Choosing Spiritual Children

To some extent Jesus had to deal with the leaders Father gave Him. He didn’t pick the ones He wanted so much as He matured the ones He was given. Recognized the ones Father had aligned with His assignment. One of them was a devil. None of them would be a “first choice” in the minds of the religious culture in which He functioned.

Several studies, artistic and metaphoric, investigate the personality types of the Twelve to discuss who they were and why they were chosen. While they were certainly not the only disciples Jesus worked with, they were the apostolic blueprints leaders He matured to represent His assignment to the world and history. Why were these the men chosen to represent the blueprints of the kingdom?

The question deserves careful and thoughtful consideration. There is no fate in faith. We believe in purpose when we believe in Providence. So, the men were not accidentally or whimsically accepted. They were not “first come, first serve.” They were not selected based upon criteria normally included in resumes for leadership.

Choosing Spiritual Children

So, we can ponder the question, “Why did I get stuck with this bunch?”

Jesus seems to say something similar as He comes down off the transfiguration mountain accompanied by Simon, John, and James. “How long must I be with you?” We could wonder if He rolled His eyes as He said this.

How can we better understand the strategy of God in choosing the leaders we will disciple into kingdom leaders?

The question usually becomes, “Do I get to choose my children?”

My answer would be, “I hope not!” Leaders who think they have that level of wisdom usually chose poorly, choose through the filtering system of their pride, and pass over the ones Father knows will become champions. They operate like Samuel standing before Jesse’s firstborn with a horn of anointing oil hanging over his head: “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” Immature prophetic function falls flat when it judges by outward appearance or ocular dynamics.

Perhaps the most telling revelation of kingdom dynamics is, God never leave the essentials to us. When we melt the dynamics down to their essentials, we find that God concerns Himself with some things we find minor while we concern ourselves with some things God consider minor.

God never leaves the design and definition of major kingdom issues to man. And, one of those major issues involves assignment.

Recognize More than Select

Personally, I think the blueprint leader recognizes those assigned to his leadership more than he choses them.

I hesitate to hammer spiritual fathering into the mold of natural fathering especially in the finer points of “how things work in the spirit.” (Natural children are not selected; we father the children God gives us.) I don’t think I can chose who I disciple as much as recognize those Father has aligned with the assignment. I can determine how much to invest in people based upon their submission and obedience, but I cannot properly recruit true children.

One of my honored spiritual leaders often says, “I choose winners.” To some extent, he is saying – and this manifests in his leadership style – “I don’t waste my time with anyone who isn’t successful. I choose the people I pour into.” I have disagreed with this because I also disagree with “the accumulation of believers” as church growth or the accumulation of intercessors as a proper strategy for prayer or the accumulation of apostles as a basis for kingdom leadership, etc.

In kingdom, leaders function by assignment. The leaders who align with them are aligning with assignment more than they are aligning with the leader. The relationship that develops from this assignment will reach the highest of fathering upon this basis.

Fathering isn’t built upon the premise of personality but purpose.

Beware the tendency to assume that spiritual DNA means similar dispositional traits! Beware the assumption that the children you father will exhibit your personality! The dispositional tendencies of the disciples didn’t attract Jesus to them as candidates to represent Him in the world and history; their created dispositions were complex and dissimilar. None of them represent the disposition of Jesus at the beginning, and the aspect of Jesus’ disposition that emerged in them as they matured did not destroy their created dispositions.

Simon Peter was still acting like Simon Peter long after he reached the highest levels of his apostolic leadership. Barnabas remained a son of consolation while traveling with Paul, who continued to manifest a unique created disposition in his apostolic fathering.

Don’t begin with yourself to understand your leadership as a father. In essence, this is the error of modern personality-centric leadership, and we have suffered with this immaturity far too long!

I have suffered with fathering leaders whose understanding of fathering meant I needed to be them, sound like them, look like them, and function like them. I needed to become someone else in order to fulfill my destiny – the opposite of redemptive, restorative discipling.

Redemption and restoration does not make me someone else. It makes me the person God created me to be in the first place! So, discipling leadership directs this destined design toward maturity, not redesign.

I thought myself a rebel or failure for not living up to the expectations of dysfunctional leaders running through hundreds of candidates in their vain effort to clone themselves in a cult and culture of perpetuating personality instead of discipling leaders.

Begin with your assignment. The broader understanding of assignment you possess, the greater clarity arises about who is aligned with that assignment and where Jesus has created and called the leaders you disciple to fit in its fulfillment.

Discipling leaders never separate people from purpose. So, recognizing your spiritual children God involves you in recognizing the spiritual revelation of individual destiny that fits into kingdom purpose.

God’s great leaders are waiting for fathers who can discern what they cannot fully discern: the blueprint of their destiny fitted into the fuller blueprint of their assignment that fits the broader blueprint of kingdom purpose.

Thousands of people are running around constructing a room for the twenty-first floor of a kingdom building. The rest of the building isn’t visible on the horizon. The structure lacks preparation and position. They have a blueprint for this room but one room for the twenty-first floor of the kingdom is an albatross until it becomes part of a skyscraper.

