Our First Ministry
I have a sleeping disorder. It’s called parenthood.
As I write this, it is a little after midnight. My wife and newborn son are asleep beside me, and I’m wide awake. Our son is a week old today, and I can’t believe it’s gone so fast. It’s been a crazy week…a week of shirts soaked in spit-up, celebrations over poopy diapers, and middle-of-the-night wakeup calls.
I’m learning that people who say they “slept like a baby” generally don’t have one.
And yet, I cannot remember a week so filled with laughter for my wife and I. Family is an institution ordained by God for good, and my wife and I are experiencing firsthand the fruitfulness of marriage and family that God calls “very good” (Gen. 1:28, 31). God loves families, and He calls us to love our families, too.
God cares about how we treat our families. In the New Testament church, a man was to demonstrate faithfulness in leading his own family before he was eligible for leadership in the church (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-13). If I become the best minister I can possibly be, and yet neglect my family, I have failed. Ministry starts in the home.
If you are pouring yourself out at work, with friends, or even in church without giving your family the time, undivided attention, and intentional spiritual leadership God is calling you to, then your priorities are misaligned. God calls his servants to serve and lead their families before serving and leading anyone else.
And yet, if my family has my primary allegiance, then my family is an idol.
Our Highest Priority
Family can become a “counterfeit god” when it takes priority over our relationship with God and His family. Even our highest commitment to our families should come in second to our commitment to Jesus. Jesus himself says in Luke 14:26, “if anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” In Matthew 10:37, he says, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
I love my family. But my love for them should look like hatred compared to my love for Jesus. As I look at this precious baby boy in front of me, my heart swells with love. I would do almost anything for him. And yet, my highest priority is not to make him happy, successful, or well-liked. My highest priority is to show him how to love God.
So what is your highest priority with your family? Are you putting them in the way of you fully following Jesus? Is Sunday just another sleep-in goof-off day in your family, or is it the Lord’s Day? Are you reading or talking about the Bible as a family, or just your favorite TV shows? Is your schedule centered on extra-curricular activities and vacations or gospel-centered ministry? When you have a busy week, is your time with God and the church the first thing you cut?
Your family is watching how you live. They are taking mental notes. If you are too busy to serve, too scheduled to be interrupted by a ministry opportunity, or too embarrassed to talk about spiritual things, then don’t be surprised if your kids grow up disconnected from the church and disillusioned about God. This is a sad yet urgent reality facing Christian families today.
If you asked your kids, would they know that you love God more than anything else? Every now and then my wife and I will say to each other, “I love you so much. But I love Jesus more than I love you.” It’s a good reminder for us! And ironically, loving Jesus first is actually the best thing for your family. Because our highest priority is to show our families how to love God.
Widening Your Family
You’ve heard it said that “blood is thicker than water.” But in the church, water is thicker than blood. When we have been baptized, we are adopted into the family of God. From then on, we identify not primarily with our natural families with shared gene pools, but with God’s family, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Because of baptism, water is thicker than blood.
My wife and I both have wonderful blood families. Yet we left our parents and siblings in Missouri and Kansas to move to Indiana about 3 months ago. Why? Because Jesus says in Mark 10:29, “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age...” We left one family and came to another one. You are our family!
When you widen your definition of “family” to include all of God’s people, you capture the essence of the heart of the Father. So bring your “blood” family into this “water” family. Invite church people into your home. Use your “family time” to serve. Share your holiday traditions with someone in the church who is lonely. Take time with your spouse and kids each night to pray for the people you know. Widen your family.
Ultimately, I am thankful for a God who widened His family. I am thankful for a God who did not prioritize His own family safety and happiness over the welfare of His people. I am thankful for a God who sacrificed His Son in order to adopt us as His children. And it is my prayer that you too will offer your family as a living sacrifice so that others may be brought into the family of God.