Most people called him, “Pastor.” I got to call him, “Dad.” And the older I get, the more I realize what a privilege that is.
It is hard to overstate the impact of a father in a child’s life. David Popenoe wrote in his article, Life Without Father:
“Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring. They provide protection and economic support and male role models. They have a parenting style that is significantly different from that of a mother and that difference is important in healthy child development.”
Looking back, I see the profound and extensive impact of my own father in my life. Becoming a father myself changed my life forever. I will never forget, 23 years ago, holding my little pre-mature daughter, Jordyn, in my arms for the first time. I have never experienced such a mix of emotions; love, joy, excitement, and a sense of overwhelming responsibility. What an incredible gift fatherhood is. Every good man who is blessed with children wants to be a good father. When I began to navigate fatherhood as a 22-year-old “rookie”, I remember thinking often, “What would dad do in this situation?” I am so glad that I had a great reference to look back on.
Though there is much more, here are a few things that my dad has taught me about fatherhood.
- Love Jesus supremely and sacrificially.
My dad lived what he preached. He loved Jesus above all else. I will never forget seeing my dad sitting on the front porch with his coffee, Bible, journal, and pen nearly every morning. I will never forget his prayer cabin where he would go to spend time alone with Jesus.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Matt. 22:37
Out of a heart of love came a life of sacrifice. One of the greatest lessons I ever learned from my dad was to fall in love with Jesus and to spend daily time with Him in His Word and prayer. I remember Dad asking me from time to time, “Hey son, how was your quiet time with Jesus today?”
- Love and serve your wife selflessly.
I learned much about the gospel by watching my dad love my mom. Dad always had a sparkle in his eye when he was around Mom. Even though Dad and Mom were always starting a new ministry to help others and pouring all they had into it, Dad always sacrificed to make sure that Mom had security. I had a front row seat at church to hear Dad preach that the standard for husbands was to love their wives like Christ loved the church, but I also had a front row seat at home to watch him live it out.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…” Ephesians 5:25
The greatest sermons I ever heard my dad preach were not at church; they were sermons he lived out in front of us at home. I loved to watch Dad interact with Mom in the kitchen as she was getting us all ready to get out the door for school. Dad was always affectionate with Mom and made sure that we knew of his love for her. He knew the things that brought a smile to her face and security to her heart.
- Make sure your children know that they are a priority.
Dad was busy…very busy. He and Mom started Christian boarding schools for troubled teenage boys and girls. He pastored a growing church and a Christian day school. He was often asked to speak in other churches, but there was one thing we always knew: we were Dad’s priorities. As busy as he was, he rarely missed one of our ball games. I can remember nights where I had a basketball game, and I thought Dad was out of town only to hear his very distinct whistle when they called out my name. I will never forget his wink when I would look up and find him. When Dad was called out for church business or needed to make a visit, I can remember countless times that he would say, “Hey Bub, ride with me. Let’s catch up on the way and grab an ice cream on the way home.” I never remember a summer where we did not take a family vacation together and how excited Dad was for those family getaways. Dad loved many kids. Many of them looked to him as a father figure. He spent countless hours counseling them. That was his heart. But at the end of the day, we knew that we were Dad’s priority, and he would move mountains to make sure that we knew that.
- Do ministry with your children and let them see you worship.
Some of my greatest memories with my dad involved serving Jesus with him. I loved mowing the yards of widows with him; I loved making hospital visits with him and hearing him pray with people; I loved cleaning the church with him or setting up for a big event. And I must tell you, very few things have impacted my life like watching my dad worship Jesus. There was no one as masculine as my dad, but he was the most tender-hearted man I have ever known. Most church services with my dad involved him weeping and rejoicing over the goodness of God. He loved to worship Jesus and he still does. Children need to see their fathers worship the Lord. They need to see the tenderness and surrender of our hearts. Serve the Lord with your family and let them see you lead them to worship.
- Never give up on people.
Whether it was his own family or another, Dad taught me never to give up on people. By his own life and testimony, he taught me how to forgive people and love them. He taught me to never give up on people no matter how far they had gone. Dad was just like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son. He was a father figure to hundreds of teenagers, always believing the best about them and believing that they would turn to the Lord. We were able to watch him cheer them on and learn yet another eternal lesson by watching him- never give up on people.
- Work hard.
He was the hardest worker I knew. From morning to night, he taught us the value of going to bed tired each evening. Even with a crazy schedule, he kept an immaculate yard, and a spotless car. He built our family home and made sure I was by his side every chance he could.
- Take risks for God.
One of the greatest things that my dad ever taught me is to step out in faith for God in things that seem impossible to men. Dad was a risk taker. When he knew God wanted him to do something, he had faith that God would bring it to pass. He taught me that the greatest adventures in life are kingdom adventures with God. I am currently preaching through Hebrews 11 in our Sunday services and, in every message, I am tempted to use Dad as an example. Dad remains a man of great faith to this day.
- Let your children be the adults God wants them to be.
As I enter this phase with my own children, I am thinking a lot lately of how Dad has encouraged us to be who God created us to be as adults. Dad and I are both pastors. We have different styles and philosophies, but we have the same mission and passion; the Gospel! Other than my own wife and children, I have no greater cheerleader than my dad and mom. He preaches for me and I for him. He doesn’t try to make me like him. He encourages me to be who God made me to be.
I can sum it up by using Dad’s motto. He has and continues to “Make Much of Jesus.” Dad is a giver; not a taker. His impact on my life for eternity has been enormous.
He has been present.
He has been real.
He has been encouraging.
He has been selfless.
He has lived what He has preached.
That is why he is not just my dad…he is my hero.
Josh graduated from Tennessee Temple University in 1998 with a degree in Pastoral Ministries and spent 15 years serving as Youth Pastor, Worship Pastor, and Girls Home Director at the Shenandoah Baptist Church in Cleveland, Tennessee, a church that his father founded. For 6 years, he served at the Somerville Baptist Church in Somerville, Alabama under the leadership of Dr. Shane Lewis. Josh became the lead pastor of Faith Baptist Tabernacle in Jamestown, TN in January 2019, following the strong and faithful leadership of the church’s founder- Dr. Fred Allred. The church has continued to grow consistently, seeing many people saved, baptized, and discipled. Josh has been married to his wife, Kim for nearly 25 years. They have 3 children: Jordyn (22), Jarrett (21), and Jackson (19) who all have a heart to love and serve Jesus. Josh has a strong desire to reach the next generation with the gospel and to see them discipled and become leaders in the church. He desires to lead a ministry that will help people love God supremely, grow together in faith community, and serve others humbly. In addition to his love for Jesus and the local church, Josh also enjoys spending time with his family, cheering for the Tennessee Volunteers, playing golf, drinking coffee, and reading.