I wrote last week about my renewed view of the role of a pastor and in my resolutions post how I am prioritizing pastoring my own family. Pastors aren’t the only ones who should pastor their families. All fathers are called to the role of shepherd, to the responsibility of shepherding our children, as well as our wives. A wonderful resource to help with this is Voddie Baucham Jr.’s Family Shepherds.
Baucham begins by lamenting the lack of fathers willing to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, how so many of us have relinquished this role to the “professionals” — our youth and children’s pastors. The church he pastors places little emphasis on children’s ministries, choosing instead to focus on equipping fathers as the primary disciplers.
The Bible leaves no room for fatherhood that doesn’t take seriously the responsibility of raising children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Whether it’s found in the Law, the Prophets, the Gospels, or the Epistles, our calling is clear. We must shepherd our families.
This extends — or rather, begins — with our wives. A husband must first lead his wife, for this is “the foundation upon which a man’s shepherding ministry in the home is built.” A man must prioritize his wife over his children.
I have a running joke with our kids, though it’s not really a joke, that regularly communicates to the girls (Micah will get this in turn) that Cindy is undoubtedly my favorite. “Why does Mama get a bigger piece of pie? Oh yeah, ’cause she’s your faaaaaavorite.” To be sure, my kids will always know that my wife will always come before them. And in this favoritism they find great security, knowing that Dad loves Mom and will never forsake her — nor, logically, them.
Spiritual Transformation vs. Behavior Modification
Baucham addresses discipline and how we have regular opportunities to demonstrate the gospel to our kids. When they’re young, we correct without much explanation, but as they grow older, we stress not behavior modification but spiritual transformation. The gospel of Jesus is the devastating truth that we can do nothing to attain God’s favor but also the fantastic news that through his death and resurrection Jesus reconciled us with the Father. Children’s behavior, even from an early age, reveals the necessity for the cross. And it’s to the cross of Christ that we return with them again and again.
We don’t want to simply direct their behavior but to address their heart, their attitudes and motivations. They need to learn more than the what of their sin and failure; they need to learn the why, Baucham says. So we fathers (and mothers) teach them to recognize their need (and ours) for Christ, to confess and repent and seek promised mercy.
Formative discipline begins with the reality that our children’s greatest need is regeneration. … Another word for “formative discipline” is discipleship.
Fathers as Worship Leaders
Beyond discipline and discipleship, Baucham is also emphatic about worship, prayer, and the Bible — three things you’d think should come to me easily, though I haven’t been consistent with these. It’s been more spontaneous than regimented. We pray often, but we don’t explore the different types of prayer. For instance, we haven’t demonstrated intercession nearly enough, how we pray beyond our own needs and for those of others.
I want us to worship more at home. There’s a lot of music, but seldom worship — in the sense that we are intentional about lifting up God’s name and drawing near to him.
We began reading a book simply titled The Story, which is an ordering of the Bible from the NIV text as a clear story. We’re just a couple chapters in, stopping most recently with the entrance of Joseph. I like the concept of The Story, because I want our girls to grasp the whole of Scripture, not just principles and individual short stories. I want to teach them how the entirety of Scripture points to Jesus.
I definitely recommend Family Shepherds to all fathers, or to any man planning on becoming one. At times it gets bogged down with doctrine Baucham finds necessary to explain, such as when he denounces Pelagianism, or at least Semipelagianism, among Christians today. Trudge through those sections, because overall the book is extremely helpful for us fathers wanting to raise more than well-mannered children. Personally, I’d rather my kids burped at the dinner table while failing to use a knife properly, as long as they love and serve Christ.