I am a young church leader. I am learning, processing, and asking questions constantly. I find a lot of grace for the risks I take and mistakes I make when I evaluate with older leaders in my life. Often I am very comfortable with creating something new, or trying to forge a new path. That is what young leaders do. We are supposed to be ambitious, daring, and brave in the face of our insecurity. However, I also have moments where I just wish I had a blueprint for what I am trying to accomplish. I think it is somewhat easy to find mentors or teachers who will give you some meeting time and advice. What is rare, though, is to find a father.
Fathers & Sons
As I begin, let me first clarify that I am using the term "father" synonymous with "parent" and "son" synonymous with "child." Gender is not the topic, but spiritual leadership is. However, the topic of spiritual fathering is as complicated as actual fathering. Young leaders need to know there is someone in their corner. We can hone skills, take classes, and even get good jobs without the presence of healthy spiritual parenting, but we get lost if we walk too long or too far without it. We aren't alone in this and it seems to have also been a problem long before our time. Paul touched on this issue as he wrote to the Corinthian church nearly 2,000 years ago.
"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 Corinthians 4:15
Countless guides, but not many fathers. Paul, an enduring picture of true Christ-centered leadership, spent 18 month in Corinth establishing the church. Paul traveled to Corinth on his second missionary journey, and many of the members of the church would have been saved at his own ministry. How would you feel if you spent 18 months investing in people that got saved one Sunday after you preached? You'd probably feel more like a parent than a babysitter.
After Paul had left Corinth, he sent his most trusted ministry partner, Timothy, to encourage them (4:17). As he heard reports of their behavior, he wrote two letters to speak life and correction to them. Paul felt deep affection for these people (16:24), and wanted them to understand they were a dwelling place for the Spirit of God (3:12, 16). All of this is the evidence of Paul's continued engagement in the Corinthian's spiritual health and growth. Paul stayed engaged. That is the work of a father.
Young leaders need fathers. We need someone who has seen some things that we haven't. We need someone who will stay engaged, and not just for their leadership resume. We need someone who will tell us the truth, especially when we don't ask. We need someone who will empower the ideas the Holy Spirit is placing in our hearts, not distance themselves if they don't like the style of it. We need someone who will walk with us and prove their love.
In closing, I am reminded of a conversation I was a part of months ago with some pastors from the area. We were discussing a joint prayer night that was being hosted at my church when the conversation tangentially shifted to things like true revival and generational conflict in the church. As we kicked the tires, Pastor Zach Hensley from New Hope Fellowship commented, "True revival is when the hearts of the fathers turn to the sons, and the hearts of the sons turn to the fathers." Of course, he was echoing the words of the prophet Malachi:
"And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers."Malachi 4:6
It is my belief that God wants to entrust a greater measure to those who prioritize family. Where we see fathers and sons turning toward each other we will see a greater measure of God's anointing. Where we see pastors who see their churches as a family not a platform we will see a greater measure of God's favor. Where we see God honored as a father and people empowered as children of God, we will see a greater measure of spiritual gifts poured out.
Take this challenge and turn your heart toward someone. If you're a father, find a son to turn your heart toward (even if you're uncomfortable with their methods). If you're a son, turn your heart toward a potential father in your life (even if you're terrified of rejection). If we turn our hearts to each other we will find a greater measure.
Brad moved from Maryland to upstate New York in 2004 for college. He met Erin at school in 2005, and their story began. Eleven years (and three boys) later, they reside in Lima, NY soaking in the village charm and making memories. Brad works at Elim Gospel Church and serves as the Creative Arts Pastor. When they're not in Lima, you may find the family in the Adirondacks having an adventure. Visit bradkahler.com for more from Brad!