Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-11
I sometimes fondly recall how many Christians influenced and cared for me when I was first discovering how to follow Jesus. The above passage conveys the intense passion of the Apostle Paul in his role in the spiritual formation of new followers of Jesus in the ancient city of Thessalonica.
Paul expresses the dedication necessary for those eager to help new followers persevere beyond the surface excitement of discovering Jesus. It is the same connection loving parents have toward their newborns. This connection is generated by the Holy Spirit, not by an online matching service.
As I reflect on the many ways God has used to guide my spiritual formation, I observe he has and continues to use organizations, groups, individual mentors, books, sermons, Bible study, prayer, outreach efforts, volunteer work, marriage, extended family, and more to securely fold me into his forever family and draw me closer to him.
Does this picture seem too enveloping? Does the idea of having a spiritual parent as described above in I Thessalonians seem too possessive? If you are hoping to be more fully formed in Christ, it is necessary to commit to significant interaction with other followers of Jesus – although, warning: such commitment involves course correction and occasionally disappointing experiences.
As you begin this Fall season, pray for and trust God to help you find a mentor (or be mentor), find or solidify friendships that encourage your faith, join a ministry team and/or a Rooted/Life Group that will encourage your continuing formation in Jesus.
By Kathleen Petersen