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PASSAGES: (i) Then the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him . Gen 18:17-19

(ii) Fathers, do not exasperate your children: instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord . Eph 6:4

(iii) Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged . Colossians 3:21

(1) INTRODUCTION: It is with nostalgia that I remember this workshop which usually was (and still is) the first gathering of the year that brings together in fellowship, clergymen of the Dioceses created out of the then Diocese of Lagos and the Lagos West Diocese. I am extremely grateful to the organisers under the auspices of the Bishops in the Dioceses in Lagos Metropolis and I pray God to continue to prosper His work not only in their hands but also in the hands of all concerned Clergymen and families. I rely on Bishop B. J. Adeyemi to help convey these sentiments of mine to his brother bishops.

The importance of the Family Unit which was the first human unit put together by God after creation cannot be over-emphasised. So, choosing to examine the roles and challenges faced by the head of the clergy family as theme for this workshop is very crucial. Although participants at this workshop are clergymen, who have spiritual responsibilities for all who come their way, still their roles as biological fathers in their homes are not less important. It is therefore vital that we understand the mind of God in what is expected of us as fathers in the homes where God has placed us as heads. That is what we will address in the 50 minutes or so which we have been allocated for this talk.

(2) CLERGYMEN s ROLES AND CHALLENGES: However, young any of us may be, the day we are ordained is the day we become fathers (at least in a spiritual sense) to all those we minister to, however old or highly placed any such may be. For Abraham, whose children we have become, God s plan for him was to become the father of many nations (and not just of his biological family). See Gen 17:4. In this sense every clergyman must see himself first as father in the home and also in the larger spiritual family. And that places big responsibilities on us as fathers in God in more than a narrow sense. The task of performing such role in the nuclear and spiritual families for people we may be older or younger than is not the easiest.

2.10 As ascribed to the Inspector General of Police on page 6
of the PUNCH PUBLICATION of January 5, 2018 uncaring parents who fail to properly rare their children are to be sanctioned. If the secular world takes the duties of earthly fathers so seriously, how much more will our father in heaven take seriously what He has committed to our charge?. We cannot accept the title of being fathers in God without fulfilling the expected roles and hope to go scot free.

Although the ancestors of Eli and he himself were chosen by God to serve as priests on the altar where they were to burn incense and to wear the ephod in God s presence, and with the attendant privilege of unfettered access to the offerings presented by the Israelites, still they had the responsibility to train their children to honour God. It would seem Eli concentrated mostly on his roles at the altar but not at home. Hophni and Phinehas consequently dishonoured God and died on the same day as a result. These happened largely because of Eli s neglect of his fatherly responsibilities (1 Sam 2:27). May we not so dearly pay for neglecting to play our roles in our homes in Jesus name. Amen

Unfortunately it does not seem Samuel fared any better at the home front than Eli his predecessor did. Although at old age, Samuel appointed Joel and Abijah his sons to lead Israel, they were rejected by the people because of their love for dishonest gains, acceptance of bribes and perversion of justice (1 Sam 8:1ff). May God save us from failing in the home front while we struggle to excel at the altar front. Amen

The priestly ordination, for Aaron , Eli, Samuel and all of us, carries with it the privilege of enjoying some of the offerings brought to the altar. This is also true as it concerns other members of our families. But this enjoyment is not to be taken and at the same time dishonor God s name as Samuel s children did. It is not enough for our wives and our children to put on frocks and hats, sit in missionary pews, get special dishes in addition but like Samuel s children fail to honour God as desirable. As workers in God s holy ministry, Clergymen are to first train their family members to behave as those to whom the mysteries of God have been revealed and they must prove faithful in this connection(1 Cor. 4:1-2). 1 Sam 2:29 is clear that we are not to regard our family members (wives and children inclusive) more than we regard God s directives. We must not dismiss or overlook their misdeeds calling them youthful exuberance.

Our ministry may turn out insulting to God if we fail in our duty as fathers and we neglect to correct our children and other members of our household. How our family members lead their lives may speak much louder than what we preach on the pulpits despite the Public Address System.

The responsibility which we owe our wives and biological children we also owe our spiritual children who include all who call us fathers in the Lord. We must never fail to rebuke sin in the lives of our members simply because we fear losing the patronage they offer. Nor should the threat that they may stop being our members be enough to force us to close our eyes to their wrong doings. One of the many honours clergymen are showered with is that which make every one of us father in God however young we may be. We cannot afford to accept such honour and fail to discharge the concomitant responsibility whether on the pulpit, at PCC meetings or in private discussions.

