With the much-anticipating "Man of Steel" film hitting theaters this past weekend, Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Church in Southern California used the opportunity to share how men can be a different kind of a "superman," who is called dad.
You can trace almost every social ill in America today to the breakdown of family, and specifically to the absence of masculine leadership, Laurie said as he began his sermon, "Needed Superheroes," on Father's Day.
"At the beginning of the 21st century, American men are choosing to disconnect from family life on a massive scale... In 1960, fewer than 6 million children lived in single parent families; today that number is 22 million," he added.
Laurie shared stats as evidence.
"Fatherless children are anywhere from a 100 to 200 percent more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems. A child that comes from a fatherless home is 68 percent more likely to use drug or alcohol, far more likely to become sexually active at an early age, and three times more likely to commit a violent crime. Sixty-three percent of teenagers who attempt suicide come from fatherless homes. Seventy-one percent of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. Ninety percent of our homeless and runaway children are again from fatherless homes. Eighty percent of all who are sitting in prison today grew up in fatherless homes."
He continued with more statistics.
Fatherless sons are 300 percent more likely to become incarcerated and stay in juvenile institutions, he said. "Fatherless daughters who marry have a 92 percent higher divorce rate, and fatherless sons are 38 percent more likely to experience marital failure. Fatherless daughters are 53 percent more likely to marry as teenager. Fatherless daughters are 111 percent more likely to have children as teenagers, and they are 164 percent more likely to have an out-of-wedlock birth. Eighty percent of teenagers admitted to psychiatric hospitals come from fatherless homes."
Laurie quoted author James Merritt as saying, "The most endangered species in America is not the Spotted Owl or the Snail Darter, but the responsible father." He then quoted an animal expert as saying, "Even in the animal world, the presence of father figures is essential to civil behavior, discipline, and relational decorum with others."
This is a principle that God has set in motion, Laurie stressed.
There is a need for an attitude change, he suggested. "If you are a father, it's a privilege," he said, and quoted Psalm 127:3-5, "Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."
The word "heritage," used in the passage, can be translated as a "gift," Laurie said. Kids are not given to keep, but to nurture, he said, adding, it takes time to raise children.
However, our culture attacks the value of a mom and a dad raising children together, the pastor said. He quoted from a recent article in a mainstream magazine, which stated, "Fathers on TV come in two principal varieties: Mr. Mom and fat pig. The most popular shows of the past 30 years have all been about family and have all had a failed dad at the center... The Mr. Mom type was defined by the defeated, awkward, confounded Raymond on the ironically titled 'Everybody Loves Raymond.' The loser dad was central to '$h*! My Dad Says' and remains a staple figure today on shows like 'Guys with Kids.'"
A test of parenting, Laurie mentioned, is, "If you want to know what kind of father you were, don't look at your children. Look at your grandchildren," as evangelist D.L. Moody said.
The advice Laurie had for dads was based on Ephesians 6:4, which says, "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord."
These words are directed towards fathers, Laurie pointed out. It's the husband who holds the key to a flourishing marriage, he said. In a way, husbands also hold the key to a successful family, he added, clarifying that it's not that the mothers don't play an important role. Moms are usually there to nurture children, but it's the fathers who often walk out of families, he explained.
We can provoke children by showing favoritism, Laurie said. Kids are not stupid; they know when you have a favorite. When you compare a kid with another child, it hurts them. They will carry that feeling throughout their lives, he warned.
Another way to provoke our children is by never complimenting them, he said. And sometimes we can over-praise our children as well, he cautioned, adding that we need to find a balance.
It's imperative to "bring them up," as the passage states. Another Bible version says, "Let them be kindly cherished."
In our culture, many children are left to themselves, Laurie said. But we have to be part of their lives; to be there, he said, and quoted Proverbs 29:15, "A child left to himself brings shame to his mother."
"We need to bring them up because they already have a sinful nature that is bringing them down," Laurie went on to say, quoting Psalm 51:5, "In sin did my mother conceive me." Be a good example to your kids to follow, he suggested.
Look for "teaching moments" with your kids, Laurie said. "Create a thirst in, build into the child from infancy to adulthood the experience of submission."
However, it is to be remembered that even when raised in a godly home, kids do rebel, the pastor said. "It's not always a bad thing." It may mean they are starting to think for themselves, as one day they need to stand on their own feet. "We need to keep loving them," he underlined.
If you are a dad, and you have not been a spiritual leader in family, "it's not too late to change," Laurie said before concluding. "Start today to be a godly man… You'll be amazed how much good you can still do today."