“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers…” ~ 1 Corinthians 4:15
Paul spoke these words to the church at Corinth, but they could also be spoken of the church today. Read the rest of 1 Corinthians 4. There were plenty of people who were willing to take a role of authority in the church. There were plenty who were willing to teach and preach. There were plenty who were willing to push their own agenda.
But there were few like Paul, who had “fathered” the church in Corinth by his investment of time and passion. There were few who had paid the price Paul had paid,
For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
Paul counted himself as a “father” to the Corinthians. Thayer’s Lexicon defines that word as, “one who stands in a father’s place, and looks after another in a paternal way.” Today’s church has lots of teachers, but not many “fathers.” We have plenty of people who are willing to teach and lead and draw a paycheck, but few who are willing to lay down their lives for the sheep. Few who are willing to “hunger and thirst…poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless” for the sake of God’s people.
God’s people are desperate for true shepherds, those who will walk through life with them. Our modern church structure doesn’t really provide that close relationship between shepherd and sheep. Pastors are too busy being administrators, CEO’s, teachers, and more. The problem is that, to provide that kind of care, a pastor really can’t be dealing with more than a handful of families. And in today’s churches, that won’t pay the bills.
And the body suffers from lack of care. Many of our problems in the church would be solved if Christ-followers had authentic, up-close, intimate leadership and accountability. Not from some guy in a suit, or a guy who preaches on the television, but a pastor who walks life with us every day.
If you are one of the fortunate ones to have that kind of personal care that Jesus intended His people to enjoy, that’s wonderful. But if, like many, you don’t know what that would even feel like, let’s pray that God will raise up leaders with a single focus and passion: equipping and nourishing the Christ-followers to BE the living, powerful church of Jesus Christ.
It’s not popular, and it certainly doesn’t pay well. But it is effective.