Word From Base Camp: CHURCH
What does your worship service typically look like? Who is the pastor? When are the collection and communion plates passed? Who leads corporate prayer and who sings in the choir? These are questions about how we “do church” that any regular church-goer can probably answer without a second thought.
So let me ask you this: Do you have fatherless children in your church? Who are the widows in your congregation? If these questions give you pause, or worse yet if your answer is, “I don’t know,” then I have one more question for you: “Why not?” Widows and orphans are the apples of God’s eye. Shouldn’t we be just as keenly aware of them as the regular comings and goings of Sunday morning worship?
Contrasting mere acts of worship that society may see as “church” with true holy living, James says,
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. ~James 1:27
James’ point is that true “church” is not defined in God’s eyes by religious traditions (i.e. service order, hymns, corporate readings) but by right living in accordance with His Word. Righteous living includes helping those in need—the fatherless and the widows.
This mandate began to haunt me as a pastor a number of years ago. We did not have any fatherless children or single-parent families in our church in Lander, Wyoming. With the national crisis of fatherlessness at an all-time high of more than 40% and growing, I knew that we were not being obedient to God's command to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ (in word or deed) to this largely unchurched demographic. What was equally sobering was that when I asked our deacons, “Who are the widows in our church?” they could not readily identify all of them.
Something needed to change in my heart and in the hearts of God's people. That is when God brought John Smithbaker into my office to share his vision for an exciting outdoor evangelistic/discipleship program to reach the fatherless and minister to the widows in their distress. Soon afterwards, we began working together to develop the ministry plan for Fathers in the Field, which was launched in 2005. Since then, we have been working with churches across the U.S. to respond to the challenge in James 1:27. Fathers in the Field equips godly men to come alongside fatherless boys, introduce them to their Father in Heaven, and lead them into a life-changing relationship with God that will transform their hearts and lives. As these fatherless boys are brought into the family of God by their mentor fathers, they are taught about God’s Word and forgiveness, exposed to godly relationships, and taught how to serve God by serving widows in need in their communities. It is extraordinary to see how, through the ministry of the mentor fathers and the church, they can go from being lost little boys with no self worth to confident young men who know that they are loved and valued by their Heavenly Father and have purpose in this world.
Fathers in the Field captured my heart so much that within a couple of years of its inception I felt God leading me to make the very difficult decision of stepping out of the pulpit and into the role of spreading the word of this vital ministry to churches and individuals across the country. It has been the hardest, yet most exciting and satisfying, decision that I have ever made in my two decades of ministry. I now have the tremendous privilege of sharing with godly outsdoorsmen that God wants to use their passion for His kingdom work. What a thrill it is to see the eyes of church leaders light up when they catch the vision of how they can transform their local church outreach and set men free into their passion to serve the Lord through Fathers in the Field.
It has also been exciting to see how God is revitalizing a number of churches that have begun to intentionally reach into their community with Fathers in the Field. They are doing what pleases God - helping the fatherless and the widows in their community. And God is blessing them for it!
God’s Word is clear that “church” is not defined by traditions but by righteousness, and that includes helping the fatherless and the widow. Every church should have such an outreach. What that ministry looks like may be different in each church. As you will read in this issue’s Hero Highlight article, it can be as organized as a bus ministry into the poor neighborhoods of your community. Or, as you will read in this issue’s Healing Journey article, it can be as organic as getting to know and mentor a young man who has no godly male role model in his life. However God’s mandate for reaching out to the fatherless and the widow is met, God’s Word is clear that it must be met in the church.
So how is your congregation “doing church?” As a pastor, I respect the traditional practices of worship that unify the church body and encourage church-goers. But “doing church” must reach beyond ritualism to be pleasing in God’s eyes. It must reach the apples of His eye—the fatherless and widows. Fathers in the Field is working in churches across the country every day to help them do church in way that glorifies and pleases God.
Read the latest articles from Field Notes. Click a year to see the titles. Or view all of our E-newsletters.
