Faithful in Both Spheres
Sometimes I feel like pastoring and being a father and a husband are just a little bit too much alike. They overlap quite a lot. It's shepherding people through disagreement, difficulty, conflicting opinions, priorities, preferences, and dealing with sin in people's lives. Well, am I talking about being a pastor or am I talking about being a father?
Sometimes it's just from one version of the same challenges to the other. Of course, that's why Paul says in 1 Timothy 3 that an elder must manage his household well, because if he doesn't keep his own children obedient and submissive, how can he care for God's church? So the family really is meant to be a proving ground for a man's character, his ability as a leader, his ability to teach and shepherd and guide and direct and provide. It is a testing ground and a proving ground for pastoral ministry. Everyone who's in pastoral ministry—every man who is a pastor—should remain faithful to that calling, or else he's not qualified for the job he's in.
So how can you do that? I think one simple practice is regular family devotions. I learned from Don Whitney at Southern Seminary that short, frequent, and regular devotions are better than long, idealistic, and irregular ones. So, in our own family, we tend to do family devotions at breakfast. It often just includes reading a chapter of Scripture, praying briefly (if we can), fitting in a verse of a hymn or the doxology, and maybe incorporating some requests from our Sunday evening service at church. We try to do that most mornings. It's not very glamorous, but I trust it's bearing good fruit in the lives of our kids over time.
Another crucial way for a man to shepherd his family is to be aware of the tension and perhaps the need for mortification of his own desires in terms of how his own ministry ambitions relate to his wife and children. So if a man is always saying yes to ministry—and especially in ministry that's public, fun, and that reflects well on him and gets a lot of accolades, maybe even ministry that would take him away from home to preach at other churches or something—and it's coming at the expense of your wife's spiritual well-being or of your children's flourishing, you need to take a good, hard look at your own heart and your own priorities. You might recognize that sometimes being faithful to the prior calling God has given you as a husband and father means actually pulling back from a certain ministry opportunity, saying no, or scaling back.
There's just no substitute for faithfully, patiently investing in each member of your family for their spiritual good.
Of course, if a man is qualified to be a pastor, that means his wife needs to be supportive of that role. She needs to cheerfully be willing to make sacrifices for the gospel. But there's a way that you can lead your wife by investing in her, encouraging her, attending to her as 1 Peter 3:7 says: “Living with her in an understanding way.” There's a way that you can do that where she'll actually be glad to give you away when it comes to a weekend when you are preaching a sermon, leading the services, performing a wedding, and visiting somebody who's really struggling in the hospital all over the course of a couple of days. Your wife can kiss you goodbye cheerfully at the door and know you're serving the Lord and doing what you should be doing to fulfill your responsibilities to your sheep. If you've been investing well in your wife and family up to that point, she's far more likely to give you away cheerfully than to be embittered or to be wanting you to pull away from ministry for the family's sake.
So, practice family devotions and prioritize your wife and your children's interests. There's just no substitute for faithfully, patiently investing in each member of your family for their spiritual good. However many children you have, I'd encourage you to find ways to make time with them one-on-one, especially as they get older. First, to build the relationship and the friendship, but also to create more natural contacts for personal spiritual conversations with each of them. I'm very much a work-in-progress on this, and I pray the Lord will give you wisdom to lead your family well.
Bobby Jamieson is the author of The Path to Being a Pastor: A Guide for the Aspiring.
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