We are all aware there is a dearth of fathers in our land that is cursing our American civilization.
The millions of men in prison confirm this. An overwhelming majority of them have never had a normal relationship with their biological fathers.
Men in general are wired by God to achieve great things but to also receive their father’s affirmation for their accomplishments. The drive for a father’s approval is so great that some men have responded to fatherlessness by engaging in destructive, addictive behaviors and/or become workaholics in attempts to accomplish great things to somehow fill the vacuum left in their fatherless hearts.
It is no different in the Body of Christ. God has raised up the church as a family of families that can provide spiritual fathers and mothers who become surrogate parents helping to heal the pain of rejection in the hearts of their spiritual children.
Perhaps the greatest need we have in the church today is for pastors and leaders to go beyond their professional titles and become relationally involved as spiritual parents with the people under their pastoral care. With the incredible breakdown of the American family, the church is now the only hope to restore the vacuum left in the hearts of the fatherless in society.
However, I have also noticed there are men who refuse to allow spiritual fathers the emotional access necessary to nurture them. The following are reasons why some men reject spiritual fathers:
1. Men reject spiritual fathers because they no longer trust male authority figures
When young men experience abandonment from their biological fathers–whether physically or emotionally–they are usually nurtured emotionally by their mothers. This seems acceptable while a child is young, but once a boy reaches 11-12 years-old he will begin to act out and give his single mother much trouble. A father’s abandonment leaves permanent emotional scars that can only be healed by God through forgiveness, our heavenly Father’s love and acceptance, and by receiving a spiritual father into one’s life.
Men who were abandoned by their biological fathers grow up not trusting male figures and tend to gravitate toward female authority–even to the point of receiving spiritual mothers while not trusting spiritual fathers. For example, I have always thought it interesting to see male athletes interviewed on television or radio since, most of the time, they thank God for their mothers and make no mention at all of their fathers.
2. Men reject spiritual fathers because they don’t want to be held accountable
Some men are so used to being independent because their biological fathers were uninvolved that they grow up emotionally immature and–even though they may be past thirty years-old–are still little boys emotionally. They still want to do their own thing and refuse to be corrected by anyone.
3. Men reject spiritual fathers because they are afraid of being disappointed
A father’s affirmation–whether biological or spiritual–is the most powerful experience a man or boy can ever have outside of God the Father’s affirmation. When a man receives a spiritual father he opens up his heart, emotions, and soul to this surrogate authority figure.
Because of this, spiritual fathers need to understand that just one word spoken out of place regarding their spiritual son’s abilities, value, or worth can emotionally devastate and destroy them. So great is the power of a spiritual father’s words that many men refuse to accept spiritual fathers because they do not want to take the chance of being hurt again or being rejected again by another person to whom they have entrusted their heart.
I have told spiritual fathers about the importance of their words–especially to men. It is very important to constantly tell men under your pastoral care (even older men) that you love them and are proud of them. Spiritual fathers MUST UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF THEIR WORDS TO THEIR SONS–THAT DEATH AND LIFE IS IN THE POWER OF THEIR TOUNGUES (Proverbs 18:21)!
I have witnessed firsthand men in leadership who try to serve in the ministry without a father’s approval (whether spiritual or biological). They are driven, never satisfied, and even become abusers and manipulators of those who are under their care. They love and accept men as long as they are useful to their ministry but they do not know how to father and love their sons unconditionally.
Hence, fatherless men produce fatherless sons in the Lord.
4. Men reject spiritual fathers when they have suffered abuse
Men who have suffered verbal or physical abuse at the hands of their biological fathers tend to mistrust spiritual fathers and authority.
Our brains are trained to make associations with either pain or pleasure based on our upbringing. An abused son will associate all father figures with pain and abuse. Thus, they will tend to shy away from spiritual fathering until they are healed of their past.
Also, some men have experienced pain in the church when so-called spiritual fathers have used them for their own advantages and abused or neglected them. If this occurs in someone’s first experience with a spiritual father they will tend to mistrust all future spiritual fathering, even if they come across a leader with the right heart and motive toward them.
5. Men reject spiritual fathers because they expect perfection from them
Sometimes men act like little boys by placing their biological fathers on a pedestal and believing they are perfect in every way. I learned a long time ago that all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 6:23).Even great leaders and spiritual fathers have character flaws and foibles. When men place their spiritual fathers on a pedestal they are setting up themselves for great disappointment because no man has ever lived a perfect life except the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to understand that no matter how great a spiritual father, pastor, or leader may be, only Christ is perfect and is able to meet all of our spiritual and emotional needs.
6. Men reject spiritual fathers because they are afraid of rejection
When a man experiences a perceived rejection from a spiritual father figure it is hard for them to start all over and trust another father figure, even if the rejection was only perceived and not real. Since many men would rather “go it alone” than face the pain of rejection they never allow themselves to enter into that type of relationship again with another man.
For example, I know of men that will only let me get close to a certain point. Then they recoil and leave the church or back away from me because they can’t handle the emotional intimacy of letting their heart go past superficial religiosity and church attendance. Men like this need to risk being hurt again and trust the father figures God sends into their lives so they can be restored into full functionality and reach their potential in the Kingdom of God.
7. Men reject spiritual fathers because they don’t know their heavenly Father’s love
Men who are not secure in the love of God the Father will never be anchored enough emotionally and spiritually to be secure in any other relationship. To the extent that we experience the love, security, and affirmation of the love of God as our Father, to that extent will we be able to mimic that relationship with our biological father, spiritual fathers, and even be a good father to our own children.
8. Men reject spiritual fathers because they have never met any authentic ones
Unfortunately, the dearth of fathers has spilled over into this generation of church leadership. We now have many pastors (both old and young) who don’t know how to truly function as a father. Thus, we have few functional spiritual fathers. Evidently it was the same in the early church: Paul says that “we have many teachers but we have not many fathers” (1 Corinthians 4:15). We cannot have what was never modeled for us or taught to us.
Many men I know have never had access to a pastor or a spiritual father. Many churches try to substitute personal fathering and mentoring with Bible institutes and classes which produce spiritual children. This is as dysfunctional as parents who depend on public school teachers and day-care workers to provide all of the emotional support their children need in their formative years.
Overall, many men reject the pseudo-fathers in the church because deep inside they know they are not authentic in their relationships. Since fathering is not an exact science I have no barometer as to what constitutes true fathering in regards to the amount of quality time spent with an individual spiritual son. (We are all pressed for time and try to do our very best.) But I do know that a few of the “musts” for a true father-son relationship to develop include the following: there must be access, personal interaction when needed, regular input received, accountability, correction, affirmation, partnership in the ministry, and even friendship.
Because fathering is so involving, a leader cannot practically father more than 8-12 people at a time. But nowadays, because of technology with things like Facebook, texting, cell phones, emails, etc. spiritual fathers can certainly stay in touch with more men today than ever before. Thus, there is no excuse for not having regular contact with those spiritual sons God has placed in our paths.
Finally, because of the cultural decline of marriage, family, and the fragmentation of families related especially to the absence of biological fathers in the home, the local church must take the lead. We must be counter-cultural and develop a community model of family and spiritual parenting that the world can latch onto so that men can be healed, get married, have functional families, and become the biological and spiritual fathers that the world is waiting for. Otherwise, society will receive the full import of the curse found in Malachi 4:6.