In a world where mentors and guides abound, the scarcity of true spiritual fathers is evident. The apostle Paul's words resonate with profound truth: *“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.”* (1 Corinthians 4:15) This scarcity underscores the need for authentic spiritual fathers in the Kingdom of God.
My personal journey, intertwined with the teachings of Pastor AR Bernard, sheds light on the invaluable role of spiritual fathers in shaping lives and advancing God's mission. He emerged from a childhood without a father's presence, yet he rekindled the embrace of the Heavenly Father's love and has now assumed the role of a spiritual father to countless souls.
Pastor A.R. Bernard is a visionary pastor, leading one of New York's largest houses of worship, Christian Cultural Center (CCC). With over 37,000 members, Recognized as one of New York's 50 Most Powerful People in Brooklyn, The Power Pastor by The New York Times, and a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Consulate General of Israel.
The Gift of Spiritual Fathers
In 2019, amidst the vibrant city of Dubai, I encountered a man whose impact would forever change my perspective on mentorship. As Pastor AR Bernard often says, "Leadership is the ability to take people from where they are to where they have never been." He says "Life is God's gift to us. What we do with it is our gift to God."
I shared with Pastor Bernard our vision to to move to New York City from New Delhi, India to see "Every student in every nation gospelized and mobilized" out of New York, the modern day Rome. He often reminds us, "God will take you through places you didn't choose, to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own. If you don't have a vision for the future, then your future is threatened to be a repeat of the past."
Lessons of Spiritual Fathering from Dr. Bernard
F - Formative Guidance:
As Pastor Bernard frequently emphasizes, "Your purpose is not about you, but about God's intent for the world." His words echoed a profound truth, "Bonny, I'm giving you the gift of access." These words weren't just about platforms; they symbolized a spiritual father's ability to open doors that align with God's plan. Spiritual fathers facilitate divine connections and opportunities.
A - Anchored Relationships:
Pastor Bernard often reminds us that "Relationships is the network for life." Like a father investing time and care into his child, Pastor Bernard's consistent encouragement, prayers, and invitations showcased the essence of spiritual fatherhood. He wasn't just imparting knowledge but cultivating a deep relationship.
T - Timeless Wisdom:
As Pastor Bernard eloquently puts it, "The Bible is the external blueprint for an internal transformation." Spiritual fathers, like Pastor Bernard, ground their guidance in the Bible's teachings. Their wisdom reflects years of walking with God and studying His Word, guiding us on the path of righteousness. He often says "The quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life'.
H - Holy Spirit led:
In Pastor Bernard's words, "Leadership is not just about doing things; it's about allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you." A spiritual father's life mirrors Christ's character. Pastor Bernard's humility, kindness, and commitment to God's work were living examples of Christ's teachings.
E -Enduring support :
Spiritual fathers provide enduring support, standing with us through challenges and triumphs. In the words of Pastor Bernard, "Leadership is not a sprint. It's a marathon." Their presence throughout our journey exemplifies the steadfastness of their fatherly role.
R - Rise in Seasons :
Just as seasons change, spiritual fathers help us rise to new levels and stages of maturity, ensuring that our journey is marked by growth and progress. As Pastor Bernard wisely stated, "Seasons of life come and go. Learn to adapt and flow with them, for they are the rhythm of life's journey. Excuses are the crutches of the uncommitted." This understanding of the changing seasons underscores the crucial role of spiritual fathers in guiding us through the varying stages of our lives.
Levels and Stages
"Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do." This profound insight from Pastor Bernard speaks to the essence of spiritual fatherhood, especially in navigating life's various seasons. As seasons change, spiritual fathers remain constant anchors, providing stability and guidance amidst uncertainty.
Pastor Bernard often says, "The winter prepares the earth for the spring." Just as the earth needs the transition of seasons to bear fruit, our lives go through cycles of growth and change. Spiritual fathers understand this ebb and flow, offering wisdom and encouragement tailored to each season.
As Pastor Bernard aptly notes, "We live life on levels and arrive in stages. Each stage takes us to a new level of relationships, knowledge, understanding, authority and responsibility." Spiritual fathers help us ascend these levels with grace, guiding us through stages of growth and maturation.
Pastor Bernard's insight on relationships resonates deeply: "Relationships are the network for life." Just as spiritual fathers invest in relationships, nurturing and guiding, they become the vital network that supports our journey.
Embracing Change with Wisdom
Pastor Bernard's wisdom on change offers profound guidance: "Change is the only constant in life. It is the essence of maturation. Knowing what to change and what to continue is the challenge. If you change what you should continue, you lose your identity. If you continue what you should change, you become irrelevant. When change is necessary, not to change is destructive!" Spiritual fathers, anchored in the unchanging truths of the Gospel, guide us through the delicate balance of growth and continuity.
The Call for Spiritual Fathers
The Kingdom of God thrives when spiritual fathers rise. Pastor Bernard often exhorts us with the words, "You're here to live a meaningful life, not a successful life." They bridge generations, ensuring that the torch of faith is passed on. They guide, correct, and nurture, much like the apostle Paul did with Timothy. Pastor Bernard's impact is a reminder that spiritual fathers are integral to the spiritual growth of believers.
Let's be willing to step into both roles, fostering growth and unity in the body of Christ. Just as Pastor Bernard's influence continues to shape my journey, his words continue to inspire: "What you embrace, you empower. What you resist, you repel." Just as Pastor Bernard left an indelible mark on my journey, our influence can shape destinies for the glory of God.
In the story of spiritual fatherhood, Pastor AR Bernard's teachings and life shine as a beacon. "Leadership is a journey, not a destination," he often reminds us. Spiritual fathers are rare gems, offering more than mentorship; they embrace us in the journey, pray for us fervently, and propel us toward God's purpose. As we heed the call for spiritual fathers, let's also reflect on the importance of being spiritual fathers ourselves. Just as Pastor Bernard's influence continues to shape my journey, our influence can shape destinies for the glory of God.