“For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:15)
Paul was a spiritual father to individuals, such as Timothy, but he was also a father to churches. Paul reminds the church at Corinth that he had become their father in the spirit because he was the one who brought the gospel of Christ to them and he lead them to new life in Jesus; he birthed them and he fathered them. While many would come and minister to the believers in
Apostles are fathers to churches. Either because they were the one who brought them the gospel and “birthed” the church or because of the relationships they formed with those in the church. Many churches today are birthed without any apostolic involvement from the beginning, but this does not mean that they cannot be fathered. Many churches today are seeing the need for fathers and are reaching out to apostolic people and ministries to receive the fatherly ministry that the church needs. So what does it mean to be a father to a church?
“You know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
A father exhorts and encourages his children to reach their full potential. He encourages them to be the people who Jesus has called them to be. He does not caudle them in their weakness but implores them to rise up in the strength of Christ and overcome their weakness. He does not excuse them when they sin; rather he calls them to repentance and holiness. As a father, he is like a coach that is able to inspire, motivate, and provoke his children to give and be more than they ever though they could give or be.
“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” (Acts 20:27)
A father tells his children what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. A father, in love, tells it like it is. One of the hardest parts of growing up is hearing things about ourselves that we don’t want to hear. While the truth can set us free, it often hurts first. Before we can receive the forgiveness that is in the gospel, we must first receive what the gospel has to say about us being sinners. None of us likes to see our children hurting, but we also know that sometimes the sorrow of God must first precede the life of God. A father does not shrink back from telling the truth, from telling us what we really need to hear.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
Fathers bring discipline. No child ever grew to maturity without discipline. It is through discipline and instruction that we bring our lives into conformity with the image of Christ. A father’s discipline should never be the result of anger but rather should always be exercised with the best interests of the child in mind. A good father disciplines his child out of a desire to see his child grow and mature. It is for this reason that our heavenly Father disciplines us. “For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10) Fathers discipline because of the hope and certainty they have for what their children can and are called to be, therefore, they discipline in hope not anger.
More to come… David Robison