By Doug Stringer, Crosswalk.com
"Mommy, where do daddies come from?” In some cases, this hard question supplants the awkward query “Where do babies come from?” Mothers are sometimes stumped in their efforts to explain where daddies come from, especially when the father is absent in a child’s life. It seems that fathers, instead of being the cornerstone of the family, have become a rare commodity.
How can the generation who grew up without understanding the love of earthly mothers and fathers, be spiritual mothers and fathers to others? How can they help the emerging generation understand the love of the heavenly Father?
In 2004, I hosted a gathering for leaders of the emerging generation. What started small grew to over sixty leaders from across the country, including youth workers, college ministry leaders, worship leaders, pastors, marketplace ministers, intercessors, and others. As they each spoke, I realized their recurring theme was the need for spiritual fathers. I already knew that the younger generation was looking for spiritual fathers—what surprised me, however, was the leaders’ need for spiritual fathers!
When we older men confessed that we didn’t know how to be good fathers because we were fatherless, too, they responded, “We’re not asking you to know how, or be perfect. We’re not even asking you to give us anything. But would you journey with us? We want to know there’s someone who has gone before us, someone who will be there for us, just to give us advice. We want to know that we can call you; that you’re praying for us. We don’t need a lot of time; we just need to know we can connect.”
Just like the generation they are leading, emerging leaders also long for connection and covering. One young minister, who considers me a spiritual father, said, “I was saved and raised in church, but then I backslid, recommitted, and struggled for many years because I didn’t have a spiritual father.” As a result, his ministry is now centered on spiritual fathering. “If it isn’t relational,” he says, “we don’t do it.”
Pastor Mike of Freedom International Church in Houston shared, “A spiritual father knows how to discipline his children with mercy, grace, and love.” In 1 Samuel 4, Eli did not correct his sons, even though they were immoral and did not follow God’s commands concerning sacrifices and offerings. The result was the downfall of Eli’s ministry. On his watch, the ark of the Lord, which represented the presence of God, was stolen from the temple. Likewise, a spiritual father is able to discern his true sons and daughters, those who are faithful, won’t leave when disciplined, and will protect the DNA and reputation of the ministry.
Mike also quoted the apostle Paul when he talked about the importance of a father’s travailing prayers for his children:
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. (Galatians 4:19 NIV)
“Some things will come to pass,” Mike says, “only if a father is pressing in through the pain of travailing, the pain of prayer, and the pain of fasting. Lots of spiritual fathers complain about their children or the staff God has sent to them. As fathers, they know the destinies of their children, but they do not always go to war for those destinies.”
Rusty Griffin, pastor of Christian City Fellowship in Sealy, Texas, put it this way: “Many times, there is a treasure inside a youth’s heart, but he doesn’t recognize it, so he runs after the treasure in someone else’s heart. A spiritual father has to help him see the treasure in his own heart.”
When Ruben began coming to the ministry he was insecure about his reading ability. I encouraged him to get his GED, which he did, and now he preaches and teaches the Bible as well as runs a successful business. Likewise, I saw how Kathy had a gift for counseling, so I encouraged her to get training. Now God uses her gift daily as a prison chaplain helping inmates with spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. Curt Williams of Youth-Reach Houston shares another real-life illustration of “fathering” youth in a practical way:
During one of our many projects at Youth-Reach, I needed a crescent wrench to complete a job. I looked over at one of the boys, a new resident, who likely had never held a tool in his life, and asked him to get me one from our workshop. He said “OK” and went to get it for me. A few minutes later, he returned and held out to me a set of channel lock pliers. I could see in his eyes that he had probably looked at all the tools on the wall in the workshop and had given it his best guess. It was also clear that he was really hoping he had guessed right.
He wanted to please me, and he had tried his best. You see, many of our boys arrive in baggy clothes with a gang affiliation and a long arrest record. They appear tough, but plain old hard work reveals that they are weak and soft and lack basic knowledge of how to really be a man.
I left the project behind and took that boy to the workshop. Without embarrassing him, I went over all the tools hanging there on the wall. He drank it all in, asking questions whenever he did not grasp the use of each tool. It was so clear that something had been missing in his life, or, more specifically, someone had been missing.
His father should have taught him this. That man abandoned him. However, it was my personal joy to step into the role of daddy for just a few minutes.
I have had the honor of doing this with hundreds of abandoned boys. It is important to teach young men the Word of God. It is also important to teach them how to hold a hammer, how to speak to girls, and how to balance a checkbook. These are simple life lessons, but without a father, who will teach them?
We are experiencing the fallout of a nation that finds it acceptable to procreate at will and then abandon its offspring. This generation of boys and girls is looking for daddies; and if we, the church, can look beyond our programs and buildings, we will find a generation of world changers right outside our doors. But do we really care enough to pay the emotional, spiritual, and financial costs required to reclaim them? The answer to that question is yet to be heard.
Leading by example is a major component of God’s plan for older generations. Something is desperately wrong when one generation is unable to successfully transmit its values to its children and grandchildren. The scriptural norm is found in Psalm 145:4-5 (NIV):
One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty.
Let us rise to the occasion. A generation needs to know the Father’s love.
Dr. Doug J. Stringer is the Founder and President of Turning Point Ministries International and Somebody Cares America/International, with chapters, affiliates, and a global network of organizations and compassion ministries. Doug lives near Houston, TX with his wife, Lisa, and their daughter, Ashley.
Doug is an internationally known author and communicator who speaks to thousands of leaders annually on topics such as: compassion evangelism, persevering and transformational leadership, community transformation, and more. As an Asian-American, he is considered a bridge-builder crossing racial and denominational lines. From preachers to politicians, Doug is recognized as an ambassador for Christ.
Doug’s books include: It’s Time To Cross the Jordan, The Fatherless Generation, Somebody Cares, Born to Die…That We May Live, Hope for a Fatherless Generation, Living Life Well, In Search of a Father’s Blessing, andLeadership Awakening.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Nadezhda1906
Publication date: June 9, 2017