Home      SC Sess notes: Chf Eldr 2

Chief elder - spiritual father




1.      Please review the following verses related to “Spiritual Father”:


·        1 Corinthians 4:15-17:

·        (vs 15) – For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

·        (vs 16) – Therefore I urge you, imitate me.

·        (vs 17) –For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.


·        1 Corinthians 11:1:


·        (vs 1) – Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.


·        Philippians 2:19-24:

·        (vs 19) – But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state.

·        (vs 20) – For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state

·        (vs 21) – For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.

·        (vs 22) – But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.

·        (vs 23) – Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me.

·        (vs 24) – But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly.


·        Phil. 3:17, 18:

·        (vs 17) – Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

·        (vs 18) – For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:


·        Phil. 4:9:

·        (vs 9) – The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.


·        2 Timothy 3:10, 14 (cf. 1:2)

·        (vs 10) – But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance.

·        (vs 14) – But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.



·        The Apostle Paul related to his disciples as an apostle as well as a pastor.  An apostle, by virtue of his office, carried a degree of authority that is not known by the pastor today.

·        The relationship between the Apostle Paul and Timothy was a personal relationship formed over many years.  It was initially forged by the Holy Spirit and was sustained by Him.  The Holy Spirit placed Timothy under Paul and kept him there as a member in particular in the Body of Christ.  There is no indication anywhere in the NT that these relationships were dictated or demanded.

·        For those churches he himself had established, he had a more personal and intimate relationship with them, as is reflected in those epistles.  In general, Paul’s relationship to the gentile church was primarily Apostolic oversight based on Apostolic authority (i.e., he was the apostle to the Gentiles).  Paul’s relationship with the churches was not a personality rapport, but was strictly related to the Christian life and testimony (i.e., one might come from a different culture and therefore have differing tastes or cultural expressions, but to Paul this was not an issue unless it violated the Christian testimony.


Do you agree or disagree with this assessment?

Answer: Nearly all agreed.


·        Wide sense of someone sending – many may send.  Do they have the authority to send and then say come and go?  1 Tim. 4:17; 1 Cor. 16:12 – contrast.  3 Jn.  Protocol with courtesy must be followed.

·        An apostle earned degree of authority that is not known by the PT today.  Agree with the following caveat that does not diminish any delegated pastoral authority from JC, HS  and WOG.  1 thess. 2:6-7 – Paul visited church at Ephesus meekly  and tenderly to receive.

·        Apostolic and spiritual father are 2 separate things.

·        Disagreed – there is a distinction; agree with (2); (3) – disagree in general – 1 Thes. 1:3; more of a pastoral relationship emphasis.



2.      Based on the assessments above, is there a need for, or a biblical premise of, “spiritual fathers”?  Are “spiritual fathers” required today, or is this relationship optional?  If so, what should be the extent of their authority over local churches?  (If you answered yes, proceed to the next question).  If not, doesn’t accountability dictate that each local church pastor have some degree of oversight?


·        There is a need for asmuch as we are born  and need spiritual investment for growth.  Premise – 1 Cor. 4:15 but not sufficient to formalize a doctrine.  (2)  Spiritual fathers required?  Yes, it is optional but it is a privilege.  (3) extent of authority – Optional.  (4)  No answer.

·        (1) Already exists a premise concerning the church – 1 Cor. 4:15; Paul was timothy’s spiritual father – Phil. 2:2 (2) – If spiritual father is synonymous with PT yes; otherwise, optional.  (3)  Eph. 4 does not mention spiritual father.  (4) Yes.

·        (1) Personal relationship between Paul and Timothy.  If a person wants a spiritual father, it is their free will.  Caution that the language should be “father in a spiritual sense” rather than “spiritual father”;  (2) – Agree; (3) – Agree.  (4) Required?  No.  If so, it is optional.  They should have no authority over any local churches. 

·        (2)  Required?  No, it is optional but for accountability, every Pt needs a PT.  (3)  Spiritual fathers can be helpers of our joy – depends on our relationship to our spiritual father.

·        Terminology “spiritual father” needs further definition.  Can also be a natural father who brings sons into maturity.  Accountability – comes through the Board of Elders in that local church.

·        Yes, but not required.  (3) – Advisory by the Pastors invitation only.

·        (3) – Accountability – could be carried out through regional fellowships or opportunities to get together and formulate relationships that provide accountability.

