Fathers originate. Fathers provide leadership for what they originate. If we define “leadership” as “influence,” then fathers influence what they originate. Fathering, as God designed it, cannot be separated from any of the institutions of society without a personal, spiritual, and cultural breakdown.
The Greek word for “family” is a variation of the word, “father.” To discuss family, by definition, is to discuss origination and leadership. Even when men wish to redefine institutions in ways that circumvent God’s designs and strategies, the created blueprint remains in place as a standard by which to measure dysfunction.
I was reading a blog from someone who defines Ecclesia as “family” recently in which they referred to Acts 2 and the growth of the Ecclesia that occurred on and immediately after the day of Pentecost when Holy Spirit empowered the 120 who waited for the Father’s promise. Note: “the Father’s promise” defines His strategy to continue to father His people.
The author said that the mark of the early Church was their devotion “to one another.” I was immediately struck by how poorly this represented what the Bible says since it skips over the most vital aspect of how Ecclesia was functioning, and immediately assumed that the Ecclesia was acting like a family. The author skipped over the fathering aspect altogether and started rehearsing how “they shared everything in common.” Amazingly, this kind of thinking makes perfect sense to the modern mind.
So, let’s carefully listen to Luke’s words about the Ecclesia empowered by the Father’s Promise: “And they devoted themselves to the apostle’s didache, koinonia, bread-breaking, and intercession. And every soul experienced awe as many wonders and signs occurred through the hands of the apostles.”
The apostles were originating and their origination required their leadership influence. Those who were believing devoted themselves to that leadership, not to one another. Of course, this produced great unity, friendship, and that aspect of the Ecclesia that is validly “family” in nature, but the reality of the situation and the revelation isn’t that their devotion was to another as primary foundation. The terms didache, kiononia, bread-breaking, and intercession tell us that the believers were gathering together in several forums both massive and intimate, and those who believed were devoted to a purpose and assignment that produce commonality.
Beware the idea of Ecclesia or kingdom without leadership that turns the kingdom into a commune and the Ecclesia into club, hospital, family unit, restaurant, or party at the fundamentals. All of these elements present themselves when the Ecclesia properly functions, but isolating any one of them or elevating any one of them, redefines kingdom and Ecclesia in ways abnormal to the Bible.
The Father sent His Son to father sons. The life of the Son is the eternal life because it is the way to get the DNA of the Father into you. We shouldn’t call Jesus “father” but we certainly understand that He functions as a fathering leader, originating and influencing a kingdom with many Ecclesia. The fathering design follows from Creation to kingdom in different ways but with the same design and strategy.
Does this fathering spirit bring the many members into commonness? Absolutely! But that commonality suffers and disintegrates without fathering leadership. The problem of disunity is a leadership dysfunction.
Modifiers, Models, and Meaning
Exaggeration is the worst enemy of truth, especially in human systems of thought. We tend to push the systematic approach to an extreme, and the extreme tends to discredit the whole system. I’m speaking of emphasis and distinctives…
For example, any movement within the kingdom replenishes something lost or suffering from error, yet these wonderfully legitimate restorations also produce overreactions from purists and crusaders who demand that the reforms be carried so far that they become as biased and bizarre as the previous errors. It is the exaggerations of these systems that discredit them. Any one of the reformations that Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and others originated can become an exaggerated system in which the over-correction becomes another dead end.
I think the Word of Faith movement has done many wonderful things for the kingdom! I rejoice in what they have restored, but what the fathers originated has, by some purists, been exaggerated to the point of appearing to be error, and is, in some of those instances, obviously exaggerated to the point that it has become an enemy to what was originated.
I personally don’t care if a preacher has a Rolls Royce and wears a $10,000 suit if he can afford it and pays for it with his own money. I wouldn’t find anything in the Bible that says he can’t own that car or wear that suit simply because he is a preacher. I don’t care if he makes a billion dollars! That’s awesome! Why should that concern me for a moment?! On the other hand, to push the concept of blessing and prosperity into such a worldly measuring system, to say that this reveals the authenticity of covenant or blessing or faith or sowing as if this proves that “truly blessed” people will always be rich by that standard seems a bit ludicrous. If I did have a billion dollars, I wouldn’t necessarily want to drive that car, and I wouldn’t ever think that doing so proved something about living by faith. That’s an exaggeration that tends to discredit the entire Biblical idea of prosperity. Proving it requires an intellectual dishonesty about what the Bible says. Some Word preachers make you scratch your head because what they say the Bible teaches require you to pretty much move both ears to the same side of your head.
