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by Greg Stephens
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Another Father’s Day has come and gone. This year, as always, Father’s Day was one of the ‘Big Five’ busiest days of our year, along with Mother’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving. Because all of my children’s grandparents are still alive, Father’s Day consists of Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, lunch with my father, then going to see my wife’s father. By the time all of this takes place, it is well into evening. I don’t complain, however, because I know that God has richly blessed me with, not only the ability to see my father and my wife’s, but also with my own two children. Nathan, age five, and Megan, age three, are two of the most precious gifts a father could possibly ask for in this world.

The day before Father’s Day, I heard an alarming statistic on the radio. I don’t recall the program, or the commentator, but I’ll never forget the number. In the United States today, the average church congregation consists of sixty-one percent female adults, and thirty-nine percent male adults. Those numbers surprised me greatly. It is that type of statistic that reminds us to what extent the fabric of the family unit is unraveling around us, not only in the world, where the divorce rate hovers slightly above forty percent, according to latest statistics, but also in our churches.

I am not sure why the statistic surprised me. In my profession, I see the products of familial dysfunction every day. This August, I will celebrate my ninth year as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Butler County, Ohio. I spent the first eight years prosecuting child protective services cases and juvenile delinquency cases. Child protective services cases are where the county’s child protection agency files a civil complaint in the county juvenile court because, in essence, the parents cannot take care of the child. There are many possible reasons why this may be, such as sexual abuse against a child or children, domestic violence issues, or some form of medical neglect. The most common factor behind child protective services complaints was drug abuse.

It does not take eight years to figure out what the most common pattern is to these cases. In the majority of the cases I dealt with, which would literally encompass one to two thousand easily, the father was a non-entity. He was either in prison, unknown in identity or location, or just had not been a part of the child’s life. This situation was not unique to the child protective cases, but was quite common in the delinquency cases I dealt with, again numbering at least a couple of thousand. If ten percent of the total cases I handled in eight years involved a married father and mother family unit, I would be somewhat surprised.

There is a clear by-product of the above statistic. If there is a great number of single parent households in our society today, and a majority of those households revolve around a maternal figure as opposed to a paternal figure, the responsibility of child-rearing, and all that should encompass, falls upon our mothers at a disproportionate rate. More and more mothers find themselves having to take their children to church alone because there is no father figure. On top of this, we have to factor in the dual parent households where the fathers won’t go to church simply because it is not manly, they would rather sleep in, or they prefer to worship on the eighteenth hole. If you combine both of these commonplace sociological scenarios, it becomes clear where the twenty-two percent difference enters between male and female church attendees.

When you boil everything down to the barebones, the statistical breakdowns are not that important. We don’t have the data to establish if the disparity between males and females is based on single parent household trends compared to ‘lazy father’ trends, or vice versa. The fact remains, the numbers do not lie. Factor in the immeasurable variable of how many families have no representation in church worship whatsoever, and it becomes fairly clear why society has the problems it has today. Gambling in on the rise. Crime remains a problem today. In fact, in Butler County, I noticed two trends in my eight years of dealing with juvenile delinquents. First, the average age of delinquent children was decreasing, meaning that more kids were committing more crimes earlier in their lives. Second, the severity of incidents has gradually, but steadily increased. I saw a lot more juvenile sex crimes in 2005 compared to 1998. In 2004, I tried the first juvenile murder case in our county in eight years, and the defendant was only thirteen when he committed the crime. Domestic violence charges increased in the number of both first offenses and repeat offenses. Our school systems are producing more children that are inadequately prepared for life. Our welfare systems are filling up on more unwed teenage mothers. The list is virtually endless.

Ultimately, I believe all of society’s ills can be traced to a falling away from God. If everyone trusted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and lived by Paul’s words in Romans chapter six where he says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.”, then wouldn’t reason dictate that crime and drug use would evaporate? Would not adultery disappear, along with domestic violence and crimes against children? I understand this is an altruistic and oversimplified answer to the problem. However, when they say Jesus is the answer, this is exactly what they mean. Jesus can answer all of life’s problems if we trust Him and lived by Romans, chapter six, verses one and two. Jesus is the answer to any problem if we teach our children to trust in Him and follow verses one and two. That’s why Proverbs, chapter twenty-two, verse six, tells us to, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Our children are not being trained in the way they should go, and it is costing them, and our society, dearly.

I am a firm believer in the controversial commands Paul gave the church of Ephesus in chapter five, verses twenty-two through twenty-five. For those not familiar with these verses, they are the ones that tell the wives to submit themselves unto their husbands, as they are the heads of the wives, as Jesus is the head of the church. For the record, I do not believe in the commonly held interpretation that many within, and without, the church attribute to these verses. I do not believe these verses mean we, as men and the kings of the castle, are to go around clubbing the women-folk and dragging them back to the caves. I do not believe they mean a woman’s place is in the kitchen. I do not believe they mean a woman is inferior to a man. In fact, we men tend to embrace verses twenty-two through twenty-four, with little regard to verse twenty-five, where we are commanded to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.

I think these verses lay out a very clear picture of responsibility. The men of the households love to believe these verses give them the right to be the boss. These verses give men responsibilities that we are not living up to. Men are charged with the spiritual oversight of his entire family. If my children grow up, die and go to hell because they never heard the gospel, I will ultimately have to explain to God why I did not share the gospel with them. They will still have to pay for their sins, but I will be in a position of trying to justify why I never told my children the gospel.

Many men believe that would be no problem. There is a scary attitude among Christian parents, both mothers and fathers, that we should let our children make their own decisions about religion. Let us allow them to sample everything and choose what’s right for them. It almost sounds like a Chinese buffet. Eat some of this, eat a little of that, keep what you like, throw away what you don’t. The main problem with this philosophy is that any parent worth being called a parent would never take that approach with any other dangerous situation of life, but will still do that with the spiritual well-being of their children.

Most responsible parents tell their children about the dangers of drugs. Most responsible parents tell their children about the dangers of alcohol, or, at the least, about the dangers of driving while drunk. Most responsible parents tell their children about the dangers of early sexual involvement, or, at the least, about the need for protected sex. Most responsible parents try to warn their children and counsel them about topics they perceive to threaten their children. Yet, the spiritual and eternal dangers of silence on the gospel strikes no chords in the hearts of many otherwise responsible parents today. Many parents today are content with allowing their children to grow up playing spiritual Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun.

This is clearly the fault of we men today. We fail to realize Ephesians chapter five gives us the awesome responsibility of making sure our children, and our wives, have the proper spiritual guidance and direction. We are more content to allow the wives take the kids to church if that means we can sleep in an extra hour on Sunday morning. We are forcing our wives to do a job God never intended them to do. We are slacking on our responsibilities and everyone is paying for it: our wives, our children, our society, us. The manly thing to do is not to avoid church because we think it makes us look weak to worship God. The manly thing to do is live up to our duties to our families and be the roll models God called us to be. It truly is time we ‘man-up’, reclaim our duties, and ultimately reclaim our families.

Greg Stephens

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