead of creating aggravation, we are to train our children in the ways of the Lord. This training means that we are to create environments for our children to know God. We have an opportunity to use the most special and moldable times in our kids lives to introduce them to Jesus and to teach them what it means to grow to look like Jesus. Paul says that all Christ followers are involved in a process called sanctification and that pastors are key leaders in guiding believers along that journey. Doesn't it make sense, then, that since we spend so much more time with our kids than church leaders spend with them, we should also be actively engaged in guiding our kids along the sanctification journey. Certainly the church helps with the process, and wise parents will find ways to involve children in the sanctification process through the workings of the local church.
At one time I was working on doctoral study, and one of the primary professors at the seminary challenged me by saying that the process of sanctification could not be measured so there would be no way I could equip parents to engage their children in sanctification through the church. He quoted some study about parents who sit with their children in worship being more effective than others at having children stay connected to the church. Hearing him speak to this issue made me very uncomfortable because it seemed like he was telling me that the best thing for a child was to show up at church, sit with her dad, and wait for growth to happen. The problem with that logic is that the evidence of Truth in scripture contradicts it, no matter what statistical results might reveal. Scripture tells me that when fathers disengage from training their children in the ways of God, disaster is practically a certainty. Take the Old Testament priest, Eli, for an example. He ignored his sons, and they became rebels bringing judgement on Eli's house. Samuel also neglected his children, and the children of Israel rejected Samuel's family as leaders. Even David had a tumultuous family situation because he failed to do the one thing that mattered most. Deuteronomy 6 gives us clear instructions as to how we as fathers are supposed to lead (pastor) our families. The scripture is not a magic potion or a sure fire guarantee, but the scripture is the direction God has ordained for us to follow.
Parents engage their children in sports, dance, academics, and a host of other activities. We model what it means to be a responsible citizen or perhaps in some cases the opposite. We teach them by our behavior how to respond in certain situations. We engage in many ways so why would we not engage spiritually? Certainly the measurement is not based on rules and boxes checked on an offering envelope. Being a dad is messy, at best. Measurement happens over time as we see our kids make wise choices and begin to transfer their dependence from us over to Christ. We cannot reject the chance to pastor our family just because there are no offerings to take, numbers to count, or annual reports to deliver. Actually, the best measurement is when we suddenly realize that transformation has happened slowly but surely. Being involved with our children in mission trips, scripture memory, Bible stories, and prayer times are powerful tools in the father-pastor's bag to help us equip the young saints in our home for works of ministry. Every believer at every age has a heart to be developed, and young children are no exception.
As Pastor Appreciation Month comes to a close, I am humbled to know some great fathers who are working to engage their kids on the journey to be like Christ. There is no way I could list all of their names, but I will spend the next few moments lifting them before the Heavenly Father and praying that these father-pastors in homes across the world know that they are making a Kingdom difference. Press on, dear brothers, press on.