In a previous blog post, I talked about the importance of discipleship. A disciple is not merely a student who wants to know what a teacher knows, but someone who wants to BE who the teacher IS. This is ultimately what it means to follow Jesus today as His disciple. He has given us His Spirit to be “another counselor” like Himself (John 14:16), and just as the disciples kept in step with Jesus, we can keep in step with the Spirit of Christ (Galatians 5:25).
But discipleship also has a human dimension. The fellowship of the church is meant to be a new family: multiple generations of believers teaching one another. Disciples of Jesus seek to walk with the wise that they too might become wise.
In his book, The Silence of Adam, Dr. Larry Crabb shares his dream for the church:
“I see a few groups scattered here and there, across the Christian landscape, where godly character and spiritual wisdom are more honored than degrees and skill, and more valued than achievement and expertise. . . .
“In my dream, I see these people doing something that very few are doing today in real life. I see them walking past the office that has a shingle advertising a professional whose training guarantees technical competence but not godly character. I see them returning books to the shelf of the Christian bookstore: the books with jackets that falsely promise now what only heaven will later provide. I see them picking up a flyer promoting the seminar everyone is talking about, looking at it, then putting it down.
“I see these people stumbling into the living room of a lonely widow, making their way to the coffee shop to spend a couple hours with the tired widower, knocking on the door of a study where someone waits who is clothed with humility and eager for heaven, someone who is unself-consciously faithful as he warmly points to Christ.
“I envision a generation in which mentors are not in such short supply, in which pastors and elders are once again held in high esteem because they pastor and elder, in which Christian leaders are no longer asked to manage ministries the way executives build corporations, but rather are revered as men of godly influence. If I look hard into my dream, I can see an army of wise men and women distributed among God’s people, armed only with gentle discernment and penetrating wisdom, character qualities that have been forged in the fires of suffering. . . . These men are FATHERS, these women are MOTHERS, godly people whose quiet presence is felt and valued.” (Dr. Larry Crabb, The Silence of Adam)
This dream has come to pass in small pockets of the church, but it is not widespread. This is one of our dreams at Covenant Eyes. We believe it is also the very dream of Christ for His kingdom.
Where are we to start? We start by seeking these people out.
Where do we look?
Start by finding a good Bible-teaching church with a multi-generational makeup. This is becoming less and less popular in our highly specialized ministry culture. We have peer groups for everything in the church, program upon program: groups for men, women, husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, single-mothers, seniors, teens, pre-teens, college-age, career-builders, young parents, divorced, remarried, dog-trainers, fishmongers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick-makers. None of these life-stage or common-interest groups are inherently bad; but as we begin to buy into this sort of ministry culture, we also begin to believe that these groups have little to nothing to offer each other. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I like the apostle John’s description of the church, a church of spiritual children, young men, and fathers.
“I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:12-14)
The church is full of little children in the faith, those who have come to know God as Father, Abba, because they have been recently adopted into Christ’s family through the forgiveness of their sins. These children have a fresh love for Jesus. Then there are the young men (and women) in the faith—those who have learned to fight temptation, stand up for Jesus in adversity, and overcome the deceptions of the evil one—all because the word of God dwells richly in them. Finally there are the fathers (and mothers) in the faith who know intimately “him who is from the beginning,” Jesus Christ Himself. They, like Paul, are the aged and experienced, and after a long life of obedience say with Paul that their one desire is to know Christ (Philippians 3:10).
We children need the young men to come alongside us, take us with them into battle and show us how to brandish the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. We children and young men need the fathers of the church so that we can hear their wisdom, so we can see the fire in their eyes that comes from sitting a lifetime at the Master’s feet.
If you are an aspiring spiritual father, look for that lonely college student in the church who shows some promise. If you are a young adult, find that high schooler who sits in the back of the sanctuary and take him out to lunch with your family. If you are a grandfather, find the single-mother who could desperately use a strong father figure. If you are a sin-struggling teen, find a knowledgeable older man or woman who has some life behind them.
Choose to be a part of a church that still believes that gray hair is a crown of glory (Proverbs 16:31) not just a sign of stress. Together let’s take on the ministry of restoring damaged souls as true brothers and fathers. Let’s be disciple-makers.