Fathers in the Field Founders

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.(ESV) PHILIPPIANS 3:13–14

John Smithbaker’s Story

The first four decades of John’s storyline reads like most men’s. He fought hard in his quest for peace and contentment through success, financial gain and accomplishments. And, like many people today, he came from a broken home. There was a break in the cup. It didn’t matter how hard and fast John tried to fill it up.

He built a distinguished career as CEO of Brunton Group, a leading manufacturer of outdoor adventure products. During his 15-year tenure, John adeptly led the expansion of the Wyoming-based company, received accolades for bringing jobs back to Wyoming from overseas and garnered awards for his leadership and innovative product development.

As an avid outdoorsman working in the industry, it was a perfect intersect of John’s passions and pursuits. Although he held the reigns of an international conglomerate, he couldn’t get a grip on his insatiable longing to reconcile the pain, rejection and lack of approval from a father that deserted his family.

John endlessly struggled to make sense of his father choosing to leave the family when his mom was pregnant with him and his sister was three-years-old. The consequences of his father giving up his role as pastor, provider and protector of the family wreaked havoc in John’s boyhood and manhood. Outwardly, his success was envious, but inwardly, his struggles were not. He desperately wanted to leave the bitterness and anger behind and learn to forgive. It took until his 40th year.

That milestone year, John stopped chasing temporal things and embraced God’s eternal truth about love and forgiveness for the first time. While driving a dark, dirt road near his home in Lander, WY in 2002, John cried out to God. Over time and by God’s grace, John began to heal from deep wounds inflicted by his father’s absence. Exhaustion and frustration gave way to fulfillment and the assurance of God the Father’s abiding love.

In 2005, John launched Fathers in the Field to share God’s love with hurting boys dealing with the same abandonment issues he dealt with for so long. His goal is to help prevent the devastating cycle of earthly father abandonment before these boys become men by sharing their Heavenly Father’s staying power, forgiveness and faithfulness.

Seven years of balancing CEO and the growing demands of a National Ministry, God began to prompt John to lean into Him and submit to His calling. After some spiritual wrestling matches with God, John joyously surrendered knowing he was doing the right thing for all the right reasons. In the fall of 2012, John resigned from Brunton Outdoor to focus full-time on Fathers in the Field’s outreach to some of the 13 million fatherless boys in the United States.

John’s desire is to be a catalyst for the Kingdom by “defending the cause of the fatherless.” He knows he cannot be compassionate from a distance. John’s all in, ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work encouraging the church and men to make a stand for the fatherless in their community.

Scott MacNaughton’s Story

After being a pastor for 20 years, Scott MacNaughton finally had a conversion experience. Yes, he was a believer in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ from an early age. Yes, Scott shared the love of Jesus Christ with his congregation. His focus was that he had so emphasized the “word” ministry of the Gospel that he felt he neglected the all important “deed” ministry.

Nearly 30 years ago, Scott wrote his undergraduate thesis on a wilderness program’s evangelistic outreach to fatherless boys. He knew that were 28 million children going to bed without a father in the home. Scott knew that 85% of men in prison had been abandoned by their fathers. High School dropout, teen pregnancy and suicide all correlate very highly with the incidences of being abandoned. Despite knowing all of this, he felt he and his church’s ears were closed to the desperate cries to the abandoned boy. They were doing nothing to meet the “Number One” destructive social issue in our nation today.

God graciously changed all this when He brought John Smithbaker into Scott’s life and his church. Shortly after becoming a Christian, God placed on John’s heart the passion for rescuing abandoned boys and Fathers in the Field was born. Fathers in the Field has transformed Scott’s ministry and enlivened his church. His church had become too inwardly focused, without a real plan to reach the lost in their community. The outdoor mentoring program has shown him that when a church is intentional in reaching the lost generation in their community that God will richly bless and open up opportunities for the gospel that they could not have imagined. This ministry has engaged the men in their church in a powerful way through one-on-one mentoring; their women’s ministry has come along side the single moms and have made significant contributions into their lives; and, their diaconate has been reconnected with their biblical mandate to look after the widows and fatherless.

Scott has the distinct privilege of being the Co-founder and pastor of the founding church of Fathers in the Field and the champion for abandoned boys within his church. He has been able to assist in the development of the ministry and its national expansion. But, far and away, his greatest privilege has been the opportunity to mentor an abandoned boy and introduce him to the Heavenly Father and to His Son, Jesus Christ. One of the greatest joys in his Christian life was when his Field Buddy (the abandoned boy) committed his life to Jesus Christ at the end of their first year together and then getting to baptize him shortly afterwards.

Scott’s passion was personal and he heard the call to introduce Fathers in the Field to individuals and churches. That is why he stepped down as the Senior Pastor of his church in 2008 to spearhead expansion in other churches nationwide. As Christ’s Church, we must not stand idly by and let Satan destroy the next generation of our boys. He is absolutely confident that, through Fathers in the Field, God will transform every church and individual who become obedient to God in “defending the cause of the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:17)

In January 2013, the founding church called Scott to return to be their pastor. Scott has heeded that call of God. Scott will continue to assist Fathers in the Field through writing, speaking engagements and support cultivation. He will also continue to personally mentor a Field Buddy. Scott will always be grateful to God for the opportunity to serve His church through the national expansion of Fathers in the Field and helping Churches and others respond to the cries of help and prayers of the fatherless boy.