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The Cry for Spiritual Fathers and Mothers

by Jim Wall

I didn’t realize as we went to dinner that night that my life would never be the same. A few years ago, Joel Comiskey and I taught a seminar on “cell church planting” in San Salvador, El Salvador. As we sat at dinner with several local pastors, I asked one what he considered to be the greatest need in the Salvadorian Church. He replied very solemnly, “We are orphans. Our greatest need is spiritual fathers.”

This was a man who had planted a church that had grown to 3,000+ active attendees. The church had more than 350 cell groups operating. They had launched successful daughter churches in several of the major cities of the nation. By all accounts Pastor Numa was highly successful. He was a spiritual father in his own rite. But there was still a void.

When Paul wrote his first letter to the church at Corinth. He identified their biggest problem in the same terms. “For though you may have ten thousand teachers in Christ, you do not have many fathers” (1 Corinthians 4:15 NCV). The biggest difference between teachers and fathers is this; teachers tell us what do, fathers invest their lives in us. The church at Corinth had plenty of teachers. They didn’t have enough fathers (or mothers) and they were a mess!

As I sat there listening to Pastor Numa, I thought about the “success” of our church with 2,000 attendees, more than 100 cells and several daughter churches. I wondered if it had come from good planning, smart programming, dynamic celebration services, etc. or had it come from the humble efforts of an army of spiritual moms and dads who were investing their lives in their spiritual children. I think you know the answer.

I also found myself realizing that there is no point in our lives when we ever stop longing for a spiritual father-figure in our lives. Someone who cares enough to affirm us when we get it right; someone who cares enough to challenge us when we lose our way; someone who is close enough to us to know the difference. Cell leaders need it. Cell coaches need it. Pastors need it. We all ache for someone who cares that much.

Pastor Numa told me that night that he saw the heart of a father in me. My heart broke. I knew in that moment that—as soon as the Lord provided the right person to lead the local church I planted and loved—I would dedicate the rest of my life to serving as a spiritual father to as many pastors as God would give me privilege to come along side; the vision of the Acts 2 Network was born.

We all need spiritual fathers and mothers. Where will we find enough of them to meet the need? They are us! Who are you investing in today?