Monday, November 19, 2007

The Sacrifice of the Family for Ministry

I had hesitated to write this blog post as I did not want to be negative.  However as I look around the blog world and read the numerous people worried about the apparent shrinkage of the western church and the lamenting over the various reasons for the shrinking number of baptisms and proclamations of faith I had a change of heart.  This change revolves around one area that the church, at least from my vantage point, neglects to deal with that may be a contributing factor to the anemic nature of the church in changing the world.  I do not say this is the only factor but simply that it is one of many possible factors.

The area I speak of is the number of people in ministry that sacrifice their families for the cause of the ministry they are in.  As there is little data that I have seen relating to this issue the observations to follow are simply based on my personal observations.  By the way, I also think there is an issue at the opposite end of the pendulum and I will deal with that later.

Often I have seen families of pastors and others in ministry less discipled by their own fathers than others in the church those fathers serve.  The usual reason, or should I say excuse, is that there are souls being lost and this is of utmost importance.  The problem with this statement is that we are called to reach the world and make disciples and this includes our families.  If we, and I am often guilty of this as a pastor, cannot disciple our families how can we ever think we should be discipling others.  One example of a result of this is the popular and often true moniker of one being a PK (Pastors kid) as an excuse for certain behaviors or attitudes, how sad it is that this name even exits.  Yes ministry takes time and effort and often sacrifice but it does not call for the sacrifice of ones family.  I do not say that there may not be a season where there is a mutual sacrifice that the entire family is apart of but it is not to be the norm.

This issue may stem from a lack of seriousness taken with the position of Pastor needing to fulfill the requirements given in 1 Timothy 3:1- for Elders.  In this passage there is a call to mange ones household well and this does not mean simply supply the funds for food and other necessities.  Since the managing of the house is tied to managing the flock one is to shepherd (1 Tim 3:5) it is easy to see that there is an intimate relation between how the church is to be shepherded and the family.  Thus if the family is not shepherded then how are we as pastors to be expected to shepherd the flock God puts before us.  If we truly raise PK’s we need to step down and deal with our own families and not return to the ministry until this issue is dealt with. 

This is not to say that pastor’s families are going to be perfect but my experience is that many of the problems that pastor’s families have are not such that happen overnight but are the result of neglect at the altar of doing ministry.  If you, as I need to constantly do myself, are spending more time in ministry than with your family you may need to reassess your priorities based on God’s call for us to care for our families.  Also, keep in mind the care of the family is the responsibility of the father and thus is unacceptable to simply say that ones wife is taking care of things so we can do ministry.  Again, there may be times that this is done for the short term but it cannot be the norm or we are not managing our family as we are called to and thus disqualifying ourselves from ministry.

If I am sounding a little harsh it is simply because I have seen this for too long and myself have been dragged into this.  While this issue is the responsibility of the Pastor/Elder the congregation is often a contributing factor by expecting so much from the Pastor and instead of doing more themselves they contribute to the sacrifice of the pastor’s family.   Another area that this issue shows up is in those in ministry that have secular jobs.  Often Pastors who may or may not have worked in the secular world do not truly understand the workload a bivocational minister has and thus may simply not see the ministerial load being as much as it is.   Many are afraid to say no and the end result is that the family is the first to suffer.  This is not to say that those working in the secular world are not to be part of ministry but it will be significantly less than say the Pastors role.

In all of this is the role of mentoring and if a pastor is seen as sacrificing the family what message is sent to the congregation?  If the world sees the church minimizing the family for ministry then will they not themselves see the family as being less important than say their vocation.  How can a pastor that spends little time with their family expect those in their congregation to do differently.  If we as church members see the pastor spending inordinate amounts of time in ministry why is it a surprise that they themselves do not do the same in their vocation.

I pray that all that I have touched on in some way convicts, as it does to me as I write it.  But conviction is nothing if change does not ensue.  The world is constantly minimizing the family and when the church does the same, starting with the pastor, it becomes anemic.  We as pastors need to re-evaluate our ministry and lives.  We as congregation members need to re-evaluate what we expect from our leaders.  For the church to be the change agent it is called to be we need to be different from the world and since scripture calls it’s leaders to lead their families lets start there. We can evangelize all we like but if we lose our families are we really glorifying God?

Next, I will touch on the other end of the pendulum in that all that I have said is not an excuse to not be part of ministry and part of a church community.


Anonymous said...

Found this sermon by Voddie Baucham that relates to your post

Years ago I heard this mis-quote of Mark 8:36 and it has served me well:
"For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his sons?


Tony said...

Thanks for the link to the Voddie Baucham sermon as I always appreciate what he has to say.


Anonymous said...

I should probably elaborate on what I said about the mis-quote. After all, who could possibly learn from mis-quoting the Bible?!

Years ago, after recently being saved, my mother-in-law wanted to "do something big for God". So she did what women usually do in these situations, she signed up to teach Sunday School and help with the church nursery. Having been a Christian a very short time she did not seek God on the matter she just plowed ahead with what she thought was her "duty".

The Sunday School director, glad for the help of my mother-in-law, placed this new Christian as co-teacher in the 1st grade. One Sunday she asked the students to memorize Mark 8:36 and the mis-quote came from one of these little children. It was very timely and something that never left her memory because at the time she had two small sons.

What does it profit us if we work to save the neighbors children but in the process find we failed our own family? How many times have we seen this, a mother or father willing to sacrifice for a church ministry while neglecting the ministry God clearly placed before them, their family.


Tony said...

I could not agree more, thus the reason for my post. I have seen this for quite some time but to be truthful did not see the error as I should have till the last few years as I tried to see what it is God desired from His church and those He calls to ministry.

It saddens me that not only do ministers not hold each other accountable to God’s standard congregation members also in reality expect this out of their shepherds by what they ask them to do. The correction for this is a re-looking at what God has always called the church to be. Not to be like any particular time in history but what scripture calls His church to be.