What does a modern-day Christian patriarch look like?
That was the question my accountability group chose to tackle on one of our retreats a year ago. The term patriarch sounds so archaic and yet the patriarchs (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc.) are so revered in scripture it felt like we owed it to ourselves to examine what made them “men after God’s own heart” and what would one look like today?
What is a modern-day patriarch?
A patriarch is a man who’s won the respect of God, as well as the love and respect of his own family and friends. They intuitively look to him as one of their primary examples of godliness and godly wisdom.
Why the patriarchs were loved by God.
Noah: “These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” Genesis 6:9
Abraham: “By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow-heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:9-10
Job: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil.” Job 1:1
Moses: “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin; he regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasurers of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Hebrews 11:25-26
David: “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” Psalm 78:72
Where are the real men?
“Real men are an increasingly hard thing to find. We seem to live in a society of boys. Twenty… thirty… forty… fifty… sixty year-old boys. The goal of many guys today appears to be to maintain a high school mentality all the way through life. The ultimate seems to be to retire, still a boy, to a life of golf, vacations, and few responsibilities. I find few guys today who want to become men, real men, godly men, in a word – a patriarch.
A modern-day patriarch is the most exciting, fulfilling, challenging and rewarding expression of manhood I can think of. A patriarch is not a retired grandfather simply reacting to his children and his grandchildren’s ideas – old, autocratic, set in his ways, and basically out of it. A patriarch is intentional. He’s plugged into his culture, leading his children, and eventually his grandchildren, keenly aware of life’s ever-changing challenges. He’s spiritual, inventive, alert, and constantly thinking of ways to inspire his wife, children, and his extended family around him as he himself continues to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of his God.”
Edited from The Mature Man, by David DeWitt
A Modern-Day Patriarch:
1. Is open and unashamed about his love for God and the things of God.
2. Is a student of scripture, and has developed such a confidence in its trustworthiness, that it informs every moral decision he makes whether he’s conscience of it or not.
3. Prays regularly for and with his family.
4. Seeks to win the love and respect of his family by his selfless devotion to their spiritual, relational, emotional and physical welfare.
5. Is intentional about teaching his family to think and live generously, graciously and biblically.
6. Exercises discipline appropriately and fairly.
7. As his family grows, he nurtures his sons and daughters-in-laws without superimposing his will on their marriage or undermining a husband’s authority.
8. He intentionally works to become a godly influence to his grandchildren, without ever undermining the authority or respect of their parents.
9. He serves God by serving others with grace and generosity.
10. He leaves a legacy of godliness to the next generation.
“He said to them, Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you – they are your life.” Deuteronomy 32:46-47a
Learning to be a patriarch
Begin by asking God to bring to mind the name of someone you know, who you consider a Christian patriarch. Call them and interview them and ask them what they do and how they do it. In many ways the requirements for a patriarch are the same as a spiritual mentor. Look for a man whose family reveres him. (A Guide for Finding and Being a Spiritual Mentor is available as a download on my website.)
Set aside time to speak with your wife and get her thoughts about how she perceives you currently in this role. Give her permission to be honest and be prepared to receive her comments without defense or offense. With her, pray about how both of you can inspire your children or grandchildren more. A true patriarch is never a threat to his wife and never lords it over her. He should be what every Christian woman dreams of for a husband and father for their children.
Now take some time away, even if only for a few hours and pray for wisdom for your next moves. Try to imagine yourself surrounded by your family. What would you like to tell them or share with them most? What spiritual legacy would you like to leave behind? Write ideas down as God gives you ideas or impressions.
Specific ways you as a patriarch can serve your family:
1. Teach them the Bible, how to study the Bible and how to think critically about contemporary issues and all things Christian. Ask them for the questions they have and if you aren’t sure of the answers, get with someone who can help you.
2. Expose your family to godly people doing the work of God in a variety of settings. (People working with the homeless, in missions, evangelism, prison ministry, social justice, etc.)
3. Teach them how to pray and pray with them.
4. Take your family on mission trips or invite them to work alongside of you in some ministry.
5. Get to know and be a godly influence with your children, or grandchildren’s friends. Invite them to do something fun just to build relationships. (A concert, a hobby, out for a meal, anything!)
6. Warn your children about the unintended consequences of sinful or unwise behavior and be transparent about the consequences of sin or foolish choices you’ve made in your own life. Tell them stories of your life that taught you a lesson. Kids love stories!
7. Inspire them with stories of faithful followers of Jesus you personally know or have heard of. Take them out to dinner or coffee with godly people you know, just so they can observe what people who love God talk about.
8. Teach your children to be wary of religious traditions that can actually stunt true spirituality and experiment doing with them other spiritual practices used by godly men and women over the centuries. (Fasting, meditation, solitude, etc.)
9. Share with them what you’re constantly learning about life, relationships and truth. Look for newspaper articles or YouTube videos to send to your children or discuss with them to stimulate discussions.
10. Meet occasionally with your youth or college pastor to find out what big issues kids are struggling with today. Why not invite this person to meet with a group of your friends so you can help them be the patriarchs of their own families?
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Phil. 1:9-11
Question: Would you please share with us “patriarch” things you have done, or you’ve seen done?
Next Week: The Mission, a story I wrote for our older grandchildren to remind them of “the rest of the story” of why Jesus died for us. Then in two weeks, how to write a personal mission statement and really put flesh on our mission.
Following Jesus in Real Life.