Welcome to the third week of our series called #ParentingFail. We’re having some fun as we talk about the reality of parenting. And the reality is that, as parents, we fail. And we fail a lot.
And that’s also why this series is connecting with people who aren’t parents. Because if there’s one thing we can all relate to, it’s failure. For far too long, the church has painted this picture that, if you really want to follow Jesus, perfection is the requirement. The problem with that thinking is that perfection is impossible. We are messed up, screwed up, broken people. That’s why Jesus had to die for our sins in the first place.
And guess what happens when messed up, screwed up, broken people have kids? They become messed up, screwed up, broken parents!
So in this series, we’re talking about that reality. As parents, we fail a lot more often than we want to admit.
Last week, we talked about some common #MomFails. Today, it’s dad’s turn. We’re talking about #DadFails today.
Let me pray for us, and we’ll jump in.
There are some things that I really don’t talk about too much, because I’m completely unqualified to discuss them.
For example, you’ll probably never hear me talk about comic books or superheroes. Comic books have made a huge comeback, and superhero movies absolutely dominate at the box office…but I’ll be honest. I just don’t get it. I’ve really only seen one of these movies that I even liked. The Dark Knight was a fantastic film. But other than that, I can pretty much take or leave anything else that I’ve seen.
And this whole debate about Marvel vs. DC…I don’t know, and I don’t care. Now, before some of you decide to leave Connect forever over this, you should know that we actually do have a staff member that cares. Brian Morrissey actually has some pretty strong opinions on this, so go talk to him. But trust me…you don’t want to talk to me about, because I’m wholly unqualified.
That’s also why you don’t want to talk to me about anything math related. Math is my kryptonite. (See the superhero reference? You know what you call that? You call that ironic.) Seriously, math just does me in. And it doesn’t even have to be complicated math. I can get stumped by pretty simple stuff.
If you talk about math with me, keep in mind that you’re talking to someone who flunked algebra as a high school freshman. And I don’t mean that I didn’t do well. I don’t mean that I squeaked by. I mean that I failed. Flagged it. Flunked. I’m a math moron. That’s why Nicki is the Chief Financial Officer in our family. Otherwise, we’d be in jail for tax evasion.
Something else that I’m totally unqualified to talk about is painting. And I don’t mean artistic painting (although I can’t do that, either). I’m talking about regular, run of the mill, house painting.
Except for a couple of rooms, we’ve repainted our entire house this year. And by we, I mean Nicki. She has done 90% of the painting.
See this picture of this husband and wife, smiling at each other while they’re painting? Yeah, that doesn’t happen in my house.
The only painting I did was the stairway, because I didn’t want her to get on this redneck contraption to paint the upper walls. By the way…that’s awesome. That’s redneck ingenuity at its finest.
So I painted the stairway, because if anybody died on this thing, I wanted to be sure it was me and not my wife. But after the stairway was finished, I kept going. I kept right on painting, thinking that I was helping. And that’s when Nicki said, “You don’t have to do that. Really. You REALLY don’t have to do that.”
I’ve been married long enough that I know what that meant. That was her very nice, very sweet way of saying, “Boy, you suck at this.” So I put the roller down and let her do her thing.
And the thing is, this list could go on and on. There are all kinds of things that I’m unqualified to talk about. There are a whole lot of things that you wouldn’t want to hear me talk about because I would have no idea what I’m talking about. You want to hear from experts, and in these areas, I’m the polar opposite of an expert.
Here’s the problem that I’ve got today. Today I’m preaching about fatherhood, and I feel just as unqualified to talk about that as any of these other things.
I know some people don’t like it when a pastor really opens up, when he gets really transparent. I’m going to assume that most of those people have left our church by now, because being honest and transparent is the only way I know to be. So if you don’t like this kind of honesty and openness from your pastor, it might be time to look for another church.
Being totally honest with you…I don’t feel qualified to talk about fatherhood, because when it comes to being a father, I feel like a failure a whole lot more than I feel like a success. I really do.
In fact, being totally, TOTALLY honest…Father’s Day is next week, and I don’t really like. I don’t even like that day, because I don’t feel like I deserve it. I feel like I fail way too often to deserve that.
The point is, there are a whole lot more people who are a whole lot more qualified to talk about fatherhood than me.
But here’s why I’m still the one that is going to preach this message today. I might be unqualified, but God is not. And the Word that I preach is God’s Word, not mine.
The truth is, I’m pretty unqualified to talk about most everything that I preach about. On any given Sunday, I’m standing on this stage preaching about something that I feel totally unqualified to talk about.
Do you ever get the feeling that some pastors preach from a position of superiority? Like they’re talking down to people? I don’t do that. Pretty much all of the time, I feel like I’m talking up to people. I know that I need to hear and apply the message more than anybody else in this room. And that is definitely true today.
