Apostle Paul said at 1 Corinthians 4:15 "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (ESV)
Guides is translated in various translations as guardians, teachers, instructors, mentors, but fathers is always translated as fathers. In my real live I’m a father to one daughter, but a teacher to so many more in my lifetime. Time by time we have had arguments with my daughter while discussing a topic and it has gone in this direction. She said: “My teacher said like this”. And I would say: “This is what I say”. Once of twice I reminded my daughter that her teachers cared for her in a certain level, but never in the way I care for her. Her teachers never have troubled her sleep when my daughter has been sick or have an emotional breakdown. They do only the teaching part and transfer the problem to another “specialist” if needed. They are paid to do their job. Fathers (I mean with this even mothers, but because I’m a father I’m writing as a father) will do everything needed to see the child far from trouble and grown as healthy as possible besides the circumstances.
It has been now 6 months I have been the pastor of an English speaking congregation. That means that I’m the shepherd of that congregation. But many times I feel I’m just a teacher, who is invited to share certain bible topics and invite people to do their homework. I feel I’m a father to none there, just an older brother, whose advice goes until a certain level.
There are people who were born in my hands as new Christians and many of them see me as the spiritual father. I don’t need to check on them many times a week. But when they are in problem they reach me, whenever they are in the world.
With today’s technology, we can have teachers that can fill us with information and inspiration. But they don’t know us and we don’t know anything about them, except what they chose to show in public. That has it’s positive aspects as we are exposed to various understanding of life and Scriptures. Our local church is not supposed to have all the gifts of the universal church. We definitely need each other. That’s how it has been in church history. Churches see each other as sisters, not as competitors, so the gifts that one church had was shared freely with the other churches, mainly through writings and itinerary preachers, or diocesan bishops.
Today’s spiritual landscape has created a different type of churches and believers. Big churches usually with a great leader or gifted communicator and the rest of the churches. Big churches have no problem inviting believers of the other churches to join them. I’ve seen it so much, in various ways, and sometimes makes me sick. Now they have better guns. The promotional machine goes better, communication goes flawless. On the other side many christians leave the big churches as there they feel unnoticed and they join smaller churches where the feeling of a family is more prevalent.
It is a fact that evangelical Christians do not belong to only one congregation. They might attend services somewhere, but they get the food somewhere else. Slowly some have even stopped to join physical services as sermons have been online for a long time now. COVID19 invited us to a different dimension. Online church. Our church has services on Sunday at 11 am. People join, get a spiritual snack and continue life as they think they should do. I don’t know how they are. The online class goes so far and the teacher has a certain impact to to online.
What if that becomes a norm?
I remember some years ago, I met an Albanian and asked him how he had planned his Christian life to be lived now in Canada. He answered quickly: “Joined a big church where none knows me and it is easy not to be close to anyone. Not joined any small groups.” He never attended or responded to my invitations to the small Albanian church. Why? He didn’t want anyone to intervene with his life. He didn’t want to do anything for anyone else. As a smart intellectual who spoke great English he had build friendships with English speakers back in Albania. He learned from them. And in my understanding, he only got from the people of God. Church for people like him, is a place that you can go anytime you want and expect that they fill you up, like you fill your car in the gas station or do the weekly groceries. No attachment. Possibly give donations. No relationships. None to give account. Sad!
It’s sad when Christians feel that they are grown enough not to have a father role in their life. They want to be independent. Now, all they do is to pick the teachers. To pick what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.
I have many teachers whom I turned to continually and learn. Fathers you can’t pick and leave anytime you want. Requires time and serious steps.
As the new pastor to a new church, I feel myself that I want to act like a step-dad, like someone who want to help grow existing healthy kids and help give life to new kids and grow the family. For some I will always be a step-dad, but it’s OK as far as I don’t stay only as a teacher. For others-God willing-I will become a father. For others, I will help they grow to become older brothers and eventually fathers themselves. I heard that it is such a joy to become a grandfather. That’s what I’m looking for, to have kids who themselves create family with their kids, who continue to grow and become parent and have their kids. (2Timothy 2:2)
Finally I would like you to see that both teachers and fathers do and you can start making some real decisions with whom you like to spend your spiritual journey.
Fathers share and pour out lives. Teachers explain information and make it easier to be understood.
Fathers are motivated by personal transformation. Teachers are motivated by revelation.
Fathers seek for sons and daughters. Teachers are looking for students.
Fathers invest to built character. Teachers invest towards academic development.
Fathers rejoice on life successes. Teachers rejoice on academic achievements.
Fathers have a heart connection. Teachers have a intellectual connection.
Fathers are followed by heart. Teachers are followed as a duty.
Fathers work having time with family to have memorable and life-changing moments. Teachers prepare their time with their students with a schedule, an expected measurable result.
Fathers produce fathers. Teachers produce teachers.
If I could have a good father, who is a great teacher is the best, but I would never replace a father with a teacher. Do you?
How should we pray now: “God give us more fathers, or more teachers?”