Children, Young Men, Fathers and Movements


One of the misconceptions about discipleship I think we get wrong constantly is that discipleship is simply a function of growing in holiness.  What I mean by this is that often when we think about becoming disciples, we think about becoming a less sinful version of ourselves.  In reality, discipleship, according to Jesus has the end result of becoming like Him.

Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.

-Jesus, Luke 6:40

I think many of us have different ideas of what this looks like. Regardless of what you think this looks like, God has more in mind than a less-sinful-version-of-you.  In reality, God is calling you not to be Jesus, but by the power of the Holy Spirit follow Jesus and reflect His very nature to the world around you.

There’s a progression to this that many fail to understand. We grow in stages. John the Apostle talks about this in his first epistle:

I am writing to you, little children,
    because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
    because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
    because you know the Father.
 I write to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God abides in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.

-John the Apostle, 1 John 2:12-14

Obviously, John sees growth in godliness in this passage. But he lists three different stages of life in Christ that help us see discipleship differently: Fathers, young men, and children*. Each of these have characteristics that we could analyze, but I want us to look at this passage from just a slightly different angle. If I’m reading this right, these are all believers. Some have just recently accepted Christ (children), some have been with Christ longer and achieved some victory over sin (young men), and some have known Christ since the beginning (fathers).

Here’s the point: You may find yourself in one specific section of this passage. You may be a child in the faith, having just come to Christ. You may even be a young man (or woman) in the faith, who has overcome some level of sin and become stronger in your walk. But there is a progression here. Children shouldn’t stay children forever.  Young men shouldn’t go forever without becoming fathers.  We’re all called to continue progressing in our faith to the place of fatherhood.

One of the implications of this is that we all grow from knowing Christ as our savior, to overcoming our old lifestyle, to becoming one who truly knows God and passes on the life of Christ to others.  I believe the church suffers currently because we all have visions of becoming young men (overcoming evil in our lives) but few of us have a vision for truly knowing Christ and becoming fathers (and mothers), passing on the life of Jesus on to new believers and helping grow them up in the faith.

When everyone in our churches believes they can grow to the place of spiritual fatherhood and begins to move in that direction, we begin to see the movement of the New Testament that Jesus started take shape. We don’t become gurus, instead we become those who know and love Christ and are helping others find that same love. We raise these children up to be young men (and women) and eventually fathers (and mothers).  Spiritual families (called churches) begin to sprout up that result in more spiritual families over time.

My goal in writing this morning is that we understand that God has more for us. We aren’t designed to live forever bringing people to hear someone else teach God’s word. We are designed to become fathers and mothers in our own right and to help the children in the faith around us have spiritual children as well.  Don’t believe you could never disciple someone. Don’t believe you can’t start a spiritual family. It’s in your spiritual DNA. It’s just a matter of growing up in the Lord.

*Don’t get hung up on gender language here. I’m part of the bride of Christ. Ladies are sons of God. The point isn’t the gender, the point is the stage of life.


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About traviskolder

Travis Kolder is a follower of Jesus, a husband, a father of five, an organic church planter, and a writer. He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he serves as part of the Cedar Rapids House Church Network.

3 responses to “Children, Young Men, Fathers and Movements”

  1. David Bolton says :

    Travis, thank you for your words. This resonates deeply with me. When spiritual family is the “wineskin” that we are planted in, then growth unto maturity is the natural progression of things. All stages add a unique blessing to the completeness of the whole. Fathers and mothers derive so much joy and refreshing from the children, as well as strength and encouragement from the young men and women. The children derive acceptance, instruction, and stability from the fathers and mothers. The young men and women not only receive from the more mature ones, but give to the less mature as well. This is God’s blueprint for normal spiritual growth for all. We were never meant to grow up in mere institutions where arrested spiritual growth seems to predominate. May God truly restore His family as He intended from the beginning!

  2. riverflowsdown says :

    Travis, I have known you for a while now and have watched you transition from Young man to a Father. That would be both naturally and spiritually. Personally my experience has given me a grasp of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

    Spiritual Mothers and Fathers are a rarity in the context of your blog. My generation was raised with this in mind “Do as I say Not as I do.” Paul said 1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

    A thought: Discipleship is not a set of rules and regulation but a relationship of one person learning to follow Jesus by walking with another person who is living with Jesus not just talking about him.

    If that is a true you are a father and I know a lot of young men around you are becoming the same. That is more precious than Gold

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