Marine officers have a motto that they see each day when they attend The Basic School, ductus exemplo. This phrase translated in English means “Lead by Example.” This motto, I believe, should be adopted by every Christian father.
Have you ever heard the saying: More is caught than taught? The idea behind this phrase seems to imply leading others by example. As fathers, it is imperative that we not only instruct our children in the ways of the Lord, but also bring them up by modeling this instruction to them (cf. Eph 6:4). Here are 4 ways Christian fathers can lead their children by example:
1) Model spiritual disciplines. You may or may not be surprised to learn that spiritual disciplines are probably not widely practiced by believers living in America. The statistics of believers reading through the entire Bible remains dismal. Fathers, we can be the agent of change. We have the ability to reverse the trajectory of spiritual disciplines if we would simply practice them ourselves. Our children need to see us praying, reading Scripture, and memorizing/meditating on Scripture. If you are regularly practicing spiritual disciplines, invite your children to sit in on this time with you to observe and ask questions. Children, especially boys, want to be like their dads, and as fathers who desire to be godly examples, we want our children to see our good habits, but more importantly our personal time with the Lord.
2) Prioritize worship. As a pastor, Mother’s Day has higher worship attendance over Father’s Day. Perhaps because many fathers would rather be on the golf course, on the lake, or just enjoying a relaxing day. God has given fathers an important role in the home. Paul explicitly calls out fathers in Ephesians 6:4 because of the spiritual leadership dads provide to their children (this is not to say that moms don’t have an important role or that this principle doesn’t apply to parenting on a broad level). The point Paul makes is that fathers will be held accountable for how they lead their children, and dads have an important role in their spiritual development. Therefore, we must make worship a priority in our lives because children are watching our every move. What we prioritize our children will also place a higher emphasis on in their lives. Fathers that make worship a priority will lead their children to do the same.
3) Show them evangelism. Fathers, we must model sharing the gospel to others in front of our children. They should see how we share Christ, and ways that we introduce Jesus into our conversations. All disciples have been given a mission, which has been called the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). As dads, we need to lead the charge in pointing people to Jesus. Our children need to see our Spirit-empowered boldness to proclaim Jesus with our friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else we meet. Prayerfully, this will lead our children to do the same with their friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else they meet. Fathers, we must lead by example in evangelism and model it for the young ones living in our homes.
4) Love their mom well. Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). We lead by example in how we love our wives, and in our love for their mom, we display the gospel to our children. We have an opportunity to show an imperfect love that represents the perfect love of Christ to his bride–the church. The church that he bought with his blood to make us clean from our sins. Fathers, the way we love their mom will teach our boys what a godly husband looks like, and show our girls what they should be looking for in a future spouse. In our example, we are pointing them to a prefect savior, Jesus Christ.
Biblical disclaimer: To be clear, you and I cannot lead by example if we don’t know Christ as Lord and Savior. You cannot lead if you are not first and foremost a follower of Jesus. While these may be great principles even for a non-believing father, you will be unable to lead by example if you have not first surrendered your life to Christ. The gospel gives fathers the ability to pursue God’s design as a Christian role-model to your children.
Ductus Exemplo-Lead by Example. Our children are not only listening to our words, but as Christian fathers, they are looking at our lives and actions. What are they seeing in us? Are we showing them a glimpse of the gospel’s changing power as they watch us? My prayer is that for all of the dads who read this post, they will be filled with the Holy Spirit to show our babies Christ in us. Through our godly example, may God open them to the truth of the gospel, and grow them into believers who will bring glory to Christ and advance his Kingdom when they leave our homes.
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