Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dad is a pastor? Hunh; why didn't God think of that?

I mean, it seems like such a great analogy, and full of wonderful thoughts. Dad is a pastor. His family is his little tiny church. Cool!

Everybody's saying it. If I've read that assertion once, I've read or heard it dozens of times. Driscoll just released a book with that in the title, and you can read online for free.

Now, this isn't a bag-on-Driscoll post. It isn't even in any sense an about-Driscoll. post. The idea isn't original with him, and his book may have many great ideas. I'll probably look through it later.

But so many great people give this "Dad is a pastor" line that I'm a bit puzzled that no one has pointed out: the Bible never says anything like that.

Shouldn't that be significant? I mean, if it's such a great idea, how come God didn't come up with it first?

I remember in Pastoral Ministry class, reading the text by Criswell (I think it was this one). He talked about being a prophet, a priest, and a king, and how a pastor was all those things. As I recall, I wrote in my margin something like "Yeah, except that he's none of those things. That would be the Messiah."

Ditto dad-as-pastor. You may make the case that he should lead his family. True! And he should teach them the Word. True! And he should care for and pray for their souls. True! and true!

"Say," remarks some well-meaning sage. "A pastor does those things!" True again.

But the Bible never says the dad is a pastor, is like a pastor, is sort of a pastor. Never once. So it must not be an analogy we need.

And besides, Mom assists dad in many of those same things. Does that make her an associate-pastor?

The ugly side-effect of this popular, made-up notion is that it can encourage arrogant, self-absorbed, loveless isolationists to withdraw from the challenging nitty-gritty of actual church-fellowship. After all, why do they need to go to church? Dad is the pastor, the family is the church. Just stay at home, sing the hymns that The McGillicutty Family likes to sing, pray prayers the length The McGillicutty Family likes to pray, preach on texts and topics that The McGillicutty Family likes to hear, stay away from anything and everything The McGillicutty Family doesn't enjoy, and let The McGillicutty Family fellowship with The McGillicutty Family.


How can it be?!

Dad is the pastor!


NoLongerBlind said...

They look more like the McCoy family church - always at doctrinal odds with the Hatfields.

DJP said...

Actually, I believe those are the Hatfields.

And please — let's not make this whole meta about the McC-Hatfield Conflict!


NoLongerBlind said...

Encountering alot of the "I don't need to attend a church" crowd lately, especially among the young-er 20-30 -something crowd. They prefer the home bible "discussions" and praise/worship singing approach rather than the formal structure.
##scratches head## - I wonder if it's anything to do with disdain for authority....?

(word verification: probabl!)

DJP said...

Yeah, in this case, I think the word verification is "probabl" prophetic.

Send them my other post, to which I link in this one.

Gregory said...

except paul discusses the "household of god" in 1 tim 3 and talks about the elders as leaders of their home. I understand that doesn't mean they are "pastors" of their house but saying "for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church" implies that he would be a fimily's 1st pastor in pastoring those children to the church.

Just saying there does appear to be some discussion of leaders in the church first being leaders in their home.

DJP said...

Well yes, but that doesn't transfer both ways. Before a man is an elder (= pastor), he must demonstrate that he can lead his family, and thus demonstrate that he can lead a church.

So, before he's a pastor, he must be a leader at home.

What does that have to do with saying that fathers are pastors?


LeeC said...

I was told as a kid I had to be studious if I were to become a pilot also.

That does not mean that all studious people are pilots.

Granted, the goal is for all of us is to be like Christ for His glory. Therefore we should desire to meet all of the qualifications of an elder as those are all needed to be like Christ. But even if we do meet all of the qualifications that doesn't make us elders. You still need the desire to be one.

Terry Rayburn said...


There you go again [Ronald Reagan inflection], propping up your argument with that 'ol Bible!

Unknown said...

I agree scripture never calls dads a pastor, an elder, or a shepherd. But I wonder if this doesn't fall prey to the 'word' 'concept' fallacy.

Yes fathers should never replace pastors, and families don't replace churches so there are dangers if the pendulum swings too far the other way. Yes, we should not administer the ordinances in the family setting, etc. etc. The bottom line: ministry in the church by the pastor (some of which cannot be reproduced in the home)shouldn't excuse ministry in the home (such as family worship, et al).

