Unpacking Spiritual Fatherhood


Without even knowing you, I know two things about you:

  1. Your earthly father left his mark on you.
  2. Your Heavenly Father loves you deeply.

We are all marked by our earthly fathers in some way. The markings are obvious when the father is absent, but what about the dads who are around? Whether your dad was the Back Seat Dad; the Good, But Emotionally Unavailable Dad; or even the All-American Dad, he left an imprint on you. Some call it a “father wound.”

But we are all also deeply loved by our Heavenly Father. Just a glance at Scripture tells us this. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken” (Isaiah 54:10). 

For many Jesus-following men today, their earthly father wound created a disconnect that keeps them from fully understanding how God feels about them. They have plenty of head knowledge about their identity in Christ, yet when they try to live out of that truth, a block keeps it from penetrating their hearts.

This is where spiritual fathers come in. By embodying the Christian life in a way most men have never seen, spiritual fathers bridge the gap between earthly father and Heavenly Father and help men understand the disconnect they’re experiencing. If Jesus humanized God for a generation, spiritual fathers help men understand that the Christian life is not a call to do anything; it’s a call to become all God has for them. A spiritual father comes alongside another man in love; helps him find and follow Jesus; and is there for him as he learns to love, serve, and give. 

To examine the role a spiritual father plays, we can look to Paul’s relationship with Timothy. In Scripture, we see that . . .

Paul walked alongside. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul talks about imparting not only the gospel but our lives as well. And he did that with Timothy, journeying with him and sharing life with him, just as spiritual fathers journey with their men.

Paul modeled faith and shared wisdom. In 2 Timothy 3:10-11, Paul says, “Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, and my suffering.” Spiritual fathers share their stories and their experience, good, bad, and everything in between.

Paul prayed consistently. In 2 Timothy 1:3, Paul tells Timothy, “I constantly remember you in my prayers.” A significant part of spiritual fatherhood is ongoing prayer. While seasons may occur where the relationship drifts physically apart, the spiritual father maintains the desire to pray continually for the men God brings.

Paul encouraged and affirmed. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2, Paul calls Timothy “our brother and co-worker in God’s service.” And in Philippians 2:20-22, Paul says of Timothy, “I have no one else like him…you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” Some men have never heard words of affirmation like this, and hearing from a respected spiritual father can be monumental.

Paul required multiplication. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul instructs Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Spiritual fathers are raising up leaders who will become spiritual fathers to the next generation.

I came to know Jesus as an 8th grader, but when my dad died, I couldn’t reconcile his passing with the idea that God unconditionally loved me. This lousy theology plagued me through high school, college, career beginnings, and the early days of marriage.

This flawed thinking plagued me until 2002 when a man named Regi mentored me. Regi was the first Christian man I encountered who was willing to share the good, bad, and ugly of his life and who expected the same of me. He became a spiritual father to me, encouraging me to read books, memorize Scripture, and intentionally work on my marriage and my faith. He was also the first Christian man who would not let me settle for less than the life God had for me. As I look back on the highs and lows of my journey, Regi was the most consistent presence in my life. Through career change, depression, marriage issues, and more, he became a trusted source who shared his wisdom and pointed me back to Scripture when life wasn’t turning out the way I planned. As my spiritual father, he helped me bridge the gap between my relationship with my earthly father and my secure identity found in my Heavenly Father.

When Regi mentored me and the seven others in my group, he modeled for us how to live “this way of life” (Matthew 28:18-20, The Message). This model for mentoring and spiritual fatherhood became the Radical Mentoring process. Today, Radical Mentoring equips leaders and churches with the same life-giving mentoring model I experienced in 2002. If you look closely at your church or community, you will find men like Regi, who, through the ups and downs of life, have grasped the reality of God’s love for them. Men who authentically live out their faith in a way that is attractive and aspirational to the next generation.

Radical Mentoring would love to help you empower these men to step into their role as spiritual fathers to the next generation. When you go here to get access, you’ll receive everything you need to launch Radical Mentoring groups for men (and also Known Collective groups for women), including our coaching and guidance. And the best part, our entire resource library is available to you for free. Learn more here.

Posted on October 5, 2021

Kevin is the President of Radical Mentoring, a non-profit focused on encouraging and equipping churches and mentors to use Jesus-style relational mentoring to create environments for people to be real and develop authentic relationships.
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