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A Different Kind of Dad

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Spiritual father having coffee with a young man discussing life.

“I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment… I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.” - Philemon 1:10 & 12

There are some great Dads who have never had children. The Apostle Paul was not married and never had kids of his own, but it did not stop him from being a father. Paul often referred to himself as was a spiritual father to Timothy, Titus, and Onesimus.  

In Paul’s mind, as an older man, he had a personal responsibility to become a “spiritual father” to anyone he personally led to the Lord. "For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you.” - 1 Corinthians 4:15

It is likely, that wherever Paul did ministry, he found a young man in whom he could invest and mentor like a father. Paul cared for each of these men dearly. Following Paul’s example, all men who seek to make an impact in the lives of others should strive to become spiritual fathers to the young men in their church.  It is no secret that fatherlessness and absentee fathers are a pervasive problem in our society today.  God has a special heart for the fatherless and the widow, and He calls Christian men to take on the role of "spiritual father” for those who do not have one. What does it look like to become a spiritual father?  Take note of 3 ways that Paul was a different kind of dad -

  1. A Spiritual Father Sets a Template for Godly Manhood: A template is a pattern or mold that provides some basic structure for what a project should look like. This is why Paul said things like - “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1); “Join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17); or as the author of Hebrews (possibly Paul) said, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7). A template is very different from a carbon copy. The goal is not to churn out Christian clones, but spiritual sons. When you provide a template, you leave room for others to write their own story, paint their own picture, and blaze their own trail in following Jesus.

  2. A Spiritual Father Lighting a Fire Under Men in their Walk with God: A great coach always gets the best out of his players by inspiring them to strive to be their best and grind daily to achieve their goals. Similarly, Paul took this same approach as a spiritual father, "For you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children— encouraging you, comforting you, and urging you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12); "But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11-12); "Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:25). Like Paul, spiritual fathers learn when to encourage, when to comfort and when to urge their spiritual sons as they pursue the goal of learning to walk in a manner worthy of God. There may be times when the walk becomes a limp or a crawl, but a spiritual father is their every step of the journey to motivate and strengthen their spiritual sons along the way.

  3. A Spiritual Father Sharpens Swords"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17). Paul was not afraid to lovingly discipline his sons in the faith for the purpose of growing them in godliness. Discipline in this context includes correction and reproof using the word of God (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17).  A spiritual father uses scripture effectively and challenges other men to do commit to the same. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15). Sometimes, a man who is drifting off course or coming off the rails spiritually needs a loving but firm rebuke from a spiritual father to help them realize the foolishness of their behavior and attitudes.

As the saying goes, “Relationship moves at the speed of trust.”  As you develop and deepen trust with your spiritual sons in the faith, your ability to speak more deeply and directly into their lives will grow.  Begin to pray that God would reveal to you men whom you can invest in spiritually and start taking the steps to become a different kind of dad.



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Warren Mainard
Executive Director | IMPACT Players
[email protected]
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