Are "Spiritual Fathers" Supported by The New Testament?

Kato Mivule | September 27, 2011

One of the popular teachings today in Evangelical circles is that of “Spiritual Fathers”, individuals who are supposed to act as mentors, guides, and accountability partners between a Christian and Jesus Christ.  Often success, prosperity, fame, blessings, and attaining “the anointing” are tied to this mentor, a.k.a. Spiritual Father, without whom, the believer cannot attain the full blessings of God.

This teaching has become popular due to the trend that Christians today have in the pursuit of monetary success and prosperity. The teaching is also tied to the “Breaking the Curse” teaching, in that believers who don’t have a “Spiritual Father” often “suffer” the prolonged consequences of curses and lack of monetary success and prosperity.

However, the question that critical thinking Christians must ask themselves before submitting to one of the “Spiritual Fathers”,  is this teaching biblical, is it supported anywhere in the New Testament? What did Jesus Christ say about “Spiritual Fathers”?

The New Testament does not at any time support the teaching on Spirituals Fathers. The word “Spiritual Father” is not found anywhere in the New Testament. Just like many other extra biblical teachings, the proponents of “Spiritual Father” often take one or two scriptures in the New Testament out of context and then build on that with heavy out of context reliance on the Old Testament as their back up.

Matthew 23:8-10 (NKJV)
8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.

Jesus Christ was very clear that we do not call anyone ‘father’ here on earth as we have one Heavenly Father, our Heavenly Spiritual Father, God Creator of Heaven and Earth. The New Testament uses Father in reference to God in Heaven and He is the only one who has authorized blessing for us believers through Jesus Christ, by Grace and not works. No “Spiritual Father” on earth or inside your Church can grant you any blessing, none…

Ephesians 1:2-4(NKJV)
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

On the contrary, The New Testament does support Christian Church Leadership and that must not be confused with “Spiritual Fathers”. Yes, the New Testament speaks about leaders in the Church, Paul the Apostle appointed various leaders in the Churches he opened. However, never did he refer to them as “Spiritual Fathers”. Never did Paul state that blessings and success come from “Spiritual Fathers”.

The concept of "Spiritual Fathers" is used by some for control, manipulation, and monetary gain, driven largely by a Christian’s fear of being “cursed”. The more people who call some individual a “Spiritual Father”, the more that “Spiritual Father” can gain in terms of influence.

When it comes to “Receiving the Anointing”, there is no New Testament backing for such teachings and a Christian does not need a “Spiritual Father” to be anointed. As a matter of fact John the apostle tells us that we are all anointed by the Holy Spirit as Christians after we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

1 John 2(NKJV)
26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

The anointing you received from The Holy Spirit is able to teach you all things, that is to say, The Holy Spirit should guide you through God’s Word and your mentor should be Jesus Christ and not a Man who will fail you the next day.  The Teaching on “Spiritual Fathers” is about placing a level of trust in a human being but that is disastrous to your spiritual faith as you will discover that humans fail and therefore your true mentor should be Jesus Christ and what He taught and said.

Nowhere does it say in the New Testament that you receive an anointing from your “Spiritual Father”. Yes, we do have Church leaders and their duty is to guide you in your PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ so that you receive directly from The Lord and relate with Him personally, not to serve as intermediaries between you and Jesus Christ.

The most misquoted verse by the proponents of the “Spiritual Fathers” teachings is 1 Corinthians 4:15-16 in which Paul tells the Christians in Corinth that they may have many instructors but not many fathers …

1 Corinthians 4:15 (NKJV)
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. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me.

Paul was not trying to act as an intermediary between Christians and Jesus Christ, he was not telling them to emulate to him per say, but rather that they should submit to Jesus Christ just as Paul had submitted to Jesus Christ. It is reason that Paul used the phrase, “imitate me”. Many proponents of the “Spiritual Fathers” teaching stop there but in 1 Corinthians 11: 1, Paul completes that phrase, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

1 Corinthians 11(NKJV)
1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

The teaching on “Spiritual Fathers” is not found anywhere in the New Testament and contradicts the Teachings of Jesus Christ on that subject.  You don’t need a “Spiritual Father” to be anointed and blessed.  Our Heavenly Father has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Jesus Christ and anointed us by The Holy Spirit with an anointing that abides with us.  Cultivate your personal relationship with Jesus Christ and have no spiritual intermediaries, let Jesus Christ and His Words be your Mentor, and let God of Heaven be your Spiritual Father.

God Bless You.
Kato Mivule



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Sunday Vision | 25th September, 2011|
Moses Mulondo explores the concept of spiritual fathers
LAST month, I attended a pastor’s conference at Zion Wakening Centre in Bweyogerere, where a Pentecostal bishop from Kenya told believers that those who wished to be successful in church ministry should have both a vision and a spiritual father. One of the participants opposed him, citing St Paul who never had a spiritual father nor any spiritual leader who taught him salvation, yet became one of the greatest apostles.

The pastor was referring to Galatians 1:11-17 where Paul says: “I want you to know, brothers the Gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” Pastor Martin Ssempa also opposes the doctrine of calling fellow believers spiritual fathers. “This question needs to be resolved once and for all. There are many people calling themselves our spiritual fathers but let it be known that our one and only spiritual father is God the creator of heaven and earth,” Ssempa argues. The teaching of spiritual fathers has, for long, been emphasised in the Catholic Church more than in any other denomination, as evident in the head of the Catholic Church — the Pope, called the Holy Father.

The Pentecostal church, which started at the beginning of the 20th Century, never classified Jesus’s followers into fathers and children or sons and daughters. They believed that all believers related as equal brothers and sisters working together. They carried the notion that calling some spiritual fathers created inequality in the Church. But today, they teach the importance of having spiritual fathers.