Now, there may be some dads who don’t quite understand this. Maybe they feel like they’re really knocking it out of the park when it comes to the whole fatherhood thing. But I’m willing to bet that a whole lot more dads, if they’re honest with themselves, feel exactly like I do. You feel like a failure way more often than you feel like a success.
And so that’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk about some common #DadFails.
And here are the verses that we’re going to focus in on today. In 1 Corinthians 16, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, ESV)
These verses aren’t specifically written to fathers, but the application to fatherhood is all over the place. This is strong, strong stuff. And it addresses some really common #DadFails that we see all around us. We’re going to talk about just two of them today.
Paul is not messing around here. He is telling guys to, “act like men.” To “be strong.”
And dads, that is your calling in your family. To have a strong presence. To act like men. To be strong. To make sure that your family stays on course. And that means that when course corrections are needed, you’re the one that provides them.
That’s why God has called fathers to deal out discipline.
One of the roles of the father is the role of the primary disciplinarian. It doesn’t mean that moms can’t discipline their children. Doesn’t mean that at all. It just means that dads are the primary disciplinarian in the home. It’s not an easy role, and it’s not a fun role. But it’s part of the way that God set up the family.
But there are all kinds of #DadFails in this arena. There are dads who fail because they leave all the discipline to their wife. Could be because they’re weak. Could be because they’re lazy. But for whatever reason, they just farm it out to their wife. #DadFail.
Other dads fail because they’re too heavy handed. Instead of correcting, their discipline crushes their children. #DadFail.
Our goal is to find the godly balance here. And it’s found in the wisdom of Proverbs 13:24, where Solomon wrote, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” (Proverbs 13:24, NIV)
There are a lot of parents who don’t like this verse, but it’s in the Bible. And it’s not alone. There are a whole lot of other passages just like it. God repeated this principle over and over again in His Word.
But when we embrace the truth of this verse, we find the right balance that we’re looking for. It starts by understanding that love means discipline.
There is a huge move today to paint discipline in a negative light. We’re even told that certain forms of discipline, like spanking, are abusive. Here’s the deal…if you want to believe that, you have to rip a lot of pages out of your Bible. Seriously, you have to ignore a whole lot of Scripture. Now, obviously there are lines that you can’t cross. And most reasonable people get that. But the move toward undisciplined parenting is not Biblical.
I mean, you do understand that I didn’t write this, don’t you? This wasn’t my idea. This is straight Scripture. So if you choose to ignore it, you don’t have to explain yourself to me. This is God’s Word. It’s between you and the Author.
And in this Scripture, God reminds us that love means discipline. And the opposite is also true…withholding discipline is ultimately unloving.
And the reason it is unloving is because it sets our kids up to fail. That’s what we’re reminded of a little later in the book of Proverbs. “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. Punish them with the rod and save them from death.” (Proverbs 23:13-14, NIV)
Can’t you hear the sarcasm in this verse? But it’s there to make a point. If you discipline your child, your child is not going to die. But it will save them from choices that bring death.
But that means that discipline is given out of love, not out of anger. Go back to Solomon’s words in Proverbs 13. “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” (Proverbs 13:24, NIV)
Discipline is given with great care. That means that if you’ve got some anger issues going on, that is not the time to deal out discipline. If there’s even the slightest chance that you’re going to go too far, wait.
Remember what David wrote in Psalm 103. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:13, ESV)
A father’s role is one of discipline, combined with compassion. Know your limits, dad. Know when your temper is getting the better of you.
The point is that there is the potential for all kinds of #DadFails here. Some dad’s fail because they’re too lenient and too passive. Others because they’re too harsh and heavy handed.
Honestly, that’s the way I fall. There are times when I’m too hard on our boys. I expect too much. I don’t give enough grace. And again, that’s why I feel wholly unqualified to preach this message. But again, you’ve got to realize that I’ve preached it to myself over and over this week before I ever preached it to you. And by God’s grace, I’ll get better. And that’s got to be our prayer as dads. Not that we’ll be perfect, but that by God’s grace, we’ll get better.
Now, let’s go back to our text in 1 Corinthians. There’s one more thing I want to pull out of these verses. This an area where there are a ton of #DadFails, but it’s also an area where, if we embrace it, God will do incredible things in our families.
Paul wrote, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, ESV)
Paul told men to “stand firm in the faith.” Stand firm in what Christ has done for you. Stand firm in the hope He’s given you. Stand firm in the mission He’s called you to.
That’s why dads are called to author an adventure for their family.
Last week, we talked about how, as kids grow up, there can be seasons where they express doubt, even severe doubt, about Christianity. Some even walk away entirely. But do you ever wonder why that is?
There are obviously a myriad of reasons, but there is one huge reason that most Christian parents usually overlook.
J.D. Greear nailed it. He said, “The problem is that the world is telling your children a more adventurous story than the one you tell her at home about faith.”
