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Five Essentials for the Disciple-Making Dad

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You have more influence over your child than the world. Do you believe this? Do you live like you believe it? No. You probably live like most of the dads we work with at Manhood Journey.

We’ve asked over two thousand dads what their biggest challenge is, and most of them tell us that they walk around feeling like failures as dads. They are unsure where to start in this whole “making disciples” deal. Well, not that I’ve arrived, but I can tell you where to start. You start by setting the right example in your home.

Imagine a world where your child is not only influenced by friends, TV, video games, music, and more, but he or she also sees the real picture of biblical manhood and womanhood in the home. I don’t believe this is easy. But it’s our calling as parents.

It is vital, dad, that you go first. You set the tone. Take the initiative. As you read the list that follows, ask yourself if and how much you’re modeling these things for your family.

Many dads are doing better than they think. They’ve just gotten too busy managing work and home and everything else. They need a refresher and to simplify things. It’s why we made the Busy Dad Cheatsheet to get dads started asking the quick-win questions—to get the ball rolling again with their children.

This Father’s Day, regardless of how your weekend is spent—eating cupcakes or opening cards—take stock of your life as a dad.

Are you practicing these five essentials? How well? Are you living them out in such a way that your children would say that you are?

Here are the five essentials of the disciple-making dad:

1. The disciple-making dad trusts God.

“I am the LORD your God . . . You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2–3)

Well, this is a no-brainer, huh. Kind of need to know God if you’re going to be a disciple. But, seriously, how much have you thought about this?

The first of the Ten Commandments God gave us was that we put Him first, above everything and everyone else. When we get things out of order and make other things or other people more important than God, our tendency is to make those things our idols.

Your role as dad isn’t to point your children to you. The disciple-making dad points his child to God. You do this by what you say and what you do every single day.

2. The disciple-making dad knows God’s Word.

“Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them.” (Proverbs 4:5)

Do you know God’s Word? Really? Like, do you have it in your heart so that it’s not a forced thing when you try to apply it to a situation? The Bible calls this “hiding God’s Word in our hearts” (Psalm 119:11). When we do this, His Word will help us walk in His ways. Don’t be the dad who lectures all the time and doesn’t rightly divide the Word of God. Speak as Scripture speaks to your children. The godly dad points his children to Scripture. 

3. The disciple-making dad prays fervently.

In Matthew 6:5–15, Jesus taught His disciples to pray. Jesus’ goal as He prayed was, “your will be done” (v. 10), not “here’s my list of what I want you to do for me, God.”

The following outline can help teach your children to pray in their own words and from their own hearts:

    • Come to God with the right attitude and heart.
    • Begin by worshiping God.
    • Have the right goal for your prayer.
    • Confess your sins and ask for forgiveness.
    • Forgive others who have hurt you.
    • Ask for what you need and trust God.
    • Ask God to protect you and help you when tempted.

This is just an outline, not a formula or an agenda you must follow point by point. Teach your children how to pray simply by having an honest conversation with your Heavenly Father.

4. The disciple-making dad builds relationships.

“Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)  

There was a university experiment where a psychology professor conducted a test of peer pressure on various students. He created a classroom where nine students were aware of what the experiment was about, and he rotated in a tenth student who had no idea that everyone else was playing along with the professor.

The teacher drew two lines on the board, one long and one short. He then asked the class which line was shorter. The nine students who had been prepared ahead of time were told to raise their hand when the professor pointed to the correct line, but they all eventually changed their minds after repeatedly being asked if they were sure.

As each new student was brought in, he or she watched everyone else give a wrong answer, and most of the time, this student went along with the crowd, even though it was obvious which line was longer. What the professor found was that the assurance of the group and the loneliness of standing out were too much for the students to handle.

What’s the point of this story? We need strong, godly friendships in order to grow and live as followers of Christ. Godly dads know the power of godly mentors.

5. The disciple-making dad serves others.

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:3)

What does it mean to commit whatever you do to the Lord? It means that we do what we do for God, not for ourselves; and we depend on Him.

Colossians 3:23–24 is pretty clear:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

We should be humble, like Jesus, and put other people above ourselves. We are to live the lifestyle of a servant (Phil 2:1–8). Serving others is a vital part of being a godly dad. When we serve others, we put into action what God is doing in our lives. The godly dad makes an impact on the people around him.

 

Ryan Sanders is the Director of Outreach at Manhood Journey, the ministry helping build disciple-making dads. He received the Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a Fellow at The Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and serves as Lay Pastor at McLean Bible Church. He is the author of 7 Sins of a Disengaged Dad and editor of the Field Guides for dads. He and his wife, Tonia, have three children, live in Washington, DC, and are diehard Redskins fans. Find Ryan on twitter and instagram @RyanSanders.
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