Eighteen men gathered in a St. Louis hotel for three days this week with no real agenda except to get to know each other and to hear what God is doing in each man and his ministry to the family. We came from 14 states and have more than 110 children and numerous grandchildren. The group included leaders with Focus on the Family, FamilyLife®, and Awana International, pastors, a lawyer, a life coach, entrepreneurs, and men who speak at conferences and write books. All of them believe the Bible clearly teaches that the primary privilege and joy of discipling their children belongs to the fathers, not the church, the school, the community organizations or anybody else. That was the overarching theme that brought us together to talk and pray.
I know what some of you are thinking about now … what were YOU doing there, Mark? Agreed. I felt like the proverbial turtle on the fencepost, who certainly didn’t get there on his own. I took 14 pages of notes in my legal pad, made new friends and renewed past fellowship, and mostly listened in awe. The organizer of the event had asked us to come prepared to share our story, and to answer these questions in a 15-minute presentation:
What has God put on your heart about the family? What do you see God doing in our generation? In what ways is God leading you to work with him in this arena? What encourages you personally to be a godly man, husband, and father? What does the Bible say about family that motivates you?
After each presentation, the rest of the group had 15 minutes to interact with the speaker, ask questions or make comments. Two things struck me as simply amazing about this three-day summit meeting. First, there was never a moment of contention or strife. Even though we all come from different backgrounds and would disagree about some minor points of doctrine or practice, there was great fellowship, laughter and sometimes tears, as we shared our hearts and prayed for the church and the family. There was instant camaraderie that I would attribute to the work of the Holy Spirit. Second, I was amazed that there was not one shred of ego in the room, at least none that I could see. One man started his presentation by saying, “In every shed, there is a dull tool. I feel like I am that dull tool.” Several of us, yours truly included, thanked God for our wives, saying, “Oh, how blessed I am and how much I need her!” These were manly men who lead their families as well as businesses or organizations, but there was no chest-thumping or self-promotion … maybe because we would all say with the apostle Paul, “What do I have that I did not receive?”
On the plane coming home, the flight attendant said, “It is against federal regulation to smoke anywhere in the plane. But if you absolutely must smoke, you are invited to step out either side door onto the wing, where you will also enjoy our features, ‘Gone With the Wind,’ and ‘Bye-Bye Birdie.’ If you can light up out there, you can smoke!” It was funny.
OK, men, here’s the deal. It is a violation of God’s regulations for you to not lead your family and disciple your children. You can keep flying by the seat of your pants while your family struggles on the wing. But that’s NOT funny.
There’s hope for change. I know at least 18 men who can tell you how.