When did church become something only for women and children? Why are there families in pews without husbands and fathers? Why are there so many absent fathers?
The countdown to the time of my own fatherhood is on. Weeks, days, hours remain before my testing by fire. It’s a daunting task that lies before me, to be sure. And how a pastor is a father to his family matters so much that St. Paul told St. Timothy that if a man cannot manage his household, as husband and father, he is unfit to be a pastor (1 Tim. 3:4-5).
Why does Jesus call men to be disciples? And why does the Lord call men to be pastors? Not because women are inferior (they’re not). Not because women lack the skills necessary (they don’t). Simply because only men can be husbands and fathers.
Just as pastors are fathers to the congregation entrusted to their care (as Luther says in the Large Catechism), fathers are pastors to their families. That’s a huge responsibility. And it’s one for which men will be called to account. Raising God-fearing children will not happen if fathers are not presiding at the family altar: with daily prayer, Scripture reading, and devotions.
For the Feast of St. Michael, Luther preached, “The Lord is very angry, and it grieves him deeply when young people are not carefully trained. ‘Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones,’ he says, whoever teaches young people to curse, swear, lie, slander, to be unchaste, and so on, it would be better if he were dead. By this he indicates that such sin will be punished not merely with temporal death, but with eternal damnation. The world regards this punishment as wrong, and that is why all kinds of offenses flourish. It is the accursed devil’s doing that the world’s young people are now so depraved, wild, and undisciplined. They become the devil’s children and are capable of nothing but cursing and swearing, slandering and lying; they live immorally, are disobedient, and guilty of all manner of malevolence. Woe to those who foster this in them. For the sentence has already been pronounced upon such people, as Christ says, ‘It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.’”
That’s a serious warning. Luther took seriously the task of fathers to instruct their children in the faith, to raise them as pious Christians, so much that he wrote a manual for fathers to use in instructing their children: the Small Catechism. Nearly every section of the Catechism begins, “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.”
Men, stop abdicating your responsibility to teach your children the faith and to model the faith to them. Be a faithful father. Be a man.