My ministry aim

  • Sumo

It was the usual question from another ’employed ministry’ person. “How is church going?”

I don’t know how many times I have heard the question. I also don’t know how to give an answer that is useful or helpful. It’s not the aim to deceive – merely that I am in the wrong position to give a considered answer. I’m too close to it all.

But I can, at last, say something: my ministry aim.

It’s taken a long time, but I finally can express it. And I think it’s unexpected.

It’s unexpected because my aim is not obviously tied to the employment in ministry. My aim is not to grow Albury Bible Fellowship Church (though I do work to that end). Nor is it to plant more FIEC churches (though, again, I do work for that outcome). It’s not even to have lots of MTS ministry apprentices (though I sure love working with such trainees).

Rather, my Christian ministry aim is: With the help of my wife, to pass on the gospel to my children.

This involves teaching, prayer, discipline, time, comfort, training, … Everything usual in biblical gospel ministry. My desire is that they are better informed about God’s word than I am. That they are more faithful and self-disciplined in living out this word. That they are more amazed at God’s love than I am, and love their neighbour better than I do.

Here’s some of the thinking behind this.

The ministry cliché – which I don’t buy – is ‘family first, then church.’ The reason for this cliché is to avoid the family breakdown caused by minister putting church demands first, so I get it. The problem: it assumes, and therefore perpetuates, the model of inherent conflict between church and family.

Instead, I say to myself that I am to care for God’s church. In other words, church over all. That’s it. Then, under the umbrella of this responsibility, I have levels of contact and care. The highest level is Catherine and the kids. The first aspect of church ministry is spiritual care for my household. So if I have an extra night off, or make the most of my regular day off, it’s not conflict with church. It is church. (The conflicts come when, inevitably, competing responsibilities require a difficult decision.)

Consider also how the Bible insists that appointing leaders requires a look at the family and household. In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the overseer must:

  • be the husband of one wife
  • be hospitable
  • manage his own household well

Remember also that God is our Father. So if I totally mess up fatherhood, I will be so much less able to teach people about God.

I feel as if I’ve put myself on the line a little bit here. But that’s good! I can already think of the follow-up post I will write. I also know I will prayerfully need to keep thinking through this whole matter all my life. But it’s where I stand, and what I currently think.

What are your thoughts? What suggestions do you have, what problems do you see? I’m interested to know.

  • Sounds good, Chris. Should it be different for someone with adult children? What about with adult children who are not yet believers?

    • Good questions.

      Adult children … I’m two days short of entering the ‘teenaged children’ phase. So when I thought about it, it was only brief. What do you think? My guess: it’s still relevant, somehow!

      Not yet believers … I’ve written a follow-up, to appear tomorrow, that touches on this. Let’s see if it helps.

  • And … Should this be the aim of the hairdresser, prime minister and piano teacher, too?

    • Yes and no.

      No: not everyone is in a family shaped like mine. There are single people, couples without kids, etc. I was aiming to write a sentence that applies to me – not a general nostrum.

      No: not all people are ’employed ministers’, though all Christians are minsters. And I definitely had in mind what priority I should have in ministry.

      Yes: I think that leaders in churches are not meant to exhibit unattainable and incomparable spiritual maturity. They’re meant to be normal and faithful Christians. There is an aspect of modelling, of being able to say ‘do something like I do’.