It is simply a matter of using the word pastor to convey the concept of what spiritual leadership should look like in the home. Shouldn't we after all shepherd a child's heart?

I guess the larger question is does using the concept of a 'pastor' to signify some of the things the father must do water down our conceptualization of a pastor or does it drive home the significance of a father in some areas spiritual leadership that are lacking?

Is an analogy only legitimate if Scripture makes it explicit? Or is there enough overlap in some key areas (leadership, shepherding, instruction, etc.) that warrant us to say: those same things a pastor does in church, fathers should do in their home too?

The Bible never explicitly calls fathers to be servant leaders, but if you put enough of the concepts together in a Biblical theology that is what you get.

Hayden said...


I find it ironic that Driscoll would say such a thing since this is EXACTLY what the guys at VISION FORUM would say! Drink in the irony. Driscoll would rail against these guys and yet on this issue they see eye to eye.

If you are not familiar with the VISION FORUM model, church is where 'little churches' (families) meet on Sunday for fellowship. The 'pastors' of their 'little churches' instruct their flocks alongside each other.

[I totally disagree with this model by the way]

DJP said...

So you're asking, why not take a specific term with a specific Biblical meaning and apply it in some way other than how the Bible ever applies it?

I say, Why?

In addition to the points I made in the post, I think it adds nothing useful to either discussion (about fathers or pastors, families or churches), but rather hurts both by needless and unwarranted confusion.

You don't think that just sticking with what the Bible says a father should be doing is enough?

I really, really do.

I'm sure you're not advocating this, but it strikes me that this is just another manifestation of our impatience and discontentment with the Bible.

We are not doing well at simply doing what it simply says, and yet we restlessly go off after things it doesn't say. What? So we can fail at them, too?

I say let's see what the Bible says fathers should do, and encourage fathers to do them, and encourage wives and children to respond in a godly way.

AND I say let's see what the Bible says pastors should do, and encourage pastors to do them, and urge Christians who aren't pastors to respond in a godly way.

Al said...

After looking at Driscoll’s book (briefly- very briefly) it seems like he is using the Dad as Pastor meme in the context of the local church. He seems to make the father pastoral (a shepherd of a flock) without calling his family a church.

Would there be a problem calling a father “a pastor” as long as the family does not become “a church?”

al sends

DJP said...

See my previous comment.

Breaking from the Pack said...

Maybe young families prefer the home church to established corporate worship because they have found them lacking in grace. Families, especially with small children, are just not welcome anymore. Better to retreat to the home or with a small group than abandon the faith altogether.

DJP said...

So, disobey God that grace might abound in our little group?

Call me old-fashioned, but I just don't think sinning is a good option for Christians (see Romans 6).

Al said...

it updated as I published... thanks.

al sends

The Squirrel said...

"arrogant, self-absorbed, loveless isolationists to withdraw from the challenging nitty-gritty of actual church-fellowship"

Dan, that's the core of the problem right there. I've heard the "Dad's a pastor, family's a church" argument mostly from people who don't want to be accountable to the church or subject to church discipline in any way.

If they don't just "home church", then they church hop like frogs on coffee.


J♥Yce Burrows said...

WOW, talk about my brain dice and fry. I agree with what you are saying and yield from the tidy previous thoughts on shepherding hearts similarities(though not as in replacement theology). :-)

J♥Yce Burrows said...

btw, I didn't realize that about Vision Forum, Hayden. That isn't what these products reflect ~ or do vortex elsewhere(said not being a follower). No hijacking intended, Dan...just pointing to descriptions and wanting to sift and sort and rest on God's Word Plumb Line.




Even So... said...


My name isn't actually Even So...

It is


And yes, in case you are wondering, it is them thar peeples I'se is frum...

I know you miss me in the meta(s), Dan, but seriously, did you have to call me out like this...?

DJP said...


Yes, I do, JD...

...and, evidently, yes I did!

Now don't be such a stranger!

David said...

Dan, I see what you're saying, and I've seen the ugliness of certain home-church philosophies. I don't at all agree with them. But I would say that, as pastors are shepherds of the church, so fathers are shepherds of families. What pastors do for churches, fathers should do for their families--and a whole lot more. So I think there is a definite parallel. I believe the idea goes back as far as Luther, who said something like every home is like a little church where the father is the pastor. He wasn't promoting anything like the autonomous family church movement, but only exhorting fathers to take their places as shepherds.

