It has been said that fathers are like “God in human skin”. As our children call us “father”, we call God “Father”, which is both a privilege and a burden—a burden because how we father our children will affect their view of God the Father, and have a spiritual and eternal impact. Fathering is a heavy responsibility God has entrusted to men.
A study by the Swiss government published in 2000 reported some astonishing facts about the generational transmission of faith and religious values: “If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 per cent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 per cent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves. And if the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers.”
In short, “it is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children”.
In John 14:9, when a disciple asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus answered, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Do our children see God the Father in us? Do our words and actions show that God is real in our lives and that we enjoy a deep relationship with Him?
I led my father to Christ when he was in his 60s. Though I had been in the faith for longer than he, his childlike faith and desire to share the Gospel never failed to inspire me. During his last weeks on earth, before he passed at 87, though he could hardly walk or breathe because of lung cancer, he accepted his oncologist’s invitation to share his testimony with a group of cancer patients and their families. Three of them gave their lives to Jesus that day.
How he loved God and how God loved him created a deep hunger and desire in me to press in further into the Lord’s presence. I want to have the same intimate relationship with God that my father had.
Once, a mentee of mine kept complaining about his father, by whom he had been deeply hurt when growing up. God led me to ask, “Do you know how your father was fathered by his father?” He replied, “My grandfather was a bad father to my father.” Immediately, the Holy Spirit spoke through me: “We cannot give what we had not received.” If our fathers had received love, they can give us love. But if all they got was pain, they could not help but pass down some of this pain. That day I told the young man this, he forgave his father.
Even if our earthly parents did not give us enough love, our heavenly Father has more than enough love for us, for God is love. And when this love overflows, we may even offer some to our father and others in our family.
I have for some time been sensing that a second wave of the fathers movement in churches is coming. Miraculously, since the beginning of this year, a number of church leaders have looked me up, either informing me that they had started a fathers group or seeking advice on how to start one. Individual fathers from different churches have also written asking me for information on joining the Elijah7000 movement.
My own church has started an Elijah7000 father community. Our tagline is “If you see me, you see the Father”. You may want to do the same for your church.
Jason Wong is Chairman of Focus on the Family (Singapore) and also of Elijah7000, a Christian movement to turn hearts of Christian fathers to their children. He is one of the speakers at “Passing on a Godly Legacy”