108 – Father Five: Reversing the Generational Spiral
(adapted from The Dad in the Mirror, Zondervan, 2003)
Reverend La Fayette Scales is the pastor of the Rhema Christian Center, one of the largest churches in Columbus, Ohio. His ministry is not only having a transforming impact on the city, but he has also touched tens of thousands of people throughout the world.
There are many Christian leaders having a similar impact throughout the world, but La Fayette’s present is particularly interesting because of his past. When La Fayette was seven, his father was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Ralph Scales died less than a year later. As you can imagine, this was an incredibly lonely and difficult time for La Fayette and his brother and sister.
In a moment, we’ll tell you the rest of the story. But consider what life is like for most children in America today…
OUR CURRENT FATHERING SYSTEM
America’s families are not working the way God intended. The failure of dads to disciple their children undermines the foundations of our churches and families. And it will have even more devastating consequences in generations to come.
Currently, Americans have an average of 2.4 children. With our current fathering system, only 60% of children who grow up in church remain active in church as adults. What does this mean in the long run? And how could that change if we can challenge a generation of dads to father the heart?
Assume we begin with a thousand Christians (500 married couples.) If each couple has 2.4 children and that continues into the future, what happens over the next few generations?
If things continue as they are now, with 60% of our children coming to authentic faith in Christ, then for every 1000 Christians now we will be left with 72 Christians after 8 generations.
We have a ten-fold increase if we can help fathers do better on fathering the heart and only lose 20% of our kids (80% stick with Christ). But because each father only influences 2.4 children, we will still only have 721 Christians for every 1000 Christians now.
What can be done? We would like to propose “Father Five,” an initiative to help Christian dads maximize their legacy. We are not suggesting that you need to have five biological children, but rather that you try to intentionally influence at least five children in every generation (every 20 years). Father Five means that you are actively seeking to father the hearts of five children by discipling them to love for God and others.
What would happen if 500 men accepted this call? Take a look at this chart.
# of Children % Christian
# of Children Influenced percent Christian
2.4 60% 5 80% Time # of adult Christians # of adult Christians Start 1,000 1,000 Generation 1
( 20 years)
720 2,000 Generation 2 (40 years) 518 4,000 Generation 3 (60 years) 373 8,000 Generation 4 (80 years) 269 16,000 Generation 5 (100 years) 193 32,000 Generation 6 (120 years) 139 64,000 Generation 7 (140 years) 100 128,000 Generation 8 (160 years) 72 256,000
Even if only 60% still stick with Christ, we would have 25,000 adult Christians after eight generations (instead of 72). And if we combine Father Five with the concepts of Fathering the Heart so that 80% remain with Christ, after eight generations we would have 256,000 adult Christians! In short, we would change the world.
How can you influence five children for Christ in each generation? Besides investing in your own children, you can reach fathers for Jesus Christ, work in a church children’s ministry, invest in your own grandchildren, sponsor a child evangelism missionary, sponsor a heart-oriented fathering seminar in your church, coach youth sports through your church, work with a Boy Scout troop, or bring a Man in the Mirror fathering seminar to your church.
There is no shortage of ways you can father the hearts of five children. The real question is, “What would it take for you to make this a priority in your life?” Here is one reason why we think it would be worth your investment…
THE REST OF THE STORY OF LA FAYETTE SCALES
La Fayette Scales was fortunate. His father, Ralph, was a faithful dad and a deacon in his church.
After Ralph’s premature death and funeral, the other deacons of the church came around La Fayette and his siblings and said, “Ralph Scales was our friend. We are so sorry that your father won’t be here anymore. But we want you to know that you will never be alone in this life.”
These men followed through…
Calvin Ward, who sang in the choir, started a Sunday School class for the boys. He taught La Fayette how to pray. He held him accountable to reading his Bible every day. He taught La Fayette how to walk in the Holy Spirit.
Deacon Burton didn’t have any sons, so when it came time for the Father-Son banquet each year, he called La Fayette and his brother Phillip. “Come on, boys. You are my sons tonight. We are going to the banquet.”
Harold Shank was the head of the usher board. When he saw that La Fayette had grown tall and awkward, he took him aside. He recruited La Fayette to be an usher, showed him how to walk confidently with long strides, how to hold his head up high, how to look someone in the eye when he spoke, and how to shake a man’s hand with a firm, strong grip.
Wallace Wyatt and Al Walker started a Boy Scout troop at the church. They recruited La Fayette and told him every man needs a code. They took the boys camping in the heat of summer and the cold of winter. They didn’t let them off the hook and told them a man has to learn to endure what life brings. They inspired La Fayette to always do better. La Fayette became only the third African American Eagle Scout in Columbus, Ohio.
These men were not doctors, lawyers, or CEO’s. They were factory workers, construction workers, and military personnel. Many of them didn’t even have a college degree, but they did have a vision. They knew that young men need spiritual fathers. They knew that if they invested in a child they could change the world.
La Fayette is who he is today because of the men who invested in his life, and he is in turn leaving a legacy in the lives of thousands of men and children of the next generation.
What would have happened if these men had not been spiritual fathers to La Fayette? We don’t know, but we’re sure glad we’ll never have to find out.
We would like to challenge you to Father Five. Will you accept the challenge? Who knows, the life you touch may be the next La Fayette Scales.
- Is it practical for you to consider fathering the hearts of five children to love God and others? Why or why not? Why not make a list of potential names in the space provided and then begin to pray for them?
- Who else needs to know about this generational spiral? How can you inspire other men to father the hearts of their children and others as well?
Ask God to show you your next steps.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world. David Delk is the President of Man in the Mirror © 2003. Patrick Morley and David Delk. All rights reserved.