(originally posted on June 4, 2015)
BRINGING BACK GODLY ORDER
It has been said, “If you preach to women, you’ll reach women. If you preach to children, you’ll reach children. If you preach to men, you’ll reach men, women, and children.” The typical program-based church has an endless array of “ministries.” Normally, they will have children’s programs galore, a ladies’ ministry, youth group, pre-school/daycare, sports teams, Sunday School for all ages, and maybe a Christian school. Does it strike you a bit odd that the only group left out of the line-up is the men?
Consider our federal government and the plethora of family programs Head Start, Food Stamps, Aid to Dependent Children, and the host of welfare give-aways that are intended to help families. Government intervention, by and large, has had a disastrous effect upon poor families. In essence, the government has usurped the authority and responsibility that God gave to men. By taking on a paternal character, our government has weakened the nation by weakening the home. When one institution usurps authority that belongs to another institution, it weakens both itself and the entity it hijacked. Our government has taken to itself the authority that belongs to fathers and husbands, and has corrupted the family in the process. Misplaced authority has deteriorated the whole fabric of our society.
Let me ask some outrageous questions. Could it be that many of the programs that were initially designed to supplement parental training have now replaced parental training? Is it possible that the local church has aided and abetted parental delinquency by usurping the authority that God gave to husbands and fathers? Instead of training the fathers to shepherd their own families, has the church been guilty of running a spiritual surrogacy service? Has the local church, for all intents and purposes, implemented programs which have replaced the father instead of supplementing him? Has misplaced authority actually weakened both the family and the church?
Now these are questions that I have been mulling over and wrestling with for quite some time. There are many things I don’t know for sure, but I am convinced that the crying need of the hour is to concentrate on the men! Getting them to show up Sunday morning, providing good programs for their families, and preaching alone will not do the job. Most of the conservative churches have been doing this for decades. I ask you has this approach produced inter-generational faith as a rule? Is it not a rare thing to find successive generations serving and loving God?
I don’t claim to have all the answers but I sure have questions about the prevailing modus operandi. Things have gotten so bad that if children are respectful, look decent, and are capable of carrying on a conversation with an adult people think they are exceptional children! Do not doubt that the demise of the family is directly attributable to the absence of a strong father figure in the home.
This leads us back to the idea of misplaced authority. Look how content Americans are to have someone else take care of their responsibilities. The government did not grow to its mammoth proportions by waging war on its citizens. On the contrary, the American people gave their power away by defaulting on their responsibilities. Is this not also the case in the ecclesiastical realm? The reason churches are trying to “do it all” is because the parents had rather drop the kids off than train them up. More and more parents want someone else to assume responsibility for their children. It has been said, “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”
It would be easy to blame things like the Feminist movement, post-modernism, hectic job schedules, and the “last days” for our plight. Could it be that Bible-believing churches have neglected to devote the needed attention to the men? Let’s face it, most did not grow up in homes where there was strong male leadership. Therefore, due to the lack of example, these young men have no idea what to do when they get married and have children. Shouldn’t one of the local church’s primary goals be equipping the men to pastor (shepherd) their own families?
Thomas Manton said, “Religion was first hatched in families, and there the devil seeks to crush it; the families of the Patriarchs were all the Churches God had in the world for the time . . . if he can subvert families, other societies and communities will not long flourish and subsist with any power and vigour.” The local church can never be any stronger than the families that belong to it.
THE ESSENTIAL HUSBAND AND FATHER
God’s design for the home is diametrically opposed to our culture’s concept of the family. The Jews, God’s chosen people, placed great importance on husbands and fathers. They could not even have a synagogue service unless a minion (a minimum of ten men) were present. Worship services were predicated upon a strong masculine presence. The priests taught the men and the men were to teach their families.
The headship of the husband and father is also clearly taught in the New Testament. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man . . . For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man . . . Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Cor. 11:3,8,9). God has an order and His plan is that men lead their homes.
It has always been God’s plan that the fathers be the primary communicators of truth to their families. In Deuteronomy the Lord charged the men, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:6-7).
In Egypt, it was the father’s responsibility to select, kill, and apply the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts of his home. The safety and well-being of the family rested upon the father. If he failed to act, it meant the sure destruction of his home.
Noah may not have been very effective in converting people through his preaching, but who can argue that this man had the respect of his family. When he gave the word, his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law all went straight into the Ark. No, Noah was not much on public relations but he was into private relations. Those who knew him best respected him the most. If he got his family into the Ark in that godless day, by God’s grace, so can we!
GETTING OUR HOUSES IN ORDER
Now I am not suggesting for a moment we abandon evangelism, stop reaching out to children and young people, ministering to single Moms, etc. God’s command to evangelize and disciple others is clear. The church should be a hospital where the spiritually sick find healing. We are involved in an ongoing salvage endeavor reaching out to those whose lives have been devastated by sin. A church should be so loving that sinners feel welcome, and so hot that sinners come under conviction and get saved.
