Of all the titles accorded clergy, the term Father seems to me to be about the most accurate. While some anti-Romans might raise an argument or two, I think of it as a descriptive term as well as one of affection.
Every Pastor alive will tell you that when you see a wandering member in Wal-Mart during the week, chances are you will see that person on Sunday morning in church. Every Pastor alive has had the unique circumstances of teaching the faith to one so new to it all and feeling the spiritual father to a young Christian. Every Pastor alive has been in the situation when every face in the room turned to you to see how you would react to something or what your response might be -- just as a father often speaks for the whole of the family when something trying touches their lives.
I hold babies in my arms at the font, I teach the youth the faith in catechism class, I confirm the catechumens, I hold the hands of the sick and struggling, I advise and counsel those who come to me with troubles, I lead the family through the process of grief and loss and pull them together for the funeral, I exhort and inform the son and daughter who desire to marry, I feel the tears of those whose families are torn asunder for one reason or another... I am, in many ways, a father to those who are in this family of faith that we call Grace Lutheran Church.
Let me make something clear. Being a father figure does not mean I am smarter than others, that I have all the answers, that I am wise beyond my years, that I am better, stronger, more faithful, or a more mature spiritual person than others in the congregation. I am not. But part of what a congregation does in calling a man to be their Pastor is to invest this individual with not only the office but the responsibility to serve as the spiritual head of the family called the Church and to act in a fatherly way toward each of her members. Saying a Pastor is a father figure is not condescending to the people -- it is not that fathers are automatically smarter, stronger, or wiser than others -- it is that their role and responsibility is toward the family in a particular way -- you do not have to be Christian to recognize this and it is not an offense to women who also have a particular rule and responsibility as mothers.
Scripture can attest to this level of the relationship:"For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not MANY FATHERS: for in Christ Jesus I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU [i.e. become your FATHER] through the gospel.... "For this cause have I sent unto you TIMOTHY, WHO IS MY BELOVED SON, and faithful in the Lord..." (1 Cor 4:15,17 KJV) "
...as a SON [Timothy] with the FATHER [Paul], he hath served with me in the gospel" (Phil 2:22 KJV)
"we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a FATHER doth his children" (1 Thess 2:11 KJV)
As a father... to his children. It is a relationship term as well as one that is descriptive of what a father does for his children. The word children does not mean childish or child-like -- I am way more than a half century old and still my father and mother see me as their child and I see them as my father and mother. It is a term of relationship -- when we call a Pastor "Father" we see him through the lens of what He is called to do and to be among the family of God that is this congregation. It is also a term of affection but it is also a term that explains the often multi-faceted way that a Pastor serves his people.
Often when I visit the elderly or walk down the hall of a hospital, someone will call out to me "Father..." It is not that I am old enough to be their "Father" or that they even know me personally. They know the office and so to the one who bears that office they call, "Father" and I come to them to listen, to counsel, to pray...
It is also a protective term. When one of my own is attacked or in need, I instinctively reach out to them to protect them from their trouble, to answer their call, to stand with them in their need, to bear with them the burdens of this life, to come before the Father in heaven on their behalf...
So this Lutheran Pastor does not find anything wrong with the term "Father" for a Pastor -- the Scandinavians have been doing it since the Reformation (and before, they never stopped). When people call me "Father" and then stop abruptly as if they have offended me, I smile and say "That is a fine term and I am honored that you would use it of me..."