To read my personal story behind this month’s devotion, see this previous post.
With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day quickly approaching, many are planning family events and special church services. As we saw in last month’s Encourager’s Devotion it is good to praise those who are doing well by telling them specifically how they have been good role models. So, it is fitting to recognize those who are great examples of parenting.
It is also important, however, to remember that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be difficult for many people. Those who have lost their parents, or the mother or father of their children, may experience a resurrgence of grief. People who do not come from healthy homes might also find it hard to celebrate these occassions. For some, the fact that they long to be parents but cannot brings sadness. For these reasons and more, I know several people who actually avoid going to church on such days.
The body of Christ, and especially those being intentional about building a ministry of encouragement, are called to be aware of such needs even in the midst of our festivities. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress …”
Last month, the devotional challenge was to think of someone you could shower with encouragement, really pour it on for the month. This time around, I urge you to consider taking your commitment a step further and pray about being an ongoing, spiritual parent to someone.
The Apostle Paul is an example of this commitment in Scripture. He had no children of his own, but he was a spiritual parent to Timothy. While Timothy had a strong Christian mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5), his father was not a believer (Acts 16:1). Paul filled that void for him. In the opening of both letters to Timothy, Paul calls him his “son in the faith.” And in Philippians 2:19-22, Paul said Timothy served with him “as a son with his father.”
There are so many ways one might apply the idea of parenting in a ministry of encouragement. As you think of the role of spiritual parenting, consider what a child needs to learn and grow:
- Some are just learning to walk. Do you know anyone that’s a “babe in Christ” and needs to know how to walk in the faith? Can you share the things that have helped you?
- Children must be taught how to get along with others. Do you know anyone being tested in this area? Do you have any life lessons you can impart to them?
- At all phases of life, our children are learning how to do new things. At various points they need job coaches, financial advisors, and teachers. What areas of expertise do you have that might be beneficial to a fellow believer?
In the book Groups: The Life-giving Power of Community, authors Ortburg, Pederson, and Poling list some of the “forms that encouragement takes.”
- To believe in someone, to see their giftedness and ability to contribute. (1 Tim. 4:12-15; 2 Tim. 1:6-7)
- To exhort someone, to build their character by confronting them even when it may involve saying hard things. (2 Tim. 4:2; 2 Thess. 3:11-13)
- To comfort, console, give courage to. (2 Cor. 1:3-6; 2 Thess. 2:16)
- To challenge, to urge, to entreat one to greater heights, deeper growth. (Eph. 4:1)
- To express support and affirmation through tangible gifts. (Acts 4:36-37; 2 Cor. 8:1-7; Phil. 4:10-20)
A good parent utilizes all of these forms of encouragement. A good spiritual parent will, too.
In Hebrews 5:11-14, we are warned that we cannot remain infants for the whole of our Christian walk. At some point, we are expected not just to continually be retaught the things we already know, but to become teachers to others who are less mature in their faith.
Join me next Wednesday for the Bible study that will accompany this devotion and take us deeper into our understanding of the idea of spiritual parenting. And in the meantime, pray with me that more people will step up to take on this much needed role in our Christian communities.
 John Ortburg, Laurie Pederson, Judson Poling, Groups: The Life-giving Power of Community. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000, p. 129.