What is a spiritual heir? We understand inheritance when it comes to money in the bank or a business that is left behind and the instructions in a last will and testament that determine who receives what. Those who receive an inheritance don’t have to worry about starting anything—that’s already been done. They can focus on growing and expanding what they’ve been given, whether it be investments, a business or real estate.
The same principle applies in the spiritual realm. Those who have gone before us in ministry and leadership pass on to us their blessing, wisdom, learning, resources, prayer and encouragement. This spiritual inheritance allows us to go further than they went, reap where they sowed and build on the foundation that they laid.
This is the heart of spiritual fatherhood and motherhood. It is a desire and commitment to see those who come behind us succeed in ways that we could only imagine, and it influences every aspect of how we develop leaders.
In the Old Testament, we see examples of how this could have worked but didn’t. For example, Scripture tells us that Elisha requested and received a double portion of the anointing of his spiritual father, Elijah. However, when Elisha became ill and was preparing for death, he had no one to whom to pass on the anointing in the way Elijah had to him.
Second Kings 13 recounts Elisha’s deathbed attempt to prophetically encourage the Israelite king Jehoash to defeat Israel’s enemies, the Arameans. Perhaps this king would be the one to carry on Elisha’s mandate to guide Israel to spiritual renewal and military victory. Unfortunately, King Jehoash’s halfhearted response to Elisha’s challenge reveals that this would not be the case, and the next verse (v. 20) sadly notes, “Elisha died and was buried.”
With no one to carry on Elisha’s anointing, the spiritual power he possessed went with him to the grave. In fact, the verses that follow document how, years later, when a dead man’s body was dumped in Elisha’s grave, the man promptly came back to life.
It is not until the New Testament that we see the fulfillment of this God-given expectation of generational anointing—something that the prophet Malachi points to when he predicts that a new and improved Elijah will come and “will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents” (4:6).
Of course, that fulfillment began with John the Baptist (the new and improved Elijah) as he prepared the way for Jesus Christ. While John’s ministry (like Elijah’s) was awe-inspiring to many of those who saw him, it paled in comparison to that of the One who came after him. And unlike Elisha, Jesus did not take the spiritual power He possessed to the grave. When Jesus rose from the grave, He breathed on His disciples and they received the Holy Spirit. From that point on, they walked in the same Holy Spirit anointing that Jesus walked in.
We need to have a vision of God that every generation would get bigger, better and stronger, that the anointing would double with each generation because of the spiritual inheritance we leave behind. This is what Jesus was teaching when he said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:12-13).
There are three key principles in this passage that form the foundation of what it means to pass on an inheritance as spiritual mothers and fathers:
As a spiritual mother or father, your goal is for those who follow you to do greater things than you. If the primary goal of my life is to build a great church, I’m thinking with a limited vision. Instead, the goal of my ministry should be to see how many sons and daughters I can get on my shoulders. Whether they go into business, the media, education or pastoral ministry, I want them to do greater things than me. If you’re a father or mother, and that isn’t your goal, you’re just competing with your sons and daughters. We should not feel intimidated, jealous or frustrated when we see those who come after us go beyond us.
As a spiritual mother or father, your heart is to empower those who follow you to reach their full potential. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name” (v. 13). Jesus supported, empowered, prayed for and did everything in His power to ensure that His disciples succeeded in what He had called them to do. They lacked for nothing.
As a spiritual mother or father, your win is them winning. The difference between a true apostolic mother or father and a controlling one is that one of them says, “I want you to win because it makes me look good.” The reverse is when a true spiritual mother or father says, “I want you to win because the only way I can truly win is when you win—because it’s the joy of my life.” This is what the apostle Paul meant when he refers to followers as “you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1).
If you’re not careful, everything about ministry will be how everybody impacts you and how their decisions hurt you or help you. God is never the God of just one person, family, church or movement. He is a multigenerational God—“the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
And the greatest thing you can do as a leader is to give your life as a spiritual inheritance so that every generation that comes after you is going to be bigger and better and stronger because they received a spiritual inheritance. They didn’t have to start from scratch because they were on your shoulders. The sustained move of God is not about us praying for greater anointing for ourselves. It’s about us getting a heart of being a father and mother.
First Corinthians 4:15 says, “You have many teachers. You don’t have many fathers and mothers.” That’s just as true today as it was when the apostle Paul wrote it.
There are a lot of “teachers" who want to tell you what they think you should do from a distance when it comes to church planting and leadership. But there are very few “fathers and mothers” who are willing to roll up their sleeves and walk out the journey with you. 415 Leaders is working to change that by raising up a community of seasoned, healthy pastors ready to give their shoulders to the next generation of pastors and church planters.
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