I am enjoying a couple of days off work presently - yesterday I spent a wonderful morning with my dear friend Pete Day in London. We spent time praying, hearing from God and one of the aches on our hearts was the apparent lack of spiritual fathers. And our prayer was that God will give to us - not organisational apostles but relational fathers who can lead and father us.
It is not a coincidence I think that I decided to listen to the DVD of Dr Ern Baxter speaking
during his final visit to us at New Covenant Church in Dunstable before he went to glory in 1991 on "History Making Prayer". He opened his message making some comments about one of the young assistant pastors to Stanley Jebb and emphasized his heart for what he called his "Timothys". He said that men would contact him after hearing him in conferences and he would write to them, and recommend books and have contact with them.
What moved me so much was that this mighty man of God who probably knew that he was nearing the end of his time on earth still had a heart for young men and fathering them. I think the below beautiful photograph (thanks to Terry Virgo for the link) demonstrates this perfectly. Ern Baxter had a wonderful love for eagles:
I didn't notice the young eagle under the wing of the magnificent parent eagles for a minute. I was too caught up admiring their proud bearing. But then I did. Terry Virgo spoke at Stoneleigh Bible Week 2001 on eagles also - and spoke about how parents will push their children out of the nest and make them take flight. This baby eagle to me looks like he should have passed that phase. But I love the fact that the parent is still protective towards it. We used to sing a beautiful song in Dunstable during our charismatic days called; "Living under the shadow of His wing - we find security".
Of course we always have our heavenly Father - but it was His divine design and indeed resurrection gift in Ephesians 4 that we should have earthly spiritual fathers also. And I fear that many current Ephesians 4 Ministries do not have that heart for fathering sons and daughters. The pressure is too great to treat our churches like businesses. When I used to try and contact men in the very same way that Ern spoke off - the phrase I would hear all too regularly was; "I'm too busy". It made me wonder how you can be too busy to father. Many of the excuses for business were valid - but they were outside their Ephesians 4 giftings. That's why so many pastors these days are caught up in administration, in finances, in church affairs - and are indeed too busy to father! Just the same with apostles - they are too busy leading their movements, trouble-shooting and so on.
The beauty of true Ephesians 4 Ministries means that each is freed to follow their true giftings - and that surely involves fathering. I realised that true Ephesians 4 Ministries all should see fathering as key! Oh for apostles who can father up and coming young men and women with apostolic gifting. Oh for prophets with recognised and powerful prophetic gifting (such as Greg Haslam or Jon Cressey or Ginny Burgin) who are prepared to spend time sitting with young men and women with prophetic giftings. Oh for evangelists (like Lex Loizides) who can inspire and fire those with evangelistic gifting.
And of course pastor/teachers - who perhaps may have opportunity to father more than any because of their local church involvement. I have to pay tribute to Stanley Jebb for being the only pastor/teacher in my experience who really had this heart for fathering young men. When he was leading the church in Dunstable he committed so much time to the Bible College we ran, and even when he had retired from church leadership - he still graciously spent some time with me years back fathering me for a short season. And I believe he still does - even though he is in his 70's! Alas - I have yet to meet other church pastors with that heart.