“Be careful not to make your ministry or the Church your mistress.” Those were the words spoken to me immediately following my ordination council by a dear friend and mentor who served on my ordination council. Although I heard what he was saying, I immediately rationalized in my mind that I would not be the one to give into that. I was certain that I would be able to handle all that the Lord was calling me to. Since hearing those wise words spoken to me seven years ago, seasons of great joy and sorrow have come and gone, but God has been the constant through them all. It has been a real joy to serve the Lord through these years and I look forward to what I hope is many more years of service to Him, but recently He’s reminded me that I have neglected my first ministry.
Pastor, today now more than ever it seems that society is in a constant state of busyness. We are more “connected” than ever via our phones, yet we do not spend time with people as we used to. We have tasks upon tasks to complete between work, school, church, and family. Unfortunately in the midst of fulfilling all our tasks we seem to forget to primarily focus of lives before our ministry vocation comes into play… our relationships with Jesus, our wife, and our children. I would dare say that if we are not focused on our relationship with Jesus first, our relationship with our spouse second, and our relationship to our children third BEFORE anything else, then we cannot effectively do exactly what God has called us to in an obedient manner.
Priority 1: Our Relationship with Christ
Our relationship with Christ must be the utmost primary focus in our lives. If we’re not spending quality time daily with the Lord in His Word and through prayer, how can we expect to be fully equipped to lead God’s church? The Word of God is the tool by which the Lord reveals what we need via the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Book of Hebrews, the writer declares, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Can you see the imagery here? The Word of God cuts through all of our sin to get to the true intentions of the heart. There God convicts of sin, and uses the Word to point out areas of repentance in our lives. If we are not spending quality time in the Word and in prayer daily, then we cannot see what God has for us. We are in turn living our lives for our will and purposes and not God’s. Spend quality time with the Lord daily.
Priority 2: Our Relationship with Our Wife
Our relationship with our wife is the primary human relationship that God has given to us. There must be a focused intentionality on this relationship. Do you pray for your wife? Are you discipling your wife? Do you study scripture together? If not, I encourage you (speaking to myself as well) to take the time and do these things. After describing the sacrifice and love Christ has for His church, the Apostle Paul declares, “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” (Ephesians 5:28-30). Just as Christ Jesus nourishes and cherishes His church, we are called to do the same. Cultivate that marital union to best of your ability. Will there be moments where you don’t do things right? Yes there will be, and there will be times where repentance is necessary. Purposefully pursue your wife and lead her well to the best of the ability God gives you for His glory.
Priority 3: Our Relationship with Our Children
Children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3). If you have been blessed with children, understand the calling God has placed on your life. The Lord has called all parents to train and raise their children pointing to Jesus. For pastors, this calling is what makes up a qualification to be an overseer/pastor. “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:4-5) The home is the training ground where the child spends the majority of their time. The Church is only supplemental to this training. The pastor should love his children showing the love of Christ, honoring his wife so his children see how a husband is to love his wife, and continually direct the family in the ways of Christ.
Life gets busy. Obligations will never end. In fact, every day has a to-do list of things needing accomplishing. There may come a time in your ministry where you need to unload the amount of things on your plate. You’re not alone. In fact, it is healthy and I would argue much needed for pastors to get to the place where they comfortably can say no. Your church family needs you. Your work place (if you’re bi-vocational) needs you. You must manage those well in the name of Jesus to bring him glory (Colossians 3:17). In doing so, remember your primary call on this earth is to be a child of God, Husband to your wife, father to your children, followed by everything else. Continue running the race – the Lord’s got you!