Lessons Learned from a Season of Rest: Lesson #2

*This is part two of the previous post.

The Importance of Prioritizing My Family -Over the past twelve years, I have neglected my family -PERIOD. My wife tells a story about when I was the associate pastor at our first church plant. When our oldest daughter was four or five years old she asked my wife a very simple but eyeopening question, “Does Daddy still live with us?” I did sleep in the same house with her every night, but she never saw me. I would leave for work before she woke up in the morning and I did not return home until after she had gone to bed as I would stay late at work or the church. In addition, I usually worked at the church on most weekends. In her little mind she thought, “If I never see my Daddy, he must not live with us anymore.” My wife often tells me that after we had been married a few years she eventually came to terms with the fact that I would not be home much. My wife and children began to live their lives, mostly separate from me. My fondest memories of those times are a few two day “getaways” where we would go and stay in a hotel on the beach and just crash; it was our way of getting away from all of the “stuff” and actually getting to spend, at least some, quality time with each other. You see it wasn’t that I did not love my wife and children, on the contrary I loved them very much! It was just that in my mind at that time, I loved God more; therefore I was “expected” to sacrifice. Thankfully, I have a very patient and loving wife. Approximately eighteen months ago, I began to “wakeup.” I thank God for waking me up in time. -I began to realize that He never asked me to neglect my family, to that extent, for the ministry.

I understand now that when God called me to the ministry, He did not call me to neglect my family. I know some would disagree with me and that is OK; everyone is entitled to their own opinion and/or interpretation of scripture. However for me, I do not see how I can stand before God’s people and preach or teach with true authority without being a good example of a husband and father. Neglecting my family for the ministry does not qualify me for ministry, it disqualifies me. I have been way out of balance in this area since my children were born. Over the past ten years I have averaged 60 to 80 hours per week working on sermons, church building projects, and other ministry related duties. Much of my time in ministry has been bi-vocational so the ministry was added on top of a 35-45 hour per week work schedule. The people at the churches that I have served at have always praised me for my dedication and level of service, but when I think of how I neglected my family I am simply embarrassed. Another thought that troubles me is that very few of those people who “praised me” for my service to the church ever cautioned me to slow down and be a father and husband. My family is now one of my top priorities, only behind my own relationship with God. I will not prioritize ministry over essential family time. I know this will cost me ministry opportunities but I am determined to keep my priorities in proper order and I believe that I will be a better minister, not to mention husband and father, because of this decision. There will be plenty of time after my kids are grown to pursue those missed opportunities. And, if I am living a life yielded to the Holy Spirit, I believe I will bear just as much fruit in the Kingdom anyway; and perhaps this will be fruit that is more likely to “remain.”

A few days ago I was involved in a conversation with a few other people in ministry where a very famous evangelist’s name was mentioned. One of the participants was making comments regarding the great success of this person’s minstry, remarking how God used him so. I had recently read about this person’s family life and the condition of his children and what happened to them during his ministry and after he died. Without going into details, I will just say it is a very sad story. -I think I would rather be a famous Dad to my children and leave a heritage through them than be a famous evangelist where many people may know my name but my own wife and children do not know me. But again that is just my opinion; I know some disagree with me, if not in word, in daily habits and practices.