What is the Character of a Gospel-Driven Leader? Part One

Friday, April 23, 2010

1. A Church Leader Ought to Have Experienced Spiritual Fathering

“So you, my child...” (2 Tim. 2:1)
“To Titus, my genuine son in a common faith…” (Titus 1:4)

Every Christian has someone who brought him or her to faith in Christ. But for Paul, setting someone in as a leader in a local church meant that there was a special relationship between them, and he’s very specific that it’s one of spiritual fatherhood – spiritual sonship. It seems Paul led both Timothy and Titus to faith in Christ. And then he took on the spiritual responsibility of raising them spiritually in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

n many Eastern countries, a young man is often more spoken of by his father’s name than his own (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, 1 Samuel 17:58, E-Sword). If you were Jew, then your last name was “Son of…” as in Simon bar Jonah for example, who was known by his father, Jonah. We also read of James and John, sons of Zebedee. Inherent in this concept is the assumption that the son is a representation of the father, that he stands for all the things his father did, believes what his father did, and carried on the work of his father. Apprenticeship at work was equal to sonship in the home. As a son, you simply carried on the legacy of your father .

This is so crucial in the local church today, but is very much absent. This is because in the American church, at least, the commitment to discipleship has been lost. The idea of pouring everything God has made you into another person is hardly practiced today. Independence and individualism have become the two strands of our DNA so that as Christians we come and go as we please, taking and learning and adding to our lives from this person or that person.

Paul had a concept of this even in his own day, because it seems this may have been a mindset in the Corinthian church. He wrote to them in 4:14-16…

“I am not writing these things to shame you, but t correct you as my dear children. For though you may have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, because I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I encourage you, then, be imitators of me.”

And what confirms this concept and necessity of spiritual fatherhood and spiritual sonship, is the action Paul takes towards them in the next verse.

“For this reason, I have sent Timothy to you, who is my dear and faithful son in the Lord. He will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (v. 17).

Evidently, Timothy was quite a young man. And that’s just what we’d expect from a young man into whom Paul poured everything he had. Paul wrote to the Philippian church that he was sending Timothy there also.

ow I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be encouraged by hearing news about you. For there is no one here like him who will readily demonstrate his deep concern for you. Others are busy with their own concerns, not those of Jesus Christ. But you knw his qualifications, that like a son working with his father, he served with me in advancing the gospel” (Philippians 2:19-22).

One church leader named J. T. McNeil has written the following sad commentary on this issue of spiritual fathering and church leaders.

Since the beginning of the century, there have been many individual who have taken on leadership within the Body of Christ. Depending upon the structure of the reformation or fellowship that a person choose to be apart of, there are many different titles given to those who wish to serve as spiritual fathers, such as Bishop, Pastor, Overseer, Pastor and Lead or Chief Elder. While we have mastered church government, protocol and administration, as a Body we have become a dysfunctional family of bastard sons and daugthers, and illegitimate fathers.

"In this new age, there has been a great trend of ministers who are starting new reformations and fellowships, attempting to play the role of the wisdom-giver, the instructor– in other words, a spiritual father.
"Yet many ministers have resisted the notion of submitting to a spiritual father because of the “Rent-A-Father” syndrome, an abominable act where leaders attempt to merchandise believers…. "One reason for the scarcity of spiritual fathers is the lack of a widespread fathering model in former generations. Many of today’s local church leaders were not fathered themselves, and subsequently do not know how to father others.
"Many individuals understand that their leaders haven’t been fathered themselves, and don’t expect them to be perfect. Most individual just want someone who is willing to try, and to identify with them and offer a sense of connectedness. They at least want someone who is honest, has integrity, and most importantly who will try…

"There is a great need for true spiritual fathers in the Body of Christ, and not individuals just seeking titles, recognition, or even self-glorification. There are too many spiritual sperm donors who are creating bastard children. Much like the old song says, “Papa was a rolling stone, and wherever he lad his hat was his home.” Too many ministers have serves as spiritual whores, planting their seed anywhere where it would be accepted, but not taking on the responsibility of discipleship, and more importantly fatherhood. It takes an ego to desire a title, but a father to desire a true spiritual son, and all the responsibility that comes with it…

"There is a way cry being shouted abroad, “Where’s My Daddy?!” Will the real fathers please stand up!

(Source: http://jtmcneil.com/blog/category/church-leadership)

Without spiritual fathering in this local church, we will not have men rise up and lead who fully represent the foundational and missional truths God has given to the church to carry out. Rather, they will lead through and with their own remodeling of these truths in such a way that the gospel is no longer full and complete, but is mutated and stunted.
Without spiritual fathering in this local church, we will not have men rise and lead who fully understand and have experienced what biblical authority and submission looks like. Inherent in fathering is loving and caring authority over children. And included in that, of course, is loving and willing submission to that authority. The authority is relational and not dictatorial. Fathering is about being authorelative and not authoritative. Submitting and following is about being joyful and willing instead of begrudging and resisting. This is not the relationship Jesus had with His disciples, and to lead a church one must have experienced that relationship so that they know how to conduct that relationship where they themselves lead.

Without spiritual fathering in this local church, we will have rise men rise and lead who simply operate out of their own head-knowledge, but have little heart-experience. As Paul told the Corinthian church, they had many guides or instructors, but few fathers. Without being spiritually fathered, a leader is only a guide or instructor, and therefore cannot be a father himself. Seeking out and submitting to this type of biblical relationship adequately prepares other men to lead so that their head is connected to their heart, their theology with real life.

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