Did you know you have a spiritual legacy? When you recognize and honor that legacy, there’s a blessing that comes with it.
The first command God gave that came with a promised blessing was, “Honor your father and mother, that it may be well with you and that you may live long in the earth.” Certainly this applies in the natural, but what about the spiritual? Who are fathers and mothers who paved the way for you?
When we choose to honor what is good about the people who have influenced us, it releases blessing from heaven in our lives.Three years ago, I was holding my fourth child, Graham, about ten minutes after he was born. As I held him, I heard the Lord whisper two things to me clearly, “Honor your father” and “Go ahead. Build your school.” That following summer, Student CPx was born, a school for birthing simple churches among students. I believe the two things God said are linked – whatever God births in a new generation needs to come out of a spirit of honor for past generations – both naturally and spiritually.
The Corinthian church was experiencing a crisis of honor. They were swayed by “leaders” who had come in to their community who were good at instructing, but poor in reflecting the heart of spiritual fathering. They had forgotten the labor, love, and nature of true spiritual fathering Paul and his team displayed among them. Paul challenged them to remember, “You have many instructors. You don’t have many fathers.”
Here’s a question: Which do you want to be – an instructor or a father?
There is a blessing that comes when we remember and honor those who have gone before us like spiritual fathers who paved the way for us to walk in the Kingdom of God.
I want some blessing, so here are some people I want to honor!
Dad – When I was a small child, I remember waking up in the middle of the night. My dad was sitting beside me, laying his hands on my chest and praying in the spirit. “God, use my son. Use my son.” It placed an indelible mark in my soul that God had destined me for a purpose and the prayers of my father were going before me. Thank you, dad!
Right after the encounter I had with the Lord as Graham was born (and right before Student CPx and Student Church began to grow), I received an odd phone call. On the other end of the line was a pastor from Alaska. “Erik, you don’t know me. I don’t know if you are walking with the Lord. The last time I saw you was thirty years ago and you were three years old. The last several months, the Lord brings your dad’s name to my mind whenever I pray. The Lord told me, ‘Look up Don’s (my dad) son and call him.” Erik, the Lord gave me a message to give to you.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Erik, I am to honor your father to you. Your dad gave me a word when I was young in the ministry, climbing the ladder of ministry success and being recognized for all my accomplishments. He told me, ‘You need to quit the ministry and start following Jesus.’ Erik, that word changed my life. Today, my wife and I are walking with the Lord, and we have six kids who all love Jesus. I want to honor your father to you.”
This man had no way of knowing that I’d just quit my ministry job to follow Jesus toward a vision He’d given us to mobilize student churches on university campuses. He had no idea the Lord had just told me to honor my father as I transitioned in ministry toward something others thought was crazy. I believed this was another confirmation that, indeed, God was birthing a new movement and something in my life where honoring fathers was very important.
Mom – When my mom was twenty years old, she answered a call to full-time missions. Right after, she became pregnant with me and her desires for the nations were never fully realized. One night as she lay in bed, feeling anxious and praying about my birth, she was filled with the presence of God and filled with the Holy Spirit. As she told me this story, I felt God answered her cries for the nations, at least in part, through me. My mom is a godly woman who prays and gives and loves Jesus with all her heart. The stories she and my dad told me about the Jesus Movement they were a part of in the 1970’s planted seeds in my heart that are bearing fruit today. Thank you, mom!
Grandpa – my grandpa was the hardest working, most generous man I’ve ever known. He had a way of balancing an old-world work ethic with a faithfulness, generosity and commitment to family I’ve seldom seen. I never once saw him break his word. This is part of my legacy. I prayed with him in his hospital bed, shortly before he died. A day before he passed, as breathing tubes and medical machinery prolonged the minutes of his life, he stretched out his arms, held me to his chest and roared, “My son! My son! I bless you!” Thanks Grandpa. I’m walking in that blessing.
