Cloning Christians: The Art of Spiritual Parenting
How do you know if you are a good role model? Turn around and look behind you. Who’s following? Who’s watching? Is it the chubby round face of your son, looking up at you with adoring eyes? Is it the shy, sloppy kid down the street who just hangs around your house like a stray puppy dog? Or is it the eager teenage girl in your Bible study who sits on the edge of her seat, hanging on your every word?
YOU ARE A MENTOR TO SOMEONE, WHETHER YOU WANT TO BE OR NOT. The question is, are you a good one?
Moses the deliverer, Elijah the Crusader, Jesus the Good Shepherd and Paul the Pastor knew how to be spiritual parents. Moses instilled courage and confidence in his successor, Joshua. Elijah imparted passion and power to his spiritual son Elisha. Jesus modeled love and leadership to Peter. Paul taught truth and tenderness to Timothy.
Passing the baton is an art. Let’s examine these “great transitions” and learn how we can take spiritual children and tenderly train them to become spiritual mothers and fathers.
MOSES: INSTILLING COURAGE AND CONFIDENCE IN JOSHUA
Moses, God’s chosen deliverer, marched multitudes of wayward, cranky Jews across the sandy desert from slavery to freedom. Fatherly Moses allowed Joshua to stick to his side like glue and watch him work. Joshua saw Moses’ shining face on Sinai and his temper tantrum at Meribah. Warts and all, Moses was a great mentor. He gave young Joshua thorough on-the-job training, preparing him to lead the Jews across the Jordan into the Promised Land. Moses instilled confidence and vision into his heir-apparent. Numbers 13 details the story of Israelite spies sneaking into Canaan to assess whether or not the travel-weary Jews could claim their territory. Most of the cowardly crew saw super-sized giants as obstacles. Joshua only saw possibilities. Before Joshua’s scouting expedition, he was named Hoshea, Hebrew for salvation. After his gutsy show of faith in Numbers 14:6-9, Moses gave Hosheaa new name. He called him Joshua, the Hebrew word for “YHWH is my salvation.” Fatherly Moses poured affirmation, respect and confidence into his successor. So when it was time to lead Israel across the Jordan to claim the Promised Land, Joshua was unafraid to accept the mantle of leadership.
Moses had confidence in Joshua. So Israel trusted Joshua’s leadership as well. When it came time to cross the Jordan, they trusted him and followed him gladly. "Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you.” Joshua 1:16-17 NIV
My Dad is my biggest fan. I wanted to be an orchestra conductor from the time I could wave my arms in my high chair. My Dad saw that musical spark in me and spent the next 25 years (from 5 to 30) paying for my musical training and cheering me on with pom-poms in hand. Thanks, Daddy! You gave me the confidence to pursue my dream.
ELIJAH: IMPARTING PASSION AND POWER TO ELISHA
The prophet Elisha had some pretty big shoes to fill. Elijah, his “father in the faith,” called fire down from heaven. Like a Hebrew ninja, the fiery prophet slaughtered 450 prophets of Baal. Soon after, God asked Elijah to anoint a scruffy young farmer as his successor. (1 Kings 19:19-21) Coincidentally, Elisha’s name alsomeans “My God is my salvation.”Elijah made a great hand-off to Elisha. The prophet’s young protégé witnessed the divine power and anointing on the ministry of his beloved adviser. Elderly Elijah knew his earthly life was about to end. Young Elisha would not leave his beloved teacher. In Elijah’s final moments, the old prophet asked his rough-hewn sidekick if he had one last request of his master.
“Elijah said to Elisha, "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?" "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit," Elisha replied. "You have asked a difficult thing," Elijah said, "yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours...” 2 Kings 2:8-10 NIV
Young Elisha witnessed his spiritual Dad’s burning chariot ride to heaven. Elisha would not rest until he walked in the same miraculous ministry as Elijah. The young man of God was passionate for divine power and anointing to rest on him, and he changed the world.
My spiritual mom, Sandy Wakefield, oozes zeal and anointing when she prays. Sandy opens her mouth and Jesus shows up. The presence of God in our prayer times together is palpable. His glory is so close I can hardly breathe. Recently my friend laid hands on a crippled lady in the middle of a restaurant. Undaunted by bewildered onlookers, Sandy claimed the healing power of Jesus for her. The woman was healed shortly thereafter. I long to love Jesus with abandon and be bold like Sandy.
JESUS: MODELING LOVE AND LEADERSHIP TO PETER
Jesus devoted three and one-half years modeling ministry in front of his disciples. Christ was a “hands on” teacher. Simon, the bumbling disciple, needed all the training he could get! Jesus effectively transformed Simon, a lump of cowardly Jell-O, into Peter, the rock, during their brief time together. He tested Simon’s trust by asking him to walk on the waves of the Galilean sea. Pete’s sink or swim moment taught him to keep his eyes on His Master. Jesus taught Peter to recognize his vulnerability and be discerning. God revealed to Peter that His teacher was God’s Son. A nanosecond later, Satan spoke through Peter and swore Jesus shouldn’t be crucified.
Goofy Pete often said and did the wrong things. Yet, Jesus was relentless in guiding His clumsy sheep. Peter saw His Savior glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration and grieved in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter listened to Jesus’ parables and marveled at His healings. He watched Jesus pray. The Master even allowed Peter to fail miserably. After Peter denied Jesus and scattered with the rest of Christ’s sheep, Jesus restored him to become a good shepherd of the newly formed Jerusalem church. Jesus said, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." John 21:16 NIV
My personal trainer Raina was a Massad sniper for ten years. Although she’s not a believer, she has taught me that only when I am broken and “feeling the burn” do I become stronger. I fail; she pulls me up by my Nikes and makes me try again. Raina was tough as nails when she first met our family. After seeing the monumental health challenges we have all faced, she has become gentle and patient-and very, very open to the good news of Jesus.
PAUL: TEACHING TRUTH AND TENDERNESS TO TIMOTHY
Timothy was Paul’s “beloved son in the faith.” (2 Timothy 1:1) As Paul encouraged young Timothy with fatherly pride, he gave the fledgling pastor comprehensive seminary courses on how to worship, how to recognize false teachers, how to select and develop church leaders, how to help the needy, how to teach tithing and how to preach with authenticity and authority. He encouraged Timothy on his spiritual journey by bragging on how much the young preacher had grown and assuring him of what great potential he had. Timothy’s tutor admonished his “son in the Lord” to be bold in his evangelism, vigilant in doctrine, powerful in preaching, and pure in his personal life.
Just to be sure his dear son wouldn’t forget his words, Paul penned three “Preaching for Dummies” epistles. First and Second Timothy and Titus are still used as the classic handbooks for Christian pastors. The profound sentiment and intimate tone of Paul’s second letter to Timothy resemble the deeply personal words a Dad would say to his son on his deathbed. Paul wrote that his days were numbered, and assured his beloved Tim that he prayed for him continuously and earnestly. That’s what a father in the faith does.
My husband Roger handed over his church of thirty-five years to his precious son in the faith. He led Glenn, his successor, to Christ when Glenn was six. Roger taught him to preach, pray, and serve God alongside him for fifteen years. Now his spiritual son is soaring.
Turn around and look behind you. Who’s following? Who’s watching? You are a spiritual parent to someone whether you want to be or not. True joy is teaching your baby birdies to fly.