Sometime ago I was preparing a message on the role of the father in the family and I wanted my audience to participate. I got this idea that instead of asking them to list the characteristics of a good dad, they should list the characteristics of a good pastor. The list that came out was exactly what I expected and it contained both the role of the father in the family and the characteristics of a great dad. I would like to use a similar approach in this article. Instead of the role of the father in the family, lets call it – “The father as pastor of his family”.
The Father as pastor of his family
The Bible has a lot to say about the role of the father in the family. It also has a lot to say about the role of the pastor. I believe the father is the pastor of his family and as such every father has an opportunity to be that ideal pastor they have been dreaming about for their church. Here is a summary of what the members of our church listed as the characteristics of a good pastor.
- A good listener
- Loves God and the members of his congregation
- Helpful and kind
- Knows the scriptures and loves to teach it
- Is called by God, not just looking for a career or a source of income
- Is supernaturally gifted in one way or the other
- A good speaker
- Well educated
- Fears God
- Is humble
- does not exploit the members of the congregation
I am a father of two boys and I believe that being a father and a pastor has helped me to see the great similarities that exists between being a pastor and a father. Let me take some time at this point to highlight what the Bible has to say about being a husband. I believe that the foundation for being a good father is first being a good husband. The first role of the father in the family is that of being a good husband!
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Every time I read this scripture I feel that the responsibility placed on the man is enormous. I literally feel like saying “Oh God have mercy on me”! It is a big task to love like Christ. Let’s highlight some of the main lessons from this portion of scripture. This is the apostle Paul writing to the christians also known as saint in Ephesus!
The Role of the father in the family – Loving Husband!
Take note that the first instruction in the scripture above is for the husband to love his wife. If you are a husband reading this article, be reminded that your first call as a man in the family is to be a loving husband to your wife. What does this mean? It means, that you desire the very best for your wife (and your children when you have them). You also determine to give her all that is in your power to give so that she can move forward in her life as child of God. The husband’s focus is on the wife and together they care for the children.
The husband is called to love his wife just like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her! Jesus loved the church while we were still in sin. Jesus did not point accusing fingers at the church and expect the church to change before loving us. In the same manner, the husband is to take his wife as his own body. He is to do all that is within his power to help her become as excellent as God designed her to be, he is to choose to be responsible for helping her be all he desires in her. He is never to give up on her as long as she is willing to grow in her walk with God and her relationship with him! The husband is not to react negatively to her weaknesses or complain about them, rather these weaknesses are to become his prayer requests and his challenge. He is not to tell everybody how weak his wife is in certain areas, rather he should see her weaknesses as his too and her strength as his strength.
Dear husband, your wife is not your problem! She is your helper and you are her helper. You help each other to be all that God calls you to be. Whatever you invest into your wife is there for you to enjoy for the rest of your marriage. I am always so grateful to God for giving me a “wife that is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”. Olu has helped me a lot and I have helped her as well. The few things that God has used me to share with her have become such a blessing in our lives now. The little effort it took to overlook her errors while she was learning is nothing compared with the blessings that we enjoy now. If you are stronger in one area as a husband, strengthen your wife in that area. She may never get as strong as you are but she will be much better and the team (family) will be better off. If she is strong in an area, encourage her, she will be better at it and the family will benefit. Always see your wife as a team member tackling issues that you can’t tackle either because you cannot be in two places at a time or you do not even have the skills or grace for such a task. If you are yet to be married then make sure you understand this before getting married. It really helps to make the right choice.
The father’s (husband) love for the mum in the home also inspires him to seek to provide all the comfort that the family needs for the home. It is the husbands responsibility to ensure that there is food on the table, the children are healthy and there is a home for the family to live in. Is her required to do this alone? No! His wife, the love of his life! The one for whom he should be willing to give his very life for is there to help him. She can help with getting more money into the home (in some cases she has more skills to earn more), and they can figure out together how to continue to make the home run properly. Every husband must be willing to do whatever it takes (within the will of God) to ensure that his family is well cared for.
The Role of the Father in the Family – Head of the wife?
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
If the husband is the head of the wife, does she have two heads? What happens to the head she had before marriage? Take note that in the scripture above, the husband is called the head of the wife and not the head of the family. This is important because, the Lord wants us to remember that the husband and wife are one flesh! They both as one flesh lead the family (the parents and the children). I believe that no one is more important that the other in the family! A headless body is as useless as a bodiless head. The head cannot exist without some form of body (the heart), nor can a body exist without a head (brain). I believe the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle to make this illustration so that it can be obvious to us all that, the husband and the wife are equally important in the family. Think about it. What is the role of the father in the family? It is the role of the head in a person. It is to keep the body alive and functioning at its best. What is the role of the body in a human? It is to keep the head alive and carry out the activities of the complete human. So also, the husband and wife function together as a unit to execute the goals and plans of the family unit. Neither the husband nor the wife should feel left out in the project because they both contribute equally to what makes the couple. One supplies the brain the other supplies the heart.
What then does it mean then that the husband is the head of the wife?
When we think of head, we think of control. Wives may think of being ordered to do what they don’t want to do. Husband may assume that God has given them the power to make all the decisions whether the woman likes it or not. This is far from the truth.
In Christ Jesus, every believer is called to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord. The husband submits to Lord and the wife submits to the Lord. The husband submits to the wife and the wife submits to the husband. They both as one flesh also submit to the Lord.
20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
I have come to understand from these scriptures that we are all to learn how to submit to God. To yield to God in everything. To choose to do what we believe God wants for us rather than what we are conditioned by society to want. We willingly choose to follow God’s instructions rather than what our selfish desires dictate. This is because we know that God loves us and as such what God wants for us is the best. The role of the father as head of the wife means therefore, that the husband takes responsibility for ensuring that the family fulfils the calling of GOD. The father being the pastor, takes responsibility for teaching and inspiring members of the family to follow God. He also encourages the members to submit to God and enjoy the blessings the God has prepared for the family and the individuals.
To be the head is a big responsibility, however it is made easier when we learn to be a proper member of the body of Christ. A good follower of Christ would make a good head of his wife. A good follower of Christ will also make an excellent body for her husband. How I pray that we can understand that the man is called to give his life for his wife and the wife is to enjoy the love and respect her husband and help him love her more!
The Role of the Father in the Family – Spiritual leadership
In Ephesians 5:25 the husband is encouraged to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Our Lord Jesus Christ laid down his life to purchase our redemption and reconciliation with God (Rom 5). The husbands role therefore is to do all that lies within his power to inspire his wife and children to a closer and more fruitful relationship with God.
He is to represent his family before God and present God to his family. The father and mother should be responsible for ensuring that their children are introduced to Jesus Christ as soon as possible. The father is responsible for determining the spiritual temperature of the home. If the father loves God, everyone in the home tend to love GOD. If the father obeys the Holy Spirit’s direction, his wife and children would notice it and follow him too. If the father prioritized spiritual things, the wife and children tend to follow suit. If the wife knows that her husband is completely sold out to God, she would never have a problem submitting to him if she loves God too.
The role of the father in the family as spiritual leader is the most ignored role today because it is assumed that women love church activities more than men. In Deuteronomy 6:6-8, the children of Israel are encouraged to teach their Children the ways of God.
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
It is the father who is expected to ensure that this is done. The mother should also join hands with the dad to share their faith with the children. I have discovered over the years as a pastor, that in homes where the parents are in love with God and one another, the children also love God, their parents and one another. Real spiritual leadership comes first from being an excellent follower of God.
The father is encouraged to take his faith seriously, he should ensure that he understands everything he claims to believe and be ready to explain it to a 3-year-old child. The child should also be able to see that her father really believes what he says he believes. Lots of children have gone away from their parent’s faith because they do not see love between their parents and because they find a big gap between what the parents say at church and what they do at home.
The role of the father in the family – Teacher/Trainer
4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
The home should be the primary place of training for the children. As they grow older, they would need other experts to teach them some skills. This is why children need to go to schools. The parents should be very involved in the training of their children. In the verse above, fathers are encouraged to be involved in the training of their children in the admonition of the Lord.
I have seen many homes where only the mum knows what is going on at the children’s schools. She is the one that looks at their homework, she is the one that attends the school events and she is the one that teaches them how to do things at home. This should not be so. The Fathers should try to get involved in the education of the children. It is not enough just to work to pay for a private christian school! You should look at their work from time to time and let the children see that their school work is important to you. Make it clear to the children that doing well at school is a family goal. If a child is weak in any subject, the dad should be ready to help the child overcome such weaknesses.
How does one do all these, in the wake of the numerous hours spent at work? It is not unusual in some countries for both parents to leave home before 6am daily only to return after 8pm when the children are already in bed or on their way to bed. My suggestion is that the parents must meet and come to a quick decision on how the situation will change. They may need to move closer to the office of one of the parents or a parent may choose to start a home based business. Whatever it takes to invest in the lives of the children will always yield abundance of reward for many years to come. In any case, the father is the one to make the most sacrifice to ensure that this is done.
What about Discipline? Apply the Rod?
Proverbs 22:15 (NKJV)
15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him.
When it comes to training the children, there will be a need for discipline. The role of the father is to ensure that they children are corrected and disciplined in a loving atmosphere. I do not encourage parents to hit their children with their hands. However, I believe that once in a while, there is a need to apply the spatula to drive home the idea that whenever the child goes against the rules of a society, there is a consequence.
My suggestion is that before you use the cane or a spatula, you ensure that you have given the child several warnings. Make sure that you have applied other forms of discipline such as explaining to the child and sending them to their room or taking away some privileges. The child should then be told that willingly doing something that is disruptive will incur a spanking session. In our experience with our boys, we have rarely used the spatula. We have used it only lightly one or twice. Each time I have noticed that once the spatula is out the children are already almost in tears. We just apply it lightly to drive home the point. There is absolutely no need to hit children in anger. It is never right and it only causes harm. Never hit your children in anger. They are children. They make mistakes and they should be trained. How often should you forgive their mistakes? As often as they make it. The spanking is not really to beat them to submission. I believe it is just to let them know that there are rules in any community and going against such rules will incur some consequences. It is to show them that they cannot do only the things they want to do, but because they are in a family, they need to consider the good of the family and the community at large. I sometimes feel some emotional pain when applying disciplinary measures to our boys (mostly taking aways of some privileges). However, I am sure that the little discomfort will build them into excellent children and citizens of the earth. I am glad that my parents disciplined me when I was a child.
The role of the father in the family – Child of God
The father in any christian family is also a child of God. The responsibilities of being the pastor of the home may feel almost impossible to achieve. You must remember that the father is also a child of the Heavenly Father. He will help his son, train his son and provide all that you need to be a great father.
Ask Your Heavenly Father for Help
I encourage every father to take their roles as father to God in prayer. Ask God the father to help you be a great father. To be the best husband to your wife, to be the best role model to your children, to be an excellent example of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Ask God your father to help you be humble, loving, caring, attentive to your family members and to pastor them effectively. Who is better than God the father in teaching us to be great fathers? No matter how overwhelming the role of the father in the family may seem to you, God is able to do it in you. Like Paul you should boldly say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
As a father, I am glad that I am not alone in my task. I am glad that God has been my helper these 12 years first as husband and then also as father. My wife Olu has been an excellent helper and together God has helped us so far with our family. We are continuing to grow in our love for one another and our children are growing into fine children of God. Our prayer is that by the mercy of God, Demi and Damilola will grow to become able ministers of the word of God and that they will influence their generation greatly.
Share your thoughts with me about the role of the father in the family or how you handle any of the roles above. Use the comment box below.