If kids perceive Christianity as just, “Go to church,” then that is not a compelling enough reason for them to stick with their faith. If they perceive it as a bunch of rules, just a laundry list of sins to avoid, then that is not a compelling enough reason, either.
The problem is, that’s all that a lot of kids are taught when they grow up in Christian families. And the reason is because that’s the only faith that their parents know.
If that is the sum total of what you think it means to follow Jesus, you have absolutely missed the whole point.
Listen to why Jesus came, in Jesus’ own words. In John 10, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b, NIV)
Jesus came to give us life. Abundant life. Life to the fullest.
That doesn’t sound like Someone who wants His followers to just adhere to a list of do’s and don’ts. That sounds like Someone who is calling His followers to something bigger. Something deeper. Something more radical. Something more exciting. Jesus is calling us to step out into an adventure.
But most Christians…especially most American Christians…either don’t understand that, or don’t want to do that. Because adventure messes with our comfort zone. You can’t be adventurous and be comfortable. Adventures don’t happen in a La-Z-Boy. Adventures happen when you get out of your comfort zone. When you forsake your security and you take a risk.
That’s the kind of faith that sticks. That’s the kind of faith that is compelling to kids, teenagers, college students, young adults, middle agers, and senior citizens. That’s the kind of faith that sticks for a lifetime. And dad, you’re the spiritual leader of your home. It’s up to you to author this adventure for your kids.
But that’s hard to do if you don’t even do the basics. For example, there is a new trend that is showing up in churches nationwide. The trend is that even the most committed people in a particular church are showing up less. Showing up for church twice a month is considered “regular attendance.” So, considering that every month has at least 4 Sundays, that means that showing up 50% of the time (or less) is considered regular. That is considered committed.
Somehow I doubt that your boss would agree with that logic if you showed up for work 50% of the time. And I don’t think your kids’ school would be ok if they showed up for class 50% of the time. And yet, what is more important? Work or worship? Going to school, or meeting with your Savior?
And again, dads…this is on you. You’re the spiritual leader of the home. And if you communicate that 50% commitment is good enough, don’t be surprised when your kids learn the lesson well. And also, don’t be surprised when the law of diminishing returns kicks in. If 50% commitment is good enough now, you shouldn’t be surprised when it dwindles to less, or to nothing, when you child grows up. They’re just following the trend that you set.
And if you’re wondering if you fall into this category, here’s a simple test. When Sunday rolls around, do your kids ask, “Are we going to church today?” If so, the fact that they ask the question is all you need to know.
I’ll use my family as an example here. I tell you all the time about how I feel like a failure, but here is one instance where we’re succeeding. My kids never, ever ask if we’re going to church. They don’t have to ask. They just know that we are.
“Well, you’re a pastor.” Yeah. So what? Why the heck does that make a difference? It doesn’t. I could get another job tomorrow, and my family’s commitment to the local church would remain the same.
And again, following Jesus is about so much more than just church attendance. But your connection with the church is the bedrock that everything else is built on. It’s what Charles Duhigg calls a “keystone habit.” It’s the one habit that does more to strengthen all other Christian habits combined.
Brian Jones wrote that when “you eliminate faithful participation in church…you lessen the resolve of everything about your walk with Christ. Everything.”
Look…I understand that life happens. I understand that kids get sick. I understand that sometimes you have to work weekends. And I understand that we’re in the full-swing of vacation season. I get that. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the rhythm of your life in general. If the church is not at the center of that rhythm, everything else is out of step.
And I’ll be totally honest…sometimes I wonder if we make it too easy to skip church by putting every message online. Our videos are good. They are dang good. And we work hard to make sure that they maintain that quality, so that when you do have to miss a service, you can still hear the Word that was preached.
But it was never meant to be a replacement for connecting with the local church every week. So I want to say this right into the camera to everyone who is watching this online…if watching a video has replaced your connection with the church week to week, then you’ve missed the whole point. And to be totally honest, there’s part of me that wants to pull the plug. Now, we won’t because there are amazing things that happen because we preach the gospel online. But it was never, ever meant to replace your presence with the local church.
And by the way, if you think this is just because I’m a pastor and I want to pad our attendance numbers, you couldn’t be more wrong. Go to another church. Plug in and serve there. Just don’t watch a video and feel like you’ve connected with Christ’s church.
But now, let’s bring this back to the larger context. Dads, you are called to author an adventure for your kids. It’s hard to do that when you aren’t doing the basics, like maintaining a faithful connection with the church. But when you get the basics up and running, that serves as a foundation for you to really instill an adventurous faith in your kids.
In Psalm 127, Solomon wrote, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-5a, NIV)
Children are like arrows in the hands of a warrior. That screams adventure, doesn’t it?
