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Summary: Fathers need to take leadership seriously and engage the family by exercising sacrificial leadership.

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A prestigious private school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side has recently outlawed the celebration of family holidays. In a letter to parents, they said, “after much thought and discussion, [we] will not be celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.” One of the school’s directors explained that, “these holidays are not needed to enhance our writing and arts programs.” The letter went on to say, “families are changing . . . there may be two fathers, two mothers, the mother may not have custody, it could be a grandmother. . . . [Our school has] many different family makeups [which require caring for] the emotional well-being of all the children.” They are concerned that celebrating these holidays, “may not be a positive experience for all children.” The school is bending to, even promoting, the politically correct concept that no one family arrangement is better than any other. The idea that living in an intact two-parent home is best for children has become terribly out of date in the minds of many who want to expand the definition of family to include almost anything.

But in the midst of this cultural war on the family, which says that a father is not necessary in the home, there is compelling research on the importance of fathers. Before I begin, let me say that I understand that for reasons of illness, death, desertion or divorce there cannot be a father in some homes. These situations are beyond the control of the mother. I do not want to discourage single mothers, but I do want to help men see their importance, not only in the home, but in the culture at large. The Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. has released evidence that the father seems to be a vanishing figure on the American scene. Tonight, nearly half of American children will go to sleep in a fatherless home, yet the need for fathers is great. Fathers are important. They are important because children without a father are almost twice as likely to drop out of high school. Seven out of 10 juveniles in long-term correctional facilities did not have a father while growing up. Most of those in gangs will have never known their father. Fatherless children will be more likely to use illicit drugs and abuse alcohol. Females who grow up without a father in the home are 111% more likely to have children as teenagers, 164% more likely to have premarital births, and 92% more likely to have a failed marriage of their own.

This is not to say that a single mother cannot raise good and healthy children, but it takes a great deal more effort. Almost all of the scientific, sociological studies being done confirm the fact that children brought up in a home with a father have a distinct advantage. They are healthier and happier than the average. And when that father takes his role seriously the figures are even more dramatic, especially for those homes where the father is a godly man with spiritual maturity.

I want to talk to fathers today and encourage you to continue to grow to a place of spiritual maturity in your spiritual life in order to make a definite impact on your children, family, and ultimately your world. The first thing I would ask of you men who are here today is: Take seriously your position of leadership in your home. Hear the scripture which says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-2). This is a very dangerous scripture to quote in many places, but listen to what these verses are really saying. Husbands are to be the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.

How is Christ the head of the church? Christ exercised servant leadership. In fact, it cost him his life. In the past men have taken this passage to mean that they are to be the boss, no questions asked, with no responsibilities. They were to give the orders and the wife was to obey. But listen to Jesus as he says, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45). That is the kind of leadership Jesus exercised — he laid down his life for those who were in his spiritual family. I think most women would welcome that kind of leadership — leadership that was sacrificial and thought of others before self. Only the silly and immature believe that this means the man always gets his way and does not answer to anyone. Biblical leadership means that you give yourself to your wife and children as Christ gave himself for his body, the church. He gave up his prerogatives in order to come and serve his people. He was willing to suffer and sacrifice. He placed the good of his people before what may have been easiest and best for him. And in doing so he became the Savior of the church. If you are going to model the leadership of Christ, it means that you will place the interests of those in your home above your own. It means that you will make more sacrifices than any other person in the home. That is a part of your role as spiritual head and leader of the home. It means that you make decisions based on what is right, rather than how you feel. It means that you set the example spiritually by your obedience to God, your service to him and your time in prayer and reading of the Word of God.

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