“There is a declaration to the city that can only be made through fathers and sons,” said Tony Fitzgerald of Church of the Nations. (www.cotn.org)
The Church of the Nations (COTN) Annual Leadership Conference recently closed in Richmond, Va.with a lively time of music worship and preaching. I attended at the request of Pastor Don Coleman who has been a spiritual mentor and father in my life over the past five plus years. Although I am not part of COTN, I do believe it is a godly organization with a Kingdom focus.
Tony Fitzgerald and Don Coleman spoke on their relationship as an example of the powerful impact spiritual fathers can have on their sons in Christ. While they primarily talked about spiritual fathers and sons they acknowledged that the same principles hold true for women in spiritual mother/daughter relationships.
Tony said, “We need to re-establish the importance of spiritual fathers and sons to reflect the importance of relationship to the growth and present reality of the Church…It doesn’t have to be like it has always been.”
What makes Tony and Don somewhat the “odd couple” is their distinct backgrounds. Tony is a white man from Tasmania. Don is an African American from the projects in Richmond. Both are preachers with a heart for discipleship. God has connected their lives through a similar dream despite difference in their pasts.
Tony talked about how the lack of spiritual fathering in America is tied to the spirit of rebellion, which goes back to the foundation of this country. Tony did not reject the American Revolution although he did suggest that we may have overlooked the negatives of the independent, cowboy spirit that Americans are known for around the world.
Closely linked with the revolutionary spirit is a sense of pride and rebellion. This can result from poor leaders who oppress those they are charged to oversee. As well this can be produced by people who don’t understand the importance of submission to authority in most common situations. Just because it may be proper to take action against an authority in extreme circumstances, doesn’t mean that we should live life as rebels without a just cause.
Tony explained, “America’s spirit of independence was born out of Britain’s spirit of stiff control. This nation is gripped with an individualistic spirit. And it has impacted the Church.”
Many Christian leaders have talked about how God is moving or revivals are taking place. Tony challenged if we accurately understand what real Biblical revival looks like. He believes this is a sign of desperation because we know we need God’s life and don’t know how to receive it. He warned, “Revival may not be 10 nights of revival meetings. It is going to be something deeper than that. It will take returning the heart of the fathers to the sons and the mothers to the daughters.”
Attempting to model out the true positions of a Biblical leader, Pastor Don had a group of people come up front. He privately gave them instructions and then laid down on the ground. Then the people walked on him as a portrait of humility by a leader. Don explained that his little example was a “poor demonstration of what Jesus went through on the cross.”
Jesus is the ultimate example of meek leadership. He was not worried about defending his position. He loved others at His own expense. Don talked about growing up in the projects and living as an orphan at times because He didn’t know his father. He talked about how this impacted his view of the world and himself.
Making the issue personal, Don challenged the crowd and exclaimed, “Some of you are living like an orphan. God is saying to you, ‘First, I am your Father.’” He then connected this statement with the practical reality that God sends people into our lives to “serve us into our greatness.”
Explaining his story, Don said, “I was living as an orphan because I was fatherless. Then God sent this crazy guy from Tasmania…I was too spiritual to acknowledge that I had soulless issues.”
Spiritual fathers and mothers help us see things that we might want to otherwise overlook. They help us deal with our past instead of trying to run from it, which is a fruitless reaction. The only way to find freedom is to let it go and trust it to God.
Don quipped that some may be thinking, “How do I sign up?” He said, “It’s not about that. It’s about relationship. Let’s just hang out and see what happens. If you have been pulled down by the orphan spirit, now is your time.”
The enemy hates order and family. He loves “independence.” He loves division and hates oneness of spirit. He loves domination. He hates willful submission by choice. Don explained his experience as both a father and a son. He said, “In order to grow some people up, you have to let them do their own things sometime. True sons will see by revelation. We live as sons and daughters of God by revelation. We live in submission to spiritual fathers and mothers by revelation.”
Testifying of the importance of being in relationship with older, wiser gifted saints, Don said, “Sonship has totally released me.”
Tony recounted when Jesus gave His account to the Father about His mission. Jesus talked about keeping those who were entrusted to Him not preaching, great miracles, feeding thousands, healings and exorcisms, etc. Being in relationship allowed Jesus to teach and model those who would follow Him. Developing disciples for God’s glory and His Kingdom was Jesus’ key mission leading up to the cross and the primary reason for him embracing it.
God the Father responded to Jesus’ baptism by declaring His favor, love and acceptance of the Son. This was done before the cross or Jesus had done any earthly miracles. Tony explained, “Jesus’ Sonship was not based on performance.” Comparing this to today, Tony said, “The foundation of the church is family not structure – fathers and sons.”