The Role of Christian Faith and Language in Shaping Great Dads

Below is an email exchange I recently had with a good man who attended one of my workshops. This particular workshop was held at a church. Understandably, several of the men who attended expected more Christian language, Scripture, and encouragement than I gave, given my commitment to reach all fathers, not just religious ones.

With his permission, I’m posting our email conversation as a blog because this is not the first time I’ve had this dialogue, nor do I suspect it will be the last. My hope is that this post will serve to explain my current thinking about why I coach and teach as I do, and will also serve as an invitation for more dialogue with anyone who would like to comment, and help me learn.

This initial email below was in response to a “Great Dad Tip of the Week” about the need our children have for us as dads to spend more time with them, and how no dad ever says at the end of his life, “I wish I had spent more time at work and less with my family.” Yet many share the opposite regret.

I have, of course, changed the name of the man who wrote to me, and some of the details, to protect his privacy.

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Dear Keith-

I doubt that you remember me since I was one of many attendees at your workshop several years ago.

I believe your message is right on except I believe one’s belief in Christ is critical in the equation. This is just MY OPINION and the reason why I did not write a recommendation. I hope this comment is written as a constructive comment.

Thank you for your message and help, Michael.

I do remember you, Michael. And I appreciate and understand your comment well. For Christian dads, this is certainly true–their commitment to Jesus should lead them to become better dads.

My audience includes many Christian men, and also many other men who have other beliefs. I hope to support, coach, and strengthen all dads, those who share your devotion to Jesus, and those who are not at that place in their lives. All children deserve great dads, which I assume you agree with.

Christian dads are able to express God’s love to their children, and their commitment to God will hopefully lead them to spend the kind of time with their kids I suggested in my email. However, for dads who are not devoted to God in the faith or way you are, some other motivation must be triggered. Since my purpose is to help all fathers become great dads, I’m not preaching or quoting Christian Scripture (often) or urging men to live out a devotion that may not exist, or may exist in another form of faith.  

Thanks for your comment, Michael. I’m really glad you felt comfortable to write to me and share your thoughts.

I welcome your response to my words here. I’m still learning how to do this, and your insights are much appreciated.  Keith

Hi Keith-

I am certainly not even an amateur in this area. Struggling to understand how one is to be a witness for Christ. I believe we have a responsibility to be witnesses to Christ, even to those who do not believe.

HOW this is done properly is an issue I am struggling with.

I do believe that our responsibility to God supersedes our responsibilities as dads to our children. 

Again, my thoughts.  Michael

Thank you, Michael, for your honest and humble response. I sure appreciate and respect both in you. 

I am learning along with you. I don’t think either role needs to supersede the other. I think we simply are witnesses of all we believe as we live our lives and faith. We are to be true and devoted to our faith and to our children, and to share the love of God with everyone we meet, as St. Francis once said, “sometimes with words.”  

Again, my purpose is to help all men heal and become great dads. If they also find God in the process, that’s wonderful. But if they come short of that and become great dads, it seems to me God will smile and work his magic along the way. What a beautiful transformation will have already occurred. And from what I understand Jesus said about children and God’s special love for them, I think he might be very happy about the work I’m attempting.

Just my thoughts, Michael. All of yours are always welcome as we learn together.  Keith

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I’d love to hear your thoughts about this email exchange. Please leave a comment below.

To read more from Keith, take a look at his book:

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One thought on “The Role of Christian Faith and Language in Shaping Great Dads

  1. Thanks for sharing this conversation. It is a tremendously important question probably best framed in terms of integrity, love, truth.and grace,/b>.

    1. Integrity. If I’m not mistaken, this is a question of integrity for the presenter and the audience. How does the presenter (who is leading and guiding the conversation) honor all his or her deepest convictionsand simultaneously honor the convictions and commitments of the listeners – including those who disagree?

    2. Love. I take it that this kind of speaking is motivated by love – truly seeking the good of the other. The question then is: What is most deeply good for the other – both those who share your deepest convictions, and those who do not?

    3. Truth. Every discussion of this kind is making truth claims. And every persuasive encounter has the desire to persuade the other of one or more truths.This is not a question; it is a statement.

    4. Grace. Christians believe in common grace (the kind favor of God to all people) and saving grace (the work of God in reconciling rebellious people to himself by faith in Jesus). We believe that both are good, but that they are different, and that as recipients of both varieties of grace we are called to proclaim and bring both to our neighbors – and to celebrate the manifestations we see of both common and saving grace.

    I’m a Christian. That isn’t just a ‘personal’ or ‘spiritual’ conviction; nor is it a merely the motivation for public action. It is a belief that spans and permeates every aspect of life – personal and public. As such, I’m constrained to learn to speak as a Christian in public in ways that are winsome, wise and true.

    At Christian sponsored events, I assume that many of my listeners are Christians, and some are not. I honor both by sharing the contours of the Christian gospel (good news), and inviting them all to believe. Precisely because the Christian gospel is comprehensive – neither merely ‘personal salvation’ nor merely timeless wisdom – it requires me to address my hearers as whole persons.

    At events where the majority of my listeners are not Christians, I speak differently – but hopefully with no less integrity. In these sorts of contexts, I begin with our common ground, which we have by common grace. I both ask and try to provoke questions that engage the whole person – and in my experience this allows people to discuss their most basic convictions with integrity. They ask honest and important questions, and are more transparent about their most fundamental convictions than they might otherwise be.

    And, almost invariably, there is much to learn from everyone – and it is more easily and honestly learned if we’re forthright about what is most precious and important to us.

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