Thursday, December 27, 2007

Family as Our Primary Ministry

I hope that all of you have had a good Christmas and are looking forward to an exciting new year.

During the last ten years, the subject of the family has been more meaningful to me as I have been learning how to manage and care for my own family. As a single person, I often focused on myself and/or my goals. When God blessed me with marriage, I believe that it was a calling, not unlike my call to the ministry almost 20 years ago.

For many of us who are active in the ministry of the church (be it lay or ordained), it can be a struggle to balance priorities with our family and that of the church. While there are scriptures that call us to leave even our families for the kingdom of God, I think the better interpretation for those passages focuses on being forced out due to unbelieving family members—much like many of our Muslim brethren who were made outcasts upon conversion to Christ.

The apostle Paul, on the other hand, admonishes husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25-33). The type of love here is sacrificial, willing to give one’s own life, nevertheless a job, career or even church position. Many of us are overly focused on our goals and so driven by our purposes that we fail to realize that our primary ministry is not to others but to our own family. Paul makes this a mandatory requirement for those who seek to be pastors (1 Tim. 3:4-5)—but I believe that the principle is applicable to all to families. In 1 Peter 5:4, the apostle Peter gives the imagery of Christ as the Chief Shepherd. We are in many ways under-shepherds over our own families and of the ministries that God has entrusted to us.

It is my experience that during times of crisis, it is often not our “ministries” or church members that will stick by us for the long haul, but rather, our biological family—our spouses, children and/or parents. Church members may come by for an occasional visit but if you are on your deathbed, the only people likely to be at your side day and night will be your spouse, children or parents. This is not to say that the church family doesn’t care for us but remember that they have their own responsibilities and families to take care of. Someone once said that on our deathbed, we are not likely to wish that we would have worked longer hours, made more money or accomplished more—but rather, the only things that will truly matter is faith in God and the love and presence of our family.

The above is not to deter us from serving or ministering to others—only that we should approach ministry from more of a God ordained and balanced perspective. We should all remember that outside of God’s gift of His son, the second most valuable gift that God has given us is our family. In this coming year, let us remember to minister to our families and be willing to sacrifice for them as God has sacrificed Himself for us.