Br. Blessings said...

Very interesting

DJP said...

Well then I'll think that's something else Luther was wrong about.

What's not arguable is that the Bible doesn't make that connection. God didn't find it necessary. Why should we? Honestly, aren't dads' hands full enough, and pastors disrespected enough, that we don't need to slosh around what the Bible doesn't slosh around?

It's like the reductionistic argument, "Prophets spoke encouagement; pastors speak encouragement. Prophets edify; pastors edify. Prophets speak the word of God; pastors speak the word of God. Ergo, pastors are prophets, and preaching is prophesying."

Which yeah, except NO. Prophet is clearly and emphatically defined in Scripture, and pastors ain't it.

Nor are fathers pastors.

J♥Yce Burrows said...

The Vision Forum book indicates Matthew Henry taught father/pastor. And Luther was just mentioned. And I just came across this(http://www.lhc-pa.org/_files/Devotions070515.pdf):

2. Jonathan Edwards, like the earlier Puritans, believed that where families were most effective the dad functioned essentially as a pastor.

Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by His rule. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means of grace are likely to prove ineffectual. If these are properly maintained, all the means of grace will likelyprosper and be successful. Jonathan Edwards quoted by Mark DeVries in Family-Based Youth Ministry, p 85

Jonathan Edwards and the earlier Puritans(where did DeVries get that quote? and "which" earlier Puritans?), Henry, Luther, and who else?

DJP said...

Scripture-count remains exactly the same.

RT said...

There is obviously a difference between saying the family is like a church and the father is like a pastor and saying the family is a church and the father is the pastor. The first assertion, and you make this point very well, stands or falls on its usefulness. The second assertion is simply wrong as a matter of dogma.

I fully agree with you that a cost-benefit analysis of the analogy leaves it vaguely wanting and to me at least, slightly annoying, but it is interesting that the reverse analogy - or is it an analogy? - "household of faith", "family of God" etc. is Biblically based and commonly accepted.

Denis said...

Being someone who (I think) can appreciate a certain level precision in language, I understand your objection to saying that a Dad is the pastor of his home. However, in the same respect, can not follow your objection to saying he is to be like a pastor.

The intention of a simile is to say the object is not what it is being likened to, but shares one or more attributes in some way.

You seem to acknowledge that the role of a father has some similarities to that of a pastor, but argue we shouldn't use a figure of speech to express that same thought. This seems to be a logical disconnect.

p.s. I think the "faith at home" movement is very important (in a good way) and would love to see it discussed in more depth.

DJP said...

You don't see a difference between saying X was "like a father" to me, and saying "X is my father"?

There is no Biblical warrant for saying a father is a pastor in his home. Nor is there any need for it.

So we shouldn't.

Further, to whatever degree this made-up diversion has been used — and it has been used — to fuel the pernicious anti-church movement, to that degree it's all the more counter-productive.

We could work and work to make it more complicated than that, but it will remain simply that:
no warrant
no need

J♥Yce Burrows said...

I've come across several references to earlier generations embraced and Puritans taught and covenant theology teaches: fathers are like pastors. And there is the Pastor Daddy book.

Of course, we are to search God's Word to see if these things be so. Sifting. Sorting.

My brain officially hurts.

Thanks, Dan.

DJP said...

Aaaaand the Scripture-count stands exactly the same.

J♥Yce Burrows said...

Indeed ~ what God says and means will. :-)

Denis said...


You said: "You don't see a difference between saying X was "like a father" to me, and saying "X is my father"?"

Yes I see the difference, that was the exact point I was trying to convey in my response.

My point was that it is very different to say a father is "like" a pastor than it is to say he "is" a pastor. I understand your objection to the latter, but not the former.

This is what I was looking to clarify.

DJP said...

Then you'll have to help me out. I can't find any place where I object to saying that, in some few select ways, a dad is like a pastor. Instead, I see my objecting repeatedly to saying that dad is a pastor.

Can you help me find what I wrote that is puzzling you?

DJP said...

