Encouraging, Comforting, Urging: On Spiritual Parenting

8 Sep

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. -1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

Paul saw himself as a spiritual parent to the churches he had planted. In 1 Thessalonians 2 he starts out talking about how he mothered the flock gently, caring for them like children. Then he identifies three important traits of fatherhood that he demonstrated toward his spiritual children: encouragement, comfort, and urging.

A father’s encouragement speaks louder than any other sources of affirmation. A spiritual father has the power to inspire and influence by expressing belief in the ability of the spiritual child to grow, understand, and serve.

When missteps and derailments occur, the spiritual father is there to comfort, both through words and solemn presence. Much can be spoken through an embrace, a prayer, and words of wisdom that provide perspective and hope.

Finally, a spiritual father has the duty to urge. There is a fine line between urging and nagging, and the wise spiritual father will help set goals for their charge that are appropriate, stretching, and bathed in prayer.

Many of us have the privilege and responsibility to “parent” younger people, whether our own children, students, or younger employees in the workplace. As Paul demonstrates, the roles of spiritual mothering and fathering are not gender-specific. There are times for gentleness and times for installing a sense of urgency. The wise spiritual parent will know when to apply the right trait.

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