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The Master’s Craftsmen: Lesson One


Essence of a Patriarch


There is probably no other issue more emotionally stirring for men than longing for or not having a strong father and patriarch figure involved in a man’s life. Few men have experienced the impact of a real man of God to follow and shape their lives after.

It is not surprising that men are attracted to strong leaders. They seem to be looking for something or someone to fill the void in their lives. What is sadder yet, few men are being challenged to become men of God and patriarchs.

Probably the most exciting, fulfilling, challenging, rewarding and creative expression of manhood is the possibility of developing young men to become patriarchs. Think about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus, Peter, Paul and the impact they made.

A patriarch is not a retired grandfather following the lead of his grandchildren: old, set in his ways, and basically out of it. A patriarch is working at something vital, plugged into his culture, leading his grandchildren and keenly aware of life’s changes. He’s inventive, alert, and challenging the socks off his children, his wife and the extended family around him as he grows in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord.

David DeWitt, Relational Concepts


The patriarch is the basis of a society, a religion and a nation. He protects a way of life, values and a heritage. Without the patriarch, all social structures fail.

For a boy to become a patriarch he must go through four stages of development:

  • From a boy to a man
  • From a man to a husband
  • From a husband to a father
  • From a father to a patriarch

The stages of development can be illustrated by the use of an umbrella.

  • PATRIARCH: is a parent who has taken on a discipleship responsibility for an extended family.
  • FATHER: is a husband who has taken on the discipleship responsibility for his children.
  • HUSBAND: is a man who has taken on the discipleship and nurturing for his wife.
  • MAN: is a person who has taken on the discipleship responsibility for himself which is characterized by his teachability and his ability to give to others.

Each stage of development requires a decision to take on the next stage of responsibility. If that decision is not made, the male may physically progress to the place where he looks like a man, husband, father or patriarch, but will in essence be back where he made his last decision. If he has never made any decision, then he is in essence still a boy.

To take this one step further, failure at any level requires that one go back to the previous level and strengthen it. For example: if one is failing as a husband, the first thing a man must do to help his marriage is ask himself, “What is lacking in me as a man?”

Each stage of development should be understood as to who the male is inside rather than just what he does. For this reason, we will refer to each stage of development as the essence of a man, essence of a husband, essence of a father, and the essence of a patriarch.

Some Thoughts to Consider:

  • Why do you think so many husbands and fathers who try to follow sets of rules feel so empty and confused inside?
  • As you examine the stages of male development, what is the last stage you made a decision to enter and take responsibility for?
  • As you reflect on your own life, to what degree have you had a patriarch involved in your life?
  • Why do you think there are so few patriarchs today?





  • His walk by faith, not by sight
  • His decision to speak with power
  • His impact on future generations

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s 12 sons were the first patriarchs mentioned in  scripture, Acts 7:8.

Read Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-14 and particularly focus in on Genesis 17:4-7. What do you think is the significance and purpose of the first patriarchs?

“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” Genesis 17:7



A patriarch is a man who has personally encountered God.

A godly patriarch is a man who has come to a place in his life where he has had to consider God and that consideration shaped the rest of his life and that shaping affected the lives of  his extended family.

Even though some patriarchs had supernaturally seen or talked with God or His representative, in many cases others did not, such as: David, Job, John the Baptist and the disciples of the Apostles (Timothy, Titus, John, Mark, etc.).

As a result of the patriarch’s encounter with God, he begins to walk by faith not by sight.

Abraham was given a promise which he could not see. He did not know how God would fulfill the promise, but he still trusted God.

“By faith Abraham, even though he was past age and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.” Hebrews 11:32

The patriarch gives up the visible and present for the invisible and future. Because of his trust in God, he has an eternal perspective. He recognizes that his strength and hope does not lay in his physical power, but in his spiritual power.

The man who walks by faith sees Him (the Lord) who is invisible – Hebrews 11:27. His perspective is not dictated by what is going on around him in the visible world.

The patriarch realizes that life is not based on the physical, and what he can control. Life has taught him how dependent he is on God, therefore he walks by faith.

Some Thoughts to Consider:

  • In what ways might a man today have an encounter with God?
  • As of this point in your life, how have you come to encounter God and how has that shaped your life?
  • In what area(s) of your life do you tend to walk by sight rather than by faith?




A patriarch does not have a perfect life nor is he super spiritual, but rather he shares with others what he has learned from his struggles and failures. His years of experience and  wisdom offer much to those who will follow him.

Jacob was a man whose life was characterized by cheating, lying and looking after himself. But he came to a point where he had an encounter with God that changed his life. When Jacob was old and about to die, Gen. 49: 1-33, he gathered his sons around him, leaning on his staff he blessed them and told them what would happen to them in the days to come. Jacob spoke – he did not keep silent.

The patriarch not only speaks before he dies, but his whole life is characterized by it.

The patriarch cannot be consumed with himself and his toys – isolating himself from others and remaining silent to his extended family.

The problem in our society today is that the older men feel as though they have very little, if anything, to offer. The result is that we are not accustomed to listening to the older men. We often turn to younger men to give us fresh new ideas. By not listening to the patriarch, we lose the opportunity to learn from the past and are thereby destined to repeat the same mistakes.

Some Thoughts to Consider:

  • What might be some ways that you as a man keep silent toward your wife or children?
  • Are there failures or inconsistencies in your life that would cause you to not speak with power and strength to your family?
  • When you do speak to your family, is there a tone of anger in your voice?
  • Is there anything in your life that hinders you from speaking, such as keeping busy with  work, watching TV, sports, church or other activities?




The most significant aspect of the patriarch is the impact he makes on future generations as a result of his instruction and personal walk with the Lord. The impact he makes can be for good or bad.

We see the positive impact of a patriarch on his future generations in Psalm 78: 5-7.

“He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which they commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born and they in turn would tell their children. They then would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds, but would keep his commands.”

We see the negative impact of a patriarch when his life is characterized by unrepentant sin.

“Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generations.” Exodus 34:7

The way a patriarch lives his life has a profound impact on future generations.

The patriarch gives of himself, because he realizes his responsibility in the heritage he will pass down to his future generations. He shares his life and teaches what he has learned about God as a result of the things that he has experienced. The result will be that the generations that follow will put their trust in God.

A father’s children are to obey him, whereas a patriarch has his children’s respect. He does not try to control their lives, but rather gives of himself.

Some Thoughts To Consider:

In what ways are you giving of yourself to your children that will cause them to put their trust in God?

As you look to your future generations: what positive impact will you make? what negative impact will you make?

What will your children remember you for?

What do you want to be remembered for?

Will your children remember you for your instruction and walk with God?




  • The call today is a call back to the essence of a patriarch. We need men who are willing to give of themselves rather than be consumed by themselves.
  • If men are to make an impact on future generations, their hearts need to be turned toward their children.
  • If a man’s heart is not turned toward his children, he will have nothing to pass down and the blessing will be lost.
  • Malachi 4: 5-6 gives us hope for our day before the Lord’s return.

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

We must be sure our hearts are turned to our children. A heart not turned toward our children is a sinful, self-centered heart.




“Your newsletter on ‘The Essence of a Patriarch’ was especially helpful to me in looking at  the impact I want to have, and in looking back at the impact my father had in my life. He just passed away last month, and I’ve experienced a lot of pain in dealing with that whole experience.

He was a missionary in China and Japan for over 35 years and was deeply loved and respected by those he ministered to.

He greatly impacted many people’s lives for the Lord – except for his three sons.

I have found myself trying very hard to find even one thing I could say I really respected in his life or wanted to model myself after. In his last weeks before he died of leukemia, he completely withdrew into a shell and even asked that I not come down to visit until the  funeral. He was content with the memory of one enjoyable visit we had just prior to that, and wanted to leave things that way.

I don’t want to have that kind of a legacy. I really want to have a deep and positive impact on my wife and kids first of all.

Thankfully, the Lord has already made many changes in my life that are making that possible – I’m eager to continue the process. I would also like to help other men start taking a deeper look at their lives too.”

Used by permission




As I reflect on my own father, I thank God for him and his deep commitment to the Lord. In many ways he assumed the role of a patriarch, but I also realize that in other ways I would have wanted more from him as a patriarch. I recall in his final months before he died of  cancer in 1989, we had some moments of sharing that I will never forget, but those times were very few and brief.

I wanted so much more from him. I wanted him to speak and share his thoughts.

I wish he had taken advantage of every possible moment to speak with me since we both knew we had only a little time left together. But for the most part he kept silent.

I remember sitting at his bedside thinking that so much of his wisdom and experience would soon be lost. I felt so alone when he died. A part of my heritage has been lost, never to be recorded, and now I will have to learn many of these things on my own.

I believe a very important part of our family’s Godly heritage was lost when Dad died.

Don’t take me wrong, I believe that a rich part of a Godly heritage was passed down, but I wanted more. In those last days he was much too silent.

As I examine my own life, I believe I’m in the process of assuming the role of a patriarch. I have an extended family now. The question I must ask myself is,

“Do I have the strength to speak to my children and their children to come?”

At times I wonder what I have to share, but then I realize that that question comes from some of the emptiness I feel inside and my own self-contempt. I realize I have much to say and pass down to my children and generations to come. I must not drop the ball.

The question each of us must ask is, “Do I share of myself and speak or do I keep silent?” (I wonder if my keeping silent as a patriarch has anything to do with Adam’s keeping silent  when Satan approached Eve in the garden to tempt her and Adam kept silent?)

Don E. Smith


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