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November 11, 2013

Missional Fatherhood


I recently went digging for some stats and information on men that I knew was out there. I landed on an article that was very straightforward and did not pull any punches. I don't know if the author was a Christian or not. Regardless, he was right on with many of his conclusions. As he shared and delved deeper into the current state of manhood, I could sense that he had reached a boiling point.

I have seen first-hand over the past decade how we are losing many men, both Christian and non-Christian, to the allure of video games. Yet, whether it is video games, pornography, or sport-related hobbies the end result is the same. Men are increasingly engaged more in their fantasy worlds than the relationships within their own homes. As insane as this seems, it points to a much larger underlying problem. The hearts of men are entangled within a world culture that is systematically and generationally dismantling God's design of true manhood.

As this guy went off on the topic of men and video games within this article, he shared a story about one of his friends. He explained that his friend referred to himself as a "gamer" because it sounds better than saying what he really is, "a pathetic, 36 year-old man with a stalled career, unhappy wife and neglected child, because he's addicted to stupid video games." Earlier in his article, he had explained that this same friend no longer engages his wife or kids. He unplugged himself from the reality of his roles as a man and instead plugged into a make-believe world of video games.

I would suggest that the problem is not necessarily the video game. The problem lies within the man's heart, and for that matter all of our hearts. By God's grace I've been exposed to some godly men that lived out sacrificial lives for the sake of their wives, children and the needs of others. Were these men perfect? No way. However, they were men of the WWII era or descendants of these men that had a deeply ingrained value system. Yet, as our country is now discovering, it's not enough to have a good value system. You must have the right heart to go with it.

I'm reminded of good friends that have sacrificed so much in order to show two little girls from China what it means to be loved. Their lives are consumed with a God-given mission to pour the love of Christ into the hearts of their kids. Yet, their mission does not stop there. If there is a need in their community, they would be the first to sacrifice more of their time to help out. I know this dad well enough to know that if he ever played a video game it would be a game he was playing with one his kids.

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8

My friend is man after God's own heart. He is a "Micah 6:8 guy." This Scripture defines his, and his wife's life purpose, passion, and commitment. They live for God and for others. He realizes that his life is not his own, it's God's. Unfortunately, the world today knows too few couples like this.

As Christian men, God defines our heart and our mission. While this will look different for many of us, the heart and mission will look the same. My friend is a man on a mission, and his heart for Christ fuels that mission. He wants to be the best Christ-follower, husband, father and friend he can be. This mission defines and compels his life toward living for God and for others. As a married man, I share this mission to be a disciple-maker in my home and my community.

I shared with a man today a question I continually ask myself: If I'm not taking care of the most important thing, why am I so busy with everything else?

I know a handful of men that use video games and sports as a way to truly engage the relationships around them for Christ. Whether it is spending some downtime with their unsaved friends or their children, they are using the games as a way to strengthen their relationships before God. I applaud these men. They are ambassadors for Christ in their respective mission fields, and we need more of them. These same missional-minded men are also capitalizing on every minute they can to build into the relationships around them.

Several nights ago I played a racing game with my children. They blew me away. Just last night I played table-tennis with my wife and children, and we had a great time. Games have their place. Yet, I would propose, in the face of troubling times and with so many relational needs around us, that we need to be much more intentional about building into the lives around us. This holds especially true for dads out there. Our kids need us to engage them more about the things that matter most in life.

As I look at my friend's life, I'm reminded that as Christian men, our lives are not about us. Our life mission is not finding self-fulfillment within the stuff we do and experience, i.e. games, work, etc... Rather, our life purpose is to offer our lives as a "living sacrifice" and to find our greatest meaning in glorifying God (Romans 12:1 and 1 Cor. 10:31). If my heart is undeniably tied to this mission, you won't find me wasting my time on things that matter little before eternity.

The issue really is not rooted in the games men play or don't play. It circles back to heart motive and priorities. If God has our heart, He has our life purpose and passion. And like Christ, we will become preoccupied with our Father's business.

Fatherhood Challenge:

Spend some time this week considering where your hours go. To impact our God-given relationships, we must be spending intentional time with them. Would our friends call us "Micah 6:8 men," men after God's own heart? What would our wives and kids say?

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