Family Discipleship (3): Spiritual Parenting (Traditional)

January 15, 2023 | Traditional Worship Service

Rev Gladwin Lee
Family Discipleship (3): Spiritual Parenting (Traditional)

January 15, 2023 | Traditional Worship Service

Rev Gladwin Lee

Scripture Passage: 1 Corinthians 4:14-17 and 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3:5 (NRSVUE)


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Summary l For the apostle Paul, spiritual parenting is the defining metaphor that shapes his understanding of the goal and process of disciple making (Greg Ogden). Paul’s letters were sprinkled with images of spiritual parenthood and he addressed the Christians under his care as children.

Spiritual parenting is disciple-making – bringing young Christians to full maturity in Christ. This role is not only limited to biological parents. All of us in the faith community are charged to teach God’s commandments to the children (Deut 6:4-7). For example, Paul was single, and also the spiritual father of various churches (1 Cor 4:14-16).

Why bother with spiritual parenting?

Without faithful spiritual parenting in our community, the church is stuck with the twin problems of spiritual immaturity and spiritual infertility. Whenever the late John Stott was asked to describe the state of the church around the word, he would say “we have growth without depth. There is much evangelistic growth in numbers. But sadly, there is a shallowness and immaturity everywhere, and it is not pleasing to God.”

Stages of Faith and Maturity (Jim Putman)

(1) Spiritually dead. An unbeliever who have not responded to the love of God and lack a living relationship with God.

(2) Spiritual infant. Someone who has experienced the love of God, but is ignorant about his/her new spiritual life.

(3) Spiritual child. Someone who is enthusiastic and hungry to know more about God, but remains self-centred and worldly in his/her outlook. Their serving is conditional and unwilling. They are reluctant to pay the cost of discipleship.

(4) Spiritual young adult. Someone with a growing awareness of God, but is still uncertain about how to nurture and disciple others. They demonstrate faithful service, God-centredness and other-centredness.

(5) Spiritual parent. A mature Christian who prioritizes the mission of Christ, which is to make disciples. Spiritual parents are intentional about disciple-making, community minded and are able to discern God’s voice for the community. Jim Putman noted that adults are able to reproduce but this does not mean that they are reproducing.

The absence of spiritual parenting results in spiritual immaturity and spiritual infertility. When Christians fail to recognize the urgent need to mature into spiritual parents for the community, the church does not produce spiritual children. If we do not spiritually parent our children, they may leave the Christian faith. The church that does not evangelize will fossilize (Oswald Smith). Churches that are spiritually infertile will eventually die off.

How to practice spiritual parenting and disciple-making?

Wesley Methodist Church’s parenting mission is to win the hearts of their children and to be God’s agent for change as they send their children forth to follow God. This is what a disciple-maker does. To win we have to first connect with the children, to change we need to commune with God as a family and to send means committing to God’s call.

Spiritual Parents:

(1) Offer a winsome presence. This builds a heart to heart connection. It entails being fully present with our children, listening and loving them (1 Thess 2: 7-8). Our winsome presence opens up a safe space for them to raise questions without fear of judgment or compromise on our part. In this sacred space, we allow the light of Christ, from our lives, to penetrate the darkness. Christians with a winsome presence manifest the fruit of the spirit. There is kindness, gentleness and self-control even in trying circumstances.

(2) Are Channels of Change. Spiritual parents model change, to bring people into full maturity. They walk in loving intimacy with God, grow in Christ-likeness and serve God’s purposes. For spiritual parents to be channels of God’s change, we must be willing to be changed as a disciple. We learn to step down from the throne of our hearts, become less self-centred, more Christ-centred and patient with others. God is not looking for sinless perfection for us to parent spiritually. We simply have to be willing to let God shape us.

(3) Send them out to serve. Spiritual parents are mission- minded and have a posture of surrenderedness. They willingly release their sons and daughters in the faith to serve; and allow space for them to make mistakes and develop their own ways of doing. Whatever the methods of ministry, the source of transformation is still God.

Are you willing to mature as a spiritual parent, in order to walk with someone in their faith? We pray for our spiritual parents and also for our young spiritual prodigals to be restored in our church family, to live out God’s purposes in their lives.

(Sermon notes by Denis Koh)

Helpful courses for consideration:

Sacred Marriage:
The Marriage Course (Alpha)
Dates: 3 Apr, 10 Apr, 17 Apr, 24 Apr, 8 May, 15 May and 22 May
Visit: (under Marriage Enrichment Course).

Best Date Ever: A unique date with your forever Date
Dates: 11 March, 7.00-9.30pm
Revive the romance and renew intimacy with your spouse over a curated menu and facilitated programme designed for husbands and wives to connect more deeply with each other. Step out of the marriage routine and give your relationship a new experience!

Spiritual Parenting:
Raising Future-Ready Kids: Relational Health & Sexual Intelligence
Dates: 4 March, 10am-12pm, Webinar, Focus On The Family
Talking about sex can be one of the most daunting tasks for parents, especially if we never had the subject broached with us when growing up. How then can we confidently discuss healthy sexuality, love and relationships with our children? Derive parental guidance on how to equip your child to make wise decisions from young for their body and their love life!

MWTS/Core Series: Family Worship & Discipleship
Dates: 4, 11, 25 May (Thurs), Online
The sessions taught by Mr David Leong will cover the following:
-Family Worship & Discipleship
-How to have difficult conversations with our children?


  1. Recall the 2 reasons why spiritual parenting is important for us.
  2. Read 1 Thess 2:1-3:5. What were Paul’s motivations for his ministry in Thessalonica?
  3. What are the distinctives of Paul’s ministry among the Thessalonians based on 1 Thess 2:1-3:5?
  4. Read 1 Cor 4:14-17. Who are the spiritual parents in your faith journey thus far? Based on the Win-Change-Send framework and Paul’s example in 1 Thess 2:1-3:5, how have their lives and actions shaped you?
  5. Recall the stages of faith mentioned in the sermon and the attributes that characterise each stage. What do you sense is needed for a person to progress in each stage to full maturity in Christ (Colossians 1:28)?
  6. Which stage of faith do you feel best describes you right now? Why?
  7. Is there a spiritual prodigal whom God has called you to pray for? Share with the group how they may join you in prayer for this person?
  8. In 1 Cor 4:16-17, Paul urges his spiritual children to imitate his ways in Christ. How may you imitate your spiritual parent to parent someone spiritually?
Wesley Communications Team
Posted by Wesley Communications Team

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