Bob Weiner– In the 1980’s this intense, apostolic-minded leader made disciples and birthed campus churches that swept several campuses and spread to many nations. Though the ministries he birthed experienced a lot of changes and setbacks, the apostolic seeds he spread would birth movements that would produce lasting fruit in many lives, including my own. Though I don’t know Bob well, I consider him kind of a spiritual “grandfather.” What a joy it has been to spend some time with Bob the last couple years. He even came to help me and our team birth the first Student CPx, paying his way and blessing the fruit he had, in an indirect way, helped produce.
Rice Broocks – Rice had been impacted deeply by Bob Weiner. Rice traveled to campuses throughout the world, planting churches and calling young people to follow Jesus. Rice is a founder of multiple ministries and churches, including co-founder of Every Nation, I answered the call to follow Jesus as an adult after meeting Rice and hearing him speak in 1995. When I met him, something went off inside me, saying, “I want to be like this guy.” It wasn’t an idolatrous thing. I saw Jesus in him, and I wanted to live a life that changed the world like Jesus did. Rice took me on a couple trips with him early in my walk with the Lord, paying my entire way. These experiences impacted me deeply. Thank you, Rice!
John McDermott– John was about ten years older than me, and had started following Jesus after meeting Rice Broocks several years before, as I had. No leader impacts a person deeper than they do when they invest their life into a younger disciple. This is what John did for me. John was planting a church in my university town in Lawrence, KS. I met John when I was a freshman in college at KU. John challenged me to walk with Jesus, called me almost every day, visited me in my fraternity room, left regular encouraging messages on my answering machine, and discipled me with an investment of time I’ve seldom seen another leader willing to make in a person. I probably wouldn’t be walking with the Lord today if it weren’t for John’s influence on my life. John encouraged me to baptize other students, lead them to Jesus, make disciples, open-air preach, start Bible studies, read the Bible, live by faith, and a number of other things that shaped me as a young disciple. However, more than any other thing, what I remember about John is how he treated his wife and kids. I lived with John on multiple occasions, and they became like family to me. John had more influence on me than probably any other single person in my walk with the Lord. Thank you, John!
Cheh Lim – This 5 feet tall Malaysian girl is the most effective evangelist and discipler I’ve ever known. When I was a young, arrogant fraternity guy, barely a month old in the Lord, this small woman looked me in the eye and said, “You’re going to help me reach international students.” Under the sway of her immense “super-powers” of persuasion, I soon found myself driving international students on 26 hour road trips over Spring Break, planning international student outreaches, – and leading international students to Jesus, casting out demons, making disciples, and learning to love the nations like Jesus did. Never looking for fame or recognition, this powerful woman just keeps plodding from year to year, leading the nations to Jesus. These habits stayed with me and grew through the years. I never realized until years later what an impact she had on my life.
Charles Doss. This man was a contemporary of healing revivalists from the 50’s, but he chose to carry his anointing in a way that never sought the spotlight or the fame. Though this man led over a million people to Jesus, raised the dead, and had flown around the world over a hundred times, he made time to spend with me. He prayed for me for an impartation of evangelism one day and I (literally) saw something like swirling blue lightning flash in front of my eyes, and spin into the center of my body. I fell over, all strength leaving my legs. Yep. Weird, but so, so good. I once saw him pray for a girl with terrible acne – it was completely gone the next time I saw her, like she’d received a new face. He passed away a few years ago, but I’ve always felt that I received something unmistakeable from Charles that makes me want to love Jesus and people more, do miracles, yet walk in a humility and a child-like fascination with Jesus. Thank you Charles.
Leo Lawson – Man, it’s hard to describe the spiritual pedigree of this mighty leader. I think he’s made more disciples who are specifically reaching college campuses than about any person I know. To line up with the “spiritual legacy” analogy, Leo is another person who was impacted deeply by Bob Weiner and several others in that movement from the 1980s, then began pouring his life into other young men and women. I met Leo in 1998, and subsequently enrolled as one of the first students in The Graduate School of Campus Ministry he founded in Los Angeles that year. Leo spent six months pouring his life into me and those students. As a father of three and a devoted husband, he still somehow found time to have me stay in his home and stay up with me til 3 and 4am, helping bring inner healing, forgiveness, and pour deeper discipleship foundations in my life. Leo has become for me what I imagine a special forces trainer might be to the men he trains. I can call Leo anytime, night or day, and he makes time for me. He has been there for me at critical transitional times of my life, offering support, prayer, wisdom, and even finances. I am deeply thankful for the legacy I have from this man.
