Countless people will come in and out of a person’s life on a short-term basis. These may include wonderful speakers, teachers, and leaders. The apostle Paul sees such people as “guides.” While guides serve important functions, their influence is appropriately limited. Guides may be many and valuable, but they don’t compare to a spiritual parent.
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. (1 Corinthians 4:15 ESV)
The difference between being a guide and a spiritual parent is at the heart of what it means to “disciple” someone—that is, to help him or her be a follower of Christ. While a guide is present for a short time, and in many cases is some distance removed, parents are intimately involved in the lives of their children. A good parent is engaged, consistent, and faithful over time. His or her love is sacrificial and unconditional.
The nature of spiritual parenting goes beyond sharing the truths of God’s Word, as a guide might. Spiritual parents also invest a depth of relationship and love in the people they are helping to follow Christ. It’s this relationship, this spiritual parenting, that is at the heart of disciple-making.
Reflect on the most significant spiritual influences in your life. What distinguishes the “guides” from the “parents”?
How does this concept of “spiritual parenting” impact how you will help others become disciples?