What I am suggesting is that we get our own houses in order. I fear we will continue to multiply generation after generation of statistics if we neglect to train the men in the church to train their children. Training includes instruction, confrontation, inspiration, accountability, godly example, and personal involvement. If men are to shepherd their families, then the undershepherd (pastor) must shepherd them. There is simply no excuse for the appalling lack of accountability and strategy. God will give us wisdom if we will courageously, boldly, and desperately ask for it (James 1:5).
Look for a moment at public education, which has been in a perpetual cycle of failure for decades. Students graduate from high school unequipped academically. Corporations, the military, and institutions of higher learning then offer remedial reading and mathematics courses to bring the skills up to an acceptable level. Wouldn’t it make more sense to revamp the educational system so students could learn basic skills in grades one through twelve? This would eliminate years of wasted time, and the duplication of effort for what they should have learned in the first place.
We all know that the best interest of the students and logic are not the guiding principles of the educational establishment. Substantial change and improvement will never occur apart from an admission of failure and a change of direction. DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH!
In like manner, many local churches are engaged in a never-ending game of catch-up ball. Instead of shoring up the foundation, the attempt is made in each successive generation to patch up the “messes.” “Marriage Seminars” are sponsored to rescue failing marriages. Is it not self-defeating when the children of those sponsoring the seminars are involved in relationships and practices that virtually guarantee their marriages will have problems? I am all for doing everything possible to help troubled families. But would it not make sense to devote great energy and effort to help young couples get their act together so their offspring could grow up in a biblically functional home? Then the parents could invest in their own children by giving them guidance in building a proper relationship with their future marriage partners. Instead of cleaning up after the crash, why not take measures to prevent them from running over the cliff in the first place?
I know we are engaged in an uphill struggle where many factors come into play, but that is no excuse to sit idly by while the ship is going down. The Washington Times reports more divorces in the Bible-belt among church people than in the non-churched community. This means we must go back to the building block of society, the family, and start by building up and empowering the men to walk with God.
It’s high time to make church membership mean something. We have the worst of sins in the best of churches. Men are addicted to enslaving habits, defiling and destructive music, hobbies, sports, pornography, materialism, NASCAR (Non-Athletic Sports Centered Around Rednecks), and a host of things that hinder them and their families. Will we continue to facilitate spiritual mediocrity, or chart a new course by calling men to step up to the plate? Is it a church or a club a Bride or a harlot? Congregations that have good doctrinal statements without Biblical practice are the delight of the Devil. Husbands and fathers must be challenged to grow up, put away childish things, and assume their God-ordained function.
A CALL TO ACTION
To have effect, truth must be believed, preached, and practiced. Intellectual theories and lip-service will not get the job done. We must take action.
This fall I will be speaking to a group of men in a local church where they meet once a month with a pre-assigned topic. Topics this fall include: A Man and His God; A Man and His Wife; A Man and His Family; and A Man and His Church. This is part of an on-going effort to build the men. They also encourage their men to attend the Men’s Prayer Advance. This is a very active church that is seriously committed to evangelism. Churches can strike a balance between evangelism and edification; it does not have to be one or the other. Just as a healthy mother is more likely to give birth to healthy children, a healthy home church is in a better position reproduce spiritually healthy offspring.
I have a pastor friend who meets regularly with a group of men that he is training for leadership. He has developed a process that takes about four years to complete. He has set his sights on long-term results and planted himself in a church where he is in for the long haul.
Also this fall, I am scheduled to speak to a group of men in a church where they meet early in the morning once a week for practical instruction and challenge on how to be godly fathers and husbands.
What would be wrong with segregating the men on Sunday evenings for three or four months in order to exhort, educate, encourage, and edify them? God will no doubt lead different congregations in various ways, but something must be done.
Integrity demands our practice conform to the truth of Scripture. God expects much of men and so should we. The patterns of non-expectancy, non-equipping, and non-accountability must be replaced with vision, training, and intentional involvement.
John the Baptist was a “Man of Steel.” It takes a strong man to lead strong men. The key to strong churches is strong families, and the key to strong families are strong fathers. Job sacrificed for his family to be right with God. Abraham taught his family to obey God. Joshua led his family to serve God. Men must be taught to pay the price for righteousness, challenged to obedience, and directed to lead their households for God.
If you want results in four weeks grow squash. If you desire a harvest in twenty-five years grow trees. But if you want results that last for generations grow men!
May God enable us to be like “The children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chron. 12:32). Zion is in desperate need of a resurgence of strong male leadership. Brethren, let’s go for the men!
“The Extraordinary Husband – A 31-Day Mentorship Program for Husbands” complied by Harold Vaughan