Although you know even then I'll have to ask the value of it. Because once again, Scripture never says it. Paul says that he — a pastor and an apostle — was like a father (1 Thessalonians 2:10). But that's no warrant for saying that fathers are apostles and pastors. And if you want to say like, I'll again have to asssk for some cost-benefit analysis.

In some ways, a good father is like a pastor. So is a good mother. So is a good sister or brother. A good friend. A good watch-dog. A good laptop. A good tight belt.

So what are we gained, by any of those similes?

DJP said...

asssk — or, for that matter, "ask."

J♥Yce Burrows said...

ummmmm, Dan, you said ~

Then you'll have to help me out. I can't find any place where I object to saying that, in some few select ways, a dad is like a pastor. Instead, I see my objecting repeatedly to saying that dad is a pastor.

Can you help me find what I wrote that is puzzling you?

and initially

But the Bible never says the dad is a pastor, is like a pastor, is sort of a pastor. Never once. So it must not be an analogy we need.


DJP said...

Ah! thank you, Joyce! Don't know how I missed that. Sad thing is, I did search, too....

Well, it's true. The Bible never says Dad is "like" a pastor.

My main argument is against saying dad is a pastor: don't.

But as I observe, it also never says he is like a pastor: so why would we need to? (See further my recent comments.)

J♥Yce Burrows said...

You're welcome. :-)

Does the Bible say "trinity"?

teflon suit on ;-)

J♥Yce Burrows said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J♥Yce Burrows said...

Poor taste/time teasing, Dan ~ do apologize.

I see what you are saying and also note that there are so many voices(especially with Google at the fingertips). And we must be lined up with 1 and those that follow One as you are saying, yes?

Denis said...

Maybe I'm reading too much into your post, but off the top you were discussing it in terms of an analogy. Then, a bit later you stated: "But the Bible never says the dad is a pastor, is like a pastor, is sort of a pastor. Never once. So it must not be an analogy we need."

Based on that, it seemed like you were arguing against not only saying that a father is a pastor but that we shouldn't say a father is like a pastor.

As to the profitableness of using such comparative language, I think it can be a useful to show men that their pastor is a model of what they are to be, in some respects, within their home.

Looking at the North American church, I'd side with those who say we've gone too far in expecting our children to be provided their spiritual upbringing by the "professionals" at the weekend service. By comparing the role of the father with that of the pastor, the goal is awaken the understanding that the home is the primary place that children should receive their spiritual upbringing; its not something to be outsourced like piano lessons.

DJP said...

To your last paragraph, Denis, "Amen." Though at the same time, there's this virulent error of not giving the church (and pastoral ministry) the place God gives it. Bit of a tightrope, eh?

Herding Grasshoppers said...


I crossed paths with someone I hadn't seen in months. Talked "church" a bit. Her husband and a few other guys got all excited about Eldredge's "Wild At Heart" a few years ago, and nearly all of them ended up leaving their churches.

She told me that now they "do church at home" because "church needs to be more homegrown" and "church isn't a building you go to". "Doing church at home is really hard, it's really messy" (and that makes it authentic?), and - the kicker - "God doesn't come from strangers - He comes from within us."

About the time I asked her how they obey the Biblical instruction to be in submission to elders the conversation came to a screeching halt.


DJP said...


If you'd been a doctor, pressing here, then here, then here - that's the point at which your patient would have screamed.

Herding Grasshoppers said...


CR said...

Why is this even an issue and causing so many comments?

The spiritual gift of pastor-teacher (Eph 4:11) is just that, a spiritual gift to equip saints for the work of the ministry. Never mind the side-effects.

It's not biblical to say pastor dad and it confuses what the differences are between spiritual gifts and non-spiritual gifts. And by spiritual gifts I mean gifts of the Spirit manifested for the common good and the equipping of the saints for ministry work. (1 Cor 12; Eph 4).

CR said...

David Kjos: What pastors do for churches, fathers should do for their families--and a whole lot more. So I think there is a definite parallel.

I disagree. This may come as a shock to many, but the responsibility of equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry falls on the shoulders of the pastor, not fathers. The equipping of the saints doesn't fall on Dan's blog of Biblical Christianity, or Pyromaniacs, or Seminaries or the choir, etc. etc. etc. We may learn a lot of good things that may help us in the ministry and the life of the church, but the responsibility squarely lies in the pastor. It's an awesome responsibility which only can be fulfilled by someone who is supernaturally endowed by the Spirit for this gift.