·        GGCF OF ROME, NEW YORK – POSITION STATEMENT ON THE PASTOR’S AUTHORITY.  2.  Church Leaders Are Called By Three Different Terms But Limited In Their Scope of Direct Authority To Their Local Church Pastorate (the terms – pastor, elder, bishop).  The terms refer to different aspects or functions of the same office; thus the hierarchical form of church government which places bishops over elders is not Biblical in the governing sense.  The term “spiritual father” used in GGCF is a term of endearment and is a recognition of a leader’s investment in a person’s life, voluntary external accountability for a pastor as a mentor, requested by the individual pastor himself, not a term to be mistaken for some form of spiritual hierarchy or unbiblical rule over another local assembly.  (I have stated this distinction clearly in my booklet, A Biblical Summary Of The Doctrine of Affiliation and Principle of Spiritual Fathers”  - pg. 18).  A godly mentor does not impose his authority, nor does he assume rights of leadership other than being a mature godly leader, true friend and spiritual advisor in Christ offering godly, objective counsel, edification, and correction if needed.    The mentor should never use his knowledge of people’s weaknesses, past failure or sins that have been repented of to position himself in a greater sphere of influence.  This itself violates the Finished Work and the doctrine of confidentiality.  A pastor’s gifts of leadership, or discipling other leaders do not automatically give him oversight of a local church even if he was instrumental in its planting.  If the church was developed and handed over to competent pastoral leadership, a board of elders is formed as soon as possible as the Bible teaches for the purpose of defining local leadership and care of that local assembly (Titus 1:5).  The role then changes for the church planter.  Assumptions of oversight as to the role of “bishop or spiritual father” of an indigenous, local church must be prevented by both the church planter and the local leadership and limited to by definition as to the role a mentor plays in the ongoing growth of the church.  The goal for every local church is to establish a strong local leadership in order to properly meet the needs of the local assembly and reach its community.  The establishment of elders, deacons and mature leadership is part of the goal of the foundation for healthy NT churches.  Direct oversight by the church planter bypassing the local pastoral and elder leadership is not the New Testament pattern of the local church.  Assumptions such as “this one is the leader over Europe, South America or Asia” without a formal discussion and the defining of just what the role is to those churches, the pastor and the elders of the local churches involved and the leadership in question is not found in Scripture.  When the church planter or founding leader attempts to maintain governmental control over the church he has now handed over, it actually weakens the local church leadership’s ability to their Biblical right to local church government.  Church history records such defined “spiritual father” relationships but strictly on a voluntary, mutual acceptance basis.

Each Local Assembly Is To Have Its Own Leadership (Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23).  Since this is clearly the New Testament pattern, any outside form of control over the churches is unbiblical and not healthy.  Indigenous, self-governing, self-supporting local church is the New Testament pattern.”

·        (3) Have no authority but can be brought in for counsel.

·        (1) Yes, there is a need. (2).  No. It is optional.  A spiritual relationship deemed necessary for someone’s nurturing in the faith.  One receives a spiritual father and operates with its benefits when he is fathered by someone spiritual.

·        (1)  Yes, a need demonstrated by multitude of Pastors who do not enjoy this relationship.  (2) No, not required.  (3)  A spiritual father has great influence but must exercise great care in using that influence not to usurp authority.

·        They help us to get to know Christ; based on relationship of love and investment; on an individual basis; based on respect and love.  Grandfather/father relationship.  A spiritual father can never abuse his privilege.


3.      Should the spiritual father have overruling influence over the local church and pastor?  If so, why (give supporting Scripture).

Answer: Unanimously, No.

  • A natural father should not govern the affairs of his adult son.
  • Advisory spiritual influence, but not overruling influence.
  • Must be careful teaching by person who planted that church that they are not to look to him as their local pastor and he is not to exercise control, but to encourage them to hearken unto the teaching of the Pastor God has raised up in his place for that local church.
  • Relationship of Pastor and spiritual father should be one of honor.
  • There is a fine line; it is God’s church and we are under-shepherds.  Spiritual father cannot have overruling influence but can counsel, guide, etc.  Spiritual father cannot mandate authority.  Pastor should recognize and honor a spiritual father’s wisdom to edify the church.


4.      Is an affiliated church “off” if they hold to the primary doctrines of GGWO but do not recognize the leadership of a particular spiritual father?  Should there be (if any) discipline for not recognizing a spiritual father in this case?  If yes, what?

Answer: Unanimously, No.


·        It is voluntary submission.

·        Caution – this should be taught because of fear of some who have an agenda to control.

·        GGWO guidelines indicate that all affiliation is voluntary

·        If a relationship to local church, NO, but counsel should be given to prevent problems down the road. . .



5.      Can an affiliated church choose its own system of external oversight, be it a spiritual father or some other body, to relate to or should this solely be determined by Home Base?

Answer: Unanimously, Each local assembly is an autonomous entity.