As fathers in God, we must make distinction between our rights and privileges and what does not belong to us. This was one area where Samuel failed to correct his sons. The question was put in 1 Samuel 2:29 why do you honour your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel? It matters what types of collections we take and launchings we carry out in the church. Nor must we allow wrong offerings to be taken by those who are related to us as Samuel s children did. Are we more enthusiastic because we have negotiated cuts to be taken for us from some thank offerings and tithes received?

A visiting Bishop and myself were at breakfast table with my Bishop as often was the case on a number of occasions in those days. The visitor chose the time to disclose how he had frustrated his Dean s desire to take a weekly day-off by calling him for meeting every morning of the particular day of the week he chose for his off duty. Not too long later, the Dean got the message which this Bishop now boasted about. You can imagine what would be the consequence of such attitude of the boss on a man still raising a young family. Not only do we have to attend many meetings these days, some of them scheduled others impromptu. We also have to run errands, represent our superiors on various occasions at various meetings, conduct services or just attend many such at which all we do is just file in and file out. Not only do our primary duties in our parishes, suffer neglect, our wives’ and children s needs and cares are hardly attended to. Many of us never get involved with visiting days at the children s schools nor do we have time for family socials or annual leave. Even when annual leaves are grudgingly granted to some of us, many have no means to leave the parish nor are others allowed to enjoy their leave. A clergy wife was once reported to have stood up when widows were requested to stand up in a meeting at which her husband was also present. This was to underline the point that she had lost him to his many meetings. And yet this cleric at ordination had been asked:

Will you strive to fashion your own life and that of your household according to the way of Christ? to which he (had been expected and) indeed answered:

By the Grace of God I will

Many Clergymen have largely become unavailable to play their God-given roles as fathers or husbands in the place which should be their primary post. Like in Eli and Samuel s cases, paying for omission such as these have been very costly.

The story told in 2 Kings 4:1ff may provide a fantastic text for sermon on how to support the family of a man of God- whether living or dead. But a better lesson to learn from my understanding is that both the church and the clergyman should learn how better to prepare for life after service years. The widow was at the risk of losing her two sons to creditors from whom her late husband had borrowed money for which the family continued in indebtedness after his death. Many such responsibilities evading fathers say and do nothing about which schools their children should attend or how to pay their school fees or secure admissions in higher institutions for their growing children thereby destroying their tomorrow. The regrets that is most likely to fill the heart of widows of such unfatherly clergymen in their situation is better imagined.

Many Clergymen are known to be distributing applications to churches, PCCs and church members for loans and or donations to buy land, to pay school fees and some even go from reception to reception with food flasks and nylon bags in order to keep body and soul together. Some of such clergymen had changed jeeps, bought state of the art handsets and wore specially designed suits while in service. If Jacob had appropriately asked Laban as early as he did in Genesis 30:30c When may I do something for my own household? what justification do we have to be so poorly prepared in this generation for life after service? Indeed, preparations such as we have in mind here should be made by fathers (i.e. clergymen) and the church we are working for.

When Jesus returned to Galilee and shared the Gospel with them as he had done in other places, he said the people would readily tell him to perform the same miracles he had performed elsewhere in Nazareth. As preachers, we are great commentators on the failures of the government and others but we at the same time fail to remove the logs in our own eyes. How hypocritical can we be? We should remember Abraham was chosen among other reasons largely because God trusted he would properly raise his children. However great our calling is as preachers, our homes remain our primary place of service. Our work starts from our homes.

If the world is to listen to what we have to offer, we should not only refer her to our sermons and our exhortations. The world surely needs to see from the lives of our wives, the examples of our children and church members and learn from those whose lives we have positively touched as fathers, husbands and clergymen. Nowhere else should they look closer than the lives of those around us. If we fail as husbands and or fathers at home and in church, we have failed everywhere. There is no way either the church, or ourselves can claim to be successful if those who are closest to us cannot encore by their lives the sermons we have spent all our lives preaching. The best place to ensure we make a lasting success of our calling is by starting from the home as husbands and fathers.

May God grant us unqualified success in this primary place of service. Amen

Thank you most sincerely for listening.

Ven. Luyi Akinwande





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