Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, our Communications Coordinator, Taron Defevers, was able to catch up with pastor Mike Fabarez. Mike is the founding pastor of Compass Bible Church in South Orange County, California, and he’s been in pastoral ministry for more than twenty-five years. Mike is going to address a very important topic in the culture in which we live. We’re having so many discussions about manhood and womanhood. How do we think biblically about these ideas and how do we intentionally, as parents, raise boys to be men? This is an important conversation and I pray that you’ll listen in as Taron and Pastor Mike address this important topic.
Taron Defevers: Pastor Mike, I want to kick this off by asking you some questions about some of the challenges that you’ve seen as a father and as a pastor. What are the most common challenges parents (in particular, fathers) face with raising sons?
Mike Fabarez: In our day, we think of the gender confusion that’s out there. The society doesn’t want us to treat our boys any different than our girls. But in reality, we need to understand that God has created these complementary genders. We treat our boys as young men and we want them to grow up to be the young men that would fulfill their role as a man in their homes, churches, and society. We’re going to approach this from a biblical perspective.
In the book I wrote on this, I start with the template given in the book of Genesis, and laying that out in your mind can get you to see how hard this is in our day. It seems harder now than it’s ever been, at least in Western culture. It’s hard because we’re not getting any support from our society. The society is not saying, “Yeah, that’s great. We’re all about that,” when we say that men should lead, provide, and protect and all the things that you might hear your grandparents or great grandparents say. We’ve emasculated the men of our culture. Yet at the end of it all, even those that have pushed so hard to emasculate men in culture, even the most liberal feminists are so often in their own personal lives looking for a real man. There’s an irony in that. God has created these complementary roles and we need to recognize that the challenge in our day is to not listen to the culture that wants us to treat our kids generically. You go to Target now and they’re not going to separate boy toys from girl toys or boy clothes from girl clothes, and it’s gotten ridiculous.
We’re raising young boys to be men, to be strong and courageous leaders, and to be the kinds of men that we see depicted in the plan of a man in the book of Genesis. That is going to be harder today than ever, and the church often reflects the culture. Not to mention the fact that our kids come out into this world as children of Adam in rebellion against God, and they don’t want to cooperate with it. We’ve got challenges within and we’ve got challenges outside and sometimes, sadly, we even have challenges in the church that doesn’t support raising our boys to be really godly strong men.
Taron Defevers: As a godly family trying to raise godly sons, it’s swimming upstream in the culture. Are there other challenges that you see? There’s the gender issue and there’s the child’s own sin you’re facing as a parent. What are some other things you’ve seen as a pastor?
Mike Fabarez: We all hope that someone else will do this for us. If I can just have the church do it, my Christian school, or this little curriculum that I’ve got, and those can all be good. But we can’t delegate it, and it’s work. As fallen human beings, we all tend to be lazy. We tend to work really hard at having fun, but we don’t work hard at the stuff that’s hard. We want things with immediate payoff, and raising our kids does not always have the immediate payoff. If I want my kid to stop being fussy, I might put a screen in front of him. If they’re complaining, I hand him a candy bar. Those are the short-term solutions to the frustration I have. But being able to raise godly men or godly daughters you’re going to have to invest in things that are hard.
They’re going to take a lot of time and there’s not going to be an initial pay off. You’re not going to see the fruit immediately. Growth is like a gardener that tills the ground and puts on the fertilizer to make sure that it’s going to be nourished. It doesn’t grow up overnight. We have to invest early on in the things we want to see in our kids, and it’s going to be a challenge to do the work when I’d rather just sit down after work, put my feet up, have dinner, watch TV, read the news, read my magazine, and go to bed. We have to work. It’s going to be hard. You have to really fight to step up, disciple your children, and do it even though you don’t feel like doing it.
I remember bringing my kids with me to visit people that were sick in the hospital. Or on Christmas morning saying, “Hey, we’re going to go to the nursing home. After we open some presents, we’re going to spend Christmas ministering to people that are neglected in our nursing home.” If someone’s been in a car accident or someone’s suffering from some illness, let’s take our kids with us. You don’t have to be a pastor to do this. Of course as a pastor, I have a lot of opportunities to do it. But it’s easier for me as a pastor to just do that myself, but I’m going to bring my kid along. I’ve got a six-year-old in tow and he’s going to learn to watch Dad care for people who are hurting. They’re watching you do some simple counseling in those situations as they watch you care for these folks. It’s so important.
I just had a situation this morning where someone, without my knowledge, happened to record me ministering to a gal that was dying in our church. To see how that impresses people that are seeing you in the private moments caring for other people, that’s a kind of discipleship that is complicated when you’re bringing your kids along. I want to bring mentors along too. Making disciples is a lot of doing life with other people when in our day it’s easier doing life alone. There’s a lot of challenges with our laziness, our privacy, our autonomy, but as Christians, our life is about people, and as a parent, your life has got to be about shaping those young lives. You’ve got to get past the things that are difficult, the laziness, and just do the work.
There’s a lot of good resources out there. I try to contribute to that with this book on Raising Men, Not Boys. I’m trying to have people do more than they would intuitively do. Intuitively, as fallen human beings and even as regenerate human beings, our flesh is weak even though the spirit may be willing. Jesus says to Peter, James, and John, “Just pray with me. Can’t you pray for me for an hour?” When did you last pray for a solid hour? I have to purpose to do that. Sometimes I set a timer just so that I don’t picture Jesus saying that to me, “You can’t pray for an hour.” I have to fight through my flesh. There’s a lot of things as it relates to parenting that are the same way. It’s going to be a bigger challenge, and you can’t naturally say, “Let’s just have fun. Let’s go to the park. Let’s do little league practice. Let’s go to the amusement park.” It’s that fighting through the challenge of doing what you feel like doing. What you know is right is harder.
