Fathers Need to Lead
Every group needs leadership. The family is no exception. And in God’s word, the leadership role in the family is assigned to the husband and father.
In the Old Testament we see an implicit expectation that fathers would teach and train their children (cf. Deuteronomy 32:7; Joshua 4:21f; 24:15; Proverbs 4:1f). Mothers were to be involved, too, but the burden of family leadership, including spiritual leadership, was laid on Dad’s shoulders. Joshua acknowledged that role when he declared, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). The same pattern appears in the New Testament. The apostles taught that the duty of family leadership falls to the husband and father (Ephesians 5:23-24; 6:4; 1 Peter 3:1-6). In every age, God has expected dads to be the spiritual leaders in their families.
Our country is in a fatherhood crisis. Divorce, sexual immorality, and irresponsibility have created an epidemic of fatherless families. But I fear there’s a different kind of crisis among many Christian fathers. These dads haven’t abandoned their families, but they have abandoned their responsibility as spiritual leaders. We may excel at giving our families care and provision, yet do little to lead them in a walk with God. If so, we fail in our most important duty as fathers. Dad, what do you need to do as the spiritual leader in your family?
Lead them in worship. Scripture says that the patriarch Job would “consecrate [his children], rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, ‘Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did continually” (Job 1:5). This shows that Job established a pattern of regular worship to God in his family. We should, too.
Dad, one of the simplest ways to lead your family spiritually is to make sure they are present whenever the saints gather for worship. No matter how much homework the kids have. No matter what’s on TV. No matter how nice (or how bad) the weather is. No matter how busy your week has been at work. No matter how busy their week has been at school. Show them that worship is a top priority and a joyous occasion. Encourage them to sing, to listen and meditate on the prayers and sermons they hear. Show them that worship is the natural response of people who love the Lord.
Lead them in study. The Law of Moses provided that every seven years, the priests were to read the law in the hearing of all the people: “Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). Note the emphasis that each new generation needed to be impressed with God’s word.
Dad, lead your family in studying the Bible. Since you’ve made worship assemblies a priority, make sure your family is present for regular Bible classes, too. Make sure they come prepared to participate and learn. Do the same yourself. And what about at home? Do you schedule any family Bible study time? reading? question-and-answer sessions? Are you teaching applications for daily life? When your child comes to you with a problem, is your response ever, “Let’s see what God says about it”? These things help determine whether our children see the Bible as just an interesting novelty to study or as God’s answer to every difficulty.
Lead them in prayer. Does your family hear you pray (other than at meals)? Do they hear you make heartfelt petitions to God? What things do they hear you pray about? Are you teaching your kids the value of prayer (see James 5:16; Philippians 4:6)? Your leadership determines whether they come to view it as a trite ritual or the outpouring of the spirit to God.
Lead them by example. True leaders don’t just tell others what to do, they show them (see Romans 2:21-22; 1 John 3:18). Does your family see you doing all the things that you teach and encourage them to do? Do they see you doing your work “as for the Lord rather than for men” (Colossians 3:23)? Sacrificing for the good of others (Philippians 2:3-4)? Admitting when you are wrong and seeking forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24)? And do they see you avoiding the things that you teach and encourage them to avoid? Do they see you resisting the pressures of materialism? alcohol? foul language? pornography? Just like an elder in the local church, a father needs to be an example to those he leads (see 1 Peter 5:3).
Lead them with purpose. Think back to Joshua’s declaration, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Leadership begins with unwavering commitment. If we fathers are going to fulfill what it means to be the head of the family, we will need the same courage, determination, and sense of purpose that Joshua had. Because spiritual leadership is not easy. It requires you to constantly re-examine and adjust your habits, your schedule, your attitudes. It demands that you commit yourself and your family to do certain things no matter what. (By the way, this won’t always make you Mr. Popular, even in your own household.) It is, in short, an immense responsibility. But if your name is Dad, then that responsibility is yours. And your family needs you to step up and own it. As Ira Lynn put it years ago, “The father who bails out on his spiritual headship is truly missing; and as a result his family is missing out.”
Dad, you need to courageously accept the mantle of spiritual leadership in your family. Diligently study what the Scriptures say on the subject. Carefully meditate on how to apply those principles. And constantly pray for the Lord’s help. Because families need fathers. And fathers need to lead.