Defending the Cause: A New Sense of Self-Worth - Yvonne Sanders, single mom
Defending the Cause: Catfish and a Water Trough
Defending the Cause: Finding Joy in the Journey - Steve Hood, Church Champion, Colorado Springs, CO
Harvest Story: BILL & EZRA - Astoria, Oregon
Harvest Story: The First Mom: Daphne Steed - Brandon, Mississippi
Harvest Story: Keith & Taylor - Brandon, Mississippi
Harvest Story: Masen & Scott - Lander, Wyoming
Harvest Story: Q&A with Lyle “Chuck” Cleavenger, Donor
Harvest Story: Q&A with Maudie Kenney, Widow - Lander, WY
Harvest Story: Q&A with Ricky Leach, Mentor Father - Casper, WY
Defending the Cause: Do for One - Mentor Father Damon Peary, Bozeman, MT
Defending the Cause: Happy (Mentor) Father's Day!
Defending the Cause: Life, Love & Family
Defending the Cause: Sowing the Good Ground - Lester Spell, Jr. DVM
Defending the Cause: Light Your World - Donor, Bobby Davis, Knoxville, TN
Defending the Cause: New Mission Accomplished - Church Champion and Mentor Father Mark Johnson
Defending the Cause: On Board for New Heights - Evelyn Husband-Thompson, Houston, TX
Defending the Cause: Bringing Light and Life to a Broken Soul - John Smithbaker, Lander, WY
Defending the Cause: Happy Thanksgiving
Defending the Cause: Obtaining the Promise - John Cunningham, Mentor Father
A Healing Journey: Jenn Scott, Sterling, VA
Hero Highlight: Compassion in Action
Word From Base Camp: EXPECTATION
Defending the Cause: Welcome, Kevin Drewry - New Regional Director
Word From Base Camp: ABBA
A Healing Journey: Veniece Lindemulder, Single Mom, Bozeman, MT
Hero Highlight: Off the Bench, On the Field
Defending the Cause: Be a Wise Guy
Defending the Cause: WORLD's Western Region Hope Award for Effective Compassion Winner!
Defending the Cause: Framing a Boy's Life - Mentor Father Jeff Scott
Hero Highlight: Z. Guy
Word From Base Camp: PERSEVERANCE
A Healing Journey: Larry Sonnenberg - Mentor Father, Bozeman, MT
Defending the Cause: Planting Seeds of Life - Mentor Father Larry Sprouse
Hero Highlight: Keith Polk
Word From Base Camp: LEGACY
A Healing Journey: Daphne Steed, Single Mom, Brandon, MS
A Healing Journey: Brian Scott,
Hero Highlight: Maudie Kenney
Word From Base Camp: WIDOW
A Healing Journey: Damian Lopez
Hero Highlight: Cesar Chavez
Word From Base Camp: CHURCH
A Healing Journey: Susan, Single Mom
Mentoring and Mowing
Hero Highlight: Ricky Leach
Word From Base Camp: ORPHAN
Word From Base Camp: MISSIONARY
A Healing Journey: Kyle Weaver
Fathers in the Field Board Member
Hero Highlight: Andy Crawford
A Healing Journey: Marv Rethmel: Sam and the Old Bird
Word From Base Camp: MENTOR
Hero Highlight: Shane Ellison - Mentor, Donor
A Healing Journey: Suzanne C.
Word From Base Camp: GIFT
Hero Highlight: Lyle “Chuck” Cleavenger
A Healing Journey: Terry Leach
Front Royal, VA
Church Champion, Mentor Father
Word From Base Camp: COMMITMENT
Hero Highlight: Alan and Kevin Brotz
Word From Base Camp: GAP
A Healing Journey: Scott MacNaughton
Hero Highlight: Troy Duble
Word From Base Camp: FAITH
A Healing Journey: Joel Garcia
Hero Highlight: Marc Pierce
Word From Base Camp: FATHERHOOD
A Healing Journey: Matthew and Evelyn Husband
Hero Highlight: Teresa Kenneda, Evanston, Wyoming