Again, from J.D. Greear. He said, “Children are given to us as arrows to be launched for the kingdom of God, not as accessories to decorate our home. We are to shape our children as arrows, pull them back on the bowstring of faith, and launch them into the world.”
The reason that a lot of millenials are walking away from the faith is not because they don’t believe it, but because they don’t see how it’s relevant to them. They have learned a bunch of Bible verses, but they’ve never been invited on an adventure.
So dads, let me ask you a tough question. Are you a warrior or a wuss? Are you a warrior, pulling back the bowstring, and launching your children into an adventure? Or are you a wuss, leaving the arrows in your quiver, and teaching them that faith is a thing of convenience and comfort?
What can you do to instill the adventure of following Jesus in your kids? Is there someone you can go serve? Is there a mission that you can adopt as a family? Maybe a mission where you can go serve, so your kids can see the difference that they’re making firsthand? Maybe your next family vacation needs to be a mission trip. And if you’re thinking, “I don’t know. That’s a bit radical,” good. That’s the point.
Go back to our text in 1 Corinthians. Paul wrote, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, ESV)
“Stand firm in the faith.” He didn’t say, “Stand firm in the fluff.” He said, “Stand firm in the faith.” It’s a call to action, to an adventure. And he backs it up by saying, “Act like men,” and “Be strong.”
That doesn’t sound much like American Christianity, but it sure sounds like Biblical Christianity. And with the full force of the Word of God behind me, I’m calling the men of Connect to step up and lead. To do it different. To help your family stand out from the passive, weak-willed crowd that passes for American Christianity.
If you want your kids to sustain their faith for the long-haul, this is what it will take. Because millenials and Generation Z are hungry for something more than institutional religion. In fact, they are rejecting that lock, stock, and barrel. But it’s not Jesus they have a problem with. It’s the ritual and the routine. It’s the going through the motions. They want to pursue something where they know they’re making a difference. They’re hungry for an adventure. They want to make an impact with their lives. And that’s exactly what Jesus offers them. The problem is that that message gets lost in most churches and in most Christian families.
But we want to do it differently here at Connect. I mean, seriously. We’re a church that left a building that we owned to start meeting in a portable location. And we did it simply because we knew that there were people we weren’t reaching because they simply wouldn’t step in our building.
For example, we have a family here at Connect that literally lived across the street from our old building. But they didn’t start coming to Connect until we moved 15 minutes away, here at the hotel. And there are countless more families that are now part of our church that would have never set foot in our old facility.
Now, not everyone liked that move. We had a lot of people who left our church. We had people outside our church who took shots at us. I even heard about one church who slammed us in their leadership meeting. (Glad you’ve got nothing else to do!)
But on the other hand, we had so many people who went all in on this adventure with us. A lot of you were part of the whole process. And we had other churches who cheered us on, who supported us every step of the way.
And now, when I look at what’s happening at Connect, I see the result of taking the risk. Of stepping out into an adventure.
I actually got to tell our story recently on a website called rookiepreacher.com. It was a great opportunity. And after that article was posted, I got an email from one of our partners here at Connect.
Here’s part of what he said. “I don’t state the obvious enough, and that is this: I’m really glad you persevered. I know it has been a really long road for you and your family to get where we are. Thank you for sticking it out and putting your neck out so many times. It really is worth it. At least it’s been worth it to me & my family. See, my kids don’t know about weak, wussy church. That’s not their picture of what church looks like. They’ve grown up with Connect. They know a church that is taking new ground for Jesus. And that makes it all worth it. And that’s just one family.”
Dang straight. There are people who are going to heaven now who wouldn’t have if we didn’t step up into this adventure. And you know what? We don’t know what the next step is. We know that the hotel isn’t the last stop for us. But we took this step, not knowing what the next step would be. You know what you call that? You call it faith.
That’s why the Apostle Paul wrote, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7, ESV)
It’s like Martin Luther King said. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
That’s the risk, that’s the adventure of following Jesus. Is that what faith looks like in your house? Is that the faith that your kids are going to take with them as they grow up?
Go back to our verses one last time. Paul wrote, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, ESV)
“Let all that you do be done in love.” Dads, that’s our mantra. That’s our mission. When we discipline, when a course correction is needed, it’s because we love our kids enough to help them get back on track.
When we set a risky, adventurous course for our family, it’s because we love them. And it’s because we love the people around us enough to take a risk and let them see Jesus, the real risky, dangerous, adventurous Jesus, in our family.
“Let all that you do be done in love.” We don’t play it safe, because of love. And Jesus is our example. He didn’t play it safe, because of love. Love is what prompted Him to leave His throne in heaven and come to this jacked up, sinful world. Love is what pushed Him to die on the cross, to pay the price for all our sin. And through His resurrection, He gives us an incredible gift of love: He gives us a new life. Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t play it safe? And it’s all because of love.