The Church needs spiritual fathers

Written by John Holt

The Church has a greater need for spiritual fathers than for CEOs!

So that’s a bold statement I just made, but I am not negating the value of the skills that a gifted CEO can bring to the Kingdom of God.  I know that Romans 12:8 references the need for administrative gifts in the church.  However, there is the very real possibility that the business models of our day can be superimposed on the church and hurt the effectiveness of our mission and calling. Dr. Richard Dobbins has noted that when we try to run the church like a corporation, we end up dividing the church. Thinking about that statement produced my opening declaration that the church has a greater need for spiritual fathers than for CEOs.

It’s not news to anyone that we live in a fatherless society.  Current stats reveal that 23.6% (over 17.4 million) children are growing up in homes without a father. The stats also reveal that the greatest percentage of those who end up engaging in “at risk” behaviors, destructive life choices, and repeated incarceration are the products of fatherless homes. These stats do not even begin to touch on all the home situations where a father is present but not present for his children.  This is not to condemn, but provide insight.

The church can make a huge redemptive difference if we take seriously our need as well as the opportunity to be spiritual fathers.  I have been pondering Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 4:14 – 16 “I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.  Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” NIV

A spiritual father has a different bottom line than a CEO.  A spiritual father places a higher value on relationships!

Look at the insights in Paul’s words. We may have 10,000 guardians or instructors.  He is using a Greek word for a tutor or a guide.  In that culture, the tutor was responsible for guiding the conduct of a child from age 6 to early manhood. Paul says that you have had many tutors, but you do not have many fathers.  I’m feeling a book brewing in my spirit about this because I have seen what happens when we use and discard people even in the church in order to accomplish our own agendas.  That’s what happens when corporate values displace Kingdom values!

So, what does a spiritual father do and how do they do it?  More insight from Paul: “You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.”  1 Thessalonians 2:10 – 12  NLT

Some insights from these scriptures:

  • A spiritual father warns his children of dangers.
  • A spiritual father exhorts his children.  This means to encourage them or urge them to pursue a wise course of action.
  • A spiritual father sets an example for his children.  This is about modeling.  Paul says, “Be imitators of me.”  In other words, watch my life patterns.
  • In verse 18 – 21 we note that a spiritual father disciplines his children.

Do you see how all of this is relational in nature?  It is not guided by a corporate bottom line, but by the value of the person in God’s sight.  I know that I need to ruminate on all this some more, and maybe you do also.  However, considering our culture of fatherlessness, and considering the temptation to take on the CEO mantel of success, I contend again that the church has a greater need for spiritual fathers than for CEOs! 


img_0825John Holt and his wife Kathe have served in pastoral ministry for more than 45 years. He currently serves as the Campus Pastor for the Ambridge Campus of Allison Park Church. In this semi-retired season of his life, he enjoys teaching, mission trips, writing, camping, and reading. He and his wife have three children and nine grandchildren.