In 2007, I began to experience dreams and vision from the Lord about a coming movement on university campuses. The Lord told me, “Erik, remember it’s not about campuses; it’s about nations.” What I saw in my spirit were young people, traveling from campus to campus in small groups, planting churches. I saw two phrases, “Campus Church. Student Church.” As with any vision or prophetic word, it is wise to test it and look for confirmation. I wrestled with the legitimacy of the vision, and searched it out Biblically. I sought counsel about it, not getting much encouragement. Finally, in frustration, I told the Lord, “God if this vision is from You, I need at least one outside confirmation.” Right then, Leo’s name popped into my head. Sitting in an airport about to leave for a mission trip to Eastern Europe, I gave Leo a call. I explained, “Leo, I’m burned out in ministry. I can’t spend another year doing campus ministry and church as we’ve always done it. I’m about to quit. But I feel like God has given me a vision for student-led churches on the college campus. I know it sounds crazy, but have you ever heard of anyone doing this?”
Leo replied, “Uh. This is crazy. I’m standing in line, about to get on a plane and I’m standing next to a guy I think you should talk to. His name is Jaeson Ma.
Jaeson Ma was an early prophetic pioneer in planting student-led simple churches at UCLA and several other campuses. Interestingly, I was the first person Leo trained at the Graduate School of Campus Ministry. Jaeson was the last. When I met Jaeson, he was just about to release a book called The Blueprint, laying out some of the prophetic history of student church planting, as it connected with his life and calling. Jaeson and I struck up a friendship that day and began spending time together. Jaeson later told me when he met me he heard the Lord say, “This is the one you’ve been looking for” (to lead the charge with the student church planting movement). Jaeson helped prophetically, “set me in” to the place I am walking in today. I’m sure the Lord is looking for lots of people, but it’s hard for me to underestimate the prophetic impact Jaeson had on my life. Jaeson was one of the first young people I’d seen in my life who believed in himself, believed in God, but wasn’t arrogant. Jaeson soon started trying to lift me up and connected me with leaders around the world who could help me walk in my calling. Instead of holding on to power, Jaeson modeled for me what it was like to give it away, helping transition the early CCN he had founded to merge with Student Church, the network I and my team founded after the first Student CPx in 2008. When Jaeson transitioned out of specific university focused church planting, the prophetic blessing and impact he had on my life were significant.
Neil Cole – Neil had also mentored Jaeson to bring wisdom and apostolic structure to student-led simple church networks on campuses. Author of Organic Church and several other works, Neil has been an apostolic pioneer for a multitude of trainings, organic churches, etc. Neil also helped me and my team birth the first Student CPx. I’ve stayed with him in his home, seen his kids and marriage, and watched him lead with a confidence and humility unlike I’ve seen in any other leader. I’m proud to now call him a friend and mentor. One day, after I asked Neil’s help with a project we were doing on some new campuses, I was apologizing for the lack of notice I’d given him. He said, “Erik, I don’t care if you give me a day’s notice. If you need me, I am your servant. I’m ready to help you on any campus where you need me, anytime that I can, with my own money. I feel called to serve you and the student churches.” Ok, there’s an apostolic leadership quality I’d never seen before. Thank you, Neil, for modeling these leadership attributes.
The list could go on. Today, I’m thinking about how we’ve sometimes lost a sense of honor in the body of Christ. I’m seeing how no man or woman is an isolated individual who just picked up the Bible one day and became a disciple apart from the influence of others. I worry that we emphasize church programs more than the authentic flow of life that happens between individuals as they share life together, or as an older spiritual parent pours into a younger disciple. If I had more time, I’d go on in greater detail about many others. I’ll briefly mention some of them.
