Spiritual fathers & mothers… Monday musings…

Not long ago, I had a conversation with a friend about my age (40+ish. The closer I get to 50, the more 40 seems like another lifetime ago. But I digress.)

My friend, (like me) had been in ‘the Church’ for more than 20 years. And after those many years of active, vibrant church-life, he felt like the Church really had nothing else to offer him. After all, “I’ve been there, done that, learned that, heard that, lived that… And I feel like I’m at the spot in my life/maturity where there’s nothing else in it for me. Nothing else really to learn…” That wasn’t the 1st time I’d had the conversation, & most likely, it won’t be the last. While I think I understand, in theory, what my friend was saying, I think he could be missing something incredibly important: the opportunity to be a spiritual father/father in the faith to upcoming generations of Christ-followers. Here’s what I mean.


Looking back on my life inside (& outside) of the Church, I can point to a handful of men & women, some who couldn’t have been more than 5 years older than me, who invested themselves in my life, people who helped shape me into the man I am today. This (non-comprehensive) list includes:

  • my Sunday school teachers
  • a large number people who attended some incarnation of our family’s small group Bible study over the course of 15 years & took the time to include me in their discussions (Bible & other kids), played catch with me, & generally acted like it was totally normal for an adult to have a pre-teen/teen kid hang out
  • sports team coaches/assistants
  • youth leaders & pastors
  • camp cabin leaders
  • small group leaders who hosted a Bible study group (& fed me & my friends)
  • the list goes on…

In real life, we go through transitions… at one point, we were all completely dependent on others for our care, food, shelter, diaper changing, etc… & gradually, we all go (& grow) through various stages of dependence to become, for better or worse, independent. We get married, have our own families, & then repeat the cycle, except this time with us being mostly on the giving vs. receiving of the care. When we’re dealing with our kids, it’s not like we come to a spot where we think, “You know, I am not really getting anything out of this whole parent thing. Shouldn’t there be something more in it for me…? I’m out.” 

In the Church life, we go through transitions as well… hopefully reaching a point in our Christian development where we are able to give back & pour our lives into others who are still in the early stages of growth & maturity. In essence, we get to give back as spiritual fathers/mothers, without regard for exactly what’s in it for us, or knowing HOW we are going to get something out of it. We get to join with the very Body (the Church) that brought us to the point where we were grown/mostly grown up, mature, not ‘needing’ anything from others. This joining with the mission of the Church can be called a lot of things, discipleship, mentoring, etc… To me, the terminology isn’t what’s important. What matters is that we adopt & ascribe to the Kingdom of God values more than we adopt & ascribe to our American culture of consumerism (a ‘what’s in it for me’ faith.)


I’ve had many, many conversations with young people (translation: people younger than me) who say they don’t have a role model, a mentor, a coach, a spiritual father/mother to give input in their lives. And, they don’t really know how to go about getting one. Which, in my opinion, is one of the reasons why we who have been around the block a few times, who have grown & matured in our relationship with God, have the responsibility to take the initiative & get involved in the lives of others. I’m not saying we start out by introducing ourselves as their new spiritual father/mother, (c’mon: that’s weird.) I’m saying we just do it – in a small group, as a coach in rec-league sports, inviting people over for dinner – & not worry about what title we get/don’t get from them. Call it paying it forward or being on the Giver Team, it is an integral part of the lifecycle of the Christian faith, & we have the privilege of being able to play a role in the lives of others.

And the best part, we DO get something out of that.

 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak & remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35 English Standard Version


NOTE: I intentionally avoided (or attempted to) the definition of what the Church could/should look like. To me, those are delivery systems, (not the main thing) & the point I am trying to make is, whatever the Church delivery system you’re a part of, take the time to invest in (disciple) others. Someone. Somewhere. Somehow. It makes an eternal difference.

feed the hungry bird, & other musings on a Friday…

I’m amazed at how God can use the most mundane of life activities to bring people together. The Apostle Paul left Athens and headed to the booming metropolis (and wide-open mission field,) of Corinth. Left with the question of how he would support his gospel spreading and church planting campaign, Paul fell back on the trade he knew, tent making. And it just so happened that two members of the local ‘tent-making guild’ were Aquila and Priscilla, a couple of refugees from Rome that had fled to Corinth at the order of Emperor Claudius because they were… Christians. And, just like that, Paul had a team.

Paul’s followed his pattern of testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ, His promised Anointed One. Here at Corinth, the message was soundly rejected, complete with threats of violence against Paul by the Jews. With the non-Jewish Corinthian audience, however, the response is drastically different. They believed. In large numbers, people in a city famous for sexual immorality and wild living flocked to the gospel of grace and the message of justification by faith.

Even though the Jews continued to threaten Paul, he knew that unlike Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica, he was to stick around Corinth for a while. The LORD Himself confirmed this, saying something to the effect of “Keep it up. You won’t be hurt. I’ve got lots of people here, and you’ve got lots to preach, teach, and train.”

I often think about how the Apostle Paul wrestled through the dichotomy of the two responses to the gospel at Corinth, where one group soundly rejected and strongly opposed the Good News, and the other joyfully embraced and applied it. I think that this contradiction was at the forefront of his mind as he wrote letters back to Corinth:

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God… Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1Cor 1:18, 22-25 ESV

One way I like to think about this is that my role in sharing the gospel and investing in discipleship is “looking for the hungry bird.” What I mean is this: when the mama bird comes back to her nest after a morning of worm digging and bug grubbing, the baby bird that gets to eat is the hungry one, the one with the open beak! In the same way, I want to be looking for the “hungry birds,” those people that eagerly hear and respond to the Good News. This doesn’t mean ignoring others, but rather is a picture of looking for where God is actively at work, and then intentionally partnering with the work He’s already done in preparing the ‘soil’ of their hearts.

I pray that we would have eyes to see the hungry birds in our lives today.