No Higher Calling

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His life could not have been going any better.

And then the phone rang.

He was an evangelist who preached the Word with the Holy Spirit's authority and power.  He was the most sought-after evangelist in his denomination. If you wanted him to come and preach in your church, you had to get in line and wait for a minimum of four years.  He was a man who was enjoying the favor of God on his life and ministry.

The numerous invitations were always a pull away from his family.  But he and his wife had settled on a formula that had worked well and enabled him to spend time at home with his bride and son that he dearly loved.  The formula was simple: He would go out and preach for two weeks and then come home for two weeks.  And then he would go out again for two weeks and back home for another two.  Everything was working and God was blessing.  His marriage was strong. His boy, now a teenager, was doing well in school and athletics.  And his ministry was taking off like a rocket.

And then the phone rang.

It was a very short phone call from his wife.  She had just had the latest in a series of arguments with their sixteen-year-old son.  She had asked him to do something and he told her point-blank that he wasn't going to do it.  This six-foot-two boy was wearing her down.  His strong will was starting to take its toll.  So she called her husband and is a fairly short conversation reported the events that had just taken place.  And then she simply said, "I need you."  He replied that he would cancel the remaining meetings and drive home immediately.  Neither one of them knew that their son was listening to their conversation from the next room.  The teenager knew he was pushing the limits and was curious to see how his father would respond.  He would soon find out.

His father arrived home and within days a For Sale sign was in the front yard.  The father then cancelled every one of his scheduled meetings for the next four years and accepted the pastorate of a small church in another state.  For the next two years, until his son graduated from high school and went off to college, he pastored the small church and mentored his growing son.

With his son headed off to college, he was ready to return to evangelism.  But in those few years multiple changes had taken place in his church denomination.  Many of the older pastors had retired and been replaced by younger men who were unfamiliar with his ministry.  Invitations were less frequent.  Those few years away from evangelism had cost him dearly in terms of his career and calling.  Quite frankly, to a degree, he would never recover.  The decision to go home had come at a great price.

But because he had made the tough decision and went home to focus on his family, years later his son would begin a ministry known as Focus on the Family…James Dobson is the product of his father, James Dobson Sr.  That was the motivation that led him to make the decision to build his son before he built his ministry.  Few men would have the courage or the conviction to make such a step.  But aren't you glad that he did?

This excerpt from the first chapter of Steve Farrar's book King Me: What Every Son Wants and Needs from His Father, challenged my thinking as I read it this morning. Comparing the mentoring of your son to playing checkers, Steve goes on to say:

Whether you realize it or not, there's nothing more in life that he wants than for you to "king him." One day you will pass off the scene and he will assume your role as head of the family.  It's your job to prepare him and get him ready for that day.  The best leaders think far enough ahead to groom a replacement.  That's what fathering is all about.  It's mentoring and equipping your son to become a man who will assume the family leadership for the next generation.  You have no higher calling in life.  It is your God-given assignment.  There is nothing nobler in all of life than to shape your son into a man.

This is where I would add my personal wisdom and experience.  But as the father of two boys, one at ten years of age and the other at three, I have little to contribute other than this: God help me!  There is much work I have ahead to prepare my boys to be men of God for future generations.  I wonder if I need to restructure parts of my life to accomplish this goal.  Is it the highest calling?  If so, my priorities need adjusting.  Farrar is pretty convincing of the importance of mentoring boys.

You know, I think many of us do an "okay" job at parenting in times of crisis and discipline.  But I know that I, for one, have a great deal of rethinking and hard work to make the training of my boys intentional.  How about you?

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Good article Brian. Being an example is of utmost importance especially when it comes to family. I like to gain time back if possible to re-do some things with my brood as the ministry can and often time does demand time. The question is would God call you to a ministry where He would allow one’s family be neglected since the dad is to rule and train his household. I know of some pastors who have said they schedule time into their busy schedules to be with family no matter what. Even in a small church a pastors time can be stolen away by the congregation leaving the family waiting once again for their father figure to come home and meet real needs. Keep up the good work as we enjoy reading your thoughts. Have a great day, Dad

    Reply

  2. Brian,
    I am newly married and kids are a very scary thing to me. I caused all sorts of problems for my parents growing up (I was a rascal!) and you are right that kids are a HUGE responsibility.

    Any practicaly advice on preparing for children now?

    Mathew Sims

    Reply

  3. Matt,

    Thanks for commenting! My first response would be to make sure that your marriage is the best it can be for the glory of God. That goes a LONG way towards rearing children correctly. Make sure you are committed to a united approach to parenting–that both parents will share the joyous burden of parenting. Any other thoughts from anyone else?

    Reply

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