The Need For Spiritual Fathers
We were talking at the pastors prayer group this afternoon about the increasing toll of fatherlessness in our society.
One of the pastors said she had noticed that the biggest issue in most of the people she counsels is with absent fathers. I agreed with her as we seem to spend a lot of time with people who have fathers who are just not there or else are totally useless in terms of supporting, encouraging and exhorting their sons and daughters.
This was tied in with a proposal for a meeting on Friday night to talk about what to do with the youth in the town. There will inevitably be some misguided statements about how there is nothing for them to do, and we need to get more sporting facilities/ activities/ (insert favourite cause here). The fact is that most of the problems that young people face come from lack of purpose and lack of identity, and these come from lack of fathering.
The gospel is the answer to all of this, but nobody at a community meeting is going to support that. It's true that our identity and purpose ultimately come from our relationship with God, and anything other than that is going to result in a life that is less than fulfilled.
The church needs to get its own house in order also. We have structured the family of God's people into an institution which produces programmes and events but rarely offers genuine fathering. Pastors are often seen as CEOs or employees not as fathers.
Margaret said to me after the meeting, "Did you notice something?" I said I did.
The pastors want to be fathers, but they don't want to be sons. This is a part of the malaise of the church.
In the natural realm every father must first be a son. This is true in the spiritual realm also. In order to provide fathering, we must first be a son to a father.
Pastors in most churches find themselves in a strange place of not having a spiritual father to provide comfort, nurture, encouragement and support. They may have a bishop, a moderator, a superintendent or whatever the denomination calls their supervising ministers. But these are offices, appointed positions. They are not of themselves fathers to any particular pastor.
When I was a minister in a denomination I saw myself as a bit of a lone ranger. It was up to me to set my own goals and directions, under the rules and structures of the denomination. What I did in my personal empire was of no concern of anyone else outside the parish. Nobody cared much about how I was going- it was every man and woman for themself.
Over the years since then I have come to realise the importance of spiritual fathers to pastors. We all need a "Dad". I've found that as I have sought out my own spiritual father and tried to be a son to him, my own ability to pastor, to be a father to my people has grown exponentially.
Pastors can't do it alone.
As we seek to overcome the increasing havoc of fatherlessness in our society, we need to deal with the fatherlessness in our own souls. The way through that is to knit our hearts to a spiritual father who will help to heal our own hurts so that we can become healers in the church and in the community.