“Don’t neglect your Bible or your family.” It’s been 10 years since I first heard those words from the Associate Pastor at my first church. I was in seminary, and it sounded like good advice then, albeit simple. But the profundity of that advice continues to grow the longer I’m in ministry.
Recently several people close to me have lost their jobs after years of commitment. They find the end of the careers slightly deflated, robbing themselves of the joys of finishing strong – or even having that retirement party with a face cake.
On the church staff where I now serve, we have two staff members with brain cancer. These two pastors are fighting for their lives, and at a relatively young age. Their ministries cut short, or at best detoured for a moment, as they begin to fight the internal growths that threaten their livelihood. Their faithfulness to God in the midst of this difficulty is humbling.
Christianity Today interviewed the great evangelist Billy Graham looking back at his ministry and reflections. When asked if he would do anything differently, Rev. Graham responded,
The Best Intentions
I think we have the best intentions. As pastors, most of us want to provide and set a good example for our family and those we lead in our churches. We look for opportunities to expand our influence and to share the Gospel.
Not many of us begin our ministries hoping it will come crashing down because we have neglected our first calling… to our walk and to our families. Somewhere we embraced the idea that it’s ok to sacrifice our family on the altar of ministry or serving others. And we wonder why our children are notorious for growing up and walking away from the faith.
Leading By Example
Obviously, we need to beware of the importance of having a good work ethic – but there does need to be a shift in how we view our service. We lead by example, and if those in our churches and ministries don’t see us making our family a priority, they are likely to assume that this is the healthy thing. It may mean that you have to say ‘no’ to ministry opportunities, or to protect a night a week as family night.
This Means You
Don’t think you’re exempt from this advice; remember one of the wisest men to live ended his legacy in life poorly (1 Kings 11.) We aren’t that far removed from our great-grandparents and I doubt many of us even know their names. Which begs the question of which will last longer, our own name or the legacy we leave with our families? We preach that life is like a blade of grass, it’s here one moment and it withers the next – let’s be reminded of this fragility and be committed to lead not only in our churches, but in our homes.
Get Help in Evaluating Opportunities
I love to see many popular pastors who have created teams to determine their speaking schedules – attempting to help protect and insulate themselves from burnout and failure. It most likely means they turn more opportunities down than they accept, but it ensures the future of their ministry and message.
Don’t Miss It
Remember the Associate Pastor that gave me that advice when I started out in ministry? About twenty-five years prior to that advice he fell out of ministry due to moral failure. His family was split and he found himself in a crisis of figuring out who he really was. Almost twenty years after his error including several years of pursuing his wife, they were re-united in marriage. This beautiful couple has helped many other couples realize the importance of a commitment to family and to their walk with Christ. I remember the next thing he said to me as much as that first sentence; “…Don’t miss all of those years like I did.”
I’ve determined to keep my commitment to my walk with Jesus and to my family – praying that at the end of my life and ministry I am found faithful.