Choosing Children and Leadership Failure

Look at the process through its failures. Quality control will take the failure apart to discover the failure of the process. The quality is usually more about process than people.

Both natural and spiritual children run away at times.

Not everyone makes it. The possibility remains that you have many more spiritual children assigned to your fathering leadership than are willing to be fathered. Jesus had a whole nation assigned to His fathering leadership; they killed Him.

Prodigals have fathers; the problem isn’t that they are fatherless but that they are unwilling to stand the discipling that prepares and positions them to produce purpose.

On the other hand, dysfunctional fathers may reject children they do not wish to father because of pride: “I deserve better children than this. These people require too much work, and I am way too awesome to have to put up with this level of leadership capacity.” That is, their pride disproportionally proposes their understanding of their discipling assignments. If they were David, they’d never turn the people David found in the wilderness into an army of mighty men. They deserve to reap the rewards of someone else’s hard work: “I’ll get some prepared leaders from the seminary graduation classes so I don’t have to do the hard work of preparing and positioning children. I’ll buy some.”

One leader told me to my face: “When I need a leader in this ministry, I will hire a professional.” Hard to imagine a more obvious failure in fathering than that if that is your fathering leadership model! Certainly, positioning people prepared to produce who you didn’t personally may be valid, but assuming that you can pay someone else to do what you should be doing yourself is dysfunctional.

Dysfunctional fathers often desire the process to be easier than it is. They complain. They lack patience. They demand instant maturity when the very reason for fathering leadership is to produce maturity. They wish to acquire children already mature so they look like great fathers.

God will not give you resumes to read when He assigns your children. He will give you blueprints from which to build destinies.

Defining Success and Failure

For more than a decade I’ve asking the question: “By what process do we develop apostles and prophets?” To which I receive the answer, by the way we function, that we do not prepare and position foundational leaders; we accumulate them.

Perhaps we carry the definition of “church” as “the accumulation of believers” into the dynamics of kingdom. Since the restoration of intercessors, prophets, apostles, and kingdom dynamics is here, perhaps we attempt to fit that restoration into a poor working definition of ekklesia, one that ignores kingdom principles and protocols even when it tacks the title on the front of the name. [That’s sounds more harsh than I mean it.]

Dysfunctional fathers may treat children like cattle to be branded. They may seek out good leaders like a rancher buys a prime bull to sire champions for his herds. They may brand their cattle and pasture them into fatness for show. They may measure success by the accumulation of herds and show champions, not the maturing of children.

In the natural, immature and selfish parents wish to choose the gender of their children. They have no control over what God gives them. In the spiritual we can see some of the same but the process of birthing is more about recognizing the leaders in which we should invest leadership than choosing the children we wish to father.

Beware the tendency to seek out children you consider easiest to mature or who will become trophies of your leadership capabilities instead of recognizing children Jesus has aligned with your assignment. As well, resist the tendency to assume anyone who shows up is a true son or daughter. Even if they are, beware the tendency to measure your success as a father by their ability of people to be teachable and transformable.

If experiencing rejection of your leadership is a sign of leadership failure, Jesus failed in a big way. If discovering the people Father has assigned to your leadership don’t wish to be fathered is leadership failure, Jesus failed in a big way. If fathering a foundational disciple who turns out to be a devil is leadership failure, Jesus took home a trophy for leadership failure in His leadership of Judas.

In other words, measuring leadership through the perfect prism of Scripture, both prophetic eyes of the Old Covenant and prophetic vision of the New Testament, Jesus’ fathering leadership reveals principles and protocols for kingdom leadership development that challenge the dynamics often utilized by modern church. His protocols and principles run on a parallel track from those necessary to the accumulation of believers.

The end result may be “success” in the definition of church as the accumulation of believers but “failure” in the definition of ekklesia that displaces the positioned authorities of hell in order to establish the culture of the kingdom. Kingdom leadership success looks different from church growth success because discipling isn’t about accumulating followers but maturing the people assigned into kingdom leaders.

Apostolic Blueprints and Prophetic Perspectives

Recognizing spiritual children requires apostolic and prophetic function. Leaders who are not apostles or prophets must have a context in which apostolic and prophetic function becomes available in their leadership. All leaders must lead prophetically: accurately anticipate what is coming next and prepare the Lord a people ready to respond when the new season arrives.

Fathering requires revelation. “Train up a child in his way he should go,” says that the child’s destiny must be the basis of his development. [See Proverbs The children are wet cement idea is foreign to discipling when the concept assumes we can make a child into anything we wish. Fathers need a revelation of the child’s purpose in order to properly prepare the child to fulfill that purpose.

Not only does apostolic and prophetic immaturity fail to properly identify spiritual children and disciple them to mature function as kingdom leaders, the lack of fathering function improperly measures the progress of personal maturity so that the process of discipling packages a product for distribution that ignores its original design.

It sells. But it doesn’t sell kingdom. It sells. But it doesn’t represent the Creator.

Perhaps the Author of “Kingdom Leadership” has trouble recognizing the final edit of His book after preparation for publication by marketing experts with little understanding of kingdom protocols and principles. Perhaps “what sells” isn’t the first thought of the King. It certainly wasn’t when He was here on earth.

Dr. Don

Dr. Don

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