I remember multiple pastors, like Ernie Gruen, inspiring me to know Jesus when I was a little boy. I remember Mahesh Chavda praying for me when I was twelve years old and imparting spiritual blessing.
I remember Floyd McClung, sitting with me, praying and dreaming together about reaching the nations through simple church movements on campuses. I remember George Patterson, telling me, “You can do it! It’s totally possible to start a church planting movement among unchurched college students in North America!”
I think about Sam Lee, spending hours with me on the phone, mentoring me and pastoring me as I embarked on the greatest transition of my life up that point.
I think about Pam Arlund, one of my best friends, co-founder of Student CPx with me, and fellow Student Church national elder. She believed in me and put all her credentials on the line to be my “Dr. Spock” friend and pilot the ship with me.
I think about my Fuller Seminary professors who were the first to challenge me to think about North America as a mission field, rather than an already reached culture, and encouraged me almost prophetically to keep writing.
I think about the people I don’t have a close personal relationship with, but who, nonetheless have deeply and significantly impacted me, like Bethel Church and their leadership team. So much of the investment they’ve made in the kingdom has transformed my view of God and brought key formation to the deepest part of me.
I think about our Student Church team, elders, travelers, and the students who daily are pouring out their life to bring the kingdom to their campus. I think about Brad McKoy, a friend, brother, and fellow national elder for the Student Church family who models how to be a pastor in a growing apostolic movement.
I think about the sisters in Christ I’ve had over the years who challenged me and taught me to walk with honor towards women.
I think about numerous pastors and leaders who have spoken key words to me or believed in me at just the right time, men like David Frech, Don Lewis, and Jeff Collene.
I think about my Native friends, Will and Patricia Main, who welcomed me, loved me, and taught me about true friendship and God’s heart for all peoples.
I think about prophetic friends like Lara Izokaitis and Wendy Andrews who brought key prophetic dreams that were super-encouraging at just the right time.
I think about Dave Diefendorf, a friend and brother who will “always be in my corner,” and vice-versa.
I think about the students I lead, who, in turn, often lead me and challenge me to keep loving Jesus, dreaming big, and believing that nothing is impossible for us.
I think about David Blackwell and other friends from 24-7 Prayer who have journeyed with me, loved me, laughed with me, and taught me about true friendship, prayer and community.
I want to mention most importantly, that I think about my wife, Jen, who’s become the perfect match from God for me. She challenges me. She loves me. She inspires me to be a better man. She teaches me to love better than the the stereotypes of “successful” ministry that often come to deceive. I can only truly love like Jesus does if I love her well.
I could go on and on with the people who have influenced me. I know I’m not mentioning all of them. I’ll start to land this plane here. No, not all these people I’ve mentioned have been “fathers.” Some have been more like “influencers” or paved the way for me in some key way. Others had key failures or shortcomings, as have I at times. However, what we choose to honor that is good about the people who have influenced us releases blessing from heaven in our lives.
The church of Jesus isn’t only a local community; it’s a complex, wonderful, interconnected stream of relationships connected first to Jesus, and secondly to each other that stretches from two-thousand years ago and into our present age.
Perhaps I’m realizing I’ve shifted to become a spiritual father with others I walk with and we’re creating a spiritual legacy together for the next generation to glean from. “Wow. Thank you Jesus for my legacy.” I honor the fathers and mothers You’ve used in my life, as well as the rich network of brothers and sisters you’ve connected me to. Help us to be a body who loves each other well and shows the world what Jesus really looks like.
Who can you honor today? What is your spiritual legacy? For certain, the people who influence us aren’t perfect. But we can honor them and receive a great blessing from the Lord as we do.
Pray this prayer with me:
“Father in heaven, thank you for the men and women you have used to influence me. I honor them. I believe your promise that blessing is coming as I walk in honor for the generations who have paved the way before me, as I follow You in my generation, and as I press forward to leave a spiritual legacy for the generations that will come behind me.”