There is no scriptural example, anywhere, for the concept of recruiting spiritual sons. Recruitment is practiced commonly today as if it is a heaven-sanctioned methodology.
We do not, and should not, preach father-son ministry as a “thing.” We preach Christ and him crucified, and if in our preaching Christ, individuals come to the new birth and form the bonds of affection and trust typified by a father-son relationship, that is all well and good. However, it’s illegitimate to traverse the countryside preaching sonship when sonship means the recruiting of individuals into the sphere of one’s personal influence, rather than understanding our relationship and identity with our Father, in and through Christ.
Building a “family” or a “network of sons” from unresolved/unhealed psychological issues is not biblical spiritual fatherhood.
It’s true that the Lord sets the fatherless in families—the spiritual can compensate for lack in the natural. This is wonderful and redemptive. However, I’ve noticed that those who come from very broken family backgrounds can come into a faith community with an inner compulsion to make “family” happen for themselves. Their pursuit of a proverbial father figure/family relationship can be greater than their pursuit of the Lord. Opportunists can, and do, take advantage of this human vulnerability.
What can appear on the surface to be a spirit of fatherhood can easily be nothing other than the enthusiastic overflow of our own unhealed heart—the need to be needed, and the need to be the center of attention, affection, loyalty, and honor. The need to be needed is not spiritual fatherhood, though it can look like it in practice to the undiscerning.
It’s also common for those who come from a background of a lack of validation from earthly fathers (natural and spiritual) to latch on to the “message of sonship” and preach it because of the relief it brings them psychologically and socially. It is not a Holy Spirit birthed message even though it may be propped up with chapter and verse.
Merely grabbing, preaching, and implementing the so-called “sonship message” when the need to be needed or other inner life issues, have not been healed, inevitably results in a spirit of control, not the spirit of fatherhood. Controllers are often blind and self-justifying in their control—some in ignorance, some in malice.
It’s common to experience a few controlling false starts during the treasure hunt for genuine relationship with “spiritual parents.” The short definition of the difference between control and fatherhood is fatherhood respects, validates, dignifies, honors, develops, and releases individual personhood (including challenge and discipline). Control does the opposite. It restrains, suppresses, dehumanizes, and discourages the expression of individual personhood, often under the guise of submission to spiritual authority and conformity to group norms of behavior. It is a very ugly distortion.
Consider this hypothetical scenario that’s not all that hypothetical! I have seen similar situations happen on multiple occasions.
Imagine I am a mature “father,” 50 years old or more with a strong teaching gift, a strong personality, charisma, the flow of spiritual manifestations, and decades of experience. Before me are 150 young people between the ages of 18-30. These young people have various degrees of unhealed psychological issues and identity needs. I preach intensely and passionately for a week to these people about how everyone must have a spiritual father if they are to satisfy God, fulfill their destiny, or be all that God intends for them, and how they will never reach their potential if unconnected to an apostolic father.
What kind of psychological pressure do you think might be on one of these young people (or psychologically fragmented adult “ministers”) at the end of the week? What “father” happens to be available at the moment? Who is likely to accrue benefit in this scenario by preaching sonship to the vulnerable under the guise of revelation? Convenient is it not?
Do you think many of the folks in the crowd, especially a young person, would have the courage to stand on their own and resist the teaching from the 50-year-old father/expert and say . . . “No thank you?” I highly doubt it.
I propose that to deny this psychological phenomenon is to be naïve. To have the lives of others under our power of influence is a sacred thing, not to be presumed upon. If we have a captive audience of immature, psychologically unhealed, and alienated young people, (or lonely “ministers”), looking for identity and belonging, and we pummel them for a week with the importance of sonship, we are operating in a soulish predatory spirit, and a form of psychological manipulation and abuse, regardless of whatever justifying Bible verse we may believe.
PREACH CHRIST! NOT SONSHIP! Present His excellencies and provision in all the power of the Spirit, not the need to be associated with an apostle. Identity and belongingness are found in Him, not in relationship with an apostle! Wonderful human relationships of all sorts may derive from preaching Christ accurately! Legitimate sonship may be a derivative of preaching Christ accurately. But if we preach sonship as the essential, rather than Christ, we will find our selves on the wrong side of the interests of the Lord and His kingdom, even with a proof text on our lips.
 Please refer to Authority, Accountability, and the Apostolic Movement for a deeper discussion.
This blog is an excerpt of our booklet: Father-Son Ministry: Reassessing Apostolic and Prophetic Perspectives, available at www.stevecrosby.com
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