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.