If you are in the red, it’s great to get out of debt. But its even better to be in the black. It’s not enough just to go from negative to zero. Who wants to stay a big fat zero … i.e. broke? In the same way, once the lost are found, they need to be brought into the vibrant life that God originally intended for them. Finding faith in Christ is a rebirth. And, as such, the church needs to be the nurturing environment of a loving, spiritual family for the newborn believers. In this spiritual family, there is a great need for spiritual fathers and mothers.
Not everyone needs spiritual parenting. But for those who do, it is nothing to be ashamed of. They just need the love and special affirmation that only a parent can give — which they probably never received — in order to grow and mature in Christ. The Sanfords, at one time, were wary when people they ministered to seemed to latch onto them, in what they thought was in an unhealthy way. They found that the more they avoided these people, the more they drained them. Then the Lord spoke to them that what those people desired was not inappropriate; they just needed the wholesome love of a parent which they had never received. If the Sanfords would open themselves up and give all of themselves, they will be satisfied and not drain the Sanfords anymore. Once understanding that this was of God, they opened their hearts to those people and prayed aloud to the people to whom they were ministering:
Insofar as [the person needing ministry] needs a father and mother to bring them to life, and will accept us as parents in Christ, we will be that, dear Lord. We will carry [name of person] in our hearts and let You love him [or her] to life.
Every person is unique, with a different background, personality and time-table. You can’t spiritual parent every person the same way. No one should get awards for maturing quickly or be criticized for maturing slowly. Being a spiritual parent involved carrying him or her in your heart. The Sanfords talk about feeling their spiritual child’s loneliness, fear, insecurity, anger, doubt or oppression. A kind of identification occurs.
Spiritual parents should:
- have a stable home life
- not be a recent convert (1 Timothy 3:4-6)
- still have time to take care of their own natural children
- make sure the prospective spiritual son/daughter really wants healing and growth
Make sure your prospective spiritual parent:
- has a good relationship with his/her children
- has children (if any) that are well-behaved
- is mature in the Lord
The typical spiritual parent-child relationship lasts two to three years.
Although people married with children have a natural head-start in prayer ministry, a single person should not feel disqualified or second-class in becoming a spiritual parent.
Spiritual parenting targets:
- offer simple love and acceptance
- coach them to let go of childish things
- minister to the to the not-yet-matured parts of their heart
- respect person as an adult
- discern when and when not to coach
- disciple person to cherish the Lord Jesus, trust God, study the Bible, attend church, engage in ministry and seek the Lord with zeal
When to say nothing and stand by
The most fascinating part of this chapter describes how to the spiritual parent needs to be able to discern when the spiritual child is going through the “dark night of the soul” or a “wilderness experience”. It can be terrifying when one finally confronts the “beast” concealed within his inner depths. Some choose to flee; others continue the battle. If the “child” is struggling with the temptation to escape and bury his head in the sand, the “parent” needs to pray strength into their spiritual child and tactfully confront him. When the “child” moves forward, he may become broken/shattered. But this is not a time for the “parent” to shower the spiritual child with comfort, counsel or criticism. It is time for the spiritual parent to simply stand by … stand by in prayer, saying nothing, watching over the spiritual child with a calm presence. The child is in a private desert and like a moth in a chrysalis, the struggle must be alone. The spiritual parent should stand by, quietly believing when the child has no strength to believe himself. If the spiritual parent imparts strength at this time it will only postpone the spiritual child’s maturity. This is the working out of Galatians 6:2-5 in which one should carry one another’s burdens but that each one should carry his own load.
Letting Go of Your Past, a book by John & Paula Sanford, is part of the curriculum of the Elijah House Basic I training course which Elisabeth and I took in 2008. This is a book summary where each blog post will summarize a chapter.
Click here to read Chapter 1.