Taron Defevers: One of the things you mentioned is the importance of relationships, and one of the God-ordained avenues for relational ministry is the church. Could you talk a little bit about the importance of the local church and the life of your children, of your sons?
Mike Fabarez: The multi-generational nature of the church reminds us that our kids are moving through the stage of childhood to become adults. If you don’t see your kids as becoming full-fledged adults who have their own lives and careers, if you don’t envision their future every day, then you’re in trouble. You’ll see them like pets. I always ask the question, “Why do you want to have children?” There’s that natural, ontological desire to nurture and have children, but you have to think beyond the idea that it’s like getting a pet. We’re not doing this just for our enjoyment or entertainment. The Bible talks about the entrustment of children as the primary discipleship relationship we’re going to have.
In church, I think there’s a couple of benefits. One is seeing that my kids are involved in a multi-generational structure. That doesn’t mean we have to have family services necessarily, but they’re interacting all the time with these folks that remind us of the community of Christianity. It’s more than just Dad and Mom and kids. It’s people of all ages that we’re interfacing with, and I’m seeing my kids by projection being those teenagers, being those college students that I sit next to, being those middle-aged people, being those grandparents one day, and that’s super helpful.
Having the support of those folks is helpful too. A lot of people live away from their grandparents, and even if you live in a place where your kids’ grandparents or your parents are, I remember my kids building relationships with key older couples. We saw what a great thing it would be for our kids to have these cross-generational relationships. My kids had four couples that were their grandparents’ age that built into their lives. They would take them on trips, they would cook Christmas cookies with them, and that was so important to have our kids look beyond the immediate family and think it’s not only about having fun, playing sports, or doing homework. It’s about building into a community of people that love Christ.
In our church and I hope in most healthy churches, we’re concerned about seeing people saved in our community. The church helps with all of that. In our church, our kids have been involved in kids programs and youth programs that have always helped them focus on how we’re going to take the message of the gospel to more and more people. Our kids in our high school ministry have outreach events at their schools. We want to see people and understand their need for Christ, and I don’t know that that’s going to happen unless the church is a priority. It’s not just about getting them to Sunday school or getting them to the service, but getting them thoroughly involved. We do not give our kids an option. You’re going to be involved in all that that program has to offer. Unless the church has gone crazy with their programming, it’s a reasonable amount of time to go to church, serve in a weeknight event, and go on a missions trip. If they’ve got this going on, it’s purposefully and well thought out and you’re going to be a part of all of it. We want them to be fully involved, and it’s going to push them in areas that, frankly as parents, sometimes we’re not even going to see. I’ve got adults that are excited about planning outreach events at their school with pizza, an evangelistic time, and our kids give their testimonies. I can’t do that. That’s something the church can do, and it can do it better than I can as a dad. The church is critical. You’ve got to have the church involved.
Taron Defevers: One of the challenges that brings families in for counseling in the church is a wayward child. What would you say if there is a child who is in the home, they don’t want to go to church, and they’re bending themselves more towards a wayward lifestyle? What would your counsel be as a pastor to them?
Mike Fabarez: I know there’s a theory out there that you should let them go and make their mistakes and make their decisions. If my kid doesn’t want to go to school, I’m not going to say, “Well fine, I only want you to go to school if you want to go to school.” I’ve had a lot of challenge in this in my life of people saying, “You’re creating a Pharisee and an external Christian when he’s not an internal Christian.” I want my neighbors to act Christianly, even if they’re non-Christians. I don’t want them to steal my stuff. I don’t want them to cheat on their taxes. I don’t want them to steal the hubcaps of my car. I want them to live Christianly.
The Proverbs give us so many principles about raising children, and you could easily argue that it’s applicable before there’s any gift of regeneration there. Proverbs 20:11 says that a child is known by his behavior, whether it is acts of good or evil. There needs to be a sense in which I know I’m asking you to conform. Your heart may not be there. You may not want to go to church. But that’s what we do here, and it’s the means of grace to be in the firing line of God’s Word, of God’s people, and of good, godly peer pressure. If my kid is in my home, he’s eating out of my refrigerator, and I’m paying the rent to warm his bedroom at night, he’s going to go to church even if he doesn’t have a heart for this and doesn’t have an intuitive desire that grows out of a regenerate heart.
A lot of kids want to quit math class, but a good parent says, “Well, you may not get A’s in it, but you’re going to keep doing it and do your homework.” We do the same with our kids, and we encourage people to do the same. I’ve watched good examples of parents taking that advice, and I’ve watched these kids turn around just because parents said, “I know you want to do something else with your Sunday mornings, but get back in a church.” They’ve gotten in the firing line of the means of grace and God has done great things with their lives. It doesn’t always work out that way, but as long as they’re under my watch, I want them to be there hearing the Word taught and being around Christians.
Taron Defevers: Put your children in the firing line of the means of grace.
Mike Fabarez: There you go, that’s a Tweetable line. I think it’s high time for us to make this a top priority, because what would it profit your kids to gain the whole world and lose their soul? You can have the best-looking kids. You can have the smartest kids going to the best colleges. But if at the end of their life, they hear, “Depart from me, I never knew you,” you’re going to look at that from a parent’s perspective and say, “It’s not worth it.” What would it profit a man? Jesus asks that as a rhetorical question, and the answer is nothing. We’d like our kids to be profitable, and it may not mean that they go to the best schools, they have the straightest teeth, or they hit more home runs than anybody else, but they learn to love God and respect His Word. I hope by God’s grace, they get to a place of regeneration because they see their need for Christ.
Taron Defevers: Excellent, thank you Pastor Mike.