by Erin Bird

Missed any of the previous five entries in this series? Quickly catch up here.

Today, we conclude our Spiritual Stages series where I am helping you identify which stage you are currently in and what steps you can take to grow into the next stage. So far we have looked at being a Spiritual Infant, a Spiritual Child, and a Spiritual Young Adult. This means the last stage we are going to look at is being a Spiritual Parent.

When LeAnn and I got married at the ripe old age of 21, I was eager to become a dad. I thought we’d wait a year, and then start having kids. (LeAnn and I wisely ended up waiting 3 years.) As I shared two weeks ago, I love kids. So when LeAnn and I said, “I do,” I was ready to have my own baby Birds.

Whether you have physical children or not, I truly hope you are eager to become a spiritual parent. Just as a person becomes a physical parent through physical reproduction, a follower of Jesus becomes a spiritual parent through spiritual reproduction. They take Jesus’ final command to “go and make disciples” seriously. And I want you to become a Spiritual Parent because I truly believe your greatest joy in life will be seeing the work of God in others directly through you.

It’s About Making Disciples

Each week in this series, we’ve been looking at a keyword for each stage. For a Spiritual Parent, the keyword is “surrender.” Just as the person submerged in Ezekiel’s river (from Ezekiel 47:5) is at the mercy of the current, a Spiritual Parent is surrendered to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Instead of pursuing their personal dreams or even the American dream, a Spiritual Parent surrenders their own dreams for a God-sized dream of inviting the spiritually disconnected to find and follow Jesus.

Now don’t get me wrong: a Spiritual Parent is not a perfect saint. They don’t know everything. They don’t have the Bible memorized. They don’t live sinlessly. They are still very, very human. Just as the best physical parents mess up from time to time, a Spiritual Parent isn’t going to get it all correct 100% of the time either. But that doesn’t mean a person can ignore the Great Commandment until they can “do Christianity” perfectly. (Otherwise, we would never get there.)

However, because a Spiritual Parent is living a surrendered life to God, it means they will surrender their sins to God and their time to current and future disciples. They have taken the others-centeredness of the Spiritual Young Adult stage and gone one step further into “others-betterment.” They don’t just seek to serve others, but to unleash God’s work through others.

This is why you see Jake give opportunities for Anna, Michelle, and Sam to lead us in worship through song. It is why your kids have Sara, Anna, & Matt as teachers in Kids Creek and not just Bridget. It is why Randy helps lead “my” Growth Group. A Spiritual Parent realizes that for ministry to truly be Christ-centered, they have to give other Jesus-followers the opportunities to do ministry as well.

Self-Assessment Time

So for one last time, take a moment to read through the following statements. They represent the types of thoughts many Spiritual Parents have. If you recognize some of these thoughts in yourself, then pay attention to the recommendations which follow…

Possible Thoughts of a Spiritual Parent

  • I pray daily for my close non-Christian friend to understand the Gospel.
  • I love leading my Growth Group, but I think ________________ would be a great Growth Group leader, so I’m going to ask him/her to start leading with me.
  • I am so excited I get to baptize ______________ this Sunday!
  • My coworker has been asking a lot of spiritual questions. Can you recommend a book we can read together?
  • I want to do more than just take my family on a vacation. Do you know of any missions projects we could do together?

If any of that feels familiar in your own thinking, then you might be a Spiritual Parent. So what should you do?

Next Steps for Spiritual Parents

Step 1: Find Accountability & Support

Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that our deepest fight isn’t against things in this world, but in the unseen realm. So if our spiritual enemy is going to remove a Spiritual Parent from the fight, he is going to attack us at our weakest point.

So find someone who will walk with you, encourage you, ask you hard questions, and yet be in your corner no matter what. Without that accountability and support, you expose yourself to being devoured by Satan, the prowling lion. I am wearied of hearing from different Christian circles of Spiritual Parents being taken out by horrendous sin. I don’t want you to be another gossip headline.

Step 2: Stay Connected to the Church Family

Years ago, I attended a conference hosted by a parachurch organization. This organization was doing a phenomenal job of evangelism and discipleship, so I went to learn from them. While I learned a bunch, I left the conference a bit sad. Why? Because I met person after person at the conference who had given their lives to making disciples, and yet they were not part of a church family.

To be honest, I couldn’t fully blame these individuals. They were passionate about the Great Commission, and yet their local churches had become all about budgets, buildings, and attendance. While these churches seemed to have not kept “the main thing the main thing,” these churches needed these Spiritual Parents! Local churches not only need the reminder of what the mission truly is, but they also need the example. Just as kids learn by watching their parents, Spiritual Infants, Children, and Young Adults learn by watching Spiritual Parents.

Step 3: Get Rest

I will be honest: While ministry is exciting, it can also be tiring. And it is often tiring because of the messiness of life. As you seek to help people be disciples, you have to deal with their past sins, current struggles, and past sins done against them. To constantly help people with these issues can be emotionally draining.

So just as a physical parent is his or her best self when rested, I encourage you to be sure to get some rest. That can simply be a good night sleep, taking a day off from work, going on a vacation, reading a good book, or getting a breather from ministry for a month. Before we got Kayah (our new puppy), I spent several weeks working on puzzles as a way to relax and rest.

Step 4: Stay Engaged

At the same time, while rest is important, please, please, please don’t disengage. Riverwood needs you! So stay engaged. Get rest so you can continue to help us invite the spiritually disconnected to find and follow Jesus.

Closing Encouragement

Spiritual Parenthood can be one of the most exciting things you will ever experience. I can’t begin to tell you the joy you will find in leading someone to know Jesus and helping them begin the journey of following Him. If last words matter, then Jesus’ last words to “Go, and make disciples” should inspire us everyday. So may you allow God’s Holy Spirit work in you, to surrender your life to the cause of making disciples who make disciples.