Dear Christian Counselor,
My dad is the pastor of a small Baptist church. My brother and sisters and I are the only young people there over the age of 10 and under the age of 25. I absolutely am sick and tired of going there. First of all there is no zeal for God; everybody just sits there like a bump on a log. The church has no joy. They won’t sing. We don’t have a piano player. There is no youth group whatsoever, the men there aren’t spiritually mature or disciplined, so I have no older males to look up to and no one to confide in other than my dad. But he is always working, so he doesn’t take the time to help me or my siblings. The church doesn’t seem to want to grow, move forward, reach out to the community or anything. I feel isolated, ignored, and unloved. I don’t know how to go forward, and I don’t want to become stagnant. I don’t know what to do.
– Pastor’s Son
Dear Pastor’s Son,
At this point you have two good choices: stay or go. If you believe in Romans 8:28, then you are not stuck in a bad situation but at an exciting fork along God’s good path for your life. If you decide to make another try at your church, I would suggest you have a heart-to-heart talk with the one man you say you can talk to, your dad. Take him out to breakfast and let him know you are feeling restless and stagnant in your faith. Ask for his suggestions to stir up some enthusiasm and find some purpose. Could you put together a worship team? Could you organize a community youth group or a charity project? What passions and gifts could you contribute for the good of everyone? For example, I know a college student who organized a 5K with hundreds of participants for the benefit of an organization dedicated to ending slavery in the world.
Your other option is to explore different churches in the area. You could begin by attending a singles’ or men’s group at another church while remaining in Sunday worship at your own. Once again, I would suggest having a good talk with your pastor/dad and explaining that you are prayerfully seeking God’s direction for your adulthood, that you want a close relationship with your father but that you are feeling the need to explore your own faith. Be careful not to put him on the defensive by criticizing his work. You will find that there is no perfect church or pastor but that most of them are trying to be the best grace-filled sinners that they can. Just like you.
Dear Christian Counselor:
What do you do if your family is racist but you’re not, and they won’t allow you to talk to non-whites?
—Dreaming in Color
You don’t say how old you are, and that affects my answer. If you are a child at home, then you are limited in your ability to stretch beyond your family culture. You have the difficult duty of obeying both God and your parents when God tells you to love everyone, and your parents tell you to love only certain people. Your struggle must be to love everyone without being deliberately disrespectful to your parents. I would encourage you to ask good questions rather than projecting a rebellious attitude which might put them on the defensive. For example, “Doesn’t God want us to love everybody?” Or, “If President Obama stopped by our house, would you talk to him?” Perhaps you could explain how confused or conflicted you feel sometimes. Check out this free resource with other tips for difficult conversations. If there is a particular situation you need help with, I’d suggest you enlist the aid of a pastor, youth leader or teacher that your parents respect. You can also pray for your parents – perhaps God will bring them a friend from another ethnic background.
However, if you are an adult, then you are responsible before God for your own choices and actions, no matter what your parents believe, and you may have to tell them so in no uncertain terms. (See, for example, Acts 5:29.) If you approach them with sadness for all they are missing and with compassion for the way they were misguided themselves, it might help your discussion. Jesus came to earth to bring peace and unity to those who lived in fear and hatred. Our job is to continue that mission wherever we can, in our own hearts first of all.
John Piper has some new resources on the topic of racism. Click below to watch an 18-minute video about the transformation in his own attitude.
Those of us who had absent, distant or even abusive fathers know instinctively that “father hunger” means living with longing and insecurity. It is imperative for us right now, as a society, to consider the role of fathers and the impact of fatherlessness. Will we bequeath the vision of a father’s strength, generosity and wisdom to the next generation or leave only an empty, father hunger? Douglas Wilson addresses men on this topic and challenges them to become a father after God’s own heart.
This book communicates graceful truths about many areas of masculine responsibility, from education to the workplace to church leadership. Wilson paints the picture of a high calling and urges men to “pick it up and put it on like a coat” (p. 199). At the same time, he is unflagging in his passion for a father’s role which goes much deeper than behavior modification or preaching. “Gracious fathers lead their sons through the minefield of sin. Indulgent fathers watch their sons wander off into the minefield. Legal fathers chase them there” (p. 185).
The last several chapters, from which the quotes above were taken, contain the best stuff, in my opinion. However, I almost did not get past the sarcastic and argumentative tone in some earlier material. In his discussion of masculinity and gender roles, for example, Wilson labels egalitarianism a “poison” (p. 5), and defends himself against criticisms he imagines will be leveled against him by “humorless” feminists (p. 11). Although I do not consider myself either an egalitarian or a feminist, I was put off by his abrasiveness, and I can only imagine that sincere Christians with a slightly more liberal theology could feel genuinely insulted.
Taken as a whole this book has value, but I have to offer two caveats. First, be sure this is the book you want, because it is not a book for women about healing father hunger; it is a book for men about preventing father hunger. Second, while any new or prospective father – any man searching for meaning and definition in his masculine role – can find direction and inspiration in these pages, there may be some who lose interest or find offense along the way.
I’ll give this book to the first person who asks for it in the comments below the ad.