Parents have extremely important roles in the family, but to say that dads are pastors really and grossly underestimates the role of the pastor.

One Salient Oversight said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Banned obsessive stalkertroll OSO asked me to tell you that he affirms the Bible's teaching of sphere-sovereignty.

This is why pastors must not barge into the place of family's fathers, nor fathers into the place of churches' pastors; nor government into the place of the family, nor trolls into web sites which they do not own, to which they have no rights, in which they are not welcome, and from which they have been banned

CR said...

Just as a clarification to my previous posts, the key operative word in the responsibility of pastors is to equip the saints for the ministry not do the ministry for the saints. And if I could just quickly say, what is the ministry, I would say the Great Commission in making disciples of the nations. So, Christian parents are very much involved in making disciples of their kids by the Spirit, but that responsibility to equip is from pastors, by the Spirit.

Rileysowner said...

Ok, calling a Dad a pastor, unless of course he happens to be one, is to add tasks that are not a father's responsibility. So how do we flesh out the father's responsibility to raise his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord? I think there are things that a dad is to do that are similar to a pastor including leading his own family in worship. That is part of raising ones family as God commands.

Associate-to-the-Pastor said...

What if I am a Dad AND a Pastor? Am I now unbiblical? Unhealthy? Or worse...part of the Vision Forum?

Doesn't matter. They don't want me to read Driscoll anymore; the SBC tried to ban his books from Lifeway. Glad they took care of that important issue. Burden lifted...

(Tongue firmly in cheek)

David said...


Yes, that's a good point. Fathers don't do everything at home that pastors do in the church. And I would argue that it is my job, to the extent that I am able, to equip my my children for whatever God might call them to do.

I could also have said that pastors do in the church what fathers do at home, and a lot more. And of course, you could then point out what fathers do that pastors don't.

So it's not exactly the same thing, but the parallels are far too obvious to ignore. I guess my motivation here is my disgust with the all too common practice of fathers dumping their responsibility on the church, or state, as the case may be.


Is it OK, then, if I say fathers are shepherds?

Just in case I haven't been clear on this, I haven't used the word "pastor" to describe fathers, or offered any encouragement to autonomous family "churches." I am saying that, as the party who bears the primary responsibility for the spiritual nurture of his family, a father is, in a limited way, like a pastor. And the fact that the Bible doesn't use that precise phrase doesn't prove that the principle isn't there.

DJP said...

Oh, you're trying to cheat, David!

In a sense, everything is everything, I suppose.

So why pastor? Why not say Dad's like a deacon? After all, he is. Or like someone with the gift of administration, or helps, or mercy? He's that, too.

Or why not president? Or Senator? He's those things as well. Or garbage collector, or trail guide, or veterinarian?

I just think it's saying plenty to say he's dad, and say he should do what the Bible says dads should do.

Becky Schell said...

Amen, Dan!

David said...

Dan, you're evading!

Is it, or is it not, OK to call Dad a shepherd?

Yes, it is enough to say he's a dad. But then the question comes, what does that mean? Sometimes it's useful to make comparisons, and I think this one is particularly apt and obvious. I guess I don't see why that's so offensive.

But I do prefer "shepherd" to "pastor." I would never say a father is a pastor, only that he is like one in many ways. I would say he is a shepherd. Of course, that risks confusion vis-à-vis a certain pastors' conference, so I'm still in trouble, aren't I?

DJP said...

Your not liking my very full answer doesn't equate my evading.

He is every bit as much a shepherd as he is a deacon, administrator, helper, mercy-shower, president, senator, garbage collector, trail guide, and veterinarian. It's your family. Call yourself all those things if you want.

Yet "shepherd" and "pastor" are synonyms. So you'll have to make it clear that you're not saying he's a pastor.

And I still think it's saying plenty to say he's dad, and more than I've ever mastered.

CR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CR said...


My point was that a pastor (and if we're going to be biblical here, the technical proper term is pastor-teacher or shepherd-teacher) has a completely unique role. His role is to equip the saints (plural) for the work of the ministry.

