In the Church, leaders are more than people with microphones on the stage. They are spiritual parents.
For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
Paul is writing to people who were pretty full of themselves.
The Corinthian church was packed with people Paul describes as puffed up and arrogant (1 Cor 4:18). And the fruit of their lives and ministry showcased this.
They were sharply divided, steeped in sexual sin, and greedy—just to name a few issues.
Paul wrote to correct sin in their lives because he, like a good father, wanted them to be in right relationship with God and one another.
Today, we desperately need more spiritual fathers and leaders in the church. And I don’t mean simply that we need more older Christians discipling younger ones. That is certainly good—but this has nothing to do with age.
Instead, it’s about maturity in three primary areas.
First, Paul loved the Corinthians like a father loves his kids.
God used Paul to bring many of them to salvation. His relationship with them was not transactional. After all, when a father holds his baby just after he or she is born, there is a profound bond.
From the moment of new birth, good dads love their kids.
Spiritual fathers deeply love their spiritual children.
Worthy of Imitation
Second, Paul called them to imitate him.
Kids imitate their fathers (and mothers, too!). They learn to walk, talk, and behave just like them.
Good spiritual fathers live lives worthy of imitation. This doesn’t mean they rest on their performance or good works—not even close.
Instead, they live in intimacy with God. And their spiritual lives are filled with evidence of the Holy Spirit’s power—not simply talk (1 Cor 4:20).
Spiritual fathers are worthy of imitation.
Exercising Godly Authority
Third, Paul exercised the same authority as a father.
He wrote to correct wrong thinking, rebuke sinful behavior, and invite them into step with the Spirit.
Instead of simply throwing up his hands and saying, “Well, it’s their choice to live like that…” He loved them enough to do the work of discipline.
Ask any good parent, and they’ll tell you that discipline is lots of work. It takes consistency and energy. It takes lots of communication with your children.
Spiritual fathers exercise godly authority out of love.
We desperately need spiritual fathers, today.
People who will love their spiritual children. People whose lives are worth imitating. And people who will exercise proper, loving, and helpful authority in the lives of their spiritual children.
While the metaphor uses is about a “father – child” relationship, it certainly does not exclude women.
We deeply need spiritual parents.
Is God calling you to step into this leadership role in your church family? Here are three ways to know:
- You have deep, pure, and loving affection for believers less mature than you. You are a person marked by grace and humility; not harshness and pride.
- Your life is worthy of imitation. You aren’t perfect, and neither do you pretend to be. But you know God and walk in the Spirit’s power, not simply talk and theory.
- You are willing to do the work of discipline. You understand that helping people grow in the faith takes work, patience, and grace. But, because you love them and are filled with the Spirit, you’re willing to put in the work of being a spiritual parent.