Personal Growth

The Fatally Friendless Father

by Caleb French

two guy sitting and talking overlooking a river in a valley below

Dads need friends.

Not football buddies, or golf partners, or even “family friend” dads you chat with while your kids play in the yard—though all of those could be candidates. You see, we often use the word “friend” to describe our common-interest acquaintances when what we really need is “battle brothers” who know our worst and hope in Christ for our best. Christian fathers need the rare treasure of active, godly friendships. Hobbling along in your Christian life without them could be spiritually fatal.

But what’s the big deal? What could be so fatal about being a friendless father?

That Kind of Friendship

Before we go any further, let’s get a snapshot of the kind of purposeful friendship I am talking about. Recently, one of my friends and I simultaneously realized the danger of not being more transparent about our Christian lives; we decided to do something about it.

For us, this meant upgrading our sporadic substantive interactions into a purposeful biweekly meet-up, in which we ask each other a series of written-out questions that run the gamut of our current condition in our lives. (Here’s the sheet we use to structure this conversation.)

We ask each other how many days we have missed for focused time with God, being specific about our prayer and Bible-reading habits. We share our current mental-emotional state as it relates to our energy for the coming week—what is encouraging us, discouraging us, how we are feeling. We ask each other questions about our family relationships. How often and in what ways are we showing love to our wives? How much time have we been spending with our children for relationship-building and discipleship?

Then, of course, we do some mutual confession of sin (James 5:16). Here’s where we ask the hard questions about harbored bitterness, anger, pride, and any expressions of sexual lust. We talk about our daily work, our recent discipleship encounters, and any evangelistic engagement we have had. We finish by sharing how we can pray for one another in the coming weeks.

Now, not everyone needs a handout to have a godly friendship, but I believe we all need to be asked these questions regularly. That’s why my friend and I started this habit. This is the kind of friendship I’m talking about that we need as Christian dads.

What happens if we don’t have these kinds of friends?

The Fatalities of Friendless Fathers

1. Friendless Fathers easily excuse negligence in spiritual disciplines.

We are naturally easy on ourselves, and our flesh brings with it a dose of self-deception. But when we share out loud with a brother that we skipped our time with God for that reason, we step back into the “light” of transparency (1 John 1:6).

Who of your friends knows where you’re reading, how your prayer life is developing, and what you’re meditating on lately? Who of your friends knows if you’re spending any private time with God?

2. Friendless Fathers never “answer” for how they are leading their families.

You’ve noticed that what I am calling “friendship” is what we often speak of as “accountability.” But who is holding us accountable for how we are leading our families? By virtue of our leadership role in the home, God has not called our wives and children to hold us accountable for that leadership (though I should say the respectful words of a godly wife can be a blessed source of accountability).

So I ask you, who of your friends knows how you are treating your wife? Who of your friends knows how you are raising your children in the Lord?

3. Friendless Fathers get stuck in mental-emotional funks.

Sometimes we get “stuck in our head” as my (other) friend David often says. We need a brother to hear us spill the mess and then offer a “truth in love” perspective that can pull us back to the faith(fulness) and peace of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

I experienced this benefit recently in one biweekly chat with my friend. After what can only be described as “calm venting,” my friend held up the mirror to me. “Caleb, it seems like you are constantly falling back into this rut of frustration about . Here’s what I think are your practical options. But one thing you must do is put a ‘Do not enter’ sign over those unbiblical patterns of thinking that lead to your annoyances.” That was such a means of God’s grace to me. But if I had not had a regular appointment, I’m not sure I would have gotten that kind of blunt input from my friend. I’d probably still be in my faithless funk.

Who of your friends knows what regularly discourages you? Who of your friends knows enough of your mental-emotional state to know when and how you need to be pointed back to Christ?

4. Friendless Fathers give sin room to grow in secrecy.

Many Christian men could go for months without confessing a sin to another brother. This fact is more frightening when you consider how quickly sin habits can spiral out of control—how long we can “walk in darkness” before another believer knows it. Without habitually transparent friendships, a Christian dad allows certain sins the opportunity to grow in the shadows.

1 John 1 makes an astounding connection between our transparent fellowship with one another and our confession of sin to God. This means that without “walking-in-the-light” fellowship with other believers, we will be much more likely to “say we have no sin” and much less likely to “confess our sins” to God. The point? Not walking in open fellowship with other believers leads to greater sin, self-deception, and broken fellowship with God.

If you think you have Christian friendships, my question for you is this: who of your friends knows the struggles and sins you couldn’t share in a public setting? Who of your friends knows the nature and frequency of your battle with lust? Who of your friends knows the sins you most easily slip back into?

What about My Wife?

You may have thought of another question in this discussion: “What about my wife? Isn’t she my friend?” Yes, she should be. Yes, she will know you best. And yes, you should be willing for her to hold up the mirror to you, respectfully, in a way that helps you better understand your strengths, weaknesses, patterns, and opportunities for growth.

Yet in the Body of Christ, it is God’s design that we have a multiplicity of relationships1 through which we experience the transforming grace of God as we speak the truth to one another in love (Ephesians 4:15). And while same-gender friendships in the faith are no substitute for the many-splendored intimacy and exclusivity of Christian marriage, neither has God wrapped up all of His relational graces in that single institution.

Friendships in the Body of Christ

This is why He established the church. And within that wonderful body are opportunities for multiple rich friendships, conduits of God’s grace, channels through which we receive the “reproof, correction, and instruction” (2 Timothy 3:16) of His word of Truth (Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:18) into the choices, patterns, and thoughts of your Christian life. Through these friendships we obey the many “one another” passages of the New Testament and honor this wisdom: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). We see a beautiful example of God-centered friendship between men in David and Jonathan, and in Paul’s many partnerships with men like Barnabas, Silas, and many others he names in his epistles.

Are you a friendless father?

Are you a fatally friendless father? If you’re like me, it’s not that you don’t have Christian friends. I’m probably not encouraging you to make friends you don’t already have; I’m encouraging you to usher those friendships into deeper waters. So don’t be a friendless father! Invite one or more of your brothers into a newly deliberate relationship of mutual transparency. You will be a better father, a better husband, a better disciple, a better Christian because of it.


  1. One clarification. It’s healthy to have more than one of these friendships, as I believe the “three-fold cord” of Ecclesiastes 4:12 advises. My friend and I have spoken that we would aspire to invite others into our biweekly covenant. Yet both of us have others who fulfill a similar role; that’s healthy, even if not every friendship has the structure of our biweekly meet-up.

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