Dear Readers In my last post, we discussed the difficult and often painful subject of mentoring that has turned into control rather than freedom and maturity in Christ.
A dear brother responded with his own story. David Bolton writes scripturally, deeply, and yet clearly on his outstanding website, Christ-Centered Christianity. David gets it about the supremacy of Christ in all things, so when he shares, I listen.
God desires to, as David has said, "restore this aspect of spiritual fathering and mothering in His family, as it is as important in the spiritual realm as it is in the natural for raising up matured sons and daughters. It is good to share our stories in this regard for we know the enemy ever seeks to distort what God has designed for His glory. We overcome him, though, "...by the word of our testimony!"
Listen with me as David recounts his own journey as a young believer. May the Lord use this to open the eyes of those who may be caught in the throes of a spiritually unhealthy relationship with another believer.
David's testimony in his own words:
Thank you, Jan, for posting on this subject. I too had a spiritual father/son relationship early on in my walk that initially was a great blessing to me, but also went awry over time. A spirit of control grew stronger and stronger as time went on and got to the point where I had to make a decision to come out from under it. That process was very difficult because I didn’t want to be rebellious on the one hand, but it also began to involve other people in a consequential way, and so I/we had to make a break.
A few truths from Scripture were very helpful to me in discerning the true nature of the relationship at the time, which wasn’t easy while in the midst of it as a young believer. The first was Romans 8:15 which says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “”Abba,” Father.” I realized that the relationship that I had with my spiritual father had become marked almost entirely by the first part of that verse rather than the second. Spiritual sonship should never be based on a spirit that makes us a slave again to fear, but one that evokes a loving, trusting heart which cries “Abba”, Father! Since that is true in our relationship with our heavenly Father, it should, likewise, be true in our relationships with the spiritual fathers and mothers He has given to us.
The second truth I discovered came when I searched the Scriptures carefully concerning the relationship that Paul had with Timothy, and also with Titus, whom he owned as “sons” in the Lord. I noticed that Paul referred to them an equal number of times as “brother” as he did “son”. That was an important insight for that balance seemed to be absent in my relationship with this older brother. It had become all father to son authoritarian. I believe that in Christ, we are first and foremost “brothers” and “sisters”, and secondly we may become fathers, mothers, mentors, teachers, pastors, etc… to a few, but never to the exclusion of the equality of brotherhood that is foundational and essential in Christ. Keeping the right balance in this regard is key to a healthy relationship and a good safeguard against undue control.
In my situation, I ended up appealing to one whom this brother owned as his spiritual father, and this godly man encouraged a separation, at least for a time. We later worked through a number of attempts at reconciliation and were able to finally come to a place of mutual respect and peace, though the closeness of fellowship we once knew was never fully restored.
I share these things in hopes that they may be an encouragement to others, either as a mentor or a mentoree. These relationships are some of the greatest gifts that God gives us if they are walked in in the right spirit. May we all have wisdom and grace to follow Christ in His humility and love!
Thanks for sharing your story and for tying in the lessons of John the Baptist. He is a great model for us to follow!
Brothers and sisters, feel free to share your stories here in the comment section below.
If you care to read the story of another brother in the Lord, Frank Viola, as he also shares of his mentoring experience gone awry, click here A Tale of Two Mentors