The battle for our attention between our ministry and our family is a brutal reality for the Lord’s servants. The Scriptures inform ministers to rightly divide the word of truth (II Timothy 2:15), to study their life and teachings (I Timothy 4:16), and to be an example to others (I Timothy 4:12). The public ministry of preaching, teaching, and counseling (among other activities) must flow from a life well lived for God in the private times of the minister’s life. However, the family of the minister is not to be neglected, but rather embraced. Providing physical support alone is not sufficient; we must also enable them emotionally and spiritually if the family is to be spiritually nurtured. Any isolation of the wife or children will cause them to become hard-hearted toward the minister as well as the Gospel. Bickering, numbness, solitude, and bitterness will fester inevitably.
Only from the depth of our ministry at home can we expect to develop spiritual maturity in others. Charles H. Spurgeon spoke persuasively on the home in one of his famous lectures to his students. He adamantly believed that the effectiveness of their ministry to others swung on the hinges of the spiritual health of their home. He advised:
“We ought to be such husbands that every husband in the parish may safely be such as we are. Is it so? We ought to be the best of fathers. Alas! Some ministers, to my knowledge, are far from this, for as to their families, they have kept the vineyards of others, but their own vineyards they have not kept. Their children are neglected, and do not grow up as a godly seed. Is it so with yours?”
The critical component for maintaining ministry – both public and private – is gaining balance.
Imbalance results in catastrophic consequences. A sorrowful example is found in
David’s life. Without a doubt, David was a great king. Sadly, he was also a poor father. One of his most glaring failures was with his son, Absalom. Among the many things that David did wrong, one of the primary catalysts to the downfall of his family was due to David’s distraction regarding his assignments (II Samuel 13:1-3). His desire to show honor to Jonathan, David’s greatly beloved friend, resulted in the heartfelt and gracious treatment of Mephibosheth, the only remaining son of Jonathan. David was affectionate with Mephibosheth, but not with his own children. He prioritized his ministry over his family and, as a result, division was created within his home. David failed to realize that despite his success in the kingdom the misdeeds within his home would wound him deeply and enduringly. From David we must learn that the family must become a serious priority.
It’s time to level the scales. In order to overcome the pitfalls of imbalance, we must turn to the Scriptures for guidance. First, ministers must address the needs of their spouse (Ephesians 5:22-23). A wonderful opportunity exists within marriage to learn about the precious person with whom we are sharing love, life, and ministry! Those families who have been blessed with children can know a special joy as well. Though many couples try to simply endure their children’s years of development, their time in our homes is critical to their development of their Christian identity and worldview (Ephesians 6:1-11). By joining with the Lord to build our homes, we will have a family that is established on the Rock, but many marriages are ravished by Satan and selfishness and end up “dashed upon the rocks” (Ephesians 6:12-20).
Your home is the platform for all other ministries. All ministry matters, but we prefer to think that our public ministry is separate from our home. This is simply false. The ministry of the home is a mirror of ministry in the church. It is foolish to expect our families to simply accept the fact that we must spend time with others when we neglect to spend time with them. A burden for the welfare of souls begins with our homes and then radiates to other families. the minister must ensure that both are set on a course to pursue holiness (I Timothy 3:2).
Through the power of the Spirit, the family can be a unified home under the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ and serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13-18). By solidifying his family’s pursuit of holiness, the minister will be liberated to invest liberally in the spiritual well-being of other families. Through the eternal and indwelling Spirit we can experience victory in each area of our ministries despite being pull in this dynamic tug-of-war of ministry!