the shape of leadership

Authentic Spiritual Parenting

A Q&A With J. Don George

Chris Colvin on January 16, 2019

J. Don George is pastor emeritus of Calvary Church (Assemblies of God) in Irving, Texas, which has multiple campuses in North Texas and one in Wallace, North Carolina.

INFLUENCE: When and how did you become a spiritual father?
I became a spiritual father when spiritual sons and daughters were born by the will of God and through the Holy Spirit’s prompting. But one does not become a spiritual parent by just living a long time. I believe I have attracted people by modeling a life of service and possessing a spiritual life that they may want to imitate.

What lessons have you learned in mentoring the next generation?
I learned the impact of living an authentic lifestyle. People don’t like a phony, and they won’t follow one. Young people, especially, are looking for authenticity. I saw that in my own parents. They weren’t one thing in the parsonage and another on Sunday.

People don’t like mood swings, so live a life of consistency. When someone is angry one moment and then joking around the next, it sends mixed messages that are hard to understand.

“We should take people seriously whose lives we can influence.”
— J. Don George

I have strived to be likeable. I tell young guys whom I mentor that likeability is underrated. No matter how well a pastor preaches, if they aren’t likeable, then they can’t attract people. Likeability requires an even disposition, being pleasant and complimentary. People may admire a critic, but few of them want to be one. 

What should spiritual children know about these relationships?
Spiritual relationships are more caught than taught. People who have come through our church as staff have said they have learned more by being with me than by what I’ve said in a classroom setting. I’ve often told my staff who want to learn from me, “I’m available to spend time with you, but I’m not going to come find you. You need to seek me out.”

People will be attracted to a certain type of minister who exhibits certain qualities. But talent cannot be transferred. There are things every spiritual child can model. But there are things they can’t because we all have our own skills.

Every relationship will be tested. We won’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Time together is essential to surviving those tests. So a spiritual child must be willing to trust his or her spiritual parent. I may ask a spiritual child to do something without taking the time to explain every detail of the assignment.

How can spiritual parenting change the world by producing more effective multipliers?
It is essential that leaders see the power of parenting spiritual sons and daughters. I prayed for years that God would help raise up people within my ministry who would be greater than I was, build more than I did, and raise up larger and stronger churches. It’s not just what we do but what we inspire others to do that is important. We should take people seriously whose lives we can influence.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 edition of Influence magazine.

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