For the past 11 years, I have been fixated on the idea of deep, healthy discipleship. My life’s mission has been to bring a systematic approach to growth and spiritual maturity to the nations. I remember one day when I was running in the sweltering Texas heat, how the Lord spoke very clearly to me about my future. While He may not have given me all the nitty-gritty details, He did make a few things very clear to me. In particular, the Lord made a declarative statement that still rings loudly in my spiritual ears. He instructed me, “Whatever you do, don’t multiply dysfunction.”
When I received this directive, I was on a spiritual journey to ascertain the program, or system, of how to train and disciple people – to help them move from being simply a believer to becoming a spiritual leader and a champion of the Gospel. I knew there had to be some kind of secret formula, or “special sauce,” that would make this dream a reality. Ultimately, the Lord would direct me to become part of the Joshua Nations team and transition to serve full time under the leadership of Dr. Russ Frase.
Dr. Frase was a remarkable man. He was an incredible friend and a spiritual father to MANY! While serving with Russ, I was able to observe his integrity and witness his character in an up-close and personal manner. Although we were only able to travel together on half a dozen trips or so, I was blessed to watch him as he served with humility, compassion, and godly leadership. The Christ-like attributes that were deeply entrenched in Russ were on full display for the world to see. This spiritual champion and father to many received his eternal reward in January of 2021. Still today, we are hearing reports and testimonies of how Dr. Russ Frase was a spiritual father to men and women all over the world.
So, what was the recipe for success for Russ Frase and Joshua Nations?
Was it the two-year Joshua Nations Bible curriculum?
Was it the charismatic personality of Russ?
Was it the ease of access to training resources?
Was it the fact that Joshua Nations would go anywhere that was desperate for training?
I do believe that all these things contributed to the success of ministry, and they continue to make Joshua Nations unique and different. Yet, as I have prayerfully contemplated further, the aspect that seems to stand out the most is the father heart of Joshua Nations. This unique attribute was gifted to the ministry through the life of Russ Frase and was transferred through the laying on of hands and the ministry of impartation. While the Joshua Nations team looks quite different today than it did just 5 years ago, the heart of a father continues strong.
Our aim, as a ministry, is to exhibit the Father heart of God to the nations as we do our best to father them into maturity!
“Whatever you do, don’t multiply dysfunction.”
1 Corinthians 4:15 Amplified Bible (AMP)
"For even if you were to have ten thousand teachers [to guide you] in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers [who led you to Christ and assumed responsibility for you], for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the good news [of salvation]. "
The Apostle Paul penned this passage when writing to the Corinthian church. As with most of the epistles, Paul was working to address issues within the growing congregation of believers in Corinth. In his wisdom, Paul made this powerful statement that provided a directional lodestar for the body of believers. This passage is just as relevant today as it was when Paul penned the letter.
Across the world we see that there are teachers, scholars, researchers, schools, universities, social media influencers, televangelists, and more who are vying for our attention. Each have their place and serve the body of Christ, assuming they are doing so righteously.
But what is missing?
- Being a "father in the faith" is not something that receives much attention.
- Being a "father in the faith" often will not produce accolades and public recognition.
- Being a "father in the faith" does not lead to book deals and large followings. In fact, it is often just the opposite!
The work of being a father is mostly done “behind the scenes” when others are not watching. Fathering requires humility, patience, steadfastness, love, compassion, and discipline. This often is accompanied with tears, gut-wrenching prayer, sleepless nights at times, and something that I like to call “stick-to-it-ness” (which means not giving up no matter what!)
Being a father is not always easy. Whether in the natural or spiritual, fathering can be extremely difficult but also very rewarding. By God’s grace I am the father to three young men – one adopted and two biological. I thank God for the empowerment of His Holy Spirit so that I can make my best attempt to do things properly and continue to honor the Lord in the process.
In the passage above, Paul explained that he came to be the father of a large number of people because he led them to salvation through Jesus Christ. Furthermore, he continued with guiding these new believers to maturity through love, compassion, discipline, and instruction. Spiritually speaking, we must ensure to see things through – beginning at evangelism and following through to discipleship. If we only evangelize and then abandon the new believers without discipleship, we are potentially making people to become spiritually illegitimate children (or fatherless). Woe be to us if we are perpetuating this issue!!
I therefore request that we consider our motives.
Are we looking to add more numbers to the grand tally of “souls saved?” Or are we leading people to Christ and then fathering them to maturity and spiritual health? Yes, we want to populate heaven! At the same time, we want to father people to health so that we are not multiplying dysfunction and exasperating the problem.
Over the last few years, I have been continually challenged by the Holy Spirit on my motives in fathering my sons. I learned so much from my father, Henry Holland and also my wife’s late father, Jeff Hendricks. Yet, the perfect Father continues to teach and guide me on a daily basis.
Here are a few nuggets that I have received from them and continue to work towards:
- Be present.
Presence is more than just being there. Presence requires you to detach from the phone, distractions, work, conversations, etc. and engage with your children.
- Be available.
Availability is similar, but different, to presence. When engaged with work, conversations, or other tasks, allow yourself to be available when needed by your children. Then, your availability could potentially shift to presence.
- Be invested.
Investment means giving of yourself, your time, and your resources for the purpose of bringing growth to the object of your investment. If I want my children to know the Word of God, I need to invest the Word into them. If I want to see my children physically healthy, I need to invest good food and exercise into their lives.
- Be an imager.
Probably the most important characteristic of all is that of Christlikeness. Our “fathering” relationship with our children will be their first impression of relationship with the “heavenly Father.” If we are harsh and overbearing, then our children will perceive Father God as harsh and overbearing until they get a clear understanding of who He is. If we are distant and disconnected, then our children will feel that Father God is also the same. Therefore, being an imager of God is critical!
The role of a father is critical in the life and development of natural and spiritual children. The responsibilities are sometimes heavy, but this is what God has ordained. As you dig deeper into your relationship with the Father (through Jesus), you will be equipped by the Holy Spirit to be the father that God called you to be!