Christians used to think of fathers as the pastors of their families. While that seems strange to some, it does express some biblical concepts. God has appointed husbands and fathers as the heads of their families.
1 Corinthians 11:3 says, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” Ephesians 5:22-23 echo this reality by commanding, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as Christ also is head of the church, He Himself being Savior of the body.”
Children are called to honor and obey both of their parents in the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-3). Fathers, however, are singled out having the ultimate responsibility for the home. “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
This family order did not originate from a cultural bias against women and children; it came directly from the heart of God. Just as order within the military increases effectiveness, so godly order in the home helps the family be all that it can be. Just because soldiers in the army have different ranks and duties does not imply personal inferiority or superiority; so also God’s order in the home does not speak to the value of those in different positions.
If you are a husband or father you have an awesome responsibility before God. In a real sense you are the pastor of your home. While that does not mean that you need to preach a weekly sermon to your wife and kids as they sit in the living room, it does mean that you will be held accountable for your family’s spiritual well-being.
It would be impossible to be faithful pastor if you are not a Christian. I know that tomorrow morning many pulpits across the country will be occupied by people who do not know Christ. Like hollow peanut shells, they look the part on the outside, yet lack the substance on the inside.
You will never be what your family most needs until you repent of your sinfulness, and trust the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Because of his sacrificial death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead three days later, he offers his righteousness in exchange for your sinfulness. As long as you proudly cling to your self-righteousness you will never truly make it to the playing field of being a godly father.
If, on the other hand, you have been declared righteous before God, what does that motivate you to do? Based upon your right standing before God, you should want to please the Lord in every way that you can. What does a godly husband and father look like?
First, you should set the example of godliness for your family. Some pastors are known for saying one thing at church, but living another lifestyle in the community. God calls us to lead by example (see 1 Peter 5:1-4). Your words of spiritual encouragement to your family will fall on deaf ears if you do not live them out yourself.
Paul told Timothy as a young pastor to, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching…” (1 Timothy 4:16). In another place he urged a group of church leaders to, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” (Acts 20:28). Instead of being discouraged about how far you have to go to set such an example, rise to the challenge. Think about the facts of the gospel. Allow that reality to inspire you to excel in your spiritual disciplines.
Another mark of a godly husband and father is filling your wife and children with God’s word. You should lead your family to a Bible-teaching church, but you must not be satisfied with what they learn at church alone (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Read the Bible to your family (even small sections will be a good way to begin), ask them questions about the sermons they hear, surround them with helpful books about the Bible, and bring the Bible’s teaching to bear on family decisions.
Prayer is a third mark of being a pastor at home. Each day you should lift your family members by name to the Lord. With all of the wickedness in the world, your family is desperately in need of God’s grace. As the one responsible for them before God, beg God for his protection and provisions for your wife and kids.
In addition to prayer FOR them, be sure to pray WITH them. Praying with your wife does not have to last for an hour and include praying for every unsaved third cousin once removed. Sometimes you just need to sit down and pray together for a few minutes. It’s an important and helpful habit to cultivate.
Sing together as a family. We try to teach our children new hymns and songs regularly, not only to worship God as a family, but also to help them participate in church. Many Christian bookstores sell hymnals, but you could also ask to borrow one from church. You could even sing along with videos of Chris Tomlin or the Gettys on YouTube.
A final mark of a family shepherd is confronting sin. Sin does not accomplish anything good. The Bible compares sin to a disease (2 Timothy 2:17). Surgery may be unpleasant, but runaway cancer is far worse. Lovingly help your wife and your children identify and repent of their sinful attitudes, words, and actions.
As wonderful as it is to be in a growing relationship with God through Jesus Christ, it is even better to serve the Lord with your family. Take advantage of both formal and informal opportunities to shepherd your home flock to the Lord. Your church family will help you do this, but ultimately as a husband and father you bear a responsibility before the Lord.
By John Crotts