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Parent conversations: What does it look like for a father to be a strong Christian leader?

There’s been talk over the past few years about the negative portrayal of dads on TV and in movies. Most on-screen dads are not strong characters. They provide comic relief and are often the butt of the family’s jokes. That’s made the job of today’s real-life dads even harder. Called by God to be the family’s leader, dads often find a lot of criticism but not a lot of support. Here are two articles that can provide the support and encouragement that the dads in your life may need.

— Nicole Balza

Parent conversation question June 22

OUR CHILDREN were gone from our house for less than eight hours, and I was already missing them.

The Lord has blessed our family with two girls and four boys. The oldest is 15 and the youngest is 6. They were gone for three days, visiting Grandma and Grandpa, and they left behind a house in silence.

The privilege

What I missed reminded me of the privilege it is to be a parent. What an undeserved blessing to be a father, asked by God to be the humble servant-leader of our family.

Steve Geiger and family
Steve Geiger and his wife, Anna, are raising six children in Mequon, Wisconsin.

Leader. Is that a scary word? Sometimes dads may feel like it’s arrogant to view themselves in that way. But it is God who has made you a leader.

The responsibility

To be a leader is to take responsibility for serving those you lead. To serve my children. To serve my wife. To love them as the Lord has loved me.

That is not easy.

It’s especially hard to be a strong spiritual leader when your children are sinning. A dad is tempted to assume the worst before knowing all the facts. A dad can be harsh, venting frustration on those he is to love. A dad can tune out, not wanting to deal with things anymore.

Whenever children sin, a dad can be tempted to be proud. We forget that we are weak too. We have a sinful flesh just like our children do. Dads do wrong—they can be impatient, get frustrated, and even resent the role God has given them.

That’s why dads need Jesus—on Father’s Day and on every day. A strong Christian leader is made strong
by this truth: A Father tells a father, “I forgive you.”

You want your children to know that Father too. In fact, you want your children to see that Father in you. Your love for them does not ignore sin, but it displays the humility of knowing you’re a sinner too. Your conversation with a guilty child will not end with a threat, as if mere fear is power to strengthen a soul for godly living. As children see their sin, your conversation will end in the joy of Jesus’ forgiveness, with God’s grace presented as power to say no to our common enemy, the flesh.

The struggle

Those conversations are moments to treasure. I have images of a son on a couch in the basement, and the dad asks with sympathy, “Are you ready to talk?” No. The dad walks back up the stairs.

Dads need Jesus—on Father’s Day and on every day.

After some time, the dad walks back down the stairs. “Is there anything you’re thinking of saying?” No. The dad walks back up the stairs, praying that the Holy Spirit will, in mercy, help the dear child see his sin.

This time the dad walks back down the stairs to a miracle—there are words, “I’m sorry,” and tears begin to flow. The hug of a father—“I forgive you, and Jesus does too.” God’s peace is shared. Then a talk about the struggle, how we all hate our sinful flesh. A reminder of our Helper, whose forgiveness brings smiles to our soul and strength to say no to the enemy. Another walk up the stairs but this time together, temptation still lurking but the love of Jesus having won the day.

When the house is quiet, I miss our children. I want to see them again, but even more, I want them to see their Father in me.

Steve Geiger

“WHAT DOES IT look like for a father to be a strong Christian leader?” I’d have to say love for souls, love for the Word of God, and sincere forgiveness. You see all three in Jesus, and you see all three in any Christian man you revere.

Love for souls

Only two things on earth last forever, the souls of people and the Word of God. Everything else will be burned up and/or refashioned in eternity. The man who gets this will show it in how he navigates relationships, even difficult ones. He will make the restoration and preservation of souls his top priorities in every human interaction. You can see it in how he treats the driver of the car that hits him, the police officer that stops him, the spouse that neglects him, the child that rebels, and the sibling that slanders him. For the sake of souls, he constantly speaks the truth in love. People’s souls are always more valuable to him than profits and losses, touchdowns and trophies, grades and degrees. He doesn’t keep score. Nor does he cut people out of his life. He welcomes, restores, and supports souls on both sides of every struggle.

Don Patterson and family
Don Patterson and his wife, Mary, have four adult sons and five grandchildren.

Sound impossible? It is. No man can do this perfectly. Yet a Christian man will try. And when he fails, he will confess and be forgiven by his heavenly Father.

Love for the Word of God

Think of how Jesus revered the Word. He was always planting it, sharing it, and pointing to it. He trusted the Word in everything. Christian men will too.

That’s why Christian men don’t get too caught up in the words of mortals—not in political rants, family arguments, or social media debates. Christians, including fathers, feed on the Word of God so deeply that it oozes into almost every conversation. They filter everything in their world through God’s Word. For them, it shapes, reframes, and adjusts their perspective on life. It gives them peace, hope, joy, and love in all circumstances.

Psalm 1 describes them by saying, “That person yields fruit in season and [their] leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

Sincere forgiveness

The quintessential fruit of faith in a God who forgives is the power to truly forgive those who have hurt you. Jesus says as much after giving us the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:14,15). He wants us to forgive from the heart. When we forgive people, they meet Jesus in our skin.

On the other hand, when a Christian father is unrelentingly rule-oriented with his kids, when he constantly reminds them of their failures and uses guilt to motivate, he raises them in a spiritual wasteland. They are led to believe they have two choices: morality or immorality. Often, they choose the latter once they leave his home. He’s baffled because he thinks, I didn’t raise them this way.

Instead, Jesus would make us like his ideal Father showcased in the parable of the lost son in Luke 15. Now there’s a man happily and hopelessly caught by his love for both sons, the moral and the immoral. He forgave both for their self-centered rejection of his original love and kept pouring on the forgiveness right to his last breath in the story. God’s man today is the same way. In Christ’s love he forgives his wife and children to his last breath.

When your family and the others in your life stand around your casket, when all that you were for them is over, you want them to say, “Above all, that man right there showed me what God’s love and forgiveness look like.”

Don Patterson


Authors: Multiple authors
Volume 109, Number 06
Issue: June 2022

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This entry is part 14 of 70 in the series parent conversations

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