So, my point in this illustration is that we tend to move models, metaphor, and modifiers into to extreme meanings. Certainly Jesus is the Good Shepherd, tells Simon to feed His lambs and sheep, and illustrates some aspects of the kingdom with sheep, goats, and shepherding models and metaphors. But, the sheep model has been stretch so out of proportion that it has produced a strange definition of Ecclesia and kingdom when we require it to “walk on all fours.” It is a metaphor, model, illustration, and modifier that reveals one aspect of the strategy of kingdom leadership. One aspect, not the end all. Saying this empties nothing from what Jesus says and means when He uses this metaphor, but He never uses it to empty any other illustration or model of its meaning.
Several metaphors and models are used to reveal different aspects of the kingdom and the leadership of Jesus. That is why Jesus has many Names, all of which are valid in revealing facets of His eternal and infinite Divinity, in that any one of them alone leaves out “part of the story.” To demand that everything “church” is about sheep and shepherd, in this understanding of the model and metaphor, is a bit silly, yet it so dominates the thinking of “churchanity” that we have redefined “church” in odd ways foreign to the thinking of the Bible.
That is, nothing of the fathering spirit is contrary to what Jesus illustrates in His role as Shepherd or how other leaders who shepherd His sheep should provide leadership, but limiting the leadership dynamics of Jesus and His kingdom leaders to this one aspect certainly leaves a lot of what fathering leadership is and does out of the equation. Shepherds don’t produce sheep. Shepherding is about providing and protecting. It is but one aspect of kingdom leadership, and not by any means the dominant aspect!
Still, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He lets us know what aspects of His leadership can be understood by this model and metaphor. To mix this metaphor with “I am the True Vine” or “I am the Door,” instantly helps us understand that the sheep and shepherd method and model is but one aspect of kingdom leadership dynamics.
So, people who demand to be sheep, be treated as sheep, and use the sheep metaphor to define their expectations of leadership need a different leadership dynamic to expand their understanding of kingdom and Ecclesia! You may be a sheep but you are much more than a sheep! There is certainly an aspect of shepherding in the kingdom and the Ecclesia but the Ecclesia is much more than a sheepfold!
Father fit this model of shepherding in all the ways Jesus used this illustration to reveal His leadership strategy. Whatever aspects of shepherding behavior He was speaking to, fathering leadership fills the bill. True shepherds lay down their lives for the sheep. Hired shepherds run away from threatening wolves. Fathers respond to children in the same way.
Of course, any kingdom leader responds in the same way to his assignment! Prophets, teachers, evangels, apostles, and shepherds – all are to be true, not hired hands motivated merely by the weekly wage.
The shepherding aspect of leadership says that the shepherd leaves the flock to go get one wandering sheep. Yet, the father waits at home for the wandering son to return. Both valid aspects of kingdom leadership, and both appropriate responses to different aspects of leadership dynamics. “Sheep” isn’t a big enough metaphor to cover the entirety of kingdom leadership, so calling every leader “pastor” is painfully limiting to the reality of the kingdom.
Many Teachers and Few Fathers
Fathers teach. Does Paul infer that teachers don’t father? Actually, I think Paul is saying that you don’t have many originators in your life even though you have many instructors to help you with what has been originated. Paul is claiming his right and authority to speak to them in a different way, from a different position, because he is a father. Certainly fathers all teach, but not all teachers father. Or, you can be a good teacher without being father but you can’t be a good father without being a teacher. (I’m sure you can arrange that statement in other valid ways.)
Here’s the quote: “Even if you had myriads of pedagogues, you do not have many fathers; for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” The term isn’t didaskalos, so we can learn something of the contrast Paul is making. The fivefold ministry leader, “teacher,” can certainly lead with a fathering spirit. That is not the point here, that only an apostle can function in a fathering anointing. Paul is claiming the authority of his assignment, the role of his leadership as their father in Christ Jesus. Significantly, as with all kingdom fathering, the fathering occurs “in Christ Jesus” who established the fathering leadership for the kingdom.
The contrast here is between a child’s tutor and a child’s father. I think Paul is mentioning this contrast to point out the role and goal of a tutor hired or appointed by a father to provide proper instructional escort and supervision, and the father who actually makes the appointment and can step in at any time. The entire chapter is a treatment of Paul’s apostolic authority as it applies to the Corinthians church.
Paul next says, “Be imitators of me.” In other words, you aren’t to imitate the tutors because they aren’t your fathers, your originators, or the ones who understand your destinies and purposes. The tutors are there to apply what the fathers have originated. “Imitate your father.” The term is one from which we get our English “mimic” but means much more than what we have made that word mean. Paul urges them to imitate. Strong language based upon the previous discussion of why they should listen with different ears and see with different eyes what a father does and says because he has the assignment, revelation, and understanding of the purpose of the origination.
Then, Paul says, That’s why I sent Timothy who is my beloved child, faithful in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ. Wow! That puts this into a context of leadership that is pretty strong, a context of fathering nearly lost or even disdained and rejected in modern thinking.