Fathers & Sons Part 1

Fathers And Sons- The Biblical Model For Healthy Churches

As a pastor, I come across many people who are hurting badly, who have been hurt by the church. Some of these are themselves pastors who have been destroyed by the churches they sought to serve.

It is estimated that in Australia there are as many “former” pastors as there are pastors currently serving. This excludes those who have retired from ministry due to their age.

Many people are disenchanted with the church and know that change is necessary. The hard part is what is the necessary change?

In the course of these articles, I am going to explore and explain what I believe is on God's heart for the church of the 21st Century.

To my way of understanding the biggest need of the church now is a reformation of relationships. Over the last 2000 years we have developed some very strong, influential and powerful organisations. The established churches have amazing influence around the globe. The newer denominations, such as the Pentecostal and charismatic churches have developed very slick, performance based models borrowed straight from the corporate world.

Over against this, there is mounting evidence in the West that many who believe in the Lord have lost faith in the church.

So what is the problem?

The problem is that we have built structures and organisations when God wanted us to build family and community.
At the heart of the family is the relationship between fathers and sons. Please note that this is not a gender-specific description. It does not exclude mothers and daughters. In the Bible, however, it is the sons who inherited and the fathers who brought instruction and strength to the family.

The Heart of God

At the heart of God's very nature there is fatherhood and sonship. We describe God as being three-fold-- Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The relationship of Jesus to the Father is very instructive:

Jesus was obedientJesus was submittedJesus was reverentJesus sought to fulfil the purposes of the Father.

In the “community” which is the Trinity we find that although the three Persons of the Godhead are equal in every way, there is a structure to their relationships.

The Heart of Man

People are constructed in such a way that maturity comes most fully when we are connected to both a father and a mother.

Fathers provide identity and security in our lives. When a father is absent or emotionally distant then we have a wound in our hearts that needs to be filled.

Psychologists recognise that people who are wounded by a lack of fathering are often driven or purposeless. They often fail to make good relationships.

Pastors recognise that people who have a poor image of a father's love are often unable to relate to God, no matter how hard they try.

I was talking to a woman the other day, who displayed this kind of problem. She shared how she is currently out of fellowship. She went on to describe how she should respect her husband more, but she can't. Why? Because like many people she had married a man who was in some respects like her father, and her father had rejected her after she turned 18, due to some brain injury suffered in an accident. Then she told me that she could relate to Jesus, but the Father was too scary.

Jack Frost has coined the term “Orphan Spirit” to describe this condition.


Individualism- the Sin of the West

We live in a culture that has denigrated the roles of fathers. Feminists have removed men from their supposed place of dominance. The rock culture has celebrated anarchic rebellion against parents. Technology has removed most physically demanding work, allowing for a rapid feminisation of the work place and removal of the position of men.

The rapid disintegration of marriages, means that many people are brought up in single parent families- usually the mother.

The clear message from all of this is people, especially men, have to stand on their own two feet and not be dependent on others, because people will only hurt you. Significance can no longer be found in relationships or in work.

Our culture exalts the “Lone Ranger” hero, the man who can make it by himself without relying on anybody else. The Frank Sinatra song “I Did It My Way” typifies this culture.

The other aspect to this problem is that many children and teens are increasingly being raised without any fatherly presence. If the marriage survives a life-time, fathers are often away long hours due to work commitments. Working hours are increasing in many countries, and people are commuting further and further to work. At school, teaching is becoming increasingly dominated by women so that it is possible to go through primary and high school without encountering a significant male role model.

The Church- From Family to Institution

This combination of rugged individualism together with the orphan spirit has brought about a situation where the people who should most be responsible for bringing genuine community to the earth are those who, in fact are unable to do this very thing. Drawn into the ministry by the Spirit of God, their lack of relationship to strong father figures in their lives means that they are themselves unable to provide strong fathering to their people.

Instead, many pastors, driven to succeed by their need for a father's approval, demand conformity and performance from their people rather than providing nurturing and freedom. Authority is based on position rather than relationship. Disciples are trained rather than mentored.

There have been attempts to remedy this deficiency, but they have been structural rather than transformational. The most radical of these involve doing away with all leadership- yet this throws away the baby with the bath water. God has established ministry gifts in the church to bring the church to maturity. Cell churches provide the most coherent pattern for developing community in a church; yet even here, the problems of performance-driven leadership is not dealt with.

The Remedy

The heart of the problem in the Western church is relational. The remedy has to be relational also.

The real solution to the problems of the church is to start again organically rather than structurally; to focus on relationships rather than roles.

To rebirth the church, we must rebirth relationships.

The biblical pattern for effective relationships is the model of father and son. Every leader must first be in a son-like relationship with a spiritual father, before he can be a father to many sons.

It is not insignificant that the last words of the Old Testament are:

5 "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."Malachi 4:5-6 (NIV)

In future articles I will develop this theme further.