There are various descriptions of leadership in the New Testament and various roles mentioned. Leaders are described as shepherds, builders, soldiers, and more. One of the rare but powerful forms of leadership is when leaders lead as true fathers and mothers. Below is an excerpt from my book Restoring the Ministry of Jesus that describes what this looks like.
As we embrace the heart and mindset of leadership in God’s kingdom and as we cultivate our inward life, we will be able to lead in ways that glorify God and bless His people. One of the ways we will see this expressed is through those who carry a true father’s or mother’s heart. The apostle Paul stated that the church in Corinth had many instructors but not many fathers (see 1 Corinthians 4:15). Unfortunately, this pattern holds true today. There are many teachers and leaders—there are few fathers.
What are some characteristics of fathers and mothers that are also traits of kingdom leaders? One is reproduction. Kingdom leaders reproduce their ministry in others. They have sons and daughters in the faith whom they are raising up and mentoring who will partake of the anointing that rests upon them. They birth others into ministry and release them into their gifts and calling, wanting their spiritual children to go beyond what they themselves have accomplished. When this is done correctly, spiritual children are not clones. They have their own unique identity, calling, and ministry expression. But they receive an inheritance that propels them far beyond what they could walk in apart from the relationship with a spiritual father or mother.
Another characteristic is relationship. Kingdom leaders are relational, not mechanical. This type of leadership is clearly seen with Christ who spent much time with the twelve disciples, calling them to be with Him before sending them out to minister (see Mark 3:14). There are certainly elements of correction involved, but correction is much easier to receive in the framework of a loving relationship. Expecting the ones under your leadership to produce results without a mentoring and nurturing relationship is like Pharaoh asking the Israelites to make bricks without straw, for it is in the context of genuine relationships that fruit is produced in the kingdom of God.
And finally, true fathers and mothers lead by example and so must leaders in God’s kingdom. After Paul reminded the church at Corinth that he was their spiritual father he said, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16). Paul was leading by his example, not just by his preaching. And since he was imitating Christ, he could ask others to imitate him. Jesus too led by example. He demonstrated the life that He preached about and only asked His followers to do things that He Himself was already doing.
True fathering and mothering in the church is rare, because it is costly. It has nothing to do with controlling others but instead sacrificially investing in them with no strings attached. It takes a willingness to spend and be spent for the sake of sons and daughters (see 2 Corinthians 12:14-15). While the cost is great, the reward is greater. But only those who are secure as sons and daughters of God can pour themselves out as fathers and mothers to others.
Everywhere Jesus went, people were miraculously healed, set free from evil spirits, and transformed by powerful teaching and preaching. Restoring the Ministry of Jesus calls us back to the foundation of walking like Jesus walked and doing what Jesus did. It shows how to bridge the gap from our current condition to walking in our inheritance in Christ. As you read, your heart will be stirred to seek God’s face and go after all that He has for you and the church today!