Denis said...


Regarding your comment: "Though at the same time, there's this virulent error of not giving the church (and pastoral ministry) the place God gives it. Bit of a tightrope, eh?"

Absolutely it's a tightrope ... most areas of truth are. We must always ensure our reaction to one extreme doesn't push us into another, but opposite, extreme.

I must admit though, I really haven't been exposed to the errors you seem to be running into, so perhaps where you're at a more clear position is required? The teaching I've been exposed to comes from Mark Holman (Faith Begins at Home) and our church's work at making a shift in the direction he suggests and, so far, I'm not seeing the pitfalls you've described.

p.s. As an aside, I sat down and read "Pastor Dad" this evening and don't think it really falls within the context of this discussion. I found it to be a very holistic, if brief, treatment of what it should mean to be a Christian father. I'm not sure why the title was chosen (the contents don't explain), but my impression as I read it was it referred more to the author than to some generic label for the type of fatherhood being advocated.

J♥Yce Burrows said...

Dan(will come across as a rabbit trail ~ please bear me out), the Bible does not specifically tell me to learn of Jewish wedding customs to understand John 14 though I do in touching on those customs. I understand the soils passages by touching on gardening. God's pruning by touching on arboriculture. Touching on human anatomy helps me relate to the intricacies and fellowship and Spririt-given gifts and unity of members in the Body of Christ. Being a canine leader/handler studying books on the nature, language, and training of dogs(you may know this from felines) and reading books on sheep and family helps me understand God as Master, Pastor, Shepherd, Father. I see a vast difference between Father God and father satan, children of Light/Day/etc. and children of darkness/night/etc. Following, provision, respect, separation anxiety, obedience, trust, consequences, and other aspects are part and parcel even in a human/canine relationship. I also understand the relationship of good or poor citizenship examples of the human(and dog) workmanship being a result of being under good or evil masters. (Commentaries either glorify God or not). With that said...

If I say trunk do you think torso, swimwear, elephant, tree, storage, etc.? If I speak rather than write pastor(eliminating the upper/lower case with first letter) do you think local fellowship, Jesus the Shepherd, sheep? Truth ~ God does not say in a book, chapter, verse that fathers are pastors(as in over a local assembly/congregation/church/fellowship) of their families. Nor do I liken myself to the Master Shepherd because dogs have in my lifetime so far so good been mastered well by me. Do believe husbands lead their wives and fathers their children in a sense that does not detract from God shepherding(being synonymous with pastoring) man as the head of the family. Nor does it detract from God concerning a Pastor(elder, bishop, overseer) with a fold.

Dan, I respect you, your depth of study, and your time stewardship here and with the upcoming book, etc. and am grateful to God for you. The shepherd/pastor thought with a individual family I've recently thought didn't come from Luther or Edwards or Henry or Vision Forum, etc.(and I do not believe in families being islands unto themselves rather than embracing worship and teaching and fellowship and discipline corporately) but came from the way my mind has reasoned in considering verses that correlate/cross-reference in the Bible. Thus, because we are not of one accord while I do "get" what you are saying, will yield to your sharing being God's way of driving me like Mary to sit at His feet to learn what God truly says and means.

What everything...everything speaks to me is that God is gracious and merciful and just ~ and man is so without excuse with so much general and Special revelation the good Lord has provided. My, the past few days have been tearful, examining, encouraging...and genuine blessings. Lengthy, I know.

God bless you. ♥

One Salient Oversight said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Banned obsessive stalkertroll OSO asked me to relate a nightmare he had. His mother is out getting more Count Chockula, and he can't tell her, so he wanted to tell us.

In his nightmare, liberals had all the power they wanted. They controlled the law, the military, and the courts.

Think about it: all the pathetic, no-life wannabe dictators who had hitherto had to content themselves with powerless displays of barging into sites they do not own, where they have made themselves unwelcome, and where they are unwanted — now backed by arms, courts, and laws.

Think about it: no law of God nor man over their head, and driven a humorless, arrogant, self-absorbed drive to have their own way at any cost.

What they've had to content themselves with doing to small blogs, now they can do to your church, your business, your house, your family.

He woke up screaming.

Who could blame him?