There is a cry in many people’s hearts for someone to father or mother them. There are many spiritual orphans who have never had the opportunity to be loved into wholeness. Fatherlessness is a curse on a nation, and the result of that curse is wounded people carrying an orphan spirit.
The pain in the lives of spiritual orphans empowers five lies:
• The Rejection Lie – I must protect myself from others
• The Fear Lie – I must hide myself from others
• The Performance Lie – I must prove myself to others
• The Blame Lie – I must defend myself from others
• The Control Lie – I must manage myself and others
Spiritual fathers and mothers are mature fathers and mothers because they are not controlled by these lies, nor do they fall into the trap of modifying the behavior of those who believe these lies. They go for the heart. They know that lies are empowered by pain and that Jesus is the truth to heal the pain and dispel the lies.
Fathers and mothers in the Lord do five things well*:
• Spiritual Fathers and Mothers Enable Others to Act – They foster collaboration and build life-giving teams. They actively involve others. They understand that mutual respect is what sustains extraordinary efforts; they strive to create an atmosphere of trust and dignity, of faith and vision. They strengthen others by sharing information and providing choice. Their give their own power away, making each person feel capable and powerful.
• Spiritual Mothers and Fathers Inspire a Common Vision – They inspire people to believe they can make a difference. They envision the future, creating an ideal and unique image of what their spiritual family can become. Through their passionate appeals and quiet persuasion, they enlist others in the dream. They breathe life into the shared vision and get people to see the exciting future possibilities.
• Fathers and Mothers Challenge the Status Quo – They search for opportunities to change the status quo. They look for innovative was to improve their church. They are learners and they encourage others to ask questions and think for themselves. They are always looking for what God wants to teach them. They experiment and take risks. And since risk taking involves mistakes and failure, they accept the inevitable disappointments as learning opportunities. They believe there are no failures, just learning.
• Spiritual Fathers and Mothers Model the Way – They create standards of common values and then set an example for others to follow. They establish values about how members of the community and staff should be treated. Because complex change can overwhelm and stifle action, they celebrate small wins. They unravel or remove bureaucracy, put up signposts for the way forward, and create opportunities for victory. They celebrate failure if people try, and rejoice in little obediences as the way to get to big obediences.
• Spiritual Mothers and Fathers Encourage the Heart – They provide opportunities for healing wounded hearts. They get extraordinary things done in their church or movement by doing lots of hard work based on grace, not performance. They keep hope and determination alive. They honor contributions that individuals make. And because every spiritual family needs to share in the rewards of their efforts, they celebrate accomplishments. They make everyone feel like a hero.
There are seven reflection questions that allow us to assess our level of maturity as spiritual fathers and mothers:
• Does our leadership and discipleship restrict or liberate people?
• Does it lead to conformity or does it promote creativity?
• Does it bring dependence on us or on God?
• Does it produce servility or servanthood?
• Does it build on rules or grace?
• Does it undermine or build a person's confidence?
• Does it produce fear or faith?
In closing, consider Paul’s message to the Corinthians about being a spiritual father or mother:
“I'm not writing all this as a neighborhood scold just to make you feel rotten. I'm writing as a father to you, my children. I love you and want you to grow up well, not spoiled. There are a lot of people around who can't wait to tell you what you've done wrong, but there aren't many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God's Message to you that I became your father. I'm not, you know, asking you to do anything I'm not already doing myself.” 1 Corinthians 4:14-16 The Message
In the NKJV translation of verse 15 it says, “...though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ...”
The Greek word used for instructor is a word used for those who supervise children until they reach adulthood. Paul is saying the Corinthians have had a lot of baby sitters but it’s time for them to grow up, and the key to that is having a spiritual father or mother in their lives.
Spiritual fathers and mothers are not instructors for spiritual babies. They are fathers and mothers in the Lord who know God.
*NOTE FROM FLOYD: I am indebted to Larry Kreider for his book, The Cry for Spiritual Mothers and Fathers. I have adapted the five characteristics of spiritual mothers and fathers from the book, The Leadership Challenge, by Posner and Kouzes. I have written more extensively on spiritual fathering and mothering in my book, The Father Heart